Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Lovely Miss Femi from Pole Dance Is Power!

You recently started a Facebook Page called Pole Dance Is Power.  Tell us about your project.

I am currently a International Affairs student at New School University, with a concentration in Media & Culture. For one of my courses, Media Advocacy in the Global Sphere, we were given the task of finding something to advocate for and using media forms (whether video, blog, pics or the like) to advocate for the cause of our choice. Coincidentally, during a discussion in class, a girl (who readily identified as a feminist) stated that women who take pole classes only do it for men. I was appalled! I had grown an affinity for pole thanks to a friend of mine introducing me to it a few months ago and I immediately went home and wrote a blog about it. I always acknowledged the power of dancers from every style, and pole isn't any different. The power it takes to get on this singular object and do these amazing moves while expressing sensuality is astonishing to me and to have someone reduce a community of people (namely women) to something solely about the satisfaction of men was just foul. So when it came time to choose a project, I decided to expand it, and actually do the research necessary to prove her wrong.

My hypothesis is that women who are in the pole community do it for themselves, and that they wind up staying in it as a result of the benefits - building relationships with other women, promotion of sex positive rhetoric and body image and to express autonomy through their sexuality and sensuality. And yes, they probably love building muscle and other physical benefits. I started out recording footage (which will be loaded onto the page once edited) asking women how they felt about pole and if they saw it as a expression of feminism or feminine power. I started by posing this question in the group Pole Dancers Unite, but then decided that creating a page exclusively dedicated to pole dancers who feel empowered by pole dance would get me more of the answers I needed, from a wider group versus the few I've met at studios here in NYC. I even got a guy to post on my page! I feel like a larger discussion around sexuality and exerting agency through performance in regards to women is important. Like so many other groups or cultures maligned by mainstream culture, the woman who made that comment (and others like her) are ill-informed. So this is my way of educating them.

How long have you been pole dancing?

I haven't been pole dancing very long. I lucked up and had a bunch of friends who had a pole parties back to back for like 3 months, but I haven't been pole dancing consistently to really consider myself a poler. I have plans to travel at the end of May for research, but when I return in August, I will definitely include it in my regimen.

What first drew you to try it?

I think I was always kind of fascinated by pole dancing in some way. I've always admired dancers and people who can do artistic things with their bodies. Growing up, I always saw pole dancers as people who belonged in the circus, like contortionists. Lo and behold, it has roots in the circus and burlesque! But pole dancing was relegated to the off-limits category (that's something strippers do) and the subtle indoctrination of slut shaming and what makes a "lady" took hold. But in adulthood, my view on strippers and pole dancers changed in that I recognized not only my agency, but the agency of all women to decide what they want to do with their bodies, on their own terms. So when pole dance was presented to me through my friend's birthday plans, I just needed the time and address. I was there before my friend was, lol

Where do you take classes?

I've been to three studios total: Twirl and Le Femme Noir, both in Harlem and Alter Ego Pole fitness out in Brooklyn.

Do you have a pole at home?

No but I want one!

Do you like to dance in shoes or barefoot?

Umm...I think for effect, I like shoes, but I'm not skilled enough to do that yet. But I appreciate a good heel even outside the studio.

What is your favorite song to dance to right now?

The thing about pole dance is that (in my opinion) its about the sexy, not the sex. So nothing too raunchy would be on my playlist. I'm not actively poling, but if I had to pick, I would probably go with my 3 favorite Gemini performers: Prince "If I Was Your Girlfriend" or "Cream"; Maxwell "Bad Habits" and Tupac's "How Do You Want It?" It would just depend on what kind of sexy I'm into at the moment.

How do you feel like pole has improved or changed your life?

I haven't been consistently poling, but the research I've been conducting on the pole community has opened my eyes to different ways to process my thoughts on sexual and sensual expression, and how language can be used to create divides either purposefully (like Rush Limbaugh against Sandra Fluke...and every woman on birth control) and unintentionally (like the woman in my class). The things that the ladies (and men) in the pole community have shared with me have shown me what true passion looks like and how fostering that kind of passion can connect people across borders, oceans, anything. That sort of connection is something that I've never witnessed before, and its a powerful force, even more so because its a group of people proclaiming: "Yes, I am like you. Yes, I pole dance and I am in your church, your mosque, the boardroom, the classroom, your coffee shop and no, I am not what or who you think I am or want to limit me to." And that's awesome.


Note from Lori: Please join Pole Dance Is Power on Facebook.  And, for the record, I do have a pole at home, and I've danced for my boyfriend ONE TIME in the last two plus years of pole dancing.  He has seen me dance at showcases at the studio, but I didn't start dancing for him or any other man.  I dance for myself! 

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