Pole pas de deux

Pole pas de deux

Monday, October 14, 2013

Sanitizing Pole Dance: October Bloghop

This months Pole Dancing Bloggers bloghop topic is the sanitization of pole dance.Where do I begin? The longer I dance, the deeper I get into the art of pole dancing. I'm truly a dancer. I love the way pole dancing and dance in general gives me a chance to express being human without words. Implicit in our humanity is our sexuality. I don't know of an art form that does not touch sexuality in some way. Ballet is sexy. I've been over that ground numerous times in my blog. Imagine the great art museums of the world without nudity and eroticism. It is just not possible to pull them apart in my mind.

However, pole dancing is going to evolve. The sexy/artistic dancers cannot stop this evolution. I am not going to question the motives that some people use when they promote pole fitness any more than I am going to question the use of the word "Empowerment". I am simply going to dance my dances for those who appreciate my approach to pole.

I have a choice. I can work on choreography, learning new pole moves, listening to new music or I can waste my time trying to convince people that K.T. Coates is destroying an art form with the International Pole Sports Federation. The clearest statement of my commitment to the artistic side of pole dance can be found in my performances and the collaborations that I have had with my fellow dancers.

Last week I read a rather controversial article about pole dancing by Dr. Goal Auzeen Saedi, Ph.D in Psychology Today. I posted a quote from it on my Facebook page and took issue with the glaring bias in the article and her statement about rape culture. One of my friends replied, Refer to Annemarie Davies post about haters hating : "You are not the jackass whisperer."

Personally when this months blog hop topic was announced I though of a song by folk music artist John Gorka. I attended John's performance last January in Denver. He told the story behind his song, "Where the Bottles Break." He was living in the rough side of a Pennsylvania steel mill town. Big money was moving into that part of town, tearing down the biker bars and neighborhood stores. They were being replaced by corporate chain stores. In one line of the song John writes, "I just wanna make enough to buy this town and keep it rough."

I want to keep pole dance rough. I like my Scotch neat. Excessive gluteal exposure is ok with me. I have learned to dance wearing eight-inch platform heels because I wanted to feel what the other dancers feel when their heels hit the floor after a slow spin. A spin to a piece of music that expresses some emotion bubbling from deep inside themselves. A spin that says, Here I am. I am beautiful. I am sexy.

I'm not concerned about pole gymnastics becoming an Olympic sport. I'm not concerned about the mainstream or my dance getting a G-Rating. I'm just going to be a better dancer and artist tomorrow than I am today. If someone thinks that I am attractive either physically or intellectually because of my dance I'll take the compliment and run.

Where the Bottles Break
by John Gorka

I walk where the bottles break
And the blacktop still comes back for more
I walk where the bottles break
And the blacktop still comes back

I live where the neighbors yell
And their music comes up through the floor
I live where the neighbors yell
And their music wakes me up

Life beyond the playground fence
Is serious as basketball
Life beyond the playground fence
Is serious

Four blocks from the steel mill blasts
I paint my claim up on the wall
Four blocks from the steel mill blasts
I paint my claim

From my end of the southside drag
It's a common thought to call the cops
Further west it's been gentrified
They turned biker bars into flower shops

I kind of miss those Harley guys
Who rarely did a body harm
They mostly liked to drink and shout
And flash the pictures on their arms

It happens when the money come
The wild and poor get pushed aside
It happens when the money come
The poor get pushed
The buyers come from somewhere else
And raise the rent so you can't hide
The buyers come from out of state
And they raise the rent

Buy low sell high
You get rich and you still die
Money talks and people jump
Ask how high low-life Donald what's-his-name
And who cares
I don't wanna know what his girlfriend doesn't wear
It's a shame that the people at work
Wanna hear about this kind of jerk

These people aren't saints
No people just are
They wanna feel like they count
They wanna ride in their own car
People aren't saints
No people just are
They wanna feel like they count
They wanna ride in their own car

I just wanna make enough
To buy this town and keep it rough
I just wanna make enough
To buy this town

Buy low sell high
You get rich and you still die
Money talks and people jump
Ask how high low-life Donald what's-his-name
I walk where the bottles break
And the blacktop still comes back for more
I walk where the bottles break
And the blacktop still comes back

I live where the neighbors yell
And their music comes up through the floor
I live where the neighbors yell
And their music wakes me up

Life beyond the playground fence
Is serious as basketball
Life beyond the playground fence
Is serious

Saturday, August 17, 2013

August Bloghop: Social Media and Pole Dance

This months topic is social media and pole dance. I've decided to look at two negative instances where social media has restricted or complicated my social interactions as a pole dancer.

