Sunday, October 23, 2011
"Empowerment": On pole without acrobatics
Since reaching out to the pole world, I've noticed that a lot of studios I've talked to are what I call the "booty-popping" kind. Nothing ghetto, just that they're more focused on sensuality and "you go girl" than on hardcore athletics.
I think that's fine, and I think there's room for both types of dancing. I'm biased, because I've been acrobatics-focused basically since before that was a thing. I was running around trying to get hired saying "I'm not teaching you to shimmy, I'm teaching you to invert." I ended up working for myself, because nobody "got it." Now it's a huge thing, and yes, I feel vindicated. But there are still places like out here where it's more about femininity. It's about "empowerment."
I believe that pole dancing can empower women. I believe that bringing your sexuality into the light in a safe place can change lives. Especially for people who have lived in the shadow of shame about sex or even about being born a woman, sensual pole can be transformative.
But I want you to think about the term "empowerment," and what "power" means. Rotating your hips can empower your mind; it can empower your heart and soul. But it does not empower your body. It can get you in touch with your body, which is great for your mind and your soul. But it does not give you POWER.
One of the major aspects of power is brute physical force. Not just awareness of your body, but control over it. Power is a synonym for STRENGTH.
And yet so many studios that aim to "empower" women downplay their potential for physical strength. Sure, you might learn to invert, but to do moves that involve real power? "Too dangerous." "People will get hurt." "Our students aren't strong enough."
Really? Have they tried? Have you empowered them to try? Have you inspired them to work up to your favorite trick, or have you warned them, "This one's just for the pros?"
How hard is the conditioning you do in class? Would it challenge a man as well as a woman? How many of your advanced students are still doing push-ups on their knees?
There is the spiritual "power" that enables a battered woman to walk away from her abusive spouse. But there is also the physical "power" that enables her to wrest free from his grip, kick him in the nuts, and run out the door when he tries to beat her.
There are plenty of reasons studios stick to stilettos. The business model works. They're concerned about lawsuits. They don't want their insurance to go up. The teachers might not know advanced pole work. I completely believe that there is a place for this kind of dance, this kind of teaching, this kind of studio. But I also believe that you can't proclaim "empowerment" out of one side of your mouth while mumbling "you're not strong enough" out of the other.
If you like to pop your booty, by all means, pop it, girl! But never stop challenging yourself. Not everyone needs to be handspringing-- one woman's shoulder inversion is another woman's iron X-- but we all need to be empowering ourselves, and each other. Mind, spirit, AND body.
Photo from The Sun.