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
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.
I'm a pole dancer, ballet dancer, ice hockey player and research meteorologist. I live in Denver, Colorado with my wife of 20 years and two Siamese cats. I found the gift late in life. I was 52 the first time I went around the dance pole and 53 when I made my first plié.