Sharing art. YouTube. If it were not for YouTube I would have probably never spent a dime on a home pole or pole dance. When I became intrigued with the idea of learning how to pole dance the first videos I found were on YouTube. Watching Karol Helms and her basic moves videos inspired me. I watched, attempted, and learned. I spent hours watching pole dance on YouTube. However, when I became brave enough to video my own dances and upload them I came face to face with the music copyright demon.

My first upload was a dance I performed to the Melissa Etheridge song, Dance Without Sleeping. The audio was muted within a few minutes after the upload. BMI music copyright violation. I just searched YouTube and the only version of the song I could find uploaded was the official version. My stance on the issue is that if I took Melissa's music, put my dance on it and used it to sell my pole studio I could see a lot of people in the music industry taking issue with me. In this instance I am not adding value. I'm using Melissa's art to fatten my wallet. However, if I am not asking for a dime and dancing on the street to Melissa's music where is the harm or theft? Could it be that by my choice of dance music that I am encouraging people to go to iTunes and buy her music?

In my scientific field we take advantage of numerous example of Open Source computing resources. These are tools that enable scientist to carry out their work without paying licensing fees for proprietary computing programs and operating systems. Linux, GRASS GIS, R Statistical Analysis, and the GNU Fortran compiler are stunning examples of how freely exchanged source code and programs benefit everyone.

Enough said. I rarely post to YouTube. I have been required to post my competition entries to YouTube and I do it grudgingly. I'm not in dance for the money and I know the difference between plagiarism and being inspired by the art of others.

My next issue is the gnawing feeling I get in my gut when I refer to a particular dance studio in my blog or on Facebook. I am homeless when it comes to a dance studio. There aren't many guys in pole dance and after nearly five years at a single studio I knew that I wanted to share my dance in any studio that would let me dance there and with any group that wanted me with them. I have been invited to dance at nearly all of the Denver area pole dance studios and I have felt welcome. Unfortunately, there is the business side of pole and each studio has to be cognizant of the bottom line. Art doesn't keep the lights on and the water running.

I used to share where I was  pole dancing on Facebook. I no longer do that. I used to share linked images of the studios where I danced here on this blog. Now I only link to them for those who are interested in learning more. I hesitate to mention studios in my blog. I just don't want to be in the middle of the money and politics. There isn't a studio owner here in Denver-Boulder-Longmont area that has ever treated me badly. I would do anything anyone of them asked of me so long as it did not harm another studio. Social media has the ability to upset a lot of people in a short amount of time. The more media exposure I get, the more I have to be on the lookout for land mines.

I'm open source and not for sale. I love sharing my ideas and art. It's free. Scientists are lousy businessmen. We have to share to advance.

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Road to Chicago: I'm One Week Away

The Midwest Pole Dance Competition and Convention is one week away. My last blog entry was in May. Most of the minutes that I have spent since the day I took the stage in Longmont, Colorado have revolved around one piece of music, a lot of hard work, rejection, soul searching, and unparalleled joy.

I suffered a injury to my forearm in late February and was not able to grab a dance pole with my right hand until May. The stress was unbelievable. The deadline for the online entries for Midwest was looming in mid June and all I had was my music. There isn't much you can do in a situation like that. All you can do is sit tight and listen to your body. I had torn some tendons and muscle. If you can pick up a coffee cup and drink you might be out of the woods in a couple of months. I was told that if I kept on dancing I could end up being out until November.

The clock was running out by the time I started final choreography on my Midwest submission. As you know from my earlier blog post I was able to run the dance from beginning to end for the first time on the Dickens Opera House stage in May. I gave the video of that dance to two of my most trusted friends. Estee Zakar and Sarah Tallman.

All you pole dancers know Estee. Sarah is another one of Denver's dance treasures. Sarah is a professional dancer, and choreographer. She dances with the Wonderbound Dance Company (formerly Ballet Nouveau Colorado). She has also choreographed a number of ballets for the company. I met Sarah for the first time at my ballet school where the professional company used to rehearse. A lot of the floor work for my Midwest piece was based in classical ballet and if there was anyone in Denver that could help me with that it would be Sarah. Sarah graciously agreed to help me and we scheduled studio time on a warm June afternoon.

It was an amazing experience working with Sarah. She almost instantly memorized my music. I had been stumbling over the count for days. She looked into my musically challenged brain and just told me to count eights. And then she shared some of the secrets of her stage presence and what she thought about my Dickens dance. It was on the marley with Sarah that the arabesque's and pas de bourees took shape. In the pole studio with Estee we polished the final pole passes. The video submission rules for Midwest gave me three minutes to tell my story. I painfully cut my music and steps to fit the the time limit.

