General essay on my experiences dancing.
by, 06-13-2011 at 10:44 PM (1813 Views)
An essay I wrote to my old college, which I dropped out of five years ago to travel and generally find direction, for re-admittance this year. They wanted me to send them an essay discussing what I did with my 5 years away, and while I did more with my time than just dancing, dancing was a part of it. This is the essay devoted to discussing stripping that I linked the Dean of Admissions to in the original essay.
::Let's start at the beginning. What the industry is::
Dancing (stripping) is a lot of things, which involves a lot of different kinds of people who do it for a lot of different kinds of reasons. I have read a lot of essays from creative and intelligent people who chose to engage in stripping for however long, and I myself have a lot to say about it, but at the end of the day 95% of the people who wrote essays, and I, seem to have a similar message: It's not as big a deal as everyone likes to make it out to be.
::Why I chose to engage in it::
I have never been weird about nudity. I know other people are, and their judgments can color an experience FOR you, which sucks. But since I was 14 I've danced naked with my sister under the full moon in springtime, and later I engaged in some beautiful nude photography, some of which ended up in gallery showings, and generally speaking I think there's little to be ashamed of in nudity, and I dont mean "it's fine for 'attractive' people to be unashamed of nudity", I mean that I think there's no shame in ANYONE being comfortable with being naked.
As well, I love dance. I LOVE dance. It's the only creative medium I feel I can use to adequately express every experience, every creative inkling, every mood, vent any emotion, experience the divine. When I paint, I thrash, I splatter, I use old toothbrushes, straws, whiskey, sand, my hands, my arms, my feet. Half of an emotionally releasing painting, for me, is the movement of it. Half the things I do when creating a painting is for the sake of the sweep of the arm, the tiny motion of the fingers, the forward hunch as I bring myself closer to the canvas to etch some small detail.
So, stripping seemed interesting.
I started doing it while looking for a bartending gig. I walked in and it turned out to be a gogo lounge. I thought, "well, I've already been thinkin' bout it, lets see what all the fuss is about". And I started. My third day I was sitting on a stool talking passionately about politics and ethics with a lawyer who had come in. I was in my bra, a thong, garters and fishnets. We had been talking for about 15 minutes when I realized that I was in my skivvies talking with a man who expected that, at least in this place, me not wearing pants while discussing the ethics and draw of being a criminal defense lawyer was totally acceptable and normal. That was when I thought to myself "this is the most awesome job I've ever had".
::Why I stayed, once I was in::
One reason: The girls. I generally prefer working in smaller clubs. I've had my stints in large lavish clubs and found they are not nearly as enjoyable or friendly. You are there to serve rich men. You pay out the ass in house fees and mandatory tips to work there, meaning you have to bust your ass in the first hour or two just to break even. But at smaller places I've found there's less cattiness among the girls. You become a second family. The kinds of women I met working in clubs are total sweethearts, and when financial stress (that sometimes the club itself exacerbates) doesnt get in the way, it's a shame to think of leaving.
But, more directly, Acrobatics. I discovered delightful, endlessly creative, strength and flexibility building acrobatics. Oh god, when I first saw a girl go upside down on the pole, I was born again. Suddenly the pole was a whole world of discovery. I am bordering on advanced now in terms of pole acrobatics, and I still dont think I'll ever stop finding new ways to move, new tricks, new thrilling dives 15ft before catching myself, etc.
And it's SUCH a beautiful and sensual way to increase your body strength, balance, and flexibility. The thing that bothers me most about the stigmas of pole dancing (aside from the general dehumanization of the people who engage in it by those who disapprove) is that people really dont seem to be even willing to acknowledge how beautiful of an art it can be. I've seen professional competitors combine martial arts, ballet, ballroom dance, bellydance and obviously burlesque techniques to their performances. It's fun.Even if there are five customers sitting at a bar and none of them are particularly lively or engaging, the actual dance is so, so fun. I get it. Not all girls who are strippers dance. Not all girls who are strippers love the dancing part as much as I do. But I do, and plenty of other girls do too even if they dont do all the acrobatics I do. In and of itself it's a phenomenally fluid form, and I think it's good for people to admit that even if not in clubs, learning sensual dances is good for women and men psychologically. There's an online interview with Suzie Q, one of my favorite pilates-instructors-turned-pro-pole-dancer who now has her own pole dancing studio. She was saying that she's never prouder than when the women who are too shy about their bodies to come in wearing the required shorts to class, finally start coming in in shorts. She cites getting phone calls from husbands of her students who want to thank her for "giving their wives back to them", ie that they are feeling more sexual, more confident, happier, self-possessed, more like who they were when they married.
It's safer than many people imagine. I suppose that depends on where exactly you work, but the unsafe or uncaring places are easy to get wise to. I have never felt unsafe in a club at which I chose to work. Even the regulars are willing to stand against the one bad seed in a crowd. Security knows you, you cant work with them without getting into lots of casual conversations with them. You go outside to share a cigarette with them. They know what you do for your "real job", they know if you have kids. They've seen pictures. If someone in the club is behaving badly, security cares. If someone behaves blatantly badly, Security will vault the bar to escort them out. I have heard of places that arent quite like that. But those places are easy to catch on to and avoid, if you are so inclined.
::How it benefitted me in the long run::
I discovered my love of any arts that involve the body. Pole dancing led to aerial acrobatics which led to the circus arts which led to fire fan dancing. These are all things I wish to continue with throughout my life, they are passions of mine, and I wouldnt have found them otherwise. And if I did...perhaps through meeting someone involved in acrobatics or circus arts... I would NEVER have thought that I could possibly do it. It's intimidatingly hard. I'm not strong enough. I dont have the time to practice. I dont have the confidence. These are all things that are easy to ignore when what you're doing is fun.
Obviously, I also discovered the drawbacks to working in clubs. Like most jobs, the thing that got to me most often was some of the people I had to deal with. To quote from an essay I read from a woman who danced, "stripping is a crash course in assertiveness training" (I would love to cite that, but I lost the book it was in). But even that was wonderful for me to experience. So much more of myself came out when I finally realized that my boundaries were MINE to draw, MY responsibility, and I had a complete right to make other people deal with those boundaries and the consequences of crossing them. But it didnt negate the fact that some people are just jerks, egotists, who dont "get it", who just go into clubs to feel like they can hold power over someone for the sake of a dollar. But the thing about dancing is that while those people annoy the heck out of all the dancers in the room, you do NOT have to deal with those people. You can walk right past them, slap them in the face, whatever. Obviously some reproaches are more appropriate for the crime than others, but it's your world and you are fully within your rights to deal with the patrons, or not deal with them, as you see fit as long as it's not wildly over reactive. Likewise, it's your money, whatever you are willing to deal with to make an extra $20-40 a night is your business as long as it's not illegal.
Not everyone who comes into clubs is a jerk. I made friendships I still have today in clubs. Both girls and guys. I learned that so, so many people are not dangerous. Even if, in a club, someone tries to touch you inappropriately, they arent scary. They're behaving badly. You can correct them, either politely or forcefully, and they will stop. You have to teach people, because some people dont get it, because some dancers ARE, in fact (no judgments here), prostitutes. I am not afraid of people, I am annoyed by bad behavior, thoughtlessness and blanket assumptions. I would not have thought of it that way three years ago.
And with that, I think I've lost my steam. This seems thorough, if not a little too long.