Pole pas de deux

Pole pas de deux

Friday, December 21, 2012

The First Christmas Present of 2012

Dance can be dramatic. The world around dancers can be filled with human drama that is in no way related to what we do in front of an audience. The relationships you develop with your fellow dancers can be fragile. From my own experience I can say that where I am at emotionally comes out in my dance. I express my joys and sorrows in movement.

The best partners can have disagreements, and intentionally or unintentionally hurt each other. Communication is not always easy. Sometimes it just isn't possible to figure out how to start the dialog until someone reaches out.

I hugged my old dance partner last night and we talked for the first time in four months. I'm glad I kept our showcase pictures up in my practice room. It didn't seem right to take them down. Dance lives and dies in the moment. But the steps never leave your heart.

I can't think of a better way to start the Christmas weekend.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Year in Review 2012 (Bloghop)

This month the Facebook pole dancing bloggers are looking back on the highlights of their year. This post won't be confined to pole dance. It is impossible for me to untangle my experiences as a ballet dancer from pole dance. I am a dancer.

The top moment of my year was the spring showcase rehearsal at my former pole studio. I finally got a chance to live out a moment on stage that had been in my dreams since I made my first plie. I looked up at the end of the "This Bitter Earth" pole dance pas de deux with my partner and saw tears in peoples eyes.  We didn't know what people were going to think about our dance and when we saw their eyes we knew that something magic had happened. My inspiration for bringing the pas de deux from Wheeldon'sFive Movements, Three Repeats,” to pole dance came from watching a rehearsal video of Wendy Whelen and Tyler Angle posted on YouTube.

The next special moments of the year came from watching Ballet Nouveau Colorado dancers Sarah Tallman, Brandon Freeman, Julie King, and Damian Patterson perform pas from the Garrett Ammon ballet "Love in the Digital Age". They made me cry. Twice. My lines come from the dancers and teachers at BNC. I'm blessed.

My wife and I attended opening night of the Vail International Dance Festival 2012. Imagine walking in and seeing NYCB principle dancer Tiler Peck doing her warm up barre on stage! I came for Dove's Red Angels and walked away stunned by the way Tiler and Amar Ramasar performed the final pas from the Robbins ballet In the Night .

In August I pole danced with props for the first time. It was a very different experience. It was also my first experiment with the music of Italian composer Ludivico Einaudi. His music moves me deep inside. Sometimes I hear music and I can see myself in some kind of movement. I could see myself playing ice hockey and I told the story of what it means to be an aging hockey player and a dancer. It was my last dance at my former studio.

Sometimes heartbreaking things happen and from the pain and ashes you become stronger as your comfortable little world collapses around you. The change forged a tighter bond with my teacher, the amazing pole dancer Estee Zakar. I actually freestyle danced for Estee last month after working with her for over a year. Her enthusiasm for my dance style and encouragement has helped change my way of thinking about performing. I am looking forward to the Great Midwest Pole Dance Competition coming next summer in Chicago. I can think of no one better qualified to help me get ready for the trip.

In October I was invited by Sasha Viers to dance in a Halloween pole jam at her Boulder Spirals studio. The women in the studio are awesome and I love dancing with Sasha. Sasha knows ballet. We are talking pas de deux. I can't wait. My new home is at Spirals.

This has also been a great year blogging and being a part of the Studio Veena online pole dance community. You should check it out. It is an amazing place to learn about pole dance and share your experiences.

I'm also very happy to be reconnected and taking class with a good friend at Spirals. It seems that we have followed a similar path. She is a beautiful dancer/instructor and we inspire each other. She was one of the first women to welcome me into the nearly all female world of pole dance. Another lost friend from my dance past and I have reunited and are working on pole pas de deux. I hate that the stigmas associated with this beautiful dance form keep me from mentioning them by name but I want them to know how much their friendship means to me.

My final inspirational moments of 2012 came from watching the CBS News 60 Minutes coverage of the New York City Ballet. Two things Peter Martins said will stay with me. Peter is the guy who runs NYCB. He is Balanchine's successor. When Lesley Stahl quoted Balanchine's mantra, "Ballet is woman", one of the things Peter said was, "He (Balanchine) needed us (men)." When asked if he was hurt by the critical reviews of his collaboration with Sir Paul McCartney Peter didn't flinch. He reminded us that no one knows more about our dance than ourselves. Courage. To hell with the critics. We dance our dances. The critics don't stand in the fire and show anyone what makes THEM tick. Pole dance needs men too. The world of pole dance will get there.

The year 2012 was a year of endings, beginnings, reclamation, and rebirth. It was full of those brief moments of joy that keep dancers dancing.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Stolen from My Facebook Wall.

The next person who says something about bringing back the sexy in pole dance gets this pic stamped on their ass. Nikoai Tsiskaridze working with Galina Ulanova.

 My final thought for the day:

Karol Helms. A Goddess of Pole Dance. From the heart. You can't fake a dance like this.

Friday, November 30, 2012


I found this picture on Facebook and it just resonated inside of me. The caption with the picture was, "The Calm Before the Storm". If you have ever danced before an audience you know that feeling. You are alone with your thoughts, sometimes staring at your demons. Sometimes I visualize. At other times I just think, "Merde", and not in that good way that you wish another dancer" Merde" before they dance. It's that, oh shit I'm the only guy here dancing and every male significant other is going to be wondering what the hell is wrong with me.

I danced for the first time in front of an audience in May of 2009 and every studio showcase after that I told myself that next year I would pass. Every year I danced. Now that my dance has grown I've become proud of it. I understand why dancers live for that adrenaline moment you get when you count down those final seconds before you show your soul to everyone sitting in front of you.