On the twenty-first of June I walked into Denver's Tease Pole Dance studio with Estee and we taped. I made a first pass and it was usable but I knew there was more. On the second attempt I was in the hardest pole move of my routine. The "Meathook" jade. Thirty seconds from home I had the first major fall of my pole dance career. On the way down I hit my ulnar nerve "funnybone" on the base of the pole. My arm went numb and I sat on the floor with one thought in mind, "Fuck." Estee was there with understanding and support. She said that a lot of her women were falling and that was just part of the competition. I missed pickup ice hockey later that night. I would be going back into the studio the next day and I doubt that I could have held a hockey stick in my right hand anyway. Estee and I taped Thursday night and I submitted my video a day before the deadline. My arm looked like it had been hit with a puck moving 90 mph.

I received an email from Mary Ellyn and Midwest Pole Dance July 2. "We are sorry to inform you that you did not qualify..." And so the soul searching began. Three days later in Estee's home studio I started picking up the pieces. I knew what I was up against going into the competition. I also faced another decision. Was I going to enter the Colorado Pole Championship? I did not have much time to think about it and that story will be another blog post. I danced and polished my routine. If I decided to enter Colorado I didn't have time to choreograph a new dance.

Lazy Saturday July 6. I blew off my morning ballet class and played on Facebook. While I was laughing outside and still stinging inside, I got a Facebook message. "Would I be interesting in dancing in one of the Midwest Showcases?" It is amazing how fast you can go from the depths of hell to the top of a mountain.

Yes! Hell Yes! Sunday afternoon August 25th. The road to Chicago ends.

P.S. I made the final round of the Colorado Pole Championship Masters (Over 40) Division.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

To Become: A Fearful Dance

My blogging has been pretty minimal the last couple of months. I didn't want to share the whiny details of what it was like to be an injured dancer. I tore some stuff up in my right forearm doing a split grip move on February 21. Nothing like the impending June 15 deadline for Midwest and only being able to sit around and watch YouTube. One of the things that made it a little easier to bear was Estee Zakar's Asia Tour. She was gone for most of the rehab.

I followed the hard to follow orders from my physical therapist and Chinese medicine specialist. I did not touch a pole from March 9th till May 12. Estee and I danced for the first time on May 12 and we had two lessons to get ready for my performance at the Vertical Fusion Cirque de Radiance Showcase at the Dickens Opera House in Longmont, Colorado.

In fact I came to Estee for our first lesson since her return with the news that I had just had therapy on my arm and the advice was to wait. I had texted the gang at Vertical Fusion Pole and Fitness Studio and canceled my performance. Estee had other ideas. She told me she wanted me in front of a big audience and that the rigging and stage setup were perfect for the different routines we were preparing. We would keep the weight off the arm and choreograph around it.

I texted the studio back with the short message, "Change of heart. I will see you tomorrow night at dress". Monday night I was doing my routine for the very first time in dress. Estee and I met one more time and we worked. Mostly marking it because my arm and body were killing me. I went from sitting around being depressed for two months, to full tilt and my skin, core, and upper body were very unhappy.

On Friday night I walked into the Dickens and had a brief shortness of breath. There was this big stage, lots of seats and riggers putting up the trusses for the poles. After the poles went up I had about five minutes to smear some Dry Hands on and test the spin and static poles. Some of the other dancers were eating burgers and Mexican food. Talk about hard core. The moment was over before it ever started.

Mostly I remember the hot little room where the performers make their last minute peace with the Gods of dance, the steep narrow back stairway to the stage and the walking out after introduction. I will never forget those lights. I knew the audience was there but I couldn't see them. There were two guys giggling in front and I remember thinking, "Get used to it. Your are in fact a guy and at least six gorgeous women have come before you."

The music started and those moments that dancers live for came to life. I wanted to leave it all on that stage. I didn't want to save anything. I danced the most fearful piece of my life. Music that I thought my body could never fill and a story that  tears me up inside.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

May Pole Dance Bloghop

This month all the Facebook pole dancing bloggers are answering the same set of questions. Here are my answers, Enjoy.

How long have you been pole dancing?
Five years. Seems shorter than that.

What’s your favorite song to pole dance to?
My all time favorite is Any Other Name by Thomas Neuman from the American Beauty movie soundtrack

What’s your favorite pole dance move?
Extended Butterfly. It took me forever to get it and it feels so powerful.

