Monday, February 18, 2013

An Open Letter To Pole Dancers

Over the last year pole dancing has become a struggle for me.  Not because the moves are hard or because I can't bend my body in unfathomable ways but because of the way I often see that pole dancers treat one another.  Let me also begin this letter by saying, I myself, am guilty of mistreating friends and fellow pole dancers.  Yes, I was embroiled in a 2 year fight with someone over a facebook post.  I was hurt so I shut her out.  I was so angry and my pride was so hurt I could barely look at her.  It was the inception of Peace & Pole and my role as an Ambassador that made me rethink our fight.  As I found and felt myself being mistreated and excluded I started to realize the gravity of the situation.  I would have dreams about this long lost friend, inside I did miss her a lot but couldn't bring myself to recognize that because truthfully my ego and pride was in the way.  I wanted her to apologize to me.  Two years later after a bunch of coffee and wine - we sat for the first time and recognized how we had hurt each other, teared up a little, hugged and have worked on reforming a broken friendship.  Was arguing over our individual visions of what the pole dancing community is/should be worth it?  NO!  NO!  NO!  We missed out on years of friendship and points in our lives where we could have really used each others support because *I* was too proud.  I take the blame for this one because I have difficulty expressing myself verbally, if I'm hurt I tune out and freeze out.

Over the last year I've been forced to realize some ugly truths about myself.  As I learn to communicate better and understand my own emotions I am seeing more clearly some upsetting things in the world of pole.

This entry has been a long time coming but today I am overcome with words that I want to share based on some recent happenings.

United We Stand Divided We Fall.  Uniting a group of passionate, talented and brilliant people is difficult because with the talent, passion and brilliance comes independent thought and opinion.  I'd like to simply point out that we can have commonality and still have our individual beliefs and missions.  I have never met a pole dancer who thought pole dancing was only for them.  I've only met warm and welcoming people who are happy to share their passion with everyone they meet, encouraging whom ever will listen to take up pole. I think it's safe to say as a broad goal or perhaps belief, we all think pole is awesome and think everyone should have one.  Where we begin to differ is what we define pole as.  It gets judgmental on all fronts - this is what I don't like to see.  I am not a fonji performing acrobatic dancer, neither am I as sexy as I'd like to think I am, but that doesn't mean that I cannot be inspired and enjoy the givings of other performers who are different than I am .  I can have my own opinion on competitions, competition outcomes, rules and regulations set by certain organizations but what I don't have a right to do is actively put someone down for their choices, opinions or style.  I have right to my own thought and it is my job as a person sharing space with others in a COMMUNITY to respect even the things I am not fond of, so long as those things are not unsafe, harmful, illegal or unethical.

Unity begins to dissipate as pole grows.  In some ways this is healthy and okay.  It's just important to remember that inspite of our thoughts or feelings about the way in which pole is presented, performed or regulated that we all agree that pole dancing is amazing and has many, many facets to it.  This brings me to the heartbreak I feel today seeing certain situations unfold in what I feel has been a divisive way.

Pole Organizations.  Pole is small.  Most organizations are 1-2 people.  We do not yet have a large, known panel of pole dancers running the pole world.  This is both a good and a bad thing.  At the moment we have many small organizations planning events and competitions for us - the community.  These organizers spend tireless hours considering how they want to present themselves, their organization and pole dancing to the world.  Backing up a second.  I had mentioned that talented, passionate, brilliant people have their own individual thoughts and beliefs - this translates to currently that organizations run by 1 or 2 individuals will have specific visions.  Do you know what is awesome about this?  We are creating an opportunity for EVERYONE'S feelings.  If you are a fitness person - it's all about the tough tricks, no heels, no sexy - there is a place for you!  If you are all about the sexy, 8 inch heels and writhing floorwork - there is a place for you!  If you are all about taking your amazing dance skill and combining it with pole - there is a place for you!  Why?  Because all of our organizations are just 1 or 2 people and somewhere in their thinking and vision of pole lies something that you will agree with and want to be apart of.  The organizations that differ from you - offer new opportunities you wouldn't be interested in.  That's really an amazing and freeing thing.

Let's Get Personal.  One of the problems with pole being so small currently is that there are few opportunities and I feel it's the lack of having a lot of opportunity that creates so much personal anger towards organizations.  I remember seeing a competition that required splits and being angry simply because at that time I could not perform the trick and therefor didn't qualify.  It was a bitter pill to swallow that one skill would keep me from qualifying from the only existing competition.  Out of that frustration for me and others came the thought that perhaps there should be more competitions with differing criteria.  The competitions we see today are the embodiment of someone's vision - not a large corporation.  That person sat down and took the time to really think about what they think the best pole dancer would be - for some competitions it's the finalist with the best tricks, for others to be the best you must perform certain moves and going further for some organizations it's a full blown image.  I remember when the USPDF first came about and one of the pieces of judging criteria was sensuality or sex appeal.  I don't believe this is any longer criteria as pole dancing has come a long way since the inception of the USPDF.  However, let's go back to that first year and think about dancers who are not sexy - I wonder if they felt segregated against or simply felt they didn't qualify?  No one was upset that year with the winner or the criteria.  It was OKAY to judge competitors on sex appeal!  Today there are many would disagree with that criteria and be upset about it.  At the end of the day that was the vision the USPDF had of their perfect winner.  Does their perfect winner fall in line with what perhaps you or someone else may think is the best?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  But is it wrong?  No.  When people disagreed with criteria they created new competitions (opportunities) with new criteria.  Simple as that.

As competitions and events evolve and multiply we see an array of rumors, turmoil and unhappiness with pole dancing as a competition or a show.  We have seen pole dancing around the world grow from something once done in nightclubs to something that now includes men and even children. We all have our own opinions about pole moving from the sexy to something more grand scale and it's our job to promote pole dancing the way WE see fit PERSONALLY.  It is not the job of someone who runs an event to CHANGE their personal and moral beliefs to fit what an individual or group of people believe pole dancing should be.  It's our job as individuals to seek out like minded organizations and support them by participating, trying out and performing.

