I took the big step.
The step that causes most people to freeze in terror.
The step that forces you to learn some songs.
I got a gig.
A gig means that I have to have a routine that I can perform in front of people.
Real, live people.
Why did I do this if I’m so terrified?
Well, maybe not so simple, but let’s pretend that it’s simple. And that simple reason is that I have to get a gig if I want to get to the next level. I’ve overcome all of the other obstacles placed or dropped in my path but this one is self induced.
Self induced how you might ask?
How can someone put obstacles in their own path to their own success? Well, us human beings seem to make a habit of doing just that: enabling our own failure. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the local book store, assuming you can still find one, and ask for the self help isle. Yes, they’ll have a self help isle and in it you’ll find books about overcoming your own self imposed obstacles.
Keep in mind that I think of myself as a big ass dorky bear when I dance. A lap dance is different then a performance on a pole. I’m a lot more comfortable doing a lap dance since I think I can focus on being erotic and that’s not as precise as a scripted dance routine. OK, I can hear everyone yelling, “what about free dancing?” Again, simple. I suck at free dancing.
Getting back to how I dealt with my self help, I did something that most guys are good at doing: I let a part of my body not connected to my brain make decisions! Bel at Twirly Girls hosts the annual Rita Fund Raiser for the Kidney Foundation and if you check the performer registration you’ll see that the first entry is Maleko Wine. Yep. As my hand was signing my name to the registry, my brain was yelling “WHAT THE HELL!!!”. My hand laughed as we walked away. It was very strange. My hand and my brain haven’t talked since! Not that they’ve had a close relationship in the past….
But my brain has been working overtime trying to answer the question “now that you have a gig, what the hell are you going to do?” Naturally my brain screamed “CALL JADE KIM”. Thankfully my hand was listening at that moment and the next sound I heard was the reassuring voice of Jade telling me “Maleko, climb down from the ceiling! We got this!” A few days later we had 42 second of routine that has a 4 minute song! Not bad!
Yep, only 188 seconds to go. Only looks like 3 minutes from where I’m standing.
We totally got this.
Yep. 3 minutes and 8 seconds.
Crap, this is gonna be hard….
Hi Fellow Twirlers, after a way too long hiatus, I’m back boring you with my misadventures on the pole. It’s been a while but I’ve been working on quite a few things, including getting my wife excited about pole! But, like all good intentioned things, there are always unintended consequences. Like, now we’re having a discussion about how we need to get a skinny pole. I happen to like my fat pole….so you can guess where this is going! At any rate, more to come, observations to be made, and achievements to brag about! Like I can now go into Brass Monkey from a flip!
I was SOOO excited when I got my first issue of Vertical Art & Fitness Magazine! I remember when I was a wee child (a very recent memory) and I finally got that rubber-band powered model airplane that took 10 box-tops off of the Captain Crunch boxes to get. I checked the mail each and every day for months with bated breath in the hope that this day would be the day that I would get to hold my new treasure in my hot little hands.
It was like that.
When it finally came, I brought the stack of mail into the kitchen throwing anything that wasn’t my new source of pole information onto the kitchen table. I even violated the house rules by using a kitchen knife to open the envelope that my treasure came in. (Please don’t spread that part around.) Once the magazine had been freed from it’s transcontinental prison and I was holding it in my hands, I couldn’t believe what I was looking at. After all our discussion about pole stripping versus pole dancing, the lead article blew me away: “The RAW Issue”.
There were naked people in this magazine.
Raw Empowerment” was the actual title of the piece and it was written by Claire Griffen Sterrett and photographed by Jasper Johal.
My first reaction? What the HELL were they thinking! Here we are in a pitched battle between the forces of pole conservatives and the pole diversity, and here is an article where somebody actually TAKES OFF THEIR CLOTHES and gets naked while on a pole! My God! I was sure that the magazine was going to spontaneously combust right there in my hands while I was reading the article. Crap, I’d only had it less then a minute and I was trying to remember where the kitchen fire extinguisher was. Was this actually possible? Was I just imagining this (I have a great imagination) or was this real?