What pole move is your nemesis?
I would have to say Superman from an invert. I have smashed my guy parts so many times doing that one. Now it is out of Jasmine or nothing.

If you have to classify your dance style, what would it be? Ballet. My floorwork and pole to pole transitions are all based on contemporary ballet.

What inspires your movement? Why do you dance?
Music inspires my movement. It's all about the music. I'm a research scientist in real life. Dance takes me beyond logic into a world of pure feeling. I guess the only way to find out why I dance is to watch me because I can't tell you in words.

Do you study/participate in any other kinds of dancing or other kinds of training?
I'm a ballet dancer. During the summer months I play pickup ice hockey. I used to play in adult leagues but I quit a few years ago. Body couldn't keep up with the 30 year olds. The mind is willing but ice hockey is a brutal contact sport.

How often do you train, dance or attend class per week?
During the winter I take two ballet classes, at least one pole class, and one private lesson with superstar Estee Zakar every week. From May to August I play ice hockey on Wednesday nights instead of ballet class.

Any tips for training?
Quit when you are tired. There comes a point when fatigue takes over and the harder you try the worse it is going to get. Know when to quit and leave it for another day.

Do you train on both sides when you pole? Why or why not?
Only when forced by teachers. I'm lazy.

If you’re not a full time poler, how do you balance work and pole? Friends and pole? Life and Pole?
Not well. My wife would like to kill me most of the time. I'm slow on house chores, and my boss knows not to expect me to stay late on a ballet or pole class evening.

Is pole dancing, which happens to be a hobby for most, worth the investment?
I'm going to quote Merce Cunningham. He says it better than I could ever say it, "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."

Why did you start a pole dance blog?
When I started pole dancing I was the only guy in the Denver area pole dancing outside of gay clubs. One studio in the area would take me and initially I only took private lessons. I wanted to document my journey.

What does your pole dance blog mainly focus on?
It's entirely about dance. It's apolitical, and very personal. I couldn't tell you the first thing about the technical aspects of pole. I'm qualified to coach ice hockey and I serve as a senior scientist mentor to summer student interns at my work. Honestly, I don't want the responsibility for teaching an art. To me pole is art. I'm a newborn at art.

What’s your favorite post on your pole dance blog?

What’s your favorite non-pole blog?
Chuck's Chatter. A fellow scientist, former mentor, and good friend. He takes on the political, intellectual, and scientific stuff that my blog avoids.

What is your favorite dance studio? (If you teach or own a studio, please list one other than where you teach.)
This the hardest question that I could ever be asked to answer. I have danced at many of the Denver, Boulder, and Longmont, Colorado studios. Every one of the owners or teachers that I worked with gave me and some still give me something very special and I am grateful that they have opened their hearts and studios to me. My strongest bond is with Estee Zakar. I wouldn't be half the dancer I am without her. 

If you teach, why did you start teaching, and how did it change your practice? If you don’t teach, do you think you’d ever want to teach? Why or why not?
Right now I am not technically competent to teach. Maybe someday.

Heels or No Heels? Also any good recommendations for heels?
Oh my God. I'm fresh off a dare from Sasha Viers at The Boulder Spirals Dance Studio. Without going into details I accepted the challenge and I can dance in 8" Pleaser Platform "sexy" shoes. It's nothing I would ever do in public performance. My recommendation to guy dancers and heels: If you are going to try a pair on at the studio assume your picture is going to end up on Facebook. A lot of the women are going to think it is the sexiest thing you ever did. My current Facebook cover picture is my first time in heels. On the other hand my wife thinks I'm crazy. She looked at my new black sexy Pleasers and said, "My husband has sexier shoes than I do???" Then she gave me the "look". All men know it when they see it.

What are your favorite pole clothes?
I'm a fifty-six year old guy. I've lost a little hair, some of it is gray, and I'm built like a hockey player. (Huge ass) I wear a lot when I don't need skin or I'm not performing. When I perform I wear a basic black boy short racing swim trunks. I don't like what I see in the mirror. I just try not to look.

What’s your favorite pole? Size? Material? Height? Static? Spin?
45 mm X-Pole, chrome, 14', and I love spin pole. Ballet and spin pole are a marriage made in heaven.

If you have ever performed, how do you usually prepare your performance?
Yes I have. My seventh performance will be in the Vertical Fusion Cirque de Radiance Showcase in Longmont, Colorado. How do I prepare? I try not to puke. Seriously, I remind myself to dance from the heart and to express rather than impress. I love it when someone comes up to me before I dance and knows that I understand, "Merde!" All ballet dancers understand, "Merde!"