And now I have made the decision to enter my first pole dance competition. This isn't going to be Five String Serenade by Mazzy Star in front of sixty people. It is going to be the Great Midwest Pole Dance Competition. Even if I do not place in the Over 40 Masters Division I want to dance in the showcase.

Just looking at the Rules a few nights ago almost made me hyperventilate. When I found a 45 mm chrome X-Pole I could hear Estee telling me that the pole she teaches on is the competition standard. I'm really glad I listened.  I have never had a time limit on music, pole moves I had to execute, or a dress code. There were two voices in my head Sunday night (11/25). One was telling me that I am too old and too fat. The other one was telling me,

 “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!” ― Hunter S. Thompson

The more I though about the way I have already lived my last fifty-five years, the more I knew I would be booking a room in Chicago in August. The way I dance is different. One teacher called it honest and mature. Estee told me weeks ago that I had to perform. I sent Estee a text message and the journey to Chicago started two days ago. November 28, 2012.

My music is going to have to be cut down to fit the limit. Estee and I have a rough sketch of the moves we want to choreograph. One of my ballet teachers has graciously agreed to help me work out the ballet floor work. I asked her because her adagio music is the music I picked for my dance. Divenire by the Italian composer Ludivico Einaudi is the one. In English Divenire means, To Become.

People have asked me why I chose to be a dancer. I did not choose: I was chosen to be a dancer, and, with that, you live all your life.  ― Martha Graham


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Coming Out (November Blog Hop)

This month the Facebook Pole Dancers blog topic is coming out as a pole dancer. Interesting. Not only am I out to my family but I am also out on the Internet, at work and to my fellow hockey players. I'm also male. I have multiple stories.

I was out to my Facebook friends from the very beginning and started this blog not long after that. The only fallout from those choices was that my son removed me from his Facebook friends list. He basically said that his friends didn't need to see pictures of his dad on a stripper pole. There was another slightly negative reaction from an old high school classmate on FB. However, he also knew my wife from high school and after they had a few conversations he seemed good with it.

My workplace coming out was really interesting. I work in Boulder, Colorado in a weather research laboratory. My workplace is 99% liberal, tree hugging, all inclusive, warm fuzzy people with PhD's. Unless of course you are a guy who pole dances. I was in Santa Rosa, California for a meeting where a huge battle of both turf and scientific ideology was taking place. Some very high level people were saying some pretty nasty things in front of their bosses and some of the not so nice stuff was aimed at my own research. My scientific research is every bit as personal as my dance. It is a creative expression of who I am and how I think.

During one of the breaks I walked out into the parking lot and started walking off the anger and frustration with a few female co-workers who were as upset as I was with contentious situation we were experiencing. While I was looking around I noticed a parking sign in the lot that was mounted on a round pole instead of the usual square steel. I handed my cell phone to one of the women and said, "Take a picture of this for me please."

After much laughter I did a few more pole tricks and that gave me the perspective to go back to the meeting. There was one negative reaction. One of the woman asked me to mail the picture back to the lab in Boulder. The one guy she thought would find it hysterical didn't find it funny at all. IT guy. Go figure. :) One of the warm fuzzy PhD's took a short video of me doing turns on the concourse train at Denver International Airport while our group was on the way home. My boss saw it. Nope, he didn't think my little demo was funny. I gained some ground back at the baggage carousel. His sister was a ballet dancer. Win some. Lose some.

My final coming out was totally accidental. I was visiting with my parents one evening and my mom asked me if I wanted to stay for dinner. Without thinking I said, "Sorry mom. I have dance class at 6:30." I felt doom. Without blinking my mom continued stirring the spaghetti sauce and asked me what kind of dance. Never lie to moms right? They know. It doesn't matter if you are five or fifty-five. Ballet. Yeah mom, your son is a ballet dancer. My mom looked at me and said, "You are always doing something new aren't you?" The she called out to my dad and said, "Hey, your son is taking ballet lessons." My dad's reply, "I hope he can waltz better than I can." At that point we both took off to sit with my dad. My mom explained that they had taken dance classes together and my dad just could not learn to waltz. I now had confirmation that my issues with center work in ballet ARE genetic.

I figured I was on a roll and said, "Hey, while we are talking about dance I thought I'd mention that I am also learning how to pole dance." Dad never looked up. He just continued on with his crossword puzzle. Mom of course had one final question, "Isn't that about stripping?" No mom, not for me. Some do, I don't.

I know I'm pushing the norm and I'm out to everyone. I'm not young enough to dance in something tight, tiny, and shiny like the super male pole dancers. But I'm old enough to not give a damn about what other people think about my being a dancer. I would say that most people both male and female are either intrigued or at the worst neutral. The people that have problems with my being a pole dancer are equally distributed between men and women. Actually more people get weird about ballet than pole dance. Personally I think it is related to homophobia but that is just a guess.

Oh, my fellow hockey players... They didn't blink. I'm a defensemen. Defensemen are at the bottom of the hockey player hierachy. As long as our team doesn't get scored on while I am on the ice and I don't forget my turn to bring beer no one gives a shit.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


You have to love dancing to stick to it. It gives you nothing back, no manuscripts to store away, no paintings to show on walls and maybe hang in museums, no poems to be printed and sold, nothing but that single fleeting moment when you feel alive. ― Merce Cunningham

I am a dancer.
I can be hurt.
I am strong.
Watch me dance.
I will tell you everything you want to know about me.
My movement can't stilled by a keystroke, text message or email.
I touch people when I dance.
I am unforgettable.

Dance Found: Video

I get a few requests to post videos of my dance on YouTube. I usually defer because of music copyright issues. At the time I posted this clip I did get a notice that BMG owned music may be in my video. Yeah. Uh-huh. Maybe, semi-sorta, kinda.