Sexy Vs. Fitness.  Let me begin this by saying inspite of some personal growth over the last year in my dance I still fall in line with the sensual if I had to describe myself.  I love hip rolls, slow writhing movements, floor work, story telling and the unabashed fierce feeling I have when I see myself in a sparkled bikini whipping my hair around like Sammy Hagar.  LOVE!  With that said, I want to take you to a moment in August 2012 the day before I would compete, sitting watching the North America Pole Dance Championships and watching Samantha Star take the stage.  I didn't know much about Sam outside of her youtube videos.  I knew she was strong, a fitness type dancer with some brilliant tricks but that was all.  Half way through her routine I look my Agent Kat and we both are laughing - just laughing at the sheer astonishment and JOY of what we were seeing!  Sam's routine has been my favorite tricked out routine I've ever seen.  It was dramatic, interesting and fun - I could feel her passion for what she does in the back of the room.  I had goosebumps.  This was the first time someone acrobatic had held my attention and made me FEEL something.  We still aren't quite sure what was going on in her story - I think she was an alien on planet discovering pole, Agent Kat thought perhaps she was a robot.  In that moment what happened to me was transforming.  That was the first time that I realized I enjoyed athletic pole.  I realized what my trainer Leigh Ann had been saying - you absolutely can be an athletic artist.  Up until that point - I thought of some the amazing routines I had seen over the years - and hadn't realized there were many more trick oriented routines that I loved but I gave them little attention because I couldn't dissect them for personal use - instead I would find myself wandering back over to Karol and Alethea and drooling over their body waves, leg movements and sexy tricks.  I had deprived myself of some amazing things that could inspire me because I decided I only liked sexy dancing.  I know and have friends who feel the opposite, who blush watching our sexy stars grind away sensually in their mind blowing tricks.  They are missing out on some amazing art!  Just like I was.  So what's the point of all this name dropping?  The point is - if we can't appreciate things outside of what we do it's really hard to grow.  I would challenge fitness, tricky based dancer today to do a private sexy dance for yourself and to myself and others like me - I challenge you to trick it up!  Put on some dubstep and have some fun.

Removing Sex and the Sex Industry From Pole.  Did pole come from stripping?  Yeah.  Does it have to stay there?  No.  Why?  Simply because if the goal of this loving community is to include everyone we cannot keep it for strippers or the sensual only.  I know many of us want to.  Many of us don't want the heels and hip rolls to go away but just because some express themselves using the pole in a different way than we do doesn't make it bad.  The influx of gymnasts and trained dancers has created a wealth of new movements and tricks that we wouldn't otherwise have!   Are those tricks for everyone?  Will everyone like them?  No.  But that's what makes art amazing - you can paint with whichever color you like and who knows in a year you might just want to use that color - I for one, think it's great that the color exists and is available to me.

Just because someone is a pole dancer or using an apparatus found in a strip club doesn't mean they have to support stripping or the sex industry .  I think a better conversation about this is asking the personal question "Why don't you support the sex industry?"  There are a thousand good reasons someone may not be sex industry friendly.  I personally have issues about the gross abuse of women that happens in the sex industry as a whole which is why I am very delicate with the whole subject.  I have had very good friends employed in varying aspects of the sex industry, some of whom are very successful and happy and some who've been mistreated and abused.  While I know that abuse happens in all jobs and industries (TRUST ME, I KNOW) what really irritates me is that in the sex industry it can be physically damaging to a woman (or a man.)  I have seen blind eyes turned towards women who have been raped, molested and physically abused by bar management and customers alike.  This kind of thing has to stop.  This doesn't mean I don't support sex workers, it's because I DO support them,  I want all of them to work in clean and safe environments but what it does mean is that I have to ask myself if it's something I want to be associated with.  I personally have never set a rule or standard disallowing anyone from any background to perform simply because my events are for the sole purpose of the community to bring us together so that we can enjoy one another in a safe, clean environment.  However, with that said, there are others out there who are actively promoting pole dancing to a whole new audience, that new audience becomes MY audience once they get hooked.  It is a cycle.  Just because my vision is different doesn't mean it's better.  I firmly support EVERYONE who is out there making a difference with our sport/art/dance and sharing it with those who may not otherwise know how amazing and empowering this is.  I would love to see everyone expressing themselves through pole dance and feeling the power and strength I feel.  I want everyone to feel great about themselves.  I now realize though, the way I dance may be off putting to others, I'm not going to change it, just recognize that there are different ways to bring in new people and they will be attracted to different aspects of pole.

The only thing I have found that I truly cannot support is the in fighting, name calling and bullying that I sometimes see when things get controversial.  Instead of anger, I'd like to see conversation and education.  Let's not make it personal anymore.  Let's stop telling people their vision is wrong because some people disagree with it.  Let's start making a difference and looking for places that we can create more opportunity for performers and competitors.  Let's ask questions that get us closer to understanding one another.  Let's not forget that we all LOVE what we do and we are blessed to have the talents and abilities we have.  Let's take inspiration from one another and show kindness in the difficult times.

I encourage everyone reading this today to find a way to share their vision of pole dancing in a kind and ethical way with the community and the world.  How?  Make a video.  Write a blog.  Post pictures.  Go say something kind to someone about their pole dancing.  Watch a video of a type of pole you never would before.  Dance in a way you've never danced before.  Everyone reading this today, share your story.  Tell us about YOU, how YOU got started, what YOU love about pole, YOUR thoughts on the sex industry.  Let's open up a dialogue that will help us learn and grow from one another - let's share the negatives in a positive way.  Let's see if someone we may not always agree with gives us something new to think about.

And finally, reach out to those local to you.  Peace begins at home.  Think about your words and actions and see if there is a better to enact them so as to connect with another dancer and understand her/his hurt and pain.  It's so amazing that we have all of these differing opinions because for me at least, I grow more in an industry that I love because you the community give me things to consider that I never would have before.  I would love for us to be able agree to disagree but still kiss and make up.      

Monday, December 24, 2012


"Joy is not in 'things' - it is in us."