What’s something you love to do or experience aside from pole dancing?
I love being married to my wife. She is on a trip right now and I really miss her. Our 21st wedding anniversary is coming up and she is my soulmate. It takes a very special woman to let her husband pole dance.

How has pole dancing affected your life?
It has taught me the value of time. Balanchine said it best, "Why are you stingy with yourselves? Why are you holding back? What are you saving for—for another time? There are no other times. There is only now. Right now.”

Looking back at your life, are you surprised that you’re a pole dancer? Like were you a nun five years ago and now you’re a pole teacher? Or does pole dancing seem like a natural fit into the progression of your life?
Nothing surprises me anymore. I'm at the age in my life when I don't care what other people think. I don't want to die with regrets.

What’s one pole stereotype that you wish would go away?
Men who dance are gay. Homophobia in general sucks. It's ignorant and it goes way beyond pole. We are artists and athletes.

Best reaction when you told someone that you are a pole dancer?
That is so cool!

Also, since its May… does your Mother [or any maternal person in your life] know that you pole dance and what does she think?
She knows. I accidentally outed myself. That day is in my blog. She thinks I never grew up. She's right.

What’s your pole fantasy or dream?
I lived it. I wanted to do a full blown ballet style pas de deux with a woman who could do both ballet and pole in a public performance.

Finish this sentence. Pole dancing is….
Just another step in my wandering.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Competition vs Artistic Expression or I Already Wrote This Chapter of My Life

I have always loved playing ice hockey. I like the spirit, the testosterone, and winning. My first wife and I divorced when I was in my early thirties. It was then that I returned to the sport of my youth and rediscovered my love of the game. From the time I was thirty-three until my last game in my early fifties I played beer league hockey. Sometimes the teams I played on took the ice at 11:30 PM on weekdays. It wasn't until I left the competitive divisions and moved to Over 40 Recreational that I had Sunday afternoon game times.

I've severely sprained my MCL's three times, suffered groin muscle tears that have put me on crutches, and have endured arthroscopic surgery on my right ankle and left knee. I willingly paid the price for those wonderful moments when the puck went into the net.

I was forty-six when I finally decided that I was really over the beatings I was taking at the hands of the thirty-five year old guys, let alone the guys who just turned eighteen. I stayed long enough to play on a team with one of those eighteen year old boys. My son Chris. I enjoyed two seasons of getting the puck to the young guns.

I played another four years of rec hockey after those two years but decided to quit when the league management brought in the thirty-five year old guys and tried to pass it off on the older guys unsuspectingly. I wrote about my last game a few posts back. I knew what I was up against and I knew that I just didn't have the body and emotion to keep playing in that situation. I was sad the day I took off my jersey the last time. I didn't leave because I couldn't play anymore. The most memorable moment of my last game was scoring a goal from the blueline on a hard wrist shot. Defensemen don't score a lot of goals. Knowing I still had the power to shoot the puck that hard at fifty-one was sweet. I left because I was tired of the "figuring out how to rig the game."

It was time to write a new chapter in my life. Now I play pickup hockey with a bunch of old friends in the summer months when the rinks are quiet and the serious hockey players are playing golf. We are all old and we have fun together. I can walk in the mornings after I play with my friends without difficulty.

The quiet chapter in my life is about dancing. I love dancing. I love the art. I have always been inspired by the competitive dancers but had no illusions about entering a competition myself. I love performing and have danced for an audience a number of times. I have never danced for judges. As you know I will be videotaping an online submission for the Midwest Pole Dancing Competition and Convention that will be held this summer in Chicago. There are two reasons for me entering this competition.

The first and my only real strong reason for entering is that my cherished teacher, Estee Zakar, suggested that I compete after she saw me dance for the first time. She tells me that there is something very special about the way I dance and that other guys need to see my dance. My second reason for entering is a chance to go to a major convention where the who's who of the pole dance world have come together.

Now to the compromise part. A discussion started today on the Colorado Pole Championship Facebook page. The topic: Will there be a Master's (OLD) Category and what will be the competitor minimum age. The following was posted: 

Those that are requesting over 40 keep in mind even at 35-40 you are competing against 18 year olds who may have been pole dancing for years - I attended a comp that had a 35 and over group and actually i felt it kept it very competitive still and made the division feel very strong.

