Friday, January 12, 2007

Pole Dancing 101 - A Mother and Daughter Excursion



Pole Dancing: A type of vertical gymnastics using a stationary or spinning steel shaft and usually, footwear with a sharp heel. Said to have been invented by a bored cleaning lady in a fire station one evening, although this has never been verified ...


"Pole dancing? Want to try it? BYO pole."

I'll try anything once, maybe even twice, and I know who I get it from: my 69-year young mother. She greeted me at Sydney airport with her latest "why the hell not?" suggestion: pole dancing. Specifically, a website scribbled on a piece of paper: www.polestars.com.au

Her intention was that I do it, rather than "what?-me-with-my-bad-back?" her, but I secretly signed both of us up for the $A39, 2 hour "taster lesson".

On the big night, we took ourselves into town on the bus, armed with our "Virgin Polestar" e-reservation and high heeled shoes in a discreet bag. Yes, you are required to wear runners for the warm up, then slip into heels for the "pole work". I actually had my knee high black Gestapo boots crammed in there as well, after reading that one could "grip the pole" better with them, or at least, not bang up one's ankles. Ahhh, a chance to wear them after all these years in cleated shoes evangelizing about folding bikes ...

The class venue was at Jackson's on George, in a vacant bar upstairs complete with mirror ball and four gleaming poles. A poster on the wall set the scene: "Afrodisiac: A heady concoction of arousing sexy funk". Our teacher, Sarah, strode in. A tall, young brunette, with legs up to her armpits. No, higher. But not a hint of sleaze, unless straight-laced readers are thinking that (and just why are you reading this anyway?). A former gymnast, she'd been teaching for 2 years and loves it. "I'm actually quite shy," she said, crushing my camera with her stiletto heel.

I threw my pulverized camera in the dustbin and we proceeded to fill in the waiver. Something like: Pole dancing is a physical sport and no responsibility taken if you impale yourself on the said pole ... also, presumeably no guarantees you'll get rich from appreciative onlookers rushing up to slip a $50 bill in your g-string ...

About seven or eight girls straggled in, looking a little sheepish, but smiley and brimming with anticipation. Not one had come on her own - it was all "she dragged me along." A pair of Irish gals said they were doing it on the other side of the world "where their mammy and drinking pals back home would never know."

Copius amounts of apology surrounds this activity. As if "nice girls don't pole dance". Well, after seeing some amazing clips from the "Pole-lympics" in the USA a few years ago, I always thought it would be an ace exercise for a cyclist like me to get my spindly upper body measuring up to my toned and max-quadded lower half. It's like a "vertical gymnastics", something you could practice in the street on say, the "No Standing" signpost while waiting for the bus. Not to mention having a reason to get out of these damn unsexy Shimano cleated bike shoes and into my Helena Christensen high heels and tall black boots ... yeowwww!

The flat-footed warm up in our runners was thankfully brief. I've been to too many dance classes where you spend over half of it doing boring warm ups. If I wanted to do that I'd join a gym. I understand the importance of preparation, but I feel we should encourage people to drive less and ride their bike to the class, or park/get off the bus two stops away and jog there.

Then came the real heel deal. Out came the silver stilettos, black patent boots and see through peek-a-boo shoes ... igniting the Imelda Marcos in all of us. I am glad I hadn't turfed my Gestapo boots to the Salvos.

Sarah introduced 4 basic pole moves. The first was a simple walk around the pole. Not a clomp around the cul-de-sac, mind you, but a gazelle-like sashay with a sexy little change-feet in the middle. I'll have to try this around the parking meter next time I'm being written up for a ticket.

The next move was the Carousel - a wonderful twirl that involved wrapping one's leg around the pole, then following through with the rest of you, rather like twirling honey on a spoon. You're meant to end up squatting gracefully on both feet, but a couple of bruises on both knees show where I instead landed in a screaming heap. It's not as easy as it looks. Once down there, the next move is to swing one's legs past the pole in a wide "V", roll over and do the Marilyn Monroe beach-gal-on-her-stomach kick with both calves. See the video for my dog-paddle-like demonstration.

"I'm not getting down on that floor, who knows what's on it," said my clean-freak mother ... but she did it anyway. Whattamum.

The third move I can't remember the name of, but was essentially massaging the pole with one's spine while massaging one's left thigh. That one was pretty easy, like doing squats.

The fourth and final move was an actual pole climb - but elegantly, not like shinning up a coconut tree - then a slow slide down with knees out and ankles touching. Not exactly how a fire fighter would do it, although he might need to put out a blaze after this sexy descent. It was called, ahem, "The Handcuff". (Correction: I have since found out it is called "Hang Tough". What was I thinking?).

A practice session followed, then a little one-by-one recital, showing what we'd learned, with a certificate issued at the end. The class was worth it just for the certificate alone - imagine having that framed squarely between your PhD in Astrophysics and Master of Theological Studies.

Engineers will enjoy going to the Polestars and xpole.com websites and reading about the various poles one can buy - spinning ones, folding ones, titanium ones ... BYO POLE! exclaimed my mother.

We came home with big grins on our faces, all ready to sign our rent money away for the 6-week course: $A240 - not small change. I could see my mother mentally sizing up the living room of our tiny flat for one of those $A700 precision engineered, spinning titanium poles. Now did I catch her eyeing the No Standing pole out on the street?

"When me and a few friends signed up for the taster class, we were all trashing it, including me," said a fellow Bike Friday friend, Cheryl. "But afterwards, the most rabidly feminist were the most rabidly into it!"

