Kids, and this is the story of how your mama became a pole dancer. JK, I have no kids. Probs never will. I’d be an awful role model.
Disclaimer: I’m not a pole instructor. Or a performer (yet). I’m just a girl, standing in front of a pole, asking it to keep her up there without breaking her neck.
I was a blogger before I became a pole dancer. I got into pole in Sydney, Australia, at a really dark time of my life. After graduation in London I got into an abusive relationship that sparked my depression and anxiety, but instead of grieving properly I just ignored it and went Couchsurfing instead.
My PTSD, depression and anxiety came back with a bite after a year, built up by stress and loneliness, and I realised I couldn’t take it anymore. So I did what I do best: leave. I ran as far as I could to the other side of the world – literally. So I went to Sydney, thinking I’d just move there forever, be a happy beach bum who studied criminology and surfed and petted koalas. News flash: it didn’t happen.
When I got to Sydney I realised London wasn’t the problem: I was. I was running away all the time instead of facing uncomfortable truths and memories. Now time zones and miles away from friends and family, I felt even more hopeless and lonely. Enter my friend Hannah, whose friends went to Sydney Pole, Sydney’s biggest studio in Camperdown, close to my university.
At the accepting, welcoming, safe environment that is Sydney Pole, I got my head and my body back. Students and teachers from all ages, genders, shapes and walks of life helped me embrace the body I was so ashamed of again, and helped me nurture the show-off I’ve always been. Except that now I actually had something to show off: my pole moves! So now I’m one of those people that spam your social feed with their fitness achievements. Sorry not sorry.
At my first showcase I was so nervous I didn’t even invite any friends over. Then my nerves started to chill and I slowly became more comfortable, performing my last showcase in front of my date, his friend and some 200 people (or maybe more?) in my Agent Provocateur underwear and Pleaser boots as I danced to my favourite song, Poison by Alice Cooper, and to Warrant’s Cherry Pie.
Through Sydney Pole I also met Emma from the Black Light, the official photographer of Miss Pole Dance Australia, and the wonderful Nikki McClennan, an SP student and photographer. I did photoshoots with both of them, and I’ve been dying to share them somewhere other than my Instagram because I love them. So naturally now I’m sharing them on this blog, ’cause they’re waaaay nicer than my sweaty pole class shots.
Posing in pictures for me has always felt weird. As a teen, I always panicked that my hairline or nose would give me a trollface. That’s still what I think about when people are taking pictures of me. Which is why these shots are such an achievement. I wasn’t even drunk! I made it! I am normal!
The Black Light
I just had to do a shoot with Emma from The Black Light. She’s a British expat, pole dancer and probably the most famous pole dance photographer in Australia, who took pictures of me and other students at Sydney Pole with her dachshund, Summer, placidly waiting in the studio. Here they are.
Nikki McClennan – a.k.a. Lioness Photographer – shoots at Tortuga Studios in Sydney’s St. Peters, quite close to my former PR workplace. Her shoots are awesome because you get a a lot of time with her to make your personality shine. In my case, I ended up shooting butt-naked on a forklift in a construction site, ’cause why not. I wanted it to be rock n’roll.
My last showcase and these shoots were a memory of the amazing time I had in Sydney, where I also began to twerk.
When I told my friends I had begun going to twerk classes they were like. “You? Twerking? You don’t even know who Drake is!”
You will be happy to know that I know do know who Drake is and that, after a month made of twerk fails, I can actually twerk decently… for a white girl. I don’t know why I was so determined to get into it. Maybe because I really needed something to work towards, and it seemed fun, a great workout and, unlike pole, you could use it in the club.
I began twerking at Sydney Pole, in ReRe’s classes. ReRe works with Aussie Twerk, Twerk Queen Kristina Moskov’s company, which is the most famous in Australia, having also taken part in Germany’s got talent.
I do acknowledge that twerk is not part of my Italian, white ass culture which is why I am extremely proud to have learned from ReRe, who’s part Zulu. ReRe never thought I’d go back after my first, hopeless class (“How do you loosen up your butt?” was an actual quote of mine from that class, together with “IT’S. NOT. MOVING”), but I kept working at it, twerking by myself like a dumbass in front of the mirror of my Coogee house. And slowly, I learnt. So much that I ended up shooting a video of our Satisfaction choreo as part of ReRe’s Twerk Army:
Now that I’m back in Europe, I have found pole and twerk homes on this side of the pond. I pretty much live at the London Dance Academy in Central Street, where I learn from internationally acclaimed teachers and performers, and often dance with my friend Chanelle from Twerkology Nation, a company that was born to empower abused women to give them confidence through dance.
And that’s the thing: pole and twerk are empowering. I’ve heard many people wonder why a feminist, an educated woman and a PhD student like me has chosen to pole dance and twerk. Aside from the reasons explained above, thanks to pole I now no longer need validation from the outside world to feel great about myself, because pole and twerk have given that to me.
I am aware of the contradictions of campaigning for and believing in women’s rights and dancing half-naked, sometimes to songs that often use the word “bitch”. But when I dance, I’m in control because for me it’s a performance. I go home afterwards, and no one is forcing me to do it.
You might think you don’t need to sexualise yourself to feel confident, and many people don’t. But this has been my journey and I’m not going to apologise for it: sex has taken the power away from me, and sex has given me that power again. Kinda. I’m not making this up by the way: various books and studies have found that people who pole dance experience “embodiment”, a higher form of physical awareness, and a more positive understanding of body image through sexualisation. In short, if you are in charge of your body, of the way your persona is perceived, if working out makes you feel sexy, you feel good.
Some have mentioned that the social media over-sharing, the sexy dancing, the nakedness, are a cry for attention. Maybe they are. But if you do Crossfit, or syncronised swimming, or football, you probably do the same. If you get a kick out of winning new clients and being praised at work, you’re probably manifesting your need for attention in another way. As human beings, we all wish to be recognised and praised in different ways. Pole is one of the ways in which I like to be praised.
Anxiety and depression don’t just go away, but pole helps me stay sane. Over and out.
Pictures: Lioness Photographer, The Black Light
Video: Danielle Payne Films, Chloe De Brito
- Swimsuit: Bondi Bather
- Underwear: Intimissimi
- Denim Jacket: Blitz London, with added Rolling Stones patch
- Shorts: American Apparel
- Shoes and boots: Pleaser USA
- Leather Jacket: Carrie Hoxton jacket from a Camden Town shop, black/green cause I bought it at 15 and wanted to be metal. Don’t remember which one.