The inspiration for this dance comes from what meteorologists call turbulence. The eddies in the wind. The angst that dancers try to put into motion. Turbulence is like a dance. It lives and dies in moments. There is an eternity of eddies and an eternity of dances.

Enjoy. I'm posting the first shitty comment I get.

Music: Any Other Name by Thomas Newman Cafe del Mar Volume 8
That's Estee Zakar with the video camera in her home studio.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Dance Found

When my former dance teacher and I went our separate ways last August I had a choice to make. I could move on with my art/dance or let it die. I didn't spend a lot of time with the choice. Long before things went sour last August I had been working with Estee Zakar once or twice a month. She is such an awesome teacher and the whole Denver area is so lucky to have her with us.

It is hard for men in pole dance. Coed is almost never an option in most pole studios. I resigned myself to working on the technical aspects of pole moves and combinations privately with Estee and concentrating on ballet. No more spring showcase. No more audience. No more taking up space and no more weaving in between the poles trying to land jumps.

For the last two months that is what I have been doing. Very structured ballet and getting used to Estee's 45 mm chrome X-Pole. (I had never been on chrome before I started working with Estee.) I love the way Estee breaks things down and she is very organized. She challenges me. I love the push. I left every lesson sweaty, bruised and happy to be on a pole once a week again. But deep down not being able to dance was eating me up inside. I love the pole tricks but if you follow my blogs you know that I have to dance. Dance lets me get things out in the open that I bottle up inside. I have been carrying a lot of hurt around the past few months. Finally on the 20th of this month I just had to dance. I asked Estee if we could set aside five minutes at the end so that I could freestyle. It would be the first time that I danced for her. Without hesitation she said yes. It was totally awesome. I drove home feeling like I could breathe again. Estee encouraged me to think about performing and she loved the ballet style that I use in transitions. It was kind of like that first date after my divorce. I felt like a dancer again.

On the 23rd of October Sasha Viers, the owner of Boulder Spirals pole studio in Boulder, Colorado invited me up to a Halloween pole jam scheduled for last night. I was really excited about meeting a new group of dancers and polling in a local studio. I would have just enough time to eat after dancing with Estee.

There was a video that I watched on YouTube that upset me quite a bit after following a ballet/pole friends Facebook web page Saturday morning the 27th. The dance video with me in it has since been taken down. Every time I feel like "that" dance is behind me, someone digs it up and pours acid in the wound. As I poured my second cup of coffee I knew that when I danced with Estee later it was going to be freestyle. I needed to dance. I needed to cry. I didn't care if I polished or learned a single pole trick.

Estee asked me to bring a video camera to my lesson and we taped. My last dance of the day is on my Facebook page. Estee and I talked and she complimented my extension, open shoulders and lines. I had to acknowledge my former teacher. She taught me lines and letting go of the passion that makes being a dancer special. She was the one who constantly reminded me about carriage, extension, and owning the stage. After we danced Estee and I talked about performing again and being in a studio where I could take up space. After over two months I got my dance back.

Then I was off to Boulder Spirals. Sasha has coed spin pole classes and another group of women who welcome men into their pole world. I'm almost certain that I am going to the big Midwest Competition next year.

Dance found.

Friday, October 12, 2012

How A Halloween Costume Party Changed My Life

The Pole Dancing Bloggers Group on Facebook has decided to do a blog hop each month. This month’s topic is Halloween. So here is my Halloween entry for the hop.

Four years ago a Halloween costume party changed my life in a very strange way. It was my introduction to pole dance. Yes, the truth is always stranger than fiction. My wife came home from work around the first of October and told me that her boss was throwing a huge Halloween costume party. Her boss had rented out the entire second floor of a strip bar in north Denver.

I hate Halloween parties. I love the drinking to excess, food etc. but I’m a nerd and the costume thing was always a little much for me. My wife’s boss loves to throw parties and I always have to be the dutiful husband. So my idea for the upcoming party was to do something so goofy and deranged that I would never be invited to another party ever. I decided to go in drag and be the ugliest hooker that had ever been seen leaning up against a car door.

After a few trips to a local Denver exotic dancer/transgendered supply store, manscaping, and the massive task of finding size 12 CFM pumps I was ready to make my debut as Ashley the Crack Whore. My wife was going to dress up like a guy and were going to be a cross-dressing couple. But somewhere out there while we were looking for fake boobs she found a pirate costume complete with the leather boots.

When party day arrived we showed up at the club, got our wrist bands and directions to the stairway that led to the second floor. Getting to the staircase required crossing the length of the first floor in full view of every stage. There were four stages and every one of them had a nearly naked woman wrapped around a dance pole . My intrepid wife took one look at all that exposed skin and bolted for the staircase. She moved pretty damn fast in those flat soled boots. Damn fast really does not capture it. She just disappeared.

I ended up stranded in pole dance land with the short stride that high heels give you. I was dressed in black leather pumps, long blond hair, stockings and a really short purple mini-skirt. Nasty right? As soon as I started out across the main floor every dancer in the club stopped dancing and started clapping and cat calling me. Hard to be stealthy when you are a 5’ 11” tall “woman” on 4” spikes. The club was at a standstill watching me teeter-totter my way past the dancers and the mostly male crowd. Just when I thought the embarrassment couldn’t get any worse the Master of Ceremonies came running across the floor and intercepted me.

He looked me up and down said, “I will give you $25.00 bucks to get up on one of those poles and dance." Wow! I love a challenge. I so wanted to take that guys money. But I had never seen anyone pole dance and I sure as hell wasn’t going to sit on a stage and show off what was under my skirt. I shook my head no and proceeded hobble up the stairs and drink massive amounts of Scotch while people stuffed dollar bills under my garters. My wife's boss enjoyed lifting up my dress and putting jello shots in the tops of my stockings.