That is the message inside a Christmas card that we are giving away this year.  The cute little message comes with a picture illustrated my talented boyfriend which features a dog wear antlers too large with a comically sad look on his face.  From the cover you would expect some kind of funny message, instead the sentence is simple.  I have rolling this sentence over and over in my head this Christmas Eve as I consider this last year of my journey.

Can I call it a journey if I rode an emotional roller coaster and nearly abandoned pole?  Yes.  I have spent many months thinking, not moving, sitting in silence *almost silence, since February we've shared our home with a mouthy Savannah Cat* reevaluating myself and my life's purpose.  In pole dancing we find ourselves hitting plateaus, unable to conquer the next move, the next thing, the next step...and if pole dancing has taught me anything it's that sometimes you need to shelf things for a minute and create a plan to get past the plateau.

How do you get past life's plateaus, life's sometimes dreariness, life's sometimes negative rocks being thrown at you one after another?  How do you find joy in a seemingly vacant alley of sadness?  I think most of us get pretty sucked in and start catering to sadness, start telling the negativity that it's right.  I think we let ourselves fall into self sabotaging cycles.  For the record, I am a fan of letting yourself sabotage your own plans once in a while.  If we don't cry, if we don't ask questions, if we don't sit silently - we never grow.  Growth generally comes after a difficult period.  Look at the pole.  Only after several days, months or years of training, pushing and driving ourselves nuts do we find some of those elusive and impressive tricks.  We often let our fear, lack of spotters, lack of training, lack of background - whatever it is - keep us from achieving what we are capable of - because not doing something about it is sometimes easier.  Then comes that rapture of finally tasting that elusive move and then comes JOY!  Pure, unadulterated JOY!    Think about it.  If you just walked up to the pole and did a fonji without effort - would you have enjoyed the fonji as much?  Then it occurs to me the joy we feel in those moments of sweet success is the joy of overcoming failure, fear and time.  The move (thing) is great but the joy came from our struggle.

I speak of joy today because this is the season we are supposed to feel joyous yet many of us are working hard to create joy for others.  Creating joy is stressful, it's a struggle.  As many parents know, it can be hard to keep the kids out of the cookies and presents *or in my case the cat out of the tree.*  We're shopping and running around and all of this joy creates hardship, people taking your parking spot at the store when you clearly had your turn signal on to take it, long lines, antsy customers.  This joyous time of year also sheds light on those not as fortunate.  I also think of the amazing people who give up their joyous holiday to serve us - police officers, doctors, nurses, fire fighters, military men and women, gas station attendants, and the list goes on and on.

I know many of us at this moment ARE feeling joy, that's why it's good to consider where joy comes from and be thankful for all of our own struggles and the struggles of other.

Joy is truly within each of us and I hope this Holiday season all of you have been able to take a moment and experience the sheer joy of existence, have taken a moment to be thankful to our friends, loved ones, those who serve us and even those who perhaps we don't entirely like.  I hope we can all take our joy and share it with one another.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Class It Up!

Today's thought...What DOES a pole dancer look like?

"You don't look like a pole dancer."  You know, that's a loaded statement.  Years ago I was telling someone at my local haunt JJ's - if you're friends with me on Facebook you'll know of where I speak since it's the ONLY place I go - that I was a pole dance instructor.  His reply was just that I didn't look like someone who would pole dance.  Recently, someone said this about my little potato - that she didn't look like a pole dancer.  I then thought to myself - well, that's quite offensive.  What does a pole dancer look like?  What image comes to mind when I say the word pole immediately followed by the word dancer?  How does one look like a pole dancer?

In the case of the gentleman (using the term loosely) who thought I didn't look like a pole dancer - that was probably a compliment.  I think that men think pole dancers have double D breasts, wear 8 inch heels, teeny bikini's, smell like cupcakes with pink, supple, pouty lips.  Ofcourse he looked at all 5'5, 120 pounds of A cup me and thought that I didn't fit the stereotype.  I am pretty sure he was complimenting me.  Interestingly enough over time since he's a regular drunk he's built quite a respect for pole dancers, learned a few things he didn't know about women, women's sensuality and the pole.

Now, on to my little potato - this is a name of endearment, by the way, she's really not a potato.  The person who questioned MLP's look of a pole dancer was a woman.  When women say things like this there is a loaded paragraph of unspoken judgments being made.  The woman met MLP and me at the same time.  I showed her videos of MLP and of myself.  You know what is so amazing about my MLP?  Her ability to flow, dance, spin, GRIND and be especially sexy.  She oozes femininity.  But, those things seemed to be lost on the woman who couldn't wrap her head around MLP being a pole dancer.  In fact, MLP is often dismissed and ignored when she's with me, which makes me sad, because MLP  is my rock, my heart and my soul, she's the one who lifts ME up, gives me the courage to dance with my heart in front of crowds of people, believes in me when I don't, believes in my messages when I am too scared to share them.  MLP is the one who has sat tirelessly on the couch eating smart pop watching me have emotional break downs whilst attempting to channel that energy into a story, into a dance that I have to tell.  MLP is the one who taught me the Janeiro, helped me clean up my lines, taught me to be emotionally raw with my movement.  Here we are, two women different ages, different styles, differing in appearance and SHE'S the one who "doesn't look like a pole dancer?"  Um, so what are you saying I look like?  What are you saying?

I've been giving a lot of thought to what a pole dancer is, what they look like and what impression I would like to give those who know nothing about pole.  You see, as pole grows, I think the image of, specifically pole performers (not exotic dancers), is and will continue to change.  A long time ago if you said you were a pole dancer the "stripper" image came to mind, while that is one type of pole dancer, it's no longer the all encompassing world view of pole dancers.  As competitions gain more notoriety  as we push forward in Olympic goals and studios like S Factor ride the PR media wave - the world is starting to realize that pole dancing is an art and a sport.  Pole dancing is less associated with it's roots (blog for another time) and becoming known as a trendy way to get fit, a form of aerial arts and gymnastics.  As we challenge the world's view of the pole and change their perspective they are beginning to have different images and associations in their head.

