By Nadia Genois
I’m a pole dancer. I also am a lot of other things, especially as identities are fluid and in constant evolution. Through movement you create the form in which you live. A certain quality. Why did I choose pole ? What attracted me to it ? Why am I staying ?
As primary a gymnast and dancer, and after a decade without really moving, it felt like pole was the answer, maybe the best of both world. A combination of acrobatic and dance. A way to reconnect to movement. I had done a few incursions in other form of exercise but without never feeling passionate. I yearned for something but what ? Pole answered that question and need. And it became obvious that playfulness, the dancing part was always important to me. It’s probably why I never quite got into other types of aerial apparatus.
With pole, it never felt like I was training. It is or mostly has been about pleasure of discovering what my body could do. When I started, I remembered myself as a gymnast, arm strength never was my strong point, and knowing that I had more space to just explore the art, it kind of freed me from expectations of performance. Being older, and probably wiser, focused on pleasure and discovery, practicing pole defied my expectations. Tricks I never thought I’d be able to do were now within my reach. It works your flexibility, mobility, strength, coordination, it engages your whole body. Barriers fell away. New adventures, new friendships, new possibilities.
And it was about expressing myself. Pole is one big category under which you can develop many styles. Static, spinning, sexy, art, contemporary, flow, fitness, theatre, dance. And even under these general ones you can divide into so many layers and subcategories. Plus being a relatively new discipline it is still evolving.
Getting engaged with pole, was also different, sexy, on the edge. I was curious, intrigued. It promised freedom from society’s rules and conventions.
I suppose we come to pole for a lot of reasons but for many the aspect of it being non conforming almost always plays a role in it. Playing with marginality, maybe probably already feeling a bit as an outcast, searching for a place to rest and for acceptance.
Pole offers a way to re-appropriate one’s body and sexuality. Contrary to other disciplines as dance or gymnastics, it’s very accepting of different body type, size and shape.
I sometimes say in class, that if people had known me when I started pole dancing they’d be surprised I teach the sexy classes. I was the least obvious person for that one. Never wore high heels. In a sense , just telling a banality. Then I have a student who wrote me she heard me say that in class. It had her thinking, about her own experiences and apprehensions. She realised she had equated music, being sexy or just in her body with risk of sexual abuse. Because it was her story as a child. When I talked about my own experience, it opened a new space for her. A safe space where maybe she could grow, engage with her body in a more sensual way. And she gave herself that chance, scared and courageous. Pole can have that transformative power if you’re willing to put yourself out there. We say so many things teaching without realizing the impact it might have. It’s one paradox of pole, we might get into it for its edginess but it’s scares us at the same time.
What I learn through pole is probably the same things my students tell me.
Now is as good a moment as is anytime. It is accessible. You can learn, move and improve no matter your age, your body type. There is a before and after. Movement is empowering.
So is it all good ? What about long term sustainability ? Health ?
There are some challenges. Yes the pole community is amazing but not perfect. It is a specialized discipline. You are working with an apparatus, the pole does not bend. It forces your body to adapt in a certain way. The pole is circular, vertical, smooth textured. It may vary in size but still offers minimum variety. You are always working in an asymmetric way. And as humans have a tendency to go for the easy, working only one side can create postural problem and unbalanced organization of movement and use of the nervous system. It is hard to keep focus on the importance of working both sides.
Adapting to the pole creates shear movement inside joints. Very hard on knees and elbows. We see lots of injuries in the sport and partly because people come with no background in movement, which is at the same time amazing and a problem. They aren’t enough full body general preparation. And it is easy to fall prey to the pressure of getting just one more tricks, and the next and the next. This trend has also increased with the popularity of social media. New student wanting to do flag move, advanced move and succumbing to the attraction of performance and results instead of the process. Patience is lost.
For me, being over forty now and learning more about anatomy and biomechanics in the past years, long term viability has become one of the main question I struggle with and reflect upon. My interests have changed over time. I am more inclined toward natural movement approaches and integrating concepts of body awareness and interoception. I don’t see them in opposition to the practice of pole but as essential for being healthy, whole bodied, highly functional and that’s the main goal and most important thing in my mind.
So after 8 years of practicing pole and teaching it, it might not have the same aura of mystery. Maybe I don’t have the same passion for it. I’ve learned that I need to expand my practice to make it sustainable long term. But somehow it stills offers so many possibilities that I want to stick with it. I still like playing with the different styles, and enjoy seeing others discover the pleasure of movements.
Today I can say : I’m a dancer, I’m a mover, I’m an artist, I’m a woman, I’m an osteopath, I’m a learner, a student, a teacher, a feldenkrais practitioner en devenir, I’m multiple.
I’m all of that and I am nothing, I am a living human being. And as Moshe Feldenkrais said it : Life is movement.
And if pole can be the entryway to more movement for you, go ahead. Because the gate toward more movement in your life is probably also the gate to a more fulfilled and embodied life.
For that, I am a pole dancer.