When my wife and I left the club there was another club stopping moment when the dancers gave me the woo-hoo and blew kisses at me. But the experience planted a seed. I was totally bummed that I couldn’t rock that dudes world and take his money. I told myself that someday I would learn a few pole tricks. Then I promptly forgot about it. A few months later I fell down the rabbit hole.

The interesting thing about the manscaping is that I found out that I liked not looking like a fugitive from the gorilla exhibit at the local zoo and it became part of my monthly routine. The woman who did my waxing and I become good friends. In early February of the following year between ripping cloth strips I told her the story of my strip club experience. She laughed and told me that she had just started beginning pole dance classes. She added that her teacher was teaching a men’s class at her studio.

For my next act of bad craziness I found the studio web page. After pondering it for a day I called the studio. I got a recorded message, panicked and hung up the phone. Then I decided to send an email to the studio. If it got ignored I figured that the clear message was that men don’t pole dance. End of story.

A week passed and I never heard back. Then on a Saturday morning the owner and lead instructor returned my call. She was awesome and after a few minutes of conversation she said that she would be happy to work with me and we scheduled a private lesson. After I put the phone in the cradle my wife looked and me and all she said was, “You are going to do it aren’t you?”

A few weeks later I could invert and I had a shiny new Platinum Stages brass dance pole set up in the living room of my house. This past March marked three years as a pole dancer. My wife and her boss moved to a new company and a new Halloween Party has been planned for this month. There was a conspiracy and they thought I would make a great bunhead. Hair in a bun, leotard, tutu and pointe shoes. Rather than learn how to tie the ribbons on point shoes and bourrée en pointe, I just bought a new skirt and blouse. I’m hoping that smart ass with the $25.00 is there. Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Two Things Pole Dance Classes Have That Ballet Class Needs

This month marks my second year as a ballet dancer. It is no secret that I really enjoy ballet and the way it has made me a better pole dancer. I do have to say that I have a few things that ballet could learn from pole dance.

  1. FREESTYLE! All ballet dancers know the syllabus: plie, tendu, degage, frappe, ron de jamb, battement, plie-releve (till it hurts), barre stretch, center, reverence. Wouldn't it be nice to just cut loose like the Modern classes do for warmup? Freestyle is what makes pole dance awesome. I know. I know. Ballet is like Mr. Miyagi teaching Daniel Larusso karate in the movie Karate Kid. Mr. Miyagi makes Daniel sand the floor, and wax on... wax off... until he is too sore to move. At the end of his first "lesson" when Daniel is discouraged, Mr. Miyagi shows him all that he has learned. I get it. But when do I get to dance my version of the Nutcracker Prince to Guns and Roses?
  2. NEW MUSIC! I have been listening to the same barre music for two years now in one of my classes. We finally got some new music two weeks ago. One piece. Chopin's Nocturne in E flat major, Op 9 No. 2  It was for barre stretch?? No and hell no! I want to do the pas from In the Night.
I wonder if City Ballet would feel the disturbance in the force if I just started doing 1/2 turn pirouettes during the next barre stretch? Led Zeppelin's When the Levee Breaks would be playing in my head.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

I Am Not Saving Anything

Sunday afternoon I had the joy of teaching one of my friend's three boys how to ice skate. I've probably taught at least a couple hundred kids how to skate. Hockey coaches do that. After the boys got tired I had a chance to be alone with my blades and the cold rink air.

It all comes back to me when I'm on the ice. The memories are still very vivid. I have coached many games in that rink, standing on the bench looking down at that sheet of ice. Now for the first time I was just skating on it. I took a minute to stand on the ice in front of the visitors bench and I could still see the gloves and sticks scattered on the ice after my team won a tournament there. I could see another team getting killed and wondering how much longer it would be before the period would end and I could go home and enjoy the 24-hour waiting period before the parents could call and bitch about our lousy performance. Before I started skating again I though of the last words I always left in locker room after the final game of the season. I always said a personal goodbye to each player and then I would tell the team, "Teach someone to skate someday."

Then I went out and checked my stride. The first thing that goes when a hockey player ages is the length of their stride. I always get warmed up and then I count how many strides it takes to skate between the red line and blue line at full speed. The number was three. It has always been three. The distance between the red line and blue lines in North American dimensioned rinks is 25 ft.

The human body is a miracle. After I slowed down I was thankful not only for the muscles and ligaments that ballet has kept stretched but also for the ability to skate at my age. When I got home all the old hockey injuries ached a little. The left knee, the groin, and the right ankle all let me know that they were fifty-five years old.

I have a silly grin on my face right now. I guess I never grew up and I don't see it happening in the future. I found a 45-mm chrome X-Pole to set up at home (replacing the brass) and I'm all set to dance with Estee Zakar on Saturday afternoon. My dance partner wants me to try lyrical with her. She calls it sloppy ballet.

There is only now. Right now. I'm not saving anything.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Ballet and Pole For the Bewildered

Some of my friends read my blog for the things I say that are not exactly related to dance. In all my endeavors I have found lessons that are more about living my life than the sport or hobby I am exploring. Competitive chess taught me planning and strategy. Similar lessons are in ice hockey with the added complication that you are responsible for other people when you play and coach. You can be a positive or negative force in your teammates and players lives. Dance and competitive long-range rifle shooting are lessons in Zen. You feel when the conditions are right to make your shot or execute a subtle gesture with your eyes. Sometimes you have to let your intuition take over. Not everything in the world works like a proof in advanced calculus.