The new and improved pole dancer image includes monokini's, ultra thin and lithe dancers, long legs, athletic builds...and ultimately what we know as "tricksters."  The upper echelon pole dancing athlete will soon enough become the mainstream image associated with non nude pole performing.  What does this mean?  I guess it means to look like a pole dancer you gotta be ripped.  In a nutshell.  As you are reading this, you might be thinking that this ripped image of a girl in modest sports apparel performing feats of defying gravity is a positive thing, and you know, for the most part it probably is.

So, what's the problem?  Maybe we are telling women that pole is all about looking and performing like a gymnast instead of dancing, learning and creating a better and healthier inside and out.  What if that woman thought MLP didn't look like a pole dancer because she's not 20, she's tall, she has curves and breasts, so she doesn't look like gymnast or a dancer but a woman.  It is my opinion that the image of a ripped, trained dancer is as negative as the image of a stripper.  The most amazing thing about the pole movement is that it is for everyone.  I think about the men I know who pole dance, do they not "look like pole dancers" because they are men?

Keep in mind that my agenda here isn't to talk about what people look like or make judgments in fact it's the opposite.  I want to open up dialogue about the images we have and the images the world may have, I want to show ourselves as well as the rest of the world that every single PERSON, man or woman, is beautiful!  I want to show that pole dancing is more than tricks and heels, it's the art of self expression, it's a journey for many PEOPLE that takes them down a spiritually, mentally and physically healthier path to a better them.  That the better person at the end of that path isn't better because they lost a few pounds or learned a few hard tricks but the better person is better because they can share themselves in an artistic way with others, or  maybe grind out a bad day in their living room, or maybe just find an increase in overall happiness and wellness.

This brings me to my title "Class It Up."  One of the most powerful things is being in a class full of pole dancers.  Did you know on your first day of class - you are now a pole dancer?  Even if you are a pole dancer for 20 minutes, you are one, you are surrounded by pole dancers.  What do they look like?  Does it matter?  I've had the very rare encounter with a new pole dancer who was judgmental of fellow students or her instructor, though they exist and that's what stirred this blog.  Taking a class full of people for the first time makes you realize so many things...It makes you see yourself, see others, often be stunned by others, it makes you appreciate fear and you're allowed and even have to share that fear with your classmates.  Everyone is self conscious, you learn that.  The skinny girl with red lipstick to the older lady in the back - they are ALL scared and vulnerable just like you.  The best part is, they want to share it with you, they need to know you feel the same.  You begin to dispel any preconceived notions you had about pole dancing, perhaps it easier, perhaps it harder, perhaps you thought you would do better or maybe you did better than you thought you would, you start to lose yourself in the music and the energy flowing around the room.  Experiencing this with other women is in my opinion what truth feels like if truth were an emotion or an energy.  When you are surrounded by others you begin to realize just how unforgiving pole dancing can be, how you NEED kinship to keep going.  You begin to realize that you're body is uniquely individual, that what your body craves and loves, another body may despise and find horribly awkward.  You will probably not respect the things you can do and watch others and wish to do what they do, but know there is someone watching you and wishing they could be as beautiful as you are.  All things are so equal in so many blissful ways.

I realize not everyone can afford to or is even geographically able to join in this kumbiyah of fabulous and glorious energy sharing but that doesn't mean you can't HAVE it.  Even if you are self teaching, join a WWW.STUDIOVEENA.COM! Find friends on facebook.  Friend Youtubers.  Put yourself in a place where you can somehow reach out and be heard and someplace that you can see and appreciate others...share that energy.  Right now, SV is the place I tell EVERYONE to go because it's a worldwide pole class 24/7.  Just go, spend 15 minutes reading, 15 minutes watching.  Do you know what you will see?  PEOPLE.  People from all walks of life, all over the world, sharing their successes, failures, hopes, dreams, good times, bad times and personal lives in a single place.  No, this isn't an SV advertisement, it's my honest heartfelt opinion.  SV  is a safe 24/7 pole dancing school where you can see real dancers working it out.  I grew up pole dancer in a world of video clips and perfection, no one shared their misfortunes, no one was humble, no one shared the reality of pole which lead me to believe that my lack of strength and inability to be graceful was just ME.  I wish I had SV to grow up on because I would have learned that many feel as I do, it's journey for everyone and that I am not alone.

Look around, we are surrounded by pole dancers!  What do they look like?  They look like brilliant, amazing, strong,kind, loving people of all glorious shapes, heights, sizes, colors...pole dancers are you and me, we are a rainbow of pole dancers.

And for those who I know go darkly into themselves trying to live up to one image or another of what a pole dancer should look like, STOP!  A pole dancer looks like you and for what it's worth I think you're beautiful.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Airy Fairy Zen & The Art of Pleasing My Cat

I think it's fairly common knowledge I have a fairly emotionally codependent and perhaps abusive relationship with my cat.  See, my cat, unlike other cats - because he's sooo different, is an active ADD cat that can't still for 2 seconds, unless ofcourse you lay down and throw a blanket over your legs and create a safe kitty hammock with your legs - then he's a cuddle machine.  My cat is special in that he's extremely needy but also aloof.  Apparently he does not understand that if he doesn't want to be petted every moment of the day he shouldn't have been born with the softest fur on the planet - his fault not mine.  My kitty talks incessantly, he needs to be heard, he's loud, he's boisterous, he's an in your face kind of kitty.  Like, right now - he's contemplating jumping up and meowing my face, I can feel it, he will then rub his long body under my chin, turn and sit on my computer and probably turn it off!  I'll pet him, he'll close his eyes, enjoy for about 2 seconds then get up, jump down and sit at my feet and meow at the top of his lungs.  If he doesn't get my attention he will jump on the back of my chair and start tapping me on the shoulder with his paw, if that doesn't work he will use both legs to balance carefully on my shoulders and meow in my ear.  If that doesn't work he will then start either a) eating plants - which are slightly toxic to him or b) scratch at the cabinets until I can't take it anymore.  What does he want?  To be played with and entertained.