Wow. Brings back some real bad memories on my part. What is a statement like this supposed to mean? I started playing ice hockey at thirteen. Mentally I know where to be on the ice at the right time. This level of experience made it possible for me to play with guys twenty years younger than myself. But, it never allowed me to go one on one with an eighteen year old and beat him to the puck if he wanted it. The legs feed the wolf. I don't have the legs anymore. Now add that to three minute music time limits, compulsory moves, and worrying about what the judges are going to think. I feel myself starting to disconnect. Like the time I put my stick under the "ringer" guy's legs and tripped him on his way to the puck. I was blind pissed off that the league let him play with the gray hairs. The two minute minor penalty I was assessed was worth it.

I'm suddenly feeling like the referee has blown the whistle and raised his arm. He is going to drop the puck in a few seconds, and the shit is going to come down. As each day counts down to June 15 (The date online entries are due to the Midwest Judges) the more stress I feel. My dance comes from deep inside and I dance because I love expressing myself. I love dancing for people and I have no problem with judgement. I don't like Lady Gaga's music. I like Neil Young's music. Neil and Stefani know the art rules up front. No one has to like your art. But on a scale of 1-10 can they tell you why? Would the reasons they give stand up to the kind of objectivity and logic used in a Riemannian Geometry proof?

It's all subjective. I like music that lives for more than three minutes. I like having more stage area than fifteen square feet, and I really have a problem with the reverse cannonball/double upside down/half-pike/jade iguana move. I really want to share my dance. But if it means compromise, and worrying about the kinds of nonsense political maneuvering that goes on in youth ice hockey league board meetings and high school hockey player recruiting I have a back up plan.

I'll just rent my favorite pole studio for an hour with my friends and jam. I might invite my hockey friends. Hockey players are as good at jello shots and beer as any pole dancer I know.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

No Offense Intended, I'm Going for Sexy/Artsy

I have to admit that the more time I spend in pole dance, the stronger I feel about the sexy side of pole. Less than a year ago I tended to have a stroke anytime someone said, "Bring back the sexy." I took it to mean, "Women Only." I no longer dance at the little studio that was more about the dance and less about the tricks and sexy. I've come to a fork in the road and I've decided to head on over to the sexy, artsy side of pole and never look back.

I maybe a guy, but I feel the need for emotion and expression. I feel art in movement. I'm getting away from over fifty years of, "Boys don't cry." Empowerment is becoming an overused buzzword in pole. But dancing expressively from deep inside is my revolt, and my rejection of the conventional male box where I used to live. If you would like to call that "empowerment" I'm ok with it. There is a power and sexy in artistic dance. 

This past January I took a  series of pole classes that were designed for men. It was called Acro Pole and most of the men in the class were married to women who also pole danced in the studio or knew female pole dancers from their involvement in parkour. We worked on pole tricks. The guys were great. The atmosphere was fun, and hilarious at times. Contrary to popular myths propagated by "Women Only" pole studio owners it didn't turn into a penis comparing contest. I enjoyed the class and really respect the courage of the studio owner.

However, something was missing and I felt it when I would finish a move. I've very conscious of lines and the way I connect the pole moves. The first time the entire class was working on basic inversions the guys were just lowering themselves down the pole into a handstand or rolling over on their shoulders. For me some things are just muscle memory now. Without thinking I inverted, hooked my outside leg, slid down a little, put my hand on the floor, tucked under my arm, and spiraled my body around the pole. Amber Richard taught me that dismount years ago. To my surprise a few of the guys noticed and complimented me.  Some of the guys were so strong that in the second class they were able to go straight into an Iron-X or reverse a shoulder mount. I have spent most of my time in pole with women and I was amazed at the way men could go from a fireman spin to reversing shoulder mounts in two weeks.

But I found myself wanting the studio to be dark so I could put on some really emotional music and dance. I wanted to feel. I felt like the kid stuck in school on a warm spring day. When do we get to freestyle teach? When I dance I never get feedback on the way I actually do a certain move. The feedback is always about musicality or the story I'm trying to tell. I look at pictures taken of me during performances and I find myself looking at them and thinking, "Is that really me?"

I've come to the conclusion that I really don't want to see how long I can hold a flagpole move or spend hours smashing my legs into the pole trying to figure out the brass monkey. I'm driven by the music. I like having women compliment me on my expressiveness and grace. I looked at the scoring system that has been proposed by the IPSF a few days ago. It was then that I knew that my pole style was much better suited for dancing with the lights down low and Scotch straight up. I know that I have more in commen with women who say things like,

Fuck yoga. I want to drink whiskey and dance to Alice in Chains. ~ Alethea Austin

I don't do tricks, I just do pretty stuff. So, deal with it. ~ Amber Richard

We need to address the issue of sensuality, the inherent value of the sexiness of the movement before we can defend it as nothing more than a form of fitness. ~ Claire Griffin Sterrett

Shaping the Choreography (The Jersey)

I hate that I can never relate this story to anyone, not even Estee without tearing up a lot. This is from a NY Times article about the night Wayne Gretzky retired:

After most hockey games, Wayne Gretzky is a quick-change artist, out of uniform and out of the locker room before anyone else on the team. But yesterday was different, for so many reasons, and Gretzky still wore his Ranger jersey and pants more than an hour after the conclusion of the final game of his brilliant career.