The vocabulary of pole dance and ballet is filled with strange names. Ballet is almost entirely French and it takes a while before you just know that en croix means the combination will be done devant (to the front), a la seconde (to the side), and derriere (to the back). You guessed it, in the shape of a cross.

So I thought I would suggest a few books that might help people who know nothing about ballet or pole dance see past the language/jargon and into one of the worlds I inhabit. The first short read is Winter Season: A Dancers Journal by Toni Bently. Toni danced in the corp of the New York City Ballet during the last of the Balanchine years. The book is actually a journal she kept during a season she danced with NYCB. I'm warning you upfront that other searches of Toni's writing will lead you past her writing in Dance Magazine and Suzanne Farrell's biography. You might fall into the rabbit hole and find yourself looking at The Surrender, an Erotic Memoir. Toni is my age and not long after degeneration and arthritis in her hips took her out of ballet she wrote an entire book about self-discovery and anal sex. So don't say I didn't tell you that she is very in touch and comfortable with her sexuality. You don't have to pole dance to find your erotic self. Dancers are weird.

The second place to look is Pole Dance Dictionary Here you will find some of the moves I reference in my blog. There is no standardized language in pole dance. Be aware that some other dancer or studio might have a different name for the same move. I hate that but I'm a scientist and a "Feynmanist."

Pole Story: Essays on the Power of Erotic Dance by Claire Griffin Sterrett looks at the history of pole dance and she is a huge proponent of keeping pole dance sexy. Claire and I don't always agree. Nonetheless her book is for anyone who wants to know what makes pole dance attractive to so many women.

Happy reading. Dance is all about digging deep inside, coming to terms with your body and soul and showing it to the world. It is powerful and painful. Most dancers have to dance.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


It's dark when I get to work now. The summer passed so fast. Now I'm watching the leaves turn and planning work travel. I have always had to perform. When you are a research scientist the main way of communicating is presenting your research at conferences and meetings. I have two trips planned in the next six months. One to California and one to Austin, Texas.

The Austin trip is big. It's the annual American Meteorological Society (AMS) dog and pony show/annual meeting. The first time I presented my research was back at an AMS conference in Clearwater Beach, FL in June 1984. I was just a kid. A scared kid who had no idea what he didn't know. The last time I attended the annual meeting was 2009 and I suddenly realized that I wasn't the kid anymore. I was the guy on PhD dissertation committees "guiding" young scientists on their way to knowing what they don't know. I also became acutely aware of the passing of my mentors and how the field of meteorology had changed over the last thirty years. At the AMS in January I will be connecting with some of my favorite students from past years. It's really the only reason I'm going. I'm not a big fan of the meeting. It's huge and I hate commercial airline flights.

I find myself at a crossroad. It seems I'm surrounded by reminders that there are more years behind me than there are in front of me. On Saturday I was helping someone work through some pole moves that would get them out of an inverted crucifix and I realized that I was going to have to buy a chrome pole because I will no longer be dancing or performing on brass. Then I got another one of those creepy "What for?" moments. Like the last time I put new blades on my skates. The thought came to me that by the time the steel on the new blades could not be sharpened anymore I would probably not be able to play ice hockey.

Back in March I expressed some reservations to my former pole dance teacher about partnered pole dancing. There aren't many pole dancers my age, let alone ones who want to take ballet classes and work on pas de deux. When Balanchine started working with the great ballerina Suzanne Farrell he was in his 50's and Suzanne was nineteen. I was uncomfortable with the parallels. When I read about Balanchine dancing the role of  Don Quixote himself with Suzanne after leaving so many wives for his young new ballerinas/muses I felt sorry for him. When I see a guy in his 60's driving a Corvette with a woman half his age in the front seat I always hope it's his daughter. My teacher was comforting and told me that Rudolf Nureyev was much younger than Dame Margot Fonteyn and that she kept dancing because he inspired her. He extended her career and some of the greatest ballet ever performed came in the autumn of Margot Fonteyn's life. For them it was all about the art.

The question in my mind as I stand here at the crossroads is, When have you stayed too long? When do you start looking like a person trying desperately to turn back a clock that has already struck twelve?

Do I buy a new dance pole and start all over with a dancer who has wanted to partner with me for over a year? Do I rent the ice for next summer so that the old gang and I can play pick up ice hockey? Do I buy those books on technical writing and hydrology so that I can be a better scientist and communicator? Do I take on more new students? Do I just bag it, retire, and move on to a quieter life without competition and drama?

Picking a direction at this new crossroad is going to take some soul searching and courage. The way I see it both roads look rough.

"It's easy to get buried in the past. When you try to make a good thing last." from the song Ambulance Blues by Neil Young

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Who Owns It?

I found myself in a different place yesterday. I was helping a friend with choreography for a pole dance performance that she will be doing this winter. I'm a dancer and I'm still active. I stumbled into choreography because I wanted to go beyond freestyle in my dance and as far as pas de deux is concerned it is the only way. For two people to dance together they have to have a road map.

To help someone else in a non-professional situation and also not interfere with their mentor is difficult. Especially when some of my favorite things to dislike about pole dance performances come up and I see a way around the cliches that annoy me so much. I want to speak out. It's my nature.

I've been a head coach, senior scientist, dad, etc. I'm used to being on the pointy end. I guess you know that when a platoon walks in the jungle the guy in front is usually the first one to get blown up. I've been blown up a lot in my life and I'm sure that expressing my artistic choreography ideas might upset a few people but here are some of the things that I just think end up being cliche and or boring.