My cat is a fairly emotional cat.  While he may run off when he's tired of the lovin's he always, always comes back for attention.  He's not very zen.  He's antsy, anxious, he's socially awkward - try ringing my doorbell - he heads for the hills!  I stepped on his very long tail once trying to rescue him from the garage and he was angry with me for a full 6 days.  He'd run when I tried to pet him, he didn't talk to me, he slept A LOT because without entertainment I.E. ME he gets bored.  I was a little hurt by his actions, after all I hadn't meant to step on his tail, he was trying to run under the barbecue and I needed to save him from eating what was probably days old drippings seasoned with bacteria!  SIX full days later, I'm laying in bed with my eyes close and feel the bed move, feel his giant paws at my feet making a spot for himself, he curls up into a surprisingly small ball and there it was FORGIVENESS.  I sat up, gave his head and chin a little rubbing, he purred and gave my squinty kitty eyes and the world was right again.  Do you see what I mean when I say this relationship is a little weird?  Just now he hopped up on Rob for a few seconds, looked at me, meowed and was clearly trying to upset me by cuddling with another...he jumped down and ran right over to me when I didn't budge.  Emotional abuse, I tell you!  I feel for Rob who loves our cat as much as I do who only gets cuddles when it suits Jengo to make me jealous.

I'm not a crazy cat lady!  Well, not entirely.  There are so many things about this that speak to me about pole and have created a rather pole zen inside of me.  In my last blog, I talked about seeing ME.  Finding out who I am is the first step in finding out who OTHERS are.  My cat hasn't quite figured out who I am yet, however because I know, I can see him for every wonderful and annoying thing he is.

It's so easy to see human nature in our animals because everything is so basic, I'm sure some feel the same about their young children but since I only have a cat it's my only point of reference.  Recently I was spending some time with some friends, I left that situation feeling angry and slighted.  I felt shown up, hurt, I felt like I wasn't good enough because each thing I did it seemed someone else could do it better, harder, bendier, faster, etc.  I was made to feel less than.  I was steaming by the time I left, not to mention I was only there as a favor to a very good friend.  I called my closest confidants, cried and vented about how some people have a lack of ability to display kindness, empathy or be a real friend.  Then I realized something...the friend who was making me feel bad, feels bad.  What if like my cat she is just really ADD and needs attention.  What is she feeling?  Was she intentionally trying to hurt my feelings?  No.  I don't believe she was nor would.  Would she be equally as hurt as I was when I recount to her what happened?  Probably.  Deep inside is there a heart that is actually good and giving?  Yes.  Does my cat jump around, meow and do all he can for attention?  Yes.  Do I love him still?  Yes.  Does it annoy me sometimes?  Yes.  Do I walk away from encounters feeling like a human cat toy (in both situations)?  YES!  Am I strong enough to understand that sometimes you DO have to take a backseat to others who need accolades and love more than I do? YES.

Then comes the 6 day fight I had with my cat about stepping on his tail.  I have over the last year had some tumultuous disagreements with others for one reason or another.  Luckily, over the months many of the issues has been solved because I learned to listen and even greater understanding of empathy.  There was one thing though, one thing a few years ago where I felt a friend had stepped on my tail - nearly literally.  I was angry.  So angry we didn't speak for over two years.  I dreamed about this friend, I missed her.  I felt fraudulent acting as an ambassador for Peace & Pole when I had not made up with someone.  THEN, I got to spend time with someone who I watched anger eat them up inside.  I saw someone so consumed with hatred that I could actually FEEL the hair on my arms stand up.  It felt awful.  I think that was the moment I realized it was time to ask for forgiveness from the one who "stepped on my tail, in my eyes."  I needed to seek out forgiveness because even though I may have felt betrayed at one point, 2 years of not talking to her, not including her, being angry with her over something so small was eating ME up inside.  So, like Jengo I offered a cuddle (well, alcohol) and we talked and we're working on rebuilding the friendship we once both cherished.

As I walk through pole lately, I'm left remembering that we all come from someplace, in order to be seen, I need to see OTHERS, their place and their journey.  I am reminded that this is a largely female based community and industry and we are emotional!  We have feelings.  They are called FEELings because they FEEL, they aren't RATIONALINGS because sometimes it's not about what's rational or facts.  While facts and truth reign supreme, feelings must also be honored whether they are right or wrong.

One more thought before I go to torture my cat with pettings.  When everything is quiet and I've got that blanket thrown over my legs, Jengo carefully makes his way to his kitty hammock, lies down, can close his eyes, spend time with me in an unselfish way and be ok.  As I write this I am beginning to realize why that safety is so important and must be protected.  I can just BE in an unselfish way with those I love who have aided me creating my safe place.  I hope that all dancers have a safe place with safe friends that they can love unselfishly and where they can just be SAFE.  Whether it's your pole room, studio, a friends house, a forum - I am hoping all of you have a safe place to go with safe people who love you.  It's really hard to expose your heart without love.  May the love you give be also the love you receive.

On that note - I'm going to play with my cat and even if he bites me, I'm going to forgive him because I know where he's coming from.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Can You See Me?

It's been ages since I wrote anything, even something simple.  I was going through a total creative block that was keeping me trapped in my head with my own thoughts that traveled so rampantly to and fro I could not grasp a single concept.

Since February of this year I started falling deep within myself, submerged with my own angst, sadness and questions about what I was doing, why I was doing it and who I was doing it for.  While drowning in myself, life decided it would not stay on hold and kept throwing curve balls, just one after another.  I watched myself recede and for the first time in my life, I let myself fade away into the darkness.  I chose not to fight it no matter what the consequences would be because I had never given into it before, perhaps that's what I needed.  I evaporated.  It was nice.  It made me feel safe.  How?  How can evaporating into your own sadness feel safe?  Because, the only way to truly understand the depth of the pain I was feeling was to go inside of it and FEEL it, be it, allow it.

I stopped teaching for the most part, I stopped dancing, I stopped performing, I stopped filming or adding much the community.  I started questioning the community.  I started seeing things that didn't add up, that didn't feel empowering within us.  I saw diversion and things that quite frankly spoke to me as being the exact opposite of empowering and uniting.  I cannot even put a finger on a singular incident that made me feel that way, I think it was an overall look at everything from local communities to the grand scale world view of pole  and across the board I began to wonder if we were over empowering people and thus somehow promoting this bad behaviour.  This thought left a really bad taste in my mouth as you can imagine.

