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As I mentioned in my last post, I entered the BSB Poster Girl Contest. I am on a page that features some of my sexiest friends and idols, including my loves Iris & Jamers (two of the sexiest women I know).
Why did I do this? I did it to promote body diversity. Generally, I see a lot of similar bodies in the marketing and promotion of pole. Inevitably, a certain body type is shown quite often, and while it is beautiful and should be celebrated, I get a little sad sometimes when I think about how many women don’t actually look like that. I don’t. I may never. I’m a little bigger, but not plus size. I would say, “Average American Size”, because I literally weigh right in the average window for American women. Which, to be frank, can seem big in the world of pole. As such, I struggle with how I look when I get in the studio. I have to remind myself a lot that, even on my worst days, I have something of value to share.
So, I decided to throw in one of my Alloy Images photos for the contest. My dear friend Claire helped me choose it. The story of this photo was very me: Iris found a riding crop at the studio during me shoot, and I was just messing around with it and having fun when this moment was caught. I feel like that’s pretty fitting for who I am: somebody who has moments of fire or stillness in between the laughs.
I look at my company on the voting page and see an array of amazing women. Let me be frank: ALL of them are beautiful, luscious, real women worth celebrating. All of them have something special that makes them sexy. My photo is there not so much because I feel like the sexiest of the sexy; but because I want women who don’t feel like they look like the other women on that page to feel like they too can be adored, and that they have every right to feel sexy, too. It’s something I have to remind myself about in my own life, so my guess is that I am not alone in that mentality.
Voting is now open: https://www.unitedpoleartists.com/bsb2015/ Go choose and enjoy the loveliness of all of the contestants!
I’ve always liked UPA’s Bringing Sexy Back endeavor, although I do sort of subscribe to the idea that sexy can be all the time, if you want it to be. I’ve never really done anything for it, though. I haven’t taped myself dancing sexy. I haven’t posted purposefully sexy photos in honor of it.
In thinking about it this week, I got to thinking about why. Part of it, I think, is that I have this natural sense of reservation about those sorts of images, for me personally (not for anyone else). It would feel rather foreign to me to post a sexy photo with the intention of promoting myself as sexy. A photo I post may be sexy – I do have some, after all – but me posting it exclusively to promote it and myself as sexy seems inauthentic to me. It also seems like, if I did it, it would be mistaken as attention-seeking, and there’s a certain math to all of it that has always made me uncomfortable. Why?
I suspect that it has a lot to do with being in a space of not necessarily owning my attractiveness right now. Which is just a personal thing. I don’t love my weight. I’m not super into how I look right now. I’m definitely in a bit of a hiding phase (oh hai, dolman tops that are billowy and forgiving, let me wear you every day). And, to me…sexy is something you are simply being, not something you try to be. The moment you TRY, it becomes a little meh to me. I think that’s just a personal preference that is held over from my acting days, as there is nothing worse than an actor who is trying too hard. I used to watch scenes in class with actresses who were trying SO HARD to be sexy, and it was really bad. Like, hard to watch. Because sexiness – to me – is about authenticity.
With that in mind, I made a decision: I was going to enter the BSB Poster Girl Contest.
I know, it sounds weird given my general aversion to posting anything sexy for promotion, but hear me out:
For better or worse, this is who I am right now. This is what I look like. I may not love it every day, but it is me. And…honestly…I want to see women like me being celebrated in pole. No, I’m not plus size (I’m a little short of it). But, I want people to see that people of all sizes pole. People of all body types pole. And, I want to see more of it. I love the body diversity that is in our community, but I want to see more of it being shown. This isn’t to knock the amazingly fit people in our communities – you folks are awesome, and I envy your abs – but I wish I saw more people with a little extra padding, in visible positions in our community.
So. I submitted this photo, with the encouragement of two of my most admired (and sexiest) pole friends:
This actually was the result of me fucking around in my photo shoot, being silly and playing with that riding crop that we dug out of a closet at the studio. Because I have a lot of fun fucking around with this kind of sexy, but I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily the kind of sexy I identify with all of the time. It is FUN, though – and that is an essential thing for me. So, in that sense, it’s a great photo to use.
I hope more polers with diverse body types are encouraged to submit their photos to the poster girl contest. I hope people vote for them. If you’re interested in nominating someone for the poster girl contest, or submitting your own photo, you can do so on UPA’s site – it states that they are accepting entries through August 4th:
For what it’s worth, the photos that I found the sexiest out of that shoot are these two:
What is Innovation? Where does it come from?