  • Too many tricks. Four minutes of music and twenty-five tricks. I'm a physics guy right? That is less than 10 seconds per trick. What happens to form when you rush? All the moves get short. If you aren't Amber Richard tall, short isn't good. Would you believe that Nureyev was 5' 8"? If you ever get the chance to watch some of his performances on YouTube I'm sure that you would never think he was under 5' 10". Baryshnikov is 5' 6". Lines are the illusion and you can't hit long lines in a hurry.
  • No story or insight into the music. It's in the background because the dancer likes it. It might as well be white noise to the audience. The music should inspire the movement. The interplay between the music and the body is what most of us think of when we think of dance. 
  • Too many camel toe shots. They can be so cliche. It is even worse if the feet are sickled, winged or flexed. The platforms aren't going to hide a bad line. It can end up looking like a thirteen-year old walking in her first pair of heels. If you dance barefoot a bad line is even more noticeable. The splay is a powerful, dramatic and sometimes sexual move. Don't over do it. I'm a guy and I'm totally comfortable doing a helicopter inversion when the music says it has to happen. If a woman blasts me her crotch six or seven times in a routine it is just over the top. 
  • Glued to the pole. Think about coming out of a move and not carrying it to the floor but being able to dance away from the pole. You are a dancer right? Steal some steps from Jazz, Modern, etc. Show some sexy that is just you. Put the focus on yourself away from the pole.
  • Trying to be sexy. Your audience knows, trust me. Refer back to the teenager and her first tube of lipstick. Sexy is in your spine and you will say it every time you move if you really feel it.
Now that I have put my top five pet pole dance bummers out there I have a few suggestions that have helped me move my dance in different directions.

  1. Dance to music that is just not you. Pick something you hate even if you have to stand there because it  does nothing for you but pisses you off. Poker Face (Lady Gaga version). It makes my skin crawl. I used to share a semi-private lesson with a woman who loved blues. I'm not big on blues but I found myself moving differently. I never imagined I would dance to Eric Clapton or Robert Johnson.
  2. Put a piece of tape on the pole. I learned that from Estee Zakar. Don't go below it. It will keep you off the floor or aware that you need to climb above and transition standing up so you can dance away.
  3. Steal. Steal from other dance forms. Balanchine is a ballet legend and he openly told people he stole stuff. 
  4. Dance to express not impress. You don't have to do any move because someone tells you it has to be there. 
  5. Listen to your music and just freestyle it at first. Don't write down a move unless you feel it.
  6. Don't let a choreographer use you like a robot. A good choreographer lets you be on the pointy end a lot of the time. Your body, your dance. You own it.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Twelve Hour Days and Coffee

The entire month has been mostly twelve hour days and coffee. I've had my brain consumed by two scientific papers that I'm writing. I haven't worked on a dance pole since late August. I fixed that today. Ballet and pole dance. My pole and ballet work have benefited from the distance. Why? Because I breathe science like I breathe dance.

My work makes me happy too. Actually calling it work is wrong. I am lucky enough to have been paid to do something I love doing.

Kirbyville, Texas July 2006. Texas Air Quality Experiment. Real meteorology deep in East Texas.

Poledancerdiaries: Can You See Me?

Driving home from my Saturday morning ballet class I noticed that a new Tweet had arrived from Studio Veena. The message: Did you see Charley's new blog? As soon as I got home I read it and it is stunning. It is also here on her Blogger page. Poledancerdiaries.

Charley Crystal wrote something that touched me deeply. Can You See Me? is the title of her post. I just wanted to say that if she could write something so brutally honest about her journey as a dancer in words I cannot imagine what it must be like to see her perform. Next summer I am going to attend the Midwest Pole Dancing Championship. I hope she is there.

There are so many things I would like to share about dancers from both my dance worlds. I added Charley's blog along with some other blogs I follow to my main page. I also have two of my favorite places in the world linked to my page.

I would probably write even more about ballet but I always worry about web searches that associate a pole dance blog with the elegant world of ballet. But enough about ballet and the dual worlds some of us inhabit.

This blog entry is about Charley Crystal.

I can see her.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Black and Orange to Bittersweet

A few days ago I was thinking about watching the ballet In the Night by Jerome Robbins in Vail, CO last summer. It was this crazy collage of Chopin, the difficult partnering, and that beautiful black and orange dress that meant the final pas was staged true to the original.

I was going to write about watching that ballet the first time. Then came a whole bunch of publication deadlines. I'm supposed to be a research scientist and that means publish or perish. So I've been writing research articles.

Then came Pole Pride Day 2012.

Then a few minutes ago this popped up on my Facebook Wall:

Tonight Wendy and Tyler are doing it for the first time on their home stage at NYCB.

But while a voice within me cries
I know heaven will answer my call
And this bitter earth
Ooh, may not be so bitter after all

I've decided to teach the choreography that goes with the pole dance version of This Bitter Earth to my new partner. It's just too beautiful. It belongs with hope and joy.

Black and Orange to Sweet

Pole Pride Day 2012

Pole Pride Day 2012. I guess I was a little early with the blog post I made a few weeks ago. I was talking about the pole dance closet and a few days later I found that someone actually picked September 20 as the official day for people to openly declare that they are part of the complex and misunderstood world of pole dance.

I differentiate between pole dance and pole fitness because the dynamics change when you put the Y-chromosome with a "stripper pole." For some groups especially men, "fitness" is a step up on the evolutionary (stripper, dancer, athlete) pole ladder. I am a male "dancer". I think coming out is much harder for male dancers than female dancers.

The "fitness" thing bypasses the sexy issue. In my book, fitness for men means that you need to hold the Flagpole or Iron-X pole moves for 5 minutes and when you are done with that you need to pummel that pole with a total display of upper body strength and testosterone. If you get more than four inches away from the pole you are going to disappear in a puff of smoke.