Along this journey of searching within myself and looking at the larger picture, I began to feel fraudulent.  I began to feel invisible behind this woman named Charley.  This woman I created over 5 years ago as a place to go where I could pole, be accepted and have some anonymity.  She was never supposed to become a real girl, she was never supposed to be anything but a name on a screen.  Then the community grew and so did she.  She became the person I could hide behind and do things I never thought possible like perform a pole dance in public, teach a sexy class, BE sexy, wear stripper shoes, produce shows for every day women, give them a voice...she became the person I could never be.  She was like a winter coat and I put her on every time I left the house.  Charley, oh how comfortable Charley felt!  She is everything I want to be, although she could stand to be a little stronger and more aggressive, however inspite of those flaws, she's given me the world and let's face it, mousey little Crystal was her backbone - so she didn't have much to work with.  The thing is, this isn't Charley's journey, it's Crystal's.  Crystal wasn't able to move forward because she was letting Charley do it.  Charley was safe and loved, 2 things Crystal had not had much success in finding.  Crystal easily rolled and let Charley do the talking because for the first time in her life Crystal felt a real sense of acceptance, so what if she had to let Charley be the one to get it.

There became times that Charley and Crystal intertwined their beings, those incidents became more and more frequent.  At one point in time my facebook name was "Charley Pole."  I remember the day I married myself to my "Charley."  I sat their looking at facebook and it said "Charley Pole likes this."  Whose last name is Pole?  I ask you?  Then I decided that I would no longer be defined by the pole that I wanted to define IT.  I suppose the marriage also came to be because there were those who called "Charley" Crystal and I thought to myself - you don't know her, please don't call me that.  Some people who claimed to know "ME" but truly didn't even understand the tip of the iceberg.  I realized then that Crystal was being suffocated by Charley because she felt safe and Charley was just another wall to hide behind.  By marrying the 2 women to become one I was able to share some of the ridiculousness that is Crystal, the raw vulnerable girl who was picked on, never pretty enough, who had - at best a - tumultuous relationship with her mother, adores her father, is a crazy cat lady, has always been in love with the same man since she was 20, the girl who studied and did well in school, read books, the girl who cried once when her father made her look in the mirror and see herself...THAT girl.  When I became "Charley Crystal" the world seemed a little more right to me, though scary because there was so much less hiding.

Then came a day where Charley was no longer safe.  She was demonized into a bullying villain.  The safe place I built was no longer safe and that's why I receded.  If I couldn't be safe as Charley - where could I be safe?  Where could I go and be accepted and loved?  Why was Charley suddenly so misunderstood?  Was it because she and Crystal were merging?  Was it because I finally began to truly have a sense of self appreciation?  The moment things got bad was the moment I stopped giving, no matter who I was at that time.  The moment I could no longer GIVE FREELY and needed to think about myself was the moment it all fell apart.  It was interesting because during this time Crystal wanted to defend and hold Charley - tell her it was all okay - but how can you do that when you are the same person?  I wanted to thank Charley for everything that she had given me!  She was the reason I had been able to do so many things!  I think that's when Crystal actually grew a set and decided it was time for HER to protect Charley and honor the journey that Charley put her on...Crystal started showing up to the party a hell of a lot more.

So you're reading this and thinking, wow, schizophrenia, anyone?  No. I realize these 2 names are simply 2 parts of a single person who needed each identity to find a single person.  There is something so safe and freeing about having an alter ego, I, to this day believe in creating that safe persona to be and do all the things your heart desires.  At a certain point, at least for me, I needed to marry them in order to find the love and acceptance I so desired.  I needed to see that a persona is not a impenetrable wall of safety - eventually heart ache and pain will find that persona and devour it.  I also had to realize that this creature Charley growing within me, the creature that ate me up, was me the whole time.  It wasn't because Charley was a pole dancer, in fact pole had little do with it outside of serving as a vehicle for self growth, it was because Charley was a better vision of me and I was able to rise up and meet her, because of her.

Last month I did something I have never done before, I merged my identities into one story and shared with the world - okay a few hundred people, still felt like the world - the story of 2 women growing within one body and at the end of that story both personas want the same thing and infact one persona was CREATED to find it - self love, self worth, self acceptance inspite of my many imperfections, just at the end of the day being good would simply be enough.  And it was.

Some have asked if I was going to put Charley away.  My answer - NEVER.  She's still the part of me that makes me feel more confident, can walk into a room and take charge, organize an event, dance on a stage - I think the difference now is that Crystal isn't being swallowed up by this singular character so perhaps Charley is the dancer and Crystal is the woman.  Someone very special to me once wrote in my bio "Crystal, affectionately known as Charley."

So, my name is Crystal, I hope that I am affectionately known as Charley, that my self given nickname will continue to coexist, and that I will be seen.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Mean Girls

In our evolved, western society it seems there has always been a higher archy of women...whether it's the saint vs. whore, the wealthy vs. poor, greek vs. freak...we like to set a tone and make a statement about WHO deserves our time and who doesn't.  I'm kind of guilty of doing this.  I'm guilty of getting in a group of friends and deciding who's attractive, who isn't, who's worthy of attention, who's not, who's a whore, who's not, who's tacky, who's well dressed, who's classy, who I will spend time on who I won't, who has value and who doesn't.

I never actually thought this behavior and mindset would make it's way into the pole community.  I never thought I would see divisive commentary publicly from pole dancers, I never thought I would see women make rude comments in a pole class about their prowess, I never thought I would see women tear women down IN THE POLE COMMUNITY.  When I started pole dancing there were so few of us that it didn't matter what talent anyone had - we were elated to speak with one another, excited to know there was a world beyond our own pole rooms and youtube... in know the women on youtube were REAL, was an amazing thought.  2hen I first started pole dancing I didn't know anyone who pole danced for the sake of pole dancing personally, I didn't know that pole dancing was thing that came with a community.  I quickly found a community of intelligent, honest, caring women who welcomed me into their fold with love and encouragement.  This was not what I expected when I googled "pole dance moves" and found the Vertical Dance website...I was also shocked to realize that most of the women involved with that board were European. (What?!?!  The world doesn't revolve around America?)  So, not only were there few Americans online, there were few women from my state online.