In the pole world, I believe most people would say that innovation comes from the people who create new tricks people haven’t seen before. This is a valid assertion, but I think it goes beyond just “here’s a new trick”, at least for me. I like to think of it as a new form of movement – not just the crazy trick, but the creation of a movement or style unique to that dancer, which others then take on. Two great examples of innovators in our community are Marlo Fisken and Seanmichael Rau.
Marlo is someone that most polers watch. We want that new Marlo trick. We scream and cry and give it our best shot, and some of us actually get it (not me, sadly)! Her tricks are always uniquely HERS. They just look like Marlo: all grace, lines, and beast strength. Beyond her tricks, she’s famous for her flow, where again, she brings innovation to the table. Her style of movement is envied and often copied, and the community is always looking for her next Instagram clip.
Seanmichael represents another side of the Innovation coin: someone who has taken standard tricks and made them his own. This isn’t to say that he doesn’t create his own tricks (he does), but rather, that he has that unique ability to take a regular trick and make it look completely new. It’s a rare talent. Beyond this magic, he’s also a master at creative transitions. So much of what he does is incredibly difficult, but subtle and may be easy to miss. It’s my belief that people watch him, waiting for the big things to happen, not realizing that they’re already watching Picasso paint Guernica right in front of them.
Now, where does innovation come from? In pole, I think it can come from one of a few places. I believe failure is an impetus, for example. Striking out, while upsetting, can lead to an entrepreneurial spirit (so to speak). With some space to recover and regroup, failure can give you a clean slate from which to try again.
Another fertile ground for innovation is that of curiosity. If you are willing to step off the beaten path, innovation is possible. I think this is especially true for those dancers who are at the top of their game – the same old stuff probably gets a little boring, so it makes sense that a creative, curious person would ask themselves, “I wonder if…”
I believe we’re fairly accustomed to, if not outright expecting, innovation when it comes to new pole moves. Everyone wants to know the Next Big Thing. If you’ve attended a few pole shows, like I have, you’ll see the trendy tricks of the year pop up again and again. It’s just how we are.
But, here’s where I see an opportunity: innovation in the realm of art.
I think there are some cool things happening, like the inaugural Pole Theatre USA and Miss Pole Dance America events that went on earlier this year*. Still, though, I feel like there’s a huge gap around art. People say they want it, but often, I see those who bring art to the table not being recognized for it.
Perhaps this is because art is so subjective, but then again, maybe it’s a matter of the audience not yet having the taste for it. Or the knowledge of it. Maybe it’s a matter of the fact that we’re now entering the era of the next generation of pole stars, and there are far fewer artistic innovators emerging than there were with the OG pole stars. Or, maybe nothing looks new anymore, and we’re jaded. Maybe it could just be a natural evolution of the community, too.
With an open landscape, the OGs had the ability to craft and shape things a little more. Now, with the last few years being pretty competition driven, it feels a little like the art was bled out of it. To me, art in pole is not a matter of (as an example) wearing a hat in a vague stab at a character – it is true commitment to that theme, from deep in your bones to the surface of your skin. If that includes a hat, awesome. But that hat better not be the only signal.
This isn’t to say that nobody is creating art in pole. People are, believe me. I’ve seen recent performances that have blown me away, from their art to their investment in their stage presence (something I generally feel gets the short end of the stick, along with art). I’m just…looking for more, somehow. Maybe the right way to phrase it is, I am looking to see it more OFTEN.
So, who is going to be the next innovator? How can YOU take steps toward innovation? On a personal level, I think it’s about challenging yourself. Even if you fail, at least you tried, and that’s the first step to growth. You don’t have to be Marlo or Seanmichael to innovate for yourself and bring creativity and art to life. Be brave. Take risks with your art. Commit to it. Find out how to do this and still be you. Because this isn’t about trying to be somebody else, dance like somebody else…it’s about finding your voice and using it to fill the room. And, if it falls flat, it’s okay. Take a step back, heal, and find your way back to creativity, even if it’s a slow and cautious path. The pole world needs artists and innovators if it is going to thrive. And, besides: you never know who is inspired by you, even if you aren’t feel very inspired by yourself.
Who do you think is an innovator in the pole world? Let me know below…
* Yes, I know both events originated in Australia – maybe the Aussies are better at tapping into the artistic side of pole than we are, I dunno.
I’ve been mulling over a post about disappointment for a while, but it took me a bit to put it together. I feel like I see disappointment from pole almost every day, from my friends’ posts on social media to my own personal experiences, and it got me thinking about why it seems so common, as well as what to do about it.