Goes to show that, deep down, Ms Nature has ensured that our tail-feather-fanning, head bobbing, butt-swaying and cooing instincts are alive and well, no matter how we try to squash them with puritanical sensibilities. It's apparently how we all got here, and what still makes the world go round. Plus it's a good workout, right?

Next chapter: Poledancing 102: Enter the pole


More Gal on Poledancing


TWO AMAZING POLE DANCERS on YouTube.com ...

1. TARAKARINA: My mother and I cannot stop watching this clip, largely because our legs will never be this long. Great soundtrack too, thank you TaraKarina
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=msy7TtyAVIc

2. MADELINEMODEL: An utter superwoman, this is a more provocative performance, but you will be dumbstruck by her gravity-defying skill. Almost like the camera was turned sideways.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=txtKAfSsA6s

More pole! http://www.galfromdownunder.com/poledancing

7 comments:

John Allen said...

Before I even read the text about the bedroom photo, I had placed it. Old clothes kept at your mother’s apartment. How nice that they still fit after twenty years. How interesting that you chose to show off in them twenty years ago, and again 6 months ago.

The row of buttons down the front makes a vertical ellipsis … for what they conceal. A friend of mine who knows you slightly said: “Lynette’s cheesecake takes it to the next level, IShotMyself.com.”

I don’t see this quite so simply. Probably you don’t either. Maybe as a stroke for personal freedom. Well, OK but people do get their buttons pushed. Some people will get turned on and others, turned off and maybe a few, turned around.

Mae West made a lifelong joke of this sort of thing. (Highly recommended, her 1933 film I’m No Angel. She wrote story and screenplay, besides acting in it and doing her own stunts.) This brilliant artist made her career performing jiu-jitsu on sexual fantasies.

Is this what you want for yourself too? Then you might need to make it a full-time occupation, as she did. Sexual display sends a discordant message when the business at hand is not sex. I have a yoga video where the teacher shows cleavage. No go, sorry.

Granted, you more usually present a modest appearance, sometime showy but also sometimes monastic.

I recall your history of gravitating to sexual relationships that could not possibly deepen and nurture you. No sour grapes here, I have a life that works well enough for me, and I wouldn’t choose to have a sexual relationship with you myself. I’m quite sure you feel the same way. But your shining imaginativeness and creativity repeatedly inspire me, I like to think of myself as your friend, and so I care enough to let you know how I feel.

Sorry if I not as inspiring here and now. But then maybe we can have some fun with my very very serious post-modern review of your photo.

Chiang, Lynette (1962-), Self-Portrait in Button-Fly Hot Pants, 2006. (digital camera image, reduced).

In this work, the artist exercises her inner drive to push buttons by pushing a button and through a display of buttons. Identification of this image as, on the one hand, conceptual art or on the other, merely soft-core pornography, is in the eye of the beholder. In the opinion of this reviewer, the task of identification carries the lesson of this image. Viewers may perceive the image in at least three distinct ways (perhaps others):

• In the classic, naive sense: a button fly without a cover flap sends a simple and clear message: “unbutton the button at the top, then the next one, then the next one, etc.” Similar images have, after all, appeared from time to time in popular iconography e.g., the sleeve of Sticky Fingers (The Rolling Stones, long-playing album, Rolling Stones Records, 1971) with a cover by Andy Warhol in which an actual zipper fly was embedded, also uncovered.

• In rebellion against the previous impression – the private encounter the image suggests is accessible to very few (if any) compared with the millions of Internet users who may view it, and so it is likely to evoke a sense of revulsion among perspicacious viewers, though still perhaps mixed with some fascination over its boldness.

• Finally, the “wrung out” impression which can be characterized as groundlessness/thrownness: simply put, to say “well, that’s Lynette,” shrug one’s shoulders and walk away from attempts to unearth an underlying structure or relationship – knowing that it either does not exist or is not about to be revealed.

These views of the image may represent for some viewers a voyage of increasing awareness.

The face hidden behind the camera, however, takes the significance of this image to another dimension both through the concealment itself, and in identifying this image as a self-portrait. Only the camera itself stands upright, as it must because it is taking its own picture. The bed in the background is framed as if to topple anyone who lies on it onto the floor. The body of the subject is tilted as well, as if off-balance. Though the buttons bespeak an opening, the subject/photographer stands triply unreachable like Alice – behind the Dodgsonian looking glass; the camera; and the mystery of her own intent, as we stand in her place as both subject and creator of this image.

GalFromDownUnder said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
GalFromDownUnder said...

John, my mother and I didn't think about it that hard. We just had a blast. Onwards!

Patrick said...

To say John thought about it long and hard is an understatement. How uptight by comparison you Aussies make even us Californians appear. You go girl.

Galfromdownunder said...

John,
I just re-read your comment on this post a couple of years later and I'm sorry I didn't pay more attention to it. It's hilarious. You know how much I appreciate people who know how to goof around incisively. You've topped me on this one. Well done, You are more than welcome to post whatever you want on my Chelsea Gallerista blog http://chelseagallerista.blogspot.com/
It will certainly kick it up a notch.

John Allen said...

Ah, you got it :-). But sometimes I wish I had only posted the second part, in which I made somewhat of a chameleon of myself as a very very serious postmodern art critic.

Your earlier ocmment is perlexing, though. I didn't (and can't and wouldn't care to) remove it as it stands -- let it stand. On the other hand, *you* removed your odd, skewed self-portrait which launched my critique, so that any person who, wandering from pillar to pole around the Internet, stumbles upon on this antiquated post, will have no idea whatever what it is about!

John Allen said...

Oh ... if I click on ths link, the photo is still available, if not so prominently displayed! A work of art indeed!