My First
I met my first pole friend on the VD forum...I actually sent her a crazy private message because I couldn't believe my luck!  Another woman from Michigan pole dances, like in her house, like for fun, like does tricks and stuff?!?!?!  I am shocked to this day that "Kisentia" actually agreed to meet me - in a public place - ofcourse, I'm sure she thought I was nuts.  Well, I showed up at Olga's Kitchen at the Westland Mall on like NO SLEEP (I was guest djing in on a morning show for a friend of mine who then worked in the Cayman Islands) and fell in love with "Kisentia."  Immediately we made a short list of the one other person we knew who pole danced and had a pole jam!  We wanted to experience the fun sharing and sisterhood we saw in the European communities so we got together with the one other person we knew and rocked the pole silly!

Since then Kisentia and our other pole friend have gone on to become Mommies so I haven't been in touch with them for awhile, but that doesn't mean I don't think about them - especially as I write this and as I begin to experience more negativity and competitiveness from the pole community.  Back then, I thought, believed that we could ALL get along, that we were a sisterhood.  I guess I was wrong.

Pole Dancers Are People
The reason my utopia of beautiful women of shapes, sizes and ages cannot exist is because pole dancers are people.  I don't like every person I meet and quite frankly most people probably don't like me.  We co-exist on this planet together and work not make waves or ripples in those lives who we've shunned, and sadly yes, I've shunned my fair share of people and pole dancers.  Why?  Because no matter what bond you might think you share with other people at the end of the day you have to decide if that person is a right fit for you and if they aren't - you have to cast them out.  You HAVE to.  You can't surround yourself with people who are unequally yoked with you whether friend, lover or pole dancer.

What troubles me is when you get beyond the whole people thing and we still cannot agree, cannot agree to disagree and cannot move forward in the promotion of a greater cause - pole dancing.  Yes, I'm well aware that pole dancing won't feed the hungry, won't bring about world peace, won't cure loneliness, sadness, HIV, cancer or any of the other real problems that face our world; pole dancing can cure one thing...the female higher archy.  Pole dancing should bring women together who would not likely be friends to spend precious moments together in a vulnerable setting.  We may not agree with the direction of pole dancing or what it even is but we should all agree that it is a sisterhood that is in fact quite rare to find.  Who else do you know at least weekly strips down to their underwear and dances around sexily for the same sex for free?  Who else do you know works their ass off to nail some random upside down thing that will likely end in bruises and frustration?  Who else do you know in your personal like who could possibly understand the desire to dance or hang from objects?  Who else can you share your addiction with?  Your secret?

Why it sucks when you steal my tricks
I've read so many amazing articles on how to become your own woman and flourish in her and her ways.  I've learned to accept the dancer I am and work to make her better but also to enjoy my body and the things it can do.  I've learned to be pleased with the joy of moving even if it's not beautiful because dancing is freedom - and that includes the freedom to move in an ugly way so long as it feels good.  I've learned that it doesn't matter how good I am  if I'm dancing with a smile on my face.  I've learned that I don't care where I rank in the world of dancing much less pole dancing because this is something that feels good inside out.

What I haven't learned to accept is negative, competitive behavior.  Why does it suck if someone takes your trick and claims it as their own?  Because we all want affirmation that we are good.  When someone takes what's yours or even is inspired by you but would rather not discuss where the inspiration came from - that feels bad, feels like maybe I suck so bad you didn't want to mention my name or be associated with me, or it just let's me know that you are so crazy insecure that you can't give credit or more importantly respect to another pole dancer unless they are famous.  It tells me that you are more concerned with being *awesome* than with being a sister and a good person.  It tells me that I need to be a mean girl with you and not let you sit at my lunch table, and to be honest, I'd rather have you sit with me and share in all of our knowledge together and grow with you.  I'd rather you become apart of my journey and I apart of yours.  I'd rather respect one another.

Why I Give Credit
I tend to name moves after the person I saw do it...why?  I like for people to know the inspiration behind what I'm thinking.  I am so excited to find things other dancers do that I want to work with and I want that dancer to know she inspired me.  It feels good.  It's kind of like putting good energy back into the sisterhood so we can continue to grow together and develop new moves, tricks and styles together.  Without the sharing of ideas what would pole dancing be?  How many of us have watched a youtube video - mimicked what we saw and gave our inspiration no thought at all?  I know that I have and try not to do that, I think it's important to put kindness and love back into the fold, I sincerely believe that through the inspiration of others I have been able to create and inspire dancers myself and that is an amazing gift.

Is Being the BEST Worth It?
I'm not saying that pole has not turned from a sensual art into a sport - it totally has.  I'm not saying that a bit of competition isn't a good thing, it keeps us on our toes!  I have even had a very healthy, fulfilled, competitive relationship with another pole dancer.  I miss that relationship something fierce...I miss being impressed, inspired and pushed to get as good as Pole Dancer X.  I miss her cheering me on, I miss cheering her on, I miss working by myself at home thinking Pole Dancer X is so going to freak when she sees this, or "Oh yeah Ms. X got what?!?  I'm going to get it in half the time!"   I miss that competitive and loving relationship...but you know what?  We always gave each other respect and props for all the things we taught each other.  We NEVER got caught up in being better than each other, just becoming our own better dancer and we both relished in one another's success.

Winning and being the best at anything requires sacrifice.  You will not be a champion pole dancer without making sacrifices somewhere.  You won't be good at anything without sacrifice.  I ask though, is it worth the bad attitude to be a winner?  Is it worth it to be so self focused you've shut your sisters out?  Is it worth watching others and not being able to see through the sometimes unpointed toes and clumsiness?  Is it worth being unable to enjoy someone else's dancing for the sake of watching them dance NOT taking their stuff?  Is sacrificing your friendships, potential friendships worth a win?  Worth being considered the best pole dancer on the planet?  A title that so subjective it's not even funny?  Is being the best worth being a mean girl?  Is being worshiped worth the sacrifice of a loving sisterhood?