But I pushed past my initial reaction and read the words that Claire had taken the time to craft together. I really looked at the photos that Jasper had captured. Afterward I spent some time considering what I had just seen.
Then it dawned on me: what the hell was I thinking?
Besides the fact that I was clearly a moron for thinking what I had thought, I came away thinking that the whole argument about nudity and pole was indeed artificial. Granted, we’re not going to do naked pole dancing classes, but I have to admit that there is an art form here. This was more then a simple article about being naked on a pole for personal empowerment – it was a work of art. It proved the point that not only could our art form produce fluid stories, it can also produce fantastic images of frozen beauty – even if the performers are naked.
What it also proved to me was that we can’t limit our perception of what is art when it comes to the pole. We need to make sure that we keep our minds open to our heritage as well as new facets of our very young art form that creative people will inevitably experiment with. We’re lucky enough to be at the beginning of something that is going to be bigger then any one of us and we shouldn’t let puritan attitudes or corporate branding get in the way of creating art that will survive the ages.
I’m going to start by saying that this blog started as a comment to Lori’s blog on the Great Stripper versus Dancer debate. It got so long that I didn’t want to overshadow Lori’s great commentary with a diatribe of my own. (You can find Lori’s blog here http://lolorashel.blogspot.com/2012/02/ummmmim-pole-artist.html)
So here goes…
When I tell people that I’m a pole dancer, I usually get the question, “I didn’t know you were a stripper”. I usually answer, “I did strip, just not on the pole”. And so starts the discussion about the evils of stripping versus pole dancing. After a while, most people that I talk with will admit that they do enjoy a good stripper, they just admit being uncomfortable with it. I guess that’s part of the issue here. People do generally enjoy a good erotic performance, but they feel guilty afterwards. Kind of like eating that extra piece of cake. It tastes great, but oh boy are you gonna pay for it.
Although this is a great discussion, I can’t help but feel that the core argument is a bit artificial. I can’t help but wonder why so many people in our art get offended at the idea of being associated with strippers. So offended that they feel that they have to preemptively penalize erotic dancers in competitions by banning them or forcing them to quit erotic dancing if they win. I understand the need to protect a brand, but there are better ways then out and out discrimination. I know that the Miss America pageant frowns on their winners posing in Playboy, but the winners do get a stipend and a year’s worth of work. Not so in our competitions. You may get a few hundred dollars but the real winners are the studios that host the show. For this reason I think that there is a legal argument to be made by someone with the money to do so.
A big question for me is would we have anything close to pole as we know it today if it hadn’t been for pole strippers? I add this pole stripping distinction to the conversation since you can strip without a pole and you can pole without stripping. I never used a pole in any of my routines and I never will. But I do know some strippers that make a point of becoming good at pole because it enhances their art form. Have you ever tried to strip? It’s actually not easy to do without looking like a spaz. Even for the talented it takes dedication, practice and effort. For those reasons I believe that for many it is an art form. I also believe we do owe the pole stripping community a debt of thanks. So, thank you to all the pole strippers out there.
Now lets move on.
If we were to draw the blood lines of pole, I think we could start at the top with the word “pole” and underneath that we could have a few categories: fitness, erotic, and performance. After that the lines get a bit blurry. Yes, as Bel says, the fitness aspects of it are being recognized by many trusted organizations. This is hugely important to our future. Pole fitness is a great workout and a great way to be part of a wonderful workout community. It’s also bringing pole to a much larger audience that would not normally be exposed to it. But any time you highlight the grace and beauty of the human form in the kind of moves that are performed in a pole routine, you are bound to have an erotic component. The difference is, pole stripping starts with that intent – to arouse. And that’s where I think the difference lays, in the intent. The intent of pole dancing is to create a beautiful story told between the dancer and the pole. If done right, the dancer and the pole are like one entity melded together through the grace of fluid motion. This is not an accident. It takes huge amounts of time, effort, and dedication.