I'm out and very proud. So when I tell people I pole dance it means:
  • I don't care what assumptions you might make about my sexuality.
  • I don't go from trick to trick with the music in the background like elevator music.
  • I can get fifteen feet away from the pole and say something without ever uttering a word.
  • Music is everything. I know how to dance under it, with it and count it.
  • I know that you can't fake sexy. Sexy is being yourself and saying it without pretense.
  • There is motion in stillness.
  • A move comes from deep inside and it goes out with your breath.
  • I study lines. I think Vagonova "Russian" school of ballet every time I move a leg or arm. When you are 5' 11" you can make even the simplest move look awesome with length and grace.
  • Telling a story with my body.
  • Being vulnerable
  • Taking risks
  • I'm not always sure of myself.
  • I see more than brass, stainless steel and sex.
  • I am ok with sexy and I like being part of it. I want to be desired. I'm not afraid to admit it.
  • I like performing. Dancers are meant to be seen.
  • Passion is more important than technical ability.
  • I don't want to dance. I need to dance.
Happy coming out day if you are going there. I hope today some guy decides to take a chance and tells the "You gotta do this if you are a manly man" voice in his head to fuck off and pole dances.

P.S. I'm not really big on these so called special days but today I'm going with the flow.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Last Dance: Time and Space

I picked Ludovico Einaudi's Divenire for what turned out to be a farewell dance. I was introduced to his music this past July when the adult dancers at my ballet studio gave their showcase performance. The Modern class picked two Einaudi pieces and I was hooked. About an hour after the end of the Ballet Nouveau Colorado "Dance Found" performance I was downloading the entire album that is also entitled Divenire.

In the music I could feel the magic of being a defensemen. Defense is the position I play in ice hockey. The position is all about speed and destroying the scoring chances of the other team. Like dance, being a defensemen comes down to time and space. Take away the opposing team's time and space. Make them turn over the puck and get it to your forwards so they can take the battle to the opposite side of the ice. Dance is taking up space and dividing the time. I felt something else in Divenire. The music switches from deep emotion to a beautiful fast tempo that you feel when you are hunting down the puck with everything in your heart. If you are still playing at my age it is 98% passion.

I'm running out of time and space as an athlete. I've been playing ice hockey since I was thirteen. I am now fifty-six and I don't play beer league hockey anymore. In fact my former pole dance teacher was at my last game where there was a running clock and referee's. Now I play pickup summer hockey from May to August with some very good friends. Dance has changed the way I play. My balance is better and pole dance helps maintain the upper body and core strength that hockey players share with dancers. But it cannot turn back the clock. I am very familiar with the hospital emergency and operating rooms. Ice hockey is both elegant and brutal. I know in my heart the time is nearing when I will have to say goodbye to my skates.

So my battered skates and a green jersey I wore with the big white "C" for captain for so many seasons came with me to my dance lesson on that hot August afternoon. For some reason that day I didn't feel much like working on pole moves. I had something I just couldn't wait to say. My teacher had no idea what I was up to when I walked in with my skates and jersey. This was going to be the first time that I had ever danced with props. But there is more to those two pieces of hockey "stuff". The jersey has small tears in it, black marks from the other teams stick tape, and places where the puck has left a bit of itself and a bruise on my body. The skates are cut everywhere by the other teams skate blades and they too have multiple puck marks where the other teams shots have made their presence known.

I stood on the edge of the studio hardwood floor and counted the introduction to Divenire with my jersey over my dance clothes and my skates in my right hand. I didn't ballet walk to the center pole of the studio. I walked like a player coming down the tunnel from the locker room to the rink gate with a stick in hand. At the center studio pole I set my skates on the floor and slowly pulled my jersey off with the wistfulness I felt after my last league game. Like someone who just can't take it off and leave. Then I ballet walked to the far side of the studio and looked out the window at the southwest Denver skyline.

And then I danced. I left everything I felt in those moments on the hardwood and brass that afternoon. You would be interested to know that changing direction from skating backward to forward while driving an opposing player away from the prime scoring area is what a ballet dancer calls a pas de bourrée step. The balancé step is nothing more that getting your feet set so that you can shove someone out of the goaltenders line of sight. I danced around my hockey stuff. I was a hockey player, and now I'm a dancer. I have to let go. I can't let go. I ran, I climbed and I made my spins long and fast.

I inverted on the pole that my skates were at the base of and stretched my arms out to them in the best Balanchine line I could find in my heart. At one point near mid song I ran to the window and looked out at the setting sun and I couldn't find my breath because I was trying not to cry. When the count told me it was almost over I stopped and walked over to my skates. I pulled my jersey back on and grabbed my skates. As I walked back to the end of the hardwood for my exit I noticed that my teacher had red eyes.

I told my story. I divided the time and space. My last dance looking into the Denver skyline. Balanchine was right you know. He admonished every dancer who held back. Never save anything. Never wait. There are no other times. The time is now. Live in the moment. Every dance is fragile. It might be your last.

Ludovico Einaudi "Divenire"

Saturday, September 8, 2012

A Line From the Heart With a Breath From the Soul

Every now and then a person crosses your path that changes your life in a profound way. It's not the stuff of Star Trek or Nicolas Cage in the movie Family Man. In my life these are people I remember every time I submit a manuscript to a research journal, lace up my skates, or grab a tool. They are my cherished mentors, coaches and teachers.

I said goodbye to the teacher I hear every time I invert, ron de jambe, ballet walk, or forget to work a line with a breath that comes from my soul. Before I started this post I could hear For a Dancer by Jackson Browne. But at this point I'm hearing a line from Everything Changes by Stained. I'm posting both. There is a bit of our journey together in both of them. She will be with me every time I dance.