His blue jersey was dark and wet with sweat and spilled water and maybe a tear or two. When asked why he had not changed it, Gretzky first said a few proper things about getting to the news conference on time without making reporters wait in a back hall at Madison Square Garden. Then he leveled.

''Probably, subconsciously, I don't want to take it off,'' Gretzky, the player known as the Great One, said. ''I'm not going to pull it on ever again. It's hard. It's hard to take it off right now. I have to be honest with you. I don't want to take it off."

My day came three years ago. I had to take my jersey off for the last time. I'm no Gretzky but I loved every minute of every game and I just couldn't play hockey with the thirty-year old guys at the level I wanted to anymore. The dance Estee and I are choreographing for my Midwest Pole Dancing Competition entry is about that day. I'm even dreaming about dancing lately.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

My Dance Bag (March Bloghop)

My dance bag is a small disorganized disaster area. It used to be worse. I used to carry my ballet stuff in the same bag with my pole stuff. After "losing" my phone and keys for the 200th time I split the bags. One for pole and one for ballet. In an hour or so I'm heading off to a private lesson with Estee Zakar and my bag is ready to go. Welcome to Pandora's Box:

  1. Duct tape. Doctors orders. I am not to dance barefoot on the ball of my left foot. It took three years of freezing, a chemotherapy drug and permanent scarring to get rid of a plantar wart. Besides. Duct tape fixes everything.
  2. Towels. One for the pole and one for me. 
  3. iPod. 180 Gig. I don't go to any dance lesson without it. If you hear that burning bags of cat poop were found at Apple headquarters it is because they finally discontinued the 180. My entire music library is on mine including some pole music playlists that go back to 2007.
  4. Water bottle. I prefer Rockstar Zero carb but my doc tells me water is better for my kidneys.
  5. Extra booty shorts and dance belts. I always wear a dance belt under my pole shorts. It keeps people focused on my pole work. Most of the stuff men wear for pole dance doesn't leave a lot to the imagination. When you are in your mid 50's this is NOT a good thing.
  6. White Flower. Estee swears by the stuff. I'm hurting. I'm trying it.
  7. Arnica. Arnica is in the same category as duct tape. Indispensable.
  8. Dew Point, Dry-Hands, iTac2. I like Dry-Hands the best. But on some poles on some days the other stuff works. I like Dew Point a lot. Especially on 45 mm poles. Dew Point is also a great way to get glued to the bed sheets without all night monkey sex.
  9. Contact lens solution, extra case, extra lenses, and re-wetting drops. 
  10. Hand Sanitizer. We all know that EVERTHING rubs on those poles. Ballet barres are also metal Petri dishes.
  11. Deodorant. Self explanatory
  12. Spare hearing aid batteries. Embarrassing. I have a lot of hearing loss. Too many Deep Purple concerts and exposure to the 2.0 kilohertz sound pulses that are used extensively in meteorological research. I have an especially hard time hearing female voices. Their already soft voices make the consonants hard to hear. So if the music is loud, you are female, and I look bewildered, it is because I can't hear a word you are saying. 
  13. Double sided tape. Things slip. After one inversion the drawstrings on my booty shorts are always hanging out. I also assume that some people really do not want to see my below the belly button ink.
  14. One pair of Pleaser Taboo 7 1/2" Sexy Black Stripper shoes. (Don't ask. Future blog post) ;)
Pole preference. I learned on 50 mm brass Platinum Stages poles. I really liked working on brass. I visited another studio in Denver and they had 50 mm PS stainless. I spent half of my time trying to stay up on the damned thing. I learned to hate the 50 mm PS stainless. Back in December I had a chance to work on 45 mm PS stainless. No problem. I think it has more to do with the diameter than the material. I don't mind working on 45 mm PS stainless at all. I have two PS brass poles at home (45 mm and 50 mm). I like them but when I started working with Estee it was 45 mm X-Pole. I have one at home too and I'm not looking back.

I love the X-Pole. Period.

