There is something
alluring and addicting about the pole, spanning floor to
ceiling in the otherwise empty dance studio. As a modern
dancer, I have a visceral response to the vision of it and
its possibilities: 14 feet of polished stainless steel
waiting for skin. I yearn to touch it, to see where it can
take me. It is a dance partner, allowing for height and
positioning impossible to achieve or sustain on the solo
dancer’s canvass of air alone, and yet it stands, immobile,
secure, totally passive. Maybe that’s where the empowerment
of pole dancing lies – whether you are hanging upside down
by one leg or spiraling around it with only hands making
contact, your dancing, your stability, your risk and safety
is completely up to you. No living partner holds you, no
arms or legs can readjust to your faulty balance or weakness.
It’s your muscles, your positioning, your verve that drives
these aerial acrobatics, this sensual duet of skin and metal.
All the pole does is provide a place of support or counterbalance.
But oh, the possibilities …
for fitness and as a mainstream art form is gaining momentum
in Nashville and around the globe. You know when MoMa features
pole dancing performances
for all ages in their recent PS1 “Pole Dance” installation,
public image and the artistry of the dance itself is evolving.
Outside of a strip club, pole moves can be approached purely
as a sport – think gymnastics on a vertical bar – or as
an art form. Ideally, it is both. Yes, sexy moves are a
small or big part of the artistry of most pole dancing,
depending on the style and desire of the dancer. There are
times during performances of stunning physicality when a
booty shake or floor gyration, stuck in between artful and
impressively challenging movement on the pole, can be a
jarring tribute to its roots. And while some dancers embrace
the sexuality of pole dancing in any environment, and some
prefer to extract it from the artistry, it remains a dance
form in which attire is, by necessity, minimal.
On the pole,
as much skin as one is willing to expose is encouraged,
for the contact of skin to steel is an intimacy locked in
practicality: one can trust one’s skin more than fabric
to stick when required. And when you’re gripping a pole
with your legs, hanging upside down, head six feet from
the hard floor, you need to trust your skin as much as the
muscles, tendons and bones beneath to hold fast. Metal,
soothingly warmed with touch and friction, can also be treacherous
when slick with sweat. At times harsh and unforgiving, at
times a caress on your back, the pole is both friend and
foe, but always there.
The more common
stationary poles provide the most stability, as opposed
to rotating poles, but that means your skin must stick or
slide, depending on what the movement demands. Whereas modern
dancers have calluses on the soles of our feet, pole dancers
develop them on their hands, for one of the refreshing qualities
of pole dance is that the hands often work as the contact
motion point, freeing legs and feet to explore the air together
like never before.
“I look like
I have man hands,” says Christy Rose, a trained modern dancer,
yoga and Pilates instructor who took up pole dancing to
further tone her body and for the excitement of exploring
a new form of dance. After just two classes Christy was
hooked, bought a pole and installed it in her dinning room.
In the few months since she has practiced and perfected
some daring and beautiful moves. She now teaches at Goddess
a Go Go in East Nashville, where women of all ages
and backgrounds are discovering what pole dancing has to
offer -- if they can stick it out.
be brutal: After just one class, reddened pole burns tattoo
my wrists and arms, purple bruises dot my thighs from learning
to sit on the pole with no hands, shoulders ache from climbing.
And yet I find myself yearning to go back, to feel the momentum
and exhilaration of the swings which are both wonderfully
free and bound with the strong grip and core strength required
to hold on and maintain body position while spiraling through
the air. I want to flip upside down, feel the power in my
arms and back as I hold my entire weight with those muscles,
learn to fly. For me, it has nothing to do with being sexy.
Sensual, oh yes. Beautiful, perhaps. Strong and empowered,
definitely. And the essential balance between freedom and
control, between discipline and play, is an undeniably beguiling
formula. With no one to lift nor catch me if I fall, I dance
this surreal, one-sided duet, exhaust my energy, harden
and strengthen my muscles, release both passion and play,
and find sovereignty and solace in the solitary union of
skin and metal.
at Goddess a Go Go are 90 minutes and begin with a yoga-based
warm up, including some strength and technique-building
floor exercises. Most of the next hour is spent at the
pole, learning moves and perhaps building those into
routines. At the end of the class, participants are
encouraged to share what they’ve learned or explored.
It is a supportive, relaxed environment with women only,
from a wide range of ages and backgrounds.