I think one of the magical things that keeps people coming back to pole is the sense of validation they get from their achievements. The feeling of nailing your first spin or trick, of working hard on something for weeks and finally getting it, the feeling of marked growth that can be had…all of it is an addictive validation. Couple that with the sense of community – the support one can find from friends and classmates, the sense of tackling a problem as a team or group – and pole can be a pretty powerful experience!
As is normal with things that you get invested in or come to love, expectations can run high. I think it’s natural to get excited and maybe set your expectations a little high. The thing about expectations, though…they’re often a set up for disappointment.
I once had an ex who was all about no expectations, because he felt that expectations always bring disappointment, and he never wanted to be a disappointment to anyone. This is pretty extreme, and in a way, a means of never having to commit to anything to the full degree required for success. Expectations are a natural part of any relationship, whether it be with a person, or with a hobby, a passion, etc. Perhaps, with a passion like pole, the expectations are a little more like expecting things from yourself, or the community, or your friends. You want to do well, and you expect to get that new trick, combo, etc. You expect your community to support you, your friends to celebrate you. And, it can be pretty disappointing when something you expected, or even hoped for, doesn’t work out the way you thought it would.
So, how do we cope with disappointment? In my personal experience, there’s a lot of hurt. A lot. Like, butt-hurt level hurt. Sometimes, that can lead to complaining, lashing out, needing to verbally talk through everything. Sometimes, it means taking a break – from a class, from your friend(s), from the community, from pole itself. Distance can be a pretty powerful salve, if you are inclined to need some time away to clear your head and get perspective.
Another solution that I like is creativity. I find that when I am most disappointed with pole or the pole community, when I’m at the point of wanting to throw in the towel and walk away, hurt and sad…the thing that pulls me back from retreating fully into myself is the act of creation. This could be working to develop your own curriculum; reaching out to teach somewhere new; jamming in a studio on new tricks; freestyling your heart out; even doing crafts, or focusing on something creative outside of pole. For me, there is also writing.
The act of creation gives you a chance to have direct input into an artistic endeavor that is not subject to anyone else’s expectations or whims. It’s also a distraction, to be frank. Something positive you can use to move through the negative.
If you’re suffering from disappointment of the physical kind – i.e. not being able to get a trick everyone else has, or not progressing as quickly as your friends – take a step back and try to find the thing that is yours to do. Maybe it’s not rocking that janeiro, but it could be your low on the pole flow, or floorwork, or freestyle. Try to invest in what is yours to do and let go of the expectations of being “as good” as everyone else. The trick may come, or it may not. All you can do is feed the healthy, positive things, and continue to try to put your best foot forward with the hard stuff. Feeding the good is the best way to set yourself up for success with the endeavors you find difficult.
If the disappointment you feel is a result of emotional reactions within the pole community – maybe a rift between friends, or a disagreement at your studio, as examples – remember that space and time can help heal the rawness. Taking a break from the environment or people that are causing the upset can give you some space to get your head around what is actually happening, how you feel about it and why, and what you can do to make a positive impact for yourself. Also, take a moment to remember that many of our personal thoughts can be distorted, causing us to interpret things in a manner in which they were not meant (look up Cognitive Therapy for more on this). It is with these emotional disappointments that I find creative activities to be the most helpful. Sometimes, your feelings really do need a creative outlet to be expressed. So, go with it, and find your creative niche. Create something wonderful for yourself.
On a closing note, I wanted to add this: Pole can’t and shouldn’t be the only thing in a person’s life. When I was still acting, there was always this adage that actors need to live full lives – not only to help their creative work (i.e. understanding characters), but also to have more to talk about than acting. I feel like this applies to pole, too. I think pole can be wonderfully restorative to dancers going through a tough time, and I think it can be a joy for those looking to have fun, blow off steam, be creative, etc. I also think incredible bonds can be forged amongst those in the community, based on their mutual love of the activity. But relying on pole for too much brings in higher expectations, and therefore, the chance for very deep disappointment. Cultivating passions beyond pole can help lighten the load and improve the fun you do have with it. Plus, you’ll be a richer person for it. J
Do you have any tried-and-true methods for coping with disappointment from pole? I’d love to hear them!
We all have our favorite instructors – the ones whose classes we seek out and never miss if we can help it. I’m willing to bet most of us have had a moment where we look at the schedule and find out that our favorite teacher as a sub for their class…and we cancel. I’ve done it. I’ll admit it.
Sometimes, it’s simply that I was looking forward to a specific thing from a specific teacher, and I’m not in the mood to be open minded (terrible, I know). I want what I want. The sub may be great, and I may know that already, but I just…wanted that other thing. Other times, I know the sub and know that they are not my cup of tea. Maybe their style is not like mine, or they focus on moves that aren’t traditionally for me (i.e. anything overly bendy). Or…and this has happened…maybe I just don’t like them. As a person. That happens. And, I’m not about to drop money to spend 60 to 90 minutes with someone I don’t like.