Fact.  Pole dancers of all abilities and notoriety suffer the sacrifice of our personal relationships due the amount of practice we put in.  Fact.  Pole dancers of all abilities and notoriety suffer the sacrifice of our bodies and our time, wouldn't it be nicer if we sacrificed together?

Sisterhood of the Pole
As I get ready to eat my mac and cheese and cheeseburger I'm left with a single thought...Let's all make an effort to produce more love, encouragement and inspiration into the sisterhood.  Let's pretend for a moment we aren't people with political views, religions and whatever else makes people argue...let's just be pole dancers and celebrate whatever kind of pole dancer your sister is.  Celebrate the stripper!  Celebrate the athlete!  Celebrate the dancer!  Celebrate the choreographer!  Celebrate the new and advanced alive!

I don't want to judge a dancer on her toes, movement, her heels or her bad kitty wear choices.  I don't, even in a competition setting, ever discount another dancer or not appreciate her.  I don't want to, even in a competition, think that another dancer is better or worse than me...I want to share the stage with her.  I want to share a class room with as many pole dancers - whether better or less skilled than me and damn it!  I want sisters who love and respect each other.  I want sisters who accept the outcomes of performances, competitions, competition auditions, gigs....whatever!  I want sisters who can look across the room and see that another pole dancer needs reassurance and give it to her!  I wants sisters who can step aside for a moment and enjoy someone else and relish in someone else's success and I want sisters who will support, love, encourage and find nice things to say to all pole dancers, I want sisters who will respect...I want sisters to respect.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Robot Dancer - Part One

There comes a point in time where you have to step outside of yourself as a dancer and watch yourself through the mirror.  You have look at your reflection, then stop judging it.  This blog is my journey, my personal diary of a journey that began early this year to find the inner performer and dancer and find a way to become emotionally available to her.  I'm not good at being emotionally available at all.  I'm not a touchy feely person, although I do love hugging, I don't like forced affection or sadness.  I cannot stand whiners or even whining myself.  I find myself looking in the mirror and feeling like human life, love and feelings are just puzzle pieces that need to be put back together.  I believe in finding solutions rather than holding onto despair.  I connect on a deeper level with very few people, I call it the circle of trust.  Making truly DEEP connections takes me a long time, I'm not sure if it's the fear of being hurt, the fear of knowing what it feels like to be betrayed and ripped open and knowing I never want to feel like that again or just simply how I'm wired.  I'm a very big fan of logic.  I love logic, it solves everything!  BUT sometimes...logic isn't enough.  You can't cuddle and hold logic, logic doesn't let you cry, logic doesn't let you love with all wild abandon, logic doesn't make you hot and sweaty.  Logically, it doesn't make sense to me to bear your sole to a world who has no use for it.  This is why I think I am so distant from those outside my circle of trust.  I think this is why I get uncomfortable when it gets personal.  The only person I connect with on a deeper, spiritual plane is my amazing and talented boyfriend - who by the way painted the picture to the left which inspired this blog.  He's the only one that makes logic go sit in the corner and be quiet.  He's the only one I can confess and bear my heart fact, he might enjoy me using some logic every now and again.

As I walk down this path of becoming the dancer I want to be - I realized I needed to harness that emotion that I hide deep within, harness the frustration and sadness, the anguish, the past lives that I would rather see buried and bring them to the surface.  It first occurred to me back in mid March in a class I was taking that I had polished these moves yet they lacked any meaning besides being really awesome and pretty.  I had channeled this thing that I think is sexy, this thing that I love so much, yet this thing was empty...or atleast I now feel like it was empty, maybe it was half full?  I had become very good at rolling my eyes in the back of my head, swaying to the music and getting lost in fulfilling the image of what I saw in my head.  Filling up stereotypical images isn't enough - in fact, I've become so good at rolling my eyes in the back of my head and losing myself in the music that I found myself hiding beneath layers of sensuality.  I started to put my sexuality on a platter so that I could hide and be safe.  I'd rather be sexy than exposed.

Then came my stint with stripping.  I began using my clothing as the metaphor for shedding my layers of thoughts and feelings...but really it was another way of hiding.  I could expose parts of my body so I wouldn't have to expose how I felt, in case those feelings we rejected, somehow invalidated.  It's easier to be rejected for being too sexy than it is to be rejected for an honest portrayal of what lies beneath.  Don't get me wrong the physical act of stripping pushed me to begin to toy with the idea of exposing myself, now it's time to play with my emotional clothing and shed that.  I am a big fan of stripping and grinding it out, there's nothing that feels better to me after a moment of hell than to whip the hair and tear the clothes off and roll around on the floor.  In fact some of those never seen before moments ARE the real moments, the moments and things I am talking about hiding, that never get seen because of fear.

It takes a lot of courage and inner strength to tap into the real you and put her out there.  It's scary.  With that in mind I began experimenting privately.  What if I listen, truly LISTEN to the music I want to dance to?  I started using visualization, popping in my earbuds and letting myself slip into the music without dancing, really hearing the words and the rhythms, envisioning what telling that story would look like, then what would it feel like...what if I could move my body and use my talents in a way that expressed how I feel or relate to this?  Then I started noticing my dancing looked different.  I stopped dancing for the mirror and started to live my visions.  At first, it was pretty ugly - without the mirror and my "logic" to guide me, my extensions were not what they could be, toes lacked pointing, I would pull up and sometimes find my shoulders were slumped over.  My dancing FELT better but was so much more raw and unrefined.

How do I express myself and make it pretty and draw people into my world?  How can I intoxicate?  I knew I had to start really working on FEELING the extensions and the power of the floor and the air beneath my feet.  Then it hit me - it's really hard to express yourself with a long series of advanced moves.  How am I expressing my anger at repression with a handspring?  I went back to my basics - which I use as a constant in my dance life for building strength and grace - then I find of fell in love again with the feeling of just spinning around the pole.  I started to FEEL where the aysha goes, where that handspring goes and how to use it express my strength and perhaps anger, happiness, joy, love...but I could never figure out how to USE the bad ass tricks without first finding my inner spinner and falling back in love with the simple things that can be molded and manipulated with speed and grace to tell my story.

I'm beginning to shed my nuts and bolts and become a real dancer.