Last October, I was deep in the heart of my Discovery when I found myself at a burlesque show in the city.
Watching women of all body types gleefully and gloriously strip down to g-strings and pasties in a beautiful, sassy, rebellious celebration of their bodies struck a nerve deep inside of me, and I immediately headed to Google to see if there were any burlesque classes closer to home.
There was only one studio in the entire South Bay that even had burlesque on the menu, and I headed over to check it out.
The studio, Sedusa Studios, is home not only to a once-a-week burlesque class, but also pole dancing lessons. And the more I hung around the studio, where the moodily lit wooden dance floor is punctuated chrome poles, the more I became intrigued. Could I give this a try?
I consider myself a feminist. I believe in women’s rights. I think we’re more than just objects for sexual pleasure.
And yet I’ve been pole dancing for 6 months.
I know that there will always be a debate about appropriation when it comes to fitness modalities. From yoga to pole, there’s always the question of who the practitioner is and where her privilege lies.
But I’m not here for a debate in feminism or privilege (not right now, anyway).
I’m just a woman who is trying to reconcile herself with her body, with her sensuality, with her sexuality, and her ability.
So I pole dance.
Before I started taking pole, I took a sensual dance class. I was with women of all sizes and abilities—most, like me, hadn’t ever done anything like this and were just as nervous about putting on high heels or having to perform the scary task of touching our bodies.
Some women were there because they wanted to dance for their partners. Others, like me, just wanted to try something new.
I was there for me. And I believe that even the women who were dancing for their partners were also there for themselves.
Because learning how to touch and move your own, right-now body without fear—to bare it for yourself exactly as it is—is incredibly difficult and incredibly rewarding.
I started taking sexy pole classes because I wanted to learn how to do the inversions—but I’ve continued taking them, even though I know how to invert now, for the same reason I took sensual dance: it scares the hell out of me, I feel awkward and unprepared, and I learn something about myself every single time I dance.
As someone who is recovered from an eating disorder, I find it incredibly frustrating how many people preach loving your body, without ever explaining a good way to go about learning to do so.
Especially because my eating disorder was an almost violent rejection of my sex- and sensuality, loving my body means getting comfortable with the uncomfortable nature of acknowledging my anatomy.
Pole, for me, shines the light on once-dark places and makes my body inhabitable, comfortable, and safe.
Another thing I love so much about pole is the lack of competition, at least at my studio. (I know there are pro polers, but that’s a whole other world…) My studio is one of the most open and accepting places I’ve ever been. Unlike a gym, a Crossfit box, or even a yoga studio, I don’t feel any competition when I come to class.
I don’t have to be the bendiest. I don’t even have to get the trick right. No one cares if I am wearing Lululemon or cheap underwear from Target. Everyone there is supportive of who you are and where your skill level lies. What you look like never even enters the equation.
It’s strange to be in a place where female friendship isn’t hindered by competition. This is a rare thing, in a world where every workout is a race to the finish—or a race to put your scores on a board or prove to the woman behind you that you’re just this much more skilled.
There’s no sneering at my studio—we go, we dance, we sweat, we laugh. We take things seriously, but only to a point. Safety we take seriously. Ourselves? Not so much.
This weekend, I performed at the pole expo at the studio. It was basically just a large recital for one another and our (female bodied) family and friends. Again, no competition, only support, friendship, and a large amount of celebration: for the bravery of becoming ourselves and not being afraid to express that becoming.
I did not diet before this performance. I did not change my eating or exercise habits at all. I did not buy a costume one size smaller in anticipation of changing my body before I performed. I did not cover up or hide. I didn’t let my body image interfere. Because there was no space for that on the stage with me.
This is the first time in my adult life where I didn’t feel the need to use my body as an excuse and a scapegoat for my anxiety. I did not need my old disordered thoughts and behaviors to help ease my fears about performing or imperfection.
Sure, I was nervous as heck to get up on that stage, but it was more about whether or not I would fall off of the pole, and not what anyone thought of my size.
I don’t think pole is for everyone—I don’t believe in “shoulding” when it comes to fitness. But I do think that, if you’re still dealing with body image issues or a disordered relationship with fitness, pole, sensual dance, or any modality that forces you to get in touch with your body and your sex/sensuality can be incredibly liberating—especially when coupled with an incredibly supportive and non-competitive community.
So…if you’re interested, here’s the dance I did—in my right-now body. It’s not super sexual. In fact, it’s a little burlesque-y and a little broadway. But it’s me, and it’s perfect because I’m perfect as I am.
About 6 months ago I stumbled into Sedusa Studios, not really sure what I was looking for or why I was there. Today was my first pole performance, and I can honestly say that this is a landmark day–to celebrate the moment I took the leap of faith, took off my pants, and let pole change my life.This is the first performance of my adult life where I didn’t diet before the big day. Didn’t change my eating or exercise habits. Didn’t try to cover up my body or even let worries about what my body looked like interfere with the rehearsal or performance.I am so grateful for Sedusa and all of the wonderful women there who supported me and cheered me on (& who also put themselves out there and gave me someone to cheer for as well!).And a special thank you to Erin Rose for the choreography help and kicks in the butt!!! Guys, you don’t have to pole dance to change your life, but it sure as hell doesn’t hurt.
Posted by Kaila Prins on Sunday, April 19, 2015
And if you’re in the Bay Area, I highly recommend you join me at Sedusa. (I’m not getting paid to say that—I’d just love for you to join me!) If not, why not go discover a pole, sensual, burlesque or similar class in your area?