This discussion came up recently in a pole group that I am a member of (Stripper Style! for anyone interested). With the pole world growing, and sexy style gaining back popularity again, a few names for the style are continuously used, usually interchangeably – ‘Stripper’, ‘Exotic’, ‘Classique’. I’ve used these terms myself many times on my blog, usually without thought of why I am using one over the other.
As more competitions begin accepting sexy style pole, organisers are using this language to define categories and promote heel wearing, hair flicking pole routines. It is a good idea therefore to start thinking about what our perceptions are of specific words, and what they mean to people within the pole community.
Some people felt that the words all meant exactly the same thing, and indeed we may use these names almost as synonyms. However, there does also seem to be a general consensus that each word, ‘Stripper’, ‘Exotic’ and ‘Classique’ is associated with a particular different type of movement. So, maybe the words do refer to different sub-styles?
There actually seemed to be a lot of agreement on what each particular term referred to. There were shared dance elements, stylistic choices, and tricks / skills / movements which were associated with each term. I’ll give a run down below of our findings.
The raciest category. This is the sexy style that is most likely to offend the pearl clutchers of the world. Stripper style is raw and real. It is sometimes referred as ‘too much’, just stumbling over the line of perceived decency. Toni ‘Misty’ Mansell described it as ‘dancing like you f*ck’, which can be sultry and sensual, or bangin’ and hardcore.
♥ Heel clacks
♥ Body rolls
♥ Touching your own body
♥ Clothing removal
♥ Eye contact
What was most clear is that stripper style focuses less on trending tricks, and more on engagement, entertainment, and pure sexuality. Bringing to the stage something that invites the audience in.
How much true stripper style is there in pole competitions though? Probably not an awful lot. The strip club culture in the UK has moved away from stage shows. However, competitions such as Dance Filthy UK, who host their Northern edition in a strip venue, are trying to capture some of the feeling of an authentic club dance. Likewise, competitions like The Authentics or The Supreme Poledown, who score well for stage performance rather than just tricks, seek to encourage routines that fit with a more traditional stripper aesthetic.
Overwhelmingly, this style is associated with the Russians and their amazing strength and skills around the pole. This style is less about the raw performance and emotion found in Stripper style, and more on technical difficulty. Exotic is about wowing the audience with complex base work / low flow, deceptive strength work, and crazy transitions. Moves that are sexy by virtue of their ‘f*cking hell’ quality.
♥ Strength moves, such as dead lifts
♥ Leg traces and threads
♥ Power spins
♥ Accented tempo changes
Exotic definitely has a higher focus on tricks, but a lot of focus is on the base of the pole for these performers, and it is incredible to watch. They aim to execute their strength moves as effortlessly as possible, whilst finding new and interesting ways around the pole.
You have undoubtedly seen this style in many many pole competitions, and on many social media profiles. The most famous dancer of them all who is cited often is Olga Koda, who typifies this style. It’s focus on impressive transitions, and refined movement quality, means that it is well-suited for many competitions and will score well because of the physical skill involved.
Classique is perceived as a ‘cleaner’ style of sexy, more graceful with a focus on fluidity and flexibility. Whilst Stripper is raw and Exotic is technical, Classique is all about beautiful shapes and seductive movement. People cited the likes of Maddie Sparkle for who they thought best represented this style.
♥ Splits everywhere
♥ Multi-trick combos
♥ Spin pole
♥ Coy or sweet audience engagement
♥ Floor work shapes
As you can see this style is all about creating beautiful shapes in a fluid way, whether they are in the air or on the floor. All done with a sweetly seductive gaze. There may be trending tricks, but there will always be plenty of splits, whether they are straddles, front or middle.
Classique is the most ‘competition friendly’ version of sexy pole style. It ticks boxes for tricks, flexibility and audience engagement, in a way that is nonthreatening or too ‘in your face’. This is the go-to style for mainstream sexy pole, and can be seen in many of the biggest pole competitions such as Pole Theatre and Miss Pole Dance Australia.
If I’m going to get reductive about it I would say it simplifies into this: Stripper is about the audience, Exotic is about the apparatus, and Classique is about the marrying of both.
But is it that clean cut?
No, not really. Sorry to break it to you! Whilst there may be some particular trends that people associated with each style, no pole performer fits 100% neatly into each box, as you can see from the videos. Many pole dancers infuse their style with other influences, so the dancer who kinda fits into the ‘Stripper’ box may also be banging out Exotic accents, or even Break Dance or Latin!
The great thing about pole is that you can make it your own. Don’t get too bogged down by definitions. Yes, you may 70% fit into one category or another, but there will always be overlaps between them, and that’s OK! If we begin micro-managing each category, and reflecting these attitudes in which styles we see in competitions, we might have a hard time breaking the cookie-mold and creating things that are new and exciting.
Let’s celebrate the wonderful blends of dancing and movement that these styles give us. A little language definition definitely helps with understanding our styles more in depth, but let’s not becomes slaves to them.
What do you think? Do these definitions work for you? Which category resonates with you?
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