The past few weeks have been interesting in the pole dance world. First we had Steven Retchless getting a standing ovation from Sharon Osbourne and then we had the Nicki Shaw incident.
Let's start at the beginning. The day after Steven appeared on national television a pole dancing friend of mine posted on my pole dance teacher's Facebook page. The essence of her message was that Steven didn't represent masculinity in pole dance. If you look around on the net for comments you will find that all most all the women appreciated his athleticism, grace, and most of them really think he has a great body. The only ubiquitous negative comment was that the shoes were over the top. My step-daughter thought he totally rocked and loved his shoes!
Now what do the guys think? Better yet how do I feel about Steven's dance. Hey, Martha Graham was right. "The body never lies." No punches pulled. His dance is feminine. His dance is a look into his soul. It's honest. His dance is art. His dance is erotic. His dance in platforms and glitter reinforces the middle class American stereotype, "Men who dance professionally are gay." His dance before mainstream America made my day at the office just a little bit harder.
The male pole dance world isn't that big yet but the sexuality issue has and is still being kicked around in the ballet world. We have Mikhail Baryshnikov, George Balanchine, Peter Martins and Jacques d'Amboise on one hand and the world of Vaslav Nijinsky, Sergei Diaghilev, and Jerome Robbins on the other. We have the famous Baryshnikov quote, " I am not the first straight dancer dancer or the last." So what does this have to do with the enemy and us? In my world how Steven dances is not the issue. The issue is the women who believe that men have no place in pole dance and the general public who think men pole dancing is all about gay strippers.
Now onto the Nicki Shaw incident. Nicki is a professional dancer in the "Adult Entertainment" business. With much controversy she withdrew from the American Pole Fitness Association 2011 Championship. The bottom line here again is the erotic vs athletic. Legitimacy. Rated G for General Audiences. I'm glad I wasn't faced with her decision. While we sit around and poke at those dancers who dance like strippers and those who dance like athletes, the majority of the people who have never put a hand on a dance pole have already made up their minds. The enemy is not us but we don't see it and we end up fighting with our fellow dancers trying to decide who is holier.
The body never lies. No matter how you dance, if your dance is honest you deserve the support of the pole dance community. The following quote from Suzanne Farrell says this better than I can,
"If a step or movement is played only for its sexual suggestiveness it immediately becomes something other than itself, and the result is a limitation. If on the other hand, the step or movement is given its full musical and physical value without the trappings of a specific intention, sexual or otherwise, its power can be limitless - it will suggest to some, it will comfort others, and while it may provoke one person, it may be a beautiful image to another. I have never believed in foreshortening any movement's options by imposing one's own experience on it. If there is eroticism in the music and the movement, it will speak for itself; if the dancer chooses to emphasize this aspect, it is the beginning of vulgarity."
Finally I would like to thank Veena Poledancer for the way she worded a post on Facebook today. She said,
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