Lyrics from the song For a Dancer by Jackson Browne
Into a dancer you have grown
From a seed somebody else has thrown
Go on ahead and throw some seeds of your own
And somewhere between the time you arrive
And the time you go
May lie a reason you were alive
But you'll never know 

Lyrics from the song Everything Changes by Staind
I am the mess you chose
The closet you can not close
The devil in you, I suppose
'Cause the wounds never heal

Don't Follow Me, I'm Lost

Today's ballet class was interesting. We had four dancers. Two first time dancers, someone that can dance, and moi. Wow! I feel bad. I'm  doing center work and cross floor. That poor newbie. I would look in the mirror, try to fix my screw-up and notice that she was following me and screwing up. I needed a sign that said, "Don't Follow Me, I'm Lost."

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Revisting Pas de Deux

Before you go on to read this post I would like to ask you to go here and read this article. What did you think? Here is a blog post that led me to the previous read. A few weeks back I was trying to address a few of these issues and it turned into what we now call, "An Epic Fail."

I pursued learning classical ballet pas de deux and tried to blend it into pole dance because I love to dance and I love ballet. I remember the first time I watched Baryshnikov dance the Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux with Patrica McBride on a Balanchine choreography DVD. I told myself, "I want to do that!"

I like the part in the magazine article where she talks about hitting your partner with an elbow and giving them a bloody nose, "All you can do is say you are sorry. Don't beat yourself up about it."

I really don't have a lot more to say. I leave you with two famous quotes:

I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be. ~ Douglas Adams
To hold, you must first open your hand. Let go. ~ Lao Tzu

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Pole Dancer Closet

You may be 38 years old, as I happen to be. And one day, some great opportunity stands before you and calls you to stand up for some great principle, some great issue, some great cause. And you refuse to do it because you are afraid…. You refuse to do it because you want to live longer…. You’re afraid that you will lose your job, or you are afraid that you will be criticized or that you will lose your popularity, or you’re afraid that somebody will stab you, or shoot at you or bomb your house; so you refuse to take the stand.
Well, you may go on and live until you are 90, but you’re just as dead at 38 as you would be at 90. And the cessation of breathing in your life is but the belated announcement of an earlier death of the spirit.

Martin Luther King Jr.

I saw this quote posted on real life friend's Facebook page about a week ago. Like many things you find on the Internet I wanted to verify the accuracy and origin before I posted it. It resonated with me because I don't always see empowerment or creative self-expression in pole dance. Sometimes I just see pole dance as a form of socially stigmatized self-indulgence. The analogy that comes to mind is having sex in a public place where you might get caught. It's thrilling but not exactly something that you are going to discuss with your boss. It's rebellious and totally outside polite societies boundaries. You keep doing it because the adrenaline rush is addictive. Indulging in that drug is giving your Sunday school teacher and the ex that said you were boring in bed the finger.

So many of us have learned that pole dance whether it be sexy, athletic, or simply raunchy is like any art. The beauty lies in the soul of the person who dances. However, many of us are living in the shadows. I will probably never coach an ice hockey team again. After my retirement it is unlikely that I will get a part time professorship teaching meteorology here in my part of the country. My son removed me from his Facebook friends list about five minutes after he sent me a friend request. Why? The reason was a picture of me doing something I love on a brass dance pole.  My militant Catholic sister-in-law and my nieces look at me, my home dance pole, and pretend that we are not related. All of this over a socially questionable dance form and being public about it.

I can't ignore the facts. A simple Google search that turns up a picture of you upside down on a dance pole can change your future. The pole world is full of respected lawyers, teachers, doctors, mothers, fathers, graduate students etc. People from every walk of life that you can imagine. So many of us have locked ourselves in the pole dance closet. Drawing a parallel between coming out as gay might be a little over the top but there are some connections. Once you choose to be a pole dancer, you have a decision to make. I made my decision. The existence of this blog with my legal name on it says it all.

I hear a lot of talk. I've seen a statement about how dance heals the spirit written on a wall over fourteen feet high. I don't know about you but if you pole dance and you live looking around the corner for some phantom to ruin your reputation, how healed can your spirit get? Don't get me wrong. I do understand how the real world works. It's a world where a school teacher or youth hockey coach gets dumped out on the street because of something they do on their personal time that has absolutely no bearing on their integrity, values, knowledge of subject or ability to teach and inspire their students.

I'm over three years into my pole dance odyssey and I can tell you that healing my spirit with pole dancing has just not happened. I understand myself in much more depth but it hasn't all been joyful. At times dancing has been downright painful for me. The mirrors, the self judgement, the difficulty and the vulnerability that goes with dance can kick your ass pretty hard.  In fact I'm beginning to conclude that I'm an emotional, expressive dancer because I'm a little odd or just plain fucked up. I'm not sure I would be able to dance worth a damn if I got "healed". Your can't feel the pain that inspired Vincent van Gogh on Prozac. I don't want to be healed. I just want to say things that I feel without words.

If you want cheap and easy go learn ballroom or tango (Especially if you are male and into women). Being a pole dancer is like being the 1000 lb white gorilla in the middle of the zoo. Exposing your soul to the world ballet dancing is tough enough. Why add in that "stripper" pole? The only way the public perception of pole dance is going to change is if enough apparently sane, everyday people are willing to be open about their "dance" preference. You might lose some "friends". You might lose some family. You might lose a job or business opportunity. I know from experience that some people think that there is something really awesome about men pole dancing. I really enjoy being around those people. I only have so many seconds on this planet and I want to spend the time I have in the company of people who accept a guy who pole dances.

Nothing in this world is free. Especially personal freedom.