Canceling class because of a sub is the right of any student. I would venture to bet that most studios expect some cancellations for subbed classes when there is a regular, much-beloved teacher who is out. But, I would also venture to say that a lot of the time, those students who do cancel because they want their favorite teacher are maybe missing out on the chance to learn something new, or even find some gem in the instruction that they didn’t think they’d find.
I recently went to a class, expecting a teacher that I really like to be there, and found a sub. I was a little let down, but happy to just be in a class and getting a chance to exercise. All of the students were polite, but a little reserved, as I think tends to happen with a sub. I think there’s a definite tendency to sit back a bit and take measure of the teacher, but also of what they intend to teach. And nobody wants to step on any toes at the outset (unless you’re a bratty student), so there’s also that tendency to hold back initially.
For students, I think dealing with a sub requires some measure of getting over yourself and being open. Maybe they aren’t teaching what you wanted to learn, but that does not mean that you won’t get something out of it. Maybe they’re a new teacher, or new to you, but either way, it doesn’t matter. What does matter? That you give them the same attention and respect that you would give to your regular teacher, and that you make an effort to follow their lesson plan, even if it’s different than what you are accustomed to. Because, truly, you never know what might click for you. Maybe that teacher will spot some bad habit you have that is keeping you from nailing something – a habit your regular teacher may accidentally overlook because they know you better. Maybe they’ll have another way of explaining something that makes more sense to you, for whatever reason. You never really know!
On the flip side, if you are subbing someone else’s class, you have to expect some amount of dissention or discomfort from the group, but there are some things you can do to prepare. One suggestion I like is to approach each of the students and ask them individually what level they are at – what are tricks they are working on, what are they comfortable with (giving them examples, like shoulder mount, invert, etc.) – most teachers ask the class as a whole, which can work, but in classes with mixed levels, that can be tricky. And some students may be too shy to be honest in front of the group. While this suggestion does take more time, it may also allow the sub a moment to connect with each student and personalize the experience – that is, to be less of a stranger.
Another technique is to ask what the regular instructor has been teaching them – this can give you a good idea as to what the class may be looking to learn and where they are in terms of level. This does not mean you have to teach the same curriculum, unless it is required by your individual studio. But, it may give you the advantages I listed above, as well as the chance to add on. What I mean is: perhaps the regular teacher taught an Extended Butterfly to Flatline recently, but you can rock an Extended Butterfly to Reverse Poisson – that means that you can review a trick they know or have been working on, and add something really cool to it that they may not know. It’s a little familiar, but has a fun twist.
I think it’s also good to see if you can chat with the studio manager or the teacher for whom you are subbing and get a measure on the class: are they shy? Are they unruly? Do they have a tendency to go off the reservation and try stuff they shouldn’t? Are some at a higher level than others? How long is the usual warm up? How long is the actual class? (Sounds funny, but I once had a sub end a class 30 minutes early by mistake.) It’s also good to ask the teacher what has been on the agenda, too.
Having been on both sides of this issue, it’s an interesting and delicate one to me. I am generally averse to subs as a student, as I find that I tend to have some needs as a student that not all instructors can handle well (i.e. I ask A LOT of questions about small things within the technique, as it helps me to break down tricks better and make adjustments based on my own body – and not every teacher knows how to deal with that). I’m not fluid, bendy, or strong enough to just roll with any teacher, either – if I come in and there’s some back bending trick, I effectively just lost a class. And, I tend to feel bad about working on my own stuff in someone else’s class, so it’s a double fail.
That being said, I HAVE totally gotten stuff out of classes with subs. And, I always think it’s an excellent lesson to shut up and be open. In a recent class with a sub, the instructor had planned curriculum for a class that was far less advanced than the level of the students present (it was mixed level). As such, it was a lot of review on conditioning, which was a really good workout, although a little dull. Still, there were one or two things I hadn’t done before, so I got a chance to at least try those things, even if they weren’t really what I was hoping to do that day.
And, as someone who has subbed classes, I know it’s tough to do, especially if the teacher you are subbing for teaches in a completely different way than you do (which was the case for me). As much as I might pout about not getting to see my favorite teacher, I do have empathy for the person subbing – it’s not easy! As a sub, you’re generally trying their best to do right by the class. Ultimately, while it’s good to know and understand someone else’s way of teaching, you must be comfortable in order to be effective. If someone’s style is completely different than yours, don’t sweat it! Just let the class know ahead of time what to expect: how the warm up will run and how you teach. It won’t guarantee that they’ll be totally into it, but at least they won’t be surprised.