My recommendation is that we should embrace our heritage, focus on the art, and let others worry about what the perceived intent is. Focus on becoming the best pole dancers that we can possible become.
Like Lori says, we need to come together or others will tear us apart. Time is our ally here. As we create a larger, more dedicated community, people will begin to understand the differences. It won’t happen overnight and we won’t be able to force it.
There’s a reality here that we need to embrace: Pole stripping is never going to go away – it’s just too damn sexy. But neither is pole dancing, it’s just too damn beautiful.
We’re here to stay.
The Plan is taking shape.
So, what is this grand plan? I’m glad you asked.
After my experience with the loaner pole, I decided that I needed to step up my game if I was going to really understand pole dancing. If I was really going to be a Pole Dancer, I needed to be a lot more proactive (poleactive?) then I have been.
But something was wrong. I remember sitting on the step in the cold garage, just staring at the loaner pole. As I sat there looking at this loaner pole in stark terror, I realized that being afraid didn’t work for me. I needed to do something. I knew that I couldn’t rely on the studio as a crutch.
I didn’t want to be just an occasional poler. I wanted to own it.
Being an engineer I decided use those years of ed-do-kay-shion so I kicked my left brain into gear. My left brain took over and said to my right brain, “dude, my turn”. So my creative side (with a slight giggle) let my logical side take over and the first thing it did was to chart a course to success. The plan was deceptively simple: figure out where I was strong, where I was weak and take steps to increase my ability in my weak areas.
Simple. (creative right brain giggles again)
My strengths were easy to see. I had one. I was committed. My weaknesses were a bit harder to tease out but they rolled up to: I had zero knowledge, no equipment, and no short term goals.
I was beginning to understand where the fear came from!
At the studio the instructor was in charge. She tells us what to do and we do it. If we don’t know or can’t remember, she shows us. It was a safe, structured, environment.
Not so at home. There was nobody to tell me “climb the pole!” There was no set of prescribed moves on a sheet that I could read like music that would guide me through a session.
So, step one, gain some knowledge. But how? The first thing I did was to invest in some private lessons. I thought that by sharing my plan with my instructor Shelly Lamb, that she would have some suggestions. I was right. Shelly suggested that I might just possibly want to think about writing some of the cool stuff she was teaching me down! You’d have thought that I just learned the meaning of life, the Universe and everything.
In a word, duh.
Actually, the word was a tad stronger, but “duh” will have to do here. She also mentioned that Bel had a DVD set of instructional videos that I could get. Those went right into the gym bag with my pole clothes. Now I had some knowledge resources, some one-on-one coaching, and a way to reinforce what I’ve learned.
All I needed now was some equipment. I needed my very own pole.
My wife hated that part! “Where will you put it” she asked. Great question. The garage was still pretty cold but after discussing my options, like, the back yard, the neighbors house, or the garage, we agreed that the garage it was. The domestic negotiations thus being successful would forever be remembered at our house as the “Great Pole Discussions”.
I now had a sanctioned place, I just needed a pole to put in it.
Once again my pole dancing friends came to the rescue. Shelly was selling her brass pole and said she’d give me a deal I couldn’t refuse. She did and now I’m the proud owner of my very own pole! There was one condition though. If i decided to sell it, she got first right of refusal. It goes up this weekend. I was also lucky enough to latch on to a portable pole that one of the other students was selling. Jennifer Bailey sells poles (sneaky plug) but she was selling her personal pole. Yay! A month ago I had nothing and now I had two!
So how is the plan working out? I think pretty well so far. I can name a whole list of moves and I’m starting to put them together in combinations. I’ve also signed up for a series of work shops at Twirly Girls that will be taught by none other then Philip Deal himself.