I do have to say one thing about X-Pole and Platinum Stages. Everyone seems to have a horror story about their quality control or customer service. Estee got my X-Pole for me and it was perfect out of the box. I bought two poles from PS. The first one was cut wrong and it was my fault because I forgot to click the correct ceiling length on the web page. They made it good overnight. The second was perfect from the get go.

So there is my story about commercial products and inside my dance bag. I hope I made you laugh a couple of times. I really try to avoid commercial dissing or endorsements. As they say YMMV

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


The Blog Hop topic for February in honor of Valentine's Day is Love. The most touching expression of love in my pole experience is looking into the crowd during a performance and seeing my wife in the audience. My fifth and latest public pole dance performance took place on February 9, 2013. My wife has attended every one of my performances. She is always the woman married to the only man in the show. It isn't easy being that woman.

Dress rehearsal was February 8. Just before I danced I was sitting in the chairs at the back of the studio all by myself. I was alone with my usual apprehension and demons. The husband of the studio owner was getting ready to video the rehearsal. He walked over and sat down. After we exchanged a few pleasantries he looked and me and asked, "How do you do this? I can't imagine being you." I really couldn't explain it except to say that this was my fifth and it never seems to get any easier. I did mention that I thought my performing in front of a mixed crowd with only women was sending an important message to men about pole dance and men dancing in general.

Saturday night while I was sitting with the other women before showtime I searched for my wife in the crowd. My thoughts turned to her. It takes something special to support your husband when he goes off four times a week to dance in classes where all the other members are women. Some people have said that I must be very confident about my masculinity. My confidence? What about my wife? Talk about a strong woman. We talk. We talk a lot about the issues she faces since I started dancing. My wife is my age. She knows I am surrounded by women wearing the best and sexiest polewear. She knows that a lot of those women are younger than our twenty-seven year old "baby" daughter. She knows what 7" platforms add to any woman's sexual allure. She knows that a bond forms with people who share common interests and challenges. She knows I love the dance.

It's has been almost four years since I left for my first pole dance lesson and she still lets me go without guilt or strings attached. She lets go with a kiss, and confidence that she is and always will be my soulmate.

That is Love.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Things to Remember: A Year Without Goals

I missed the January pole dancers bloghop. The subject matter was basically what we wanted to get out of the coming year. I never made it to the deadline. I kept thinking about how my year was going to revolve around the Great Midwest Pole Dance Competition and Convention. The word "competition" was causing brain lock. It's not like I hate competing or I run away from it. I remember vividly my last season playing regular winter season ice hockey.

My team had won back to back league championships. I was fifty-one years old. For three months after I skated off the ice with the trophy I would not commit to another season. Why? The answer: I am utterly competitive. I was still playing like it mattered. Beer league hockey doesn't matter. It's just a bunch of guys having fun. But I still wanted to be the best captain and defensemen on the ice. If I could not find the emotion and heart to be that person, I was just going to quit playing and enjoy my Sunday afternoons at home.

Two months before I needed to register our team for another season I knew I wasn't ready to quit but that I was going to have to do more to play the coming season than ever before. Age was taking away my balance, skating speed, and my shot. When I made up my mind that I was going to play I also told myself that this was the end. Win or lose, this was going to be my last season of ice hockey. After that it was endless. I was in the gym three days a week from the end of July to October 1. I beat the living crap out of myself in the gym. I worked with one goal in mind. Win. Win that one last meaningless trophy.

When the season started I was emotionally and physically ready. All season long my team was a machine and we could not have had a better season. The storybook ending came on Easter Sunday 2009. I skated up to the league director, shook his hand and held up the last championship trophy of my hockey life. Three years in a row.

Now the difference between going to Midwest and Beer League ice hockey is huge. On the ice I was a predator. I have had a hockey stick in my hand on and off since I was thirteen. I pretty much skate like I walk, maybe better. In pole I'm technically horrible. I'm a newbie. Three years of pole compared to thirty-nine on skates? I am so far out of my league it's nuts. To succeed in Chicago I have to have a new plan. This can't be brute force like my last hockey season.

This year I have to remember some very important things. The things that led my teacher to believe that I had something special to say with my dance.

  1. I need to take advantage of the tools I have. Musicality, Lines, Emotion
  2. I need to be humble and honest with myself.
  3. I need to dance because I love dancing.
  4. I need to express not impress.
  5. I must always remember that the body never lies. My dance has to come from the heart because that is my strength. Real people can smell pretentious from a distance.
  6. I need to remember that what I do is art. You can't measure it, time it, or count it.
  7. I need to live in the moment. All of them. That is what dance is all about. 
So I have no goals. All I have is list of things to remember.