Pole dance combines dance and acrobatics on and around a vertical pole. This performance art form takes place not only in gentleman's clubs as a form of erotic dance, but has also recently gained popularity as a mainstream form of fitness, practiced by many enthusiasts in gyms and in dedicated dance studios.

It is believed that the use of pole for sports and exercise has been traced back at least eight hundred years to the traditional Indian sport of mallakhamb, which utilizes principles of endurance and strength using a wooden pole, wider in diameter than a modern standard pole.

Pole dance in America has its roots in the "Little Egypt" traveling sideshows of the 1890s, which featured sensual "Kouta Kouta" or "Hoochie Coochie" belly dances, performed mostly by Ghawazi dancers making their first appearance in America. In an era where women dressed modestly in corsets, the dancers, dressed in short skirts and richly adorned in jewelry, caused quite a stir. During the 1920s, dancers introduced pole by sensually gyrating on the wooden tent poles to attract crowds. Eventually the pole dancing moved from tents to bars, and combined with burlesque dance. Since the 1980s, pole dancing has incorporated athletic moves such as climbs, spins, and inversions into striptease routines, first in Canada and then in the United States. In the 1990s, pole dancing commenced to be taught as an art by Fawnia Mondey, a Canadian who moved to Las Vegas, US. She created the first pole training video to use in fitness exercises. Since then, pole dancing classes have become a popular form of recreational and competitive sport, practiced and performed in a variety of sexual, non-sexual, and athletic settings.