Pole dancing: now at Brighton Uni

Pippa Cooney, 22 studies Sport & Exercise Science (BsC) at the University of Brighton. At the beginning of the 2019/20 school year, she started the Pole Fitness team, of which she is the current president. “Because I really wanted to do pole at uni basically and when I went to university I was really excited to join loads of sports teams including a pole team and there wasn’t anything.” she said. So she took matters into her own hands. “Then in second year I was like why not just start it so that other people can do pole dancing.”

Source: Brighton Uni Pole instagram page. Used with consent

The team works with a local instructor, who teaches lessons, but Pippa herself has also gotten qualified to teach pole, in order to coach. The team has 10 members, and has already competed in BUCS competitions in the South East division in February, where they managed to get a 4th place and even a 3rd place. “It was really good. A good opportunity to see what competitions are like, because none of us had done a competition beforehand.”


Pole dancing is quite a new sport as it was only officially recognised as such in October 2017 by the Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF), at a General Assembly in Aarhus, Denmark, when it was granted Observer Status. This means that if certain criteria are met, pole might very well be going to the Olympics. 

The development of the sport has been very rapid, and that was acknowledged by Katie Coates, President of the The International Pole Sports Federation (IPSF), in a statement after the recognition. “In just eight years we have created a sport, ignited a global following and inspired a new generation of sportsmen, -women and children” she said.

Infographic by Katrin Johannessen

Pippa first got into pole dancing, when her older sister, who had joined a team at uni, bought a pole and taught her little sister at home. Pippa was immediately sold. However, due to the fact that she was 15 at the time, she was not able to join a team, as under 16s weren’t allowed to do pole dancing back then. “At the time it wasn’t seen as socially acceptable because of the connotations around pole dancing. They were like, this isn’t something that children can do.” 

But the new more accepting and broad view of what pole dancing is, has also had an effect on what has at times been a controversial discussion, on whether children should be allowed to do it. “Now I think they have come to realise that actually a lot of it is a form of strength and dance and it doesn’t have to be sexual, and so they let under 16s do it.” Pippa said.

For the uni team, some preconceived notions, do pose a challenge, but things are becoming better. “There is still that kind of prejudice towards it.” she said, but added: “It is becoming more socially acceptable and socially know as a sport.”

You can find out more about the team here or on instagram.

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