The real test will be when I get my new pole up in the garage. The way it’s going so far, I think we’re going to be very good friends.
I’ve been learning pole for the last 6 months and I’m not going to downplay this in any way: pole is hard. It takes time, dedication, and effort. The only dance training I have is what I’ve learned by myself and some courses in Salsa that I’ve done with my wife. Not entirely applicable since there’s not too many opportunities to get inverted in a salsa. Even considering that, it’s been hit and miss. So everything I’ve been learning about pole has been through the instruction I’ve been getting at Twirly Girls.
It’s great using the resources at a studio like TG, but at some point you reach the conclusion that it’s time to get your own pole. Your classmates and friends are all talking about how they’re working on things at home and you kinda feel left out so you take the plunge. Well, maybe not a plunge, more of a “wading” actually. I mentioned to Bel Jeremiah, the owner of Twirly Girls Pole Fitness, that I was interested in getting my own pole and she suggested that I try one before I bought one. I could figure out where to put it – a major consideration, and what kind of pole I should get. It just so happened that Bel had a portable X Pole that she could lend me so I took her up on the offer. We figured out how to load the pieces into my coupe, and off I went.
Back at the house my elation and excitement was crushed when I learned that the house rules prevented me from installing my new workout equipment inside the actual living spaces in the house. It seems that there was a rule written on the mirror in the master bath that quite clearly explained the two potential locations for my new treasure and I’m fairly sure that my neighbors (a quick check verified this) wouldn’t agree that their living room was a good place, so the garage it was.
It was actually pretty easy to set it up. My garage is finished but the previous owner did a crappy job so it was easy to see where the ceiling joists were. I just had to put it in a place where it didn’t hit the garage door opener, didn’t interfere with the cars being parked, and you could still walk around it. Laser level, bubble level, screw driver, wrench, ladder, light, I was ready!
Now that I had the perfect location, up the pole went. I just didn’t follow. It was kind of strange. There was my pole, ready for me, but I wasn’t ready for it. I tried a few moves, but not successfully. I didn’t understand at first but soon it dawned on me – I was terrified.
I could muster excuses: it was cold, it was a new thing. But the reality was that there was the pole and there I was – not on it. Why? Was it because I was alone and it wasn’t the safe place that the studio and a trained and skilled instructor represented? Was it because it was my garage? Was I really afraid?
I tried some moves. I tried to twirl, but I only succeeded in a couple of climbs and some really lame attempts at some spins. No inverted mounts. No shoulder mounts. No leg hangs. Just lameness. The harder I tried, the worse it got.
So I quit.
I took the pole down.
I took the pole apart, put it back in the car, and sent a thank you note to Bel. Bel sent me a note saying that someone else needed the pole and when I was done could I bring it back? I was hugely relieved.
I thought about what had happened. I thought about it a lot.
I came to a simple conclusion: My confidence was nonexistent. I’ve spent all my time in the studio with classmates surrounding me but I had yet to really rely on myself.
Clearly, this needed to change. I was at a plateau that I needed to get over. I wanted to get good at pole but here I was, stuck, and to get any further I needed to get unstuck. But how? I needed to figure out what I needed to do but this was new territory for me.
What I really needed was a plan.
Next blog…the plan.
Hi. Although I’ve contributed to a few blogs, I’ve decided that it’s time for me to strike out on my own and not burden folks with having to publish my drivel. Lori Lolorashel Myers (http://lolorashel.blogspot.com/2012/01/year-of-viking.html) has been kind enough to post some of my ramblings and I thank her profusely for the opportunity to contribute. I encourage you to subscribe to her blog as well as mine.
I’m going to be publishing my trials, successes, pains, fears, and hopes in this blog for the foreseeable future. Although there are lots of women, there are only a few men that have taken up the challenge. Pole dancing is an art as well as a discipline and I hope to be up to that challenge. So far, weather I am or not seems to be a toss up!