So, the next time you have a sub, consider attending class and being open to what they have to offer – you’ll probably get something out of it! And, if you’ve got a class to sub coming up, do your research and remember to have fun!
Update: A friend of mine mentioned that she’s seen students go as far as to arrive to class, change into their clothes, then leave as soon as they see there is a sub…or leave right after warm up…or even ask if there is another class going on they can take instead while IN FRONT of the sub. All of those things are rude. Just flat out rude. If you arrive and find a sub you weren’t expecting, it can be a disappointment, but you’re there already. Commit and make the best of it, especially since you’re going to lose the class credit if you don’t. If you haven’t gone into the class yet and want to inquire about switching, do so in a discreet manner and only involve the front desk. But once you are in that door, honor the instructor and be present. Don’t be a douche.
Recently, I had my first experience being a judge for a pole competition. The experience was awesome and educational in more than one way – I’ve written two blog posts about it for Bad Kitty and Pole Sport Organization, but I wanted to write a third, from a more personal place.
Having been a competitor in the past, as well as a performer who has received feedback from professionals, I have some experience with judging notes. On the whole, I would say that most of the ones I have received have been…lacking.
I think most judges mean well. But, what I have found that I crave – and this is true of most of the competitors I have spoken to – is not only flattery (duh), but constructive criticism/feedback. Yes, we as performers and competitors want to know what we did well! But, we also want to know what to work on, and if possible, to have a clear explanation of it.
These types of notes give us workable goals to think of for our next competitions or performance, but also for our overall growth. As such, my goal as a judge was to give strong, positive, constructive feedback to each competitor. My advice for any person who is going to be judging a competition or feedback showcase would be:
Remember to be kind
This is especially important for competitions that include amateurs, but I also personally believe it’s important for the pros, too. Everyone wants to be told they did well and to be recognized. Even if their routine needs a lot of help, picking out one or two small details or moments and celebrating those in your notes can make all the difference in encouraging the recipient. Remember that people thrive best in pole when they feel validated for their hard work. We all love getting the stuff that we couldn’t get the week or month before, and this is similar – and, that sometimes, competitors don’t know they did something cool. They may just be focused on some mistake they made. Let them know that they are seen and recognized for doing something well!
Even when I watched someone who clearly struggled, I tried very hard to find something positive to say. People often know when they struggled. And, this doesn’t mean you have to overlook that, but…try to find something positive. An example for you: I watched a competitor who truly had a rough time with their routine and connecting to the audience, but they had a couple of small moments that shone through – a spinning climb on static, and the joy on their face on their spinning pole pass. So, I took a moment to mention those at the start of my notes. It’s a small, kind gesture that can encourage someone to keep going with their pole journey.
Be constructive in your criticism
Based the feedback I heard from my friends regarding their judging notes, the ones they appreciated the most were the ones that gave them clear ideas of what to work on. I tried to do this with every competitor, even the ones that were awesome. Constructive criticism can be anything from “remember to point your toes” to things like audience connection, costume effectiveness, pacing and energy, an increase in difficulty of tricks, and any host of other suggestions to improve the strength of a routine. Always try to find eloquent ways to express these criticisms. Some of my favorites were, “For next time, I would like to see you do [insert constructive note]” and “For the future, I would like you to work on [constructive note] to strengthen your performance.” Framing it as “something to work on for the future” can help a competitor really see it as a workable goal, instead of just a critique. If you do need to make a deduction, check to make sure you have it correct (at PAAC, I was personally deducted for something that was NOT correct, but the judge either did not listen, or was not informed). Ask the panel assistant, or your fellow judges, if you aren’t sure.
Also, remember that many competitors will suspect what they need to work on, but still want to hear it from someone else. When I did my PAAC routine, I knew I didn’t get enough momentum in my spin, and that I did not have a high difficulty level to my tricks, so it wasn’t a shock to me when those notes came up. It just reinforced that I needed to work on those things!
Take your time
Yes, you generally have a time limit within which you must finish your notes and scoring, but…don’t rush it just to beat the clock. Say what you want to say, and take that extra 30 to 60 seconds to let the competitor know your thoughts. Providing fuller notes only enriches the experience of the competitor, but also, it gives YOU more experience. I don’t think I got any notes done in under 2 minutes, and I would say that I was under 3 minutes maybe 50% of the time (maaaybe), and nobody cared. It doesn’t take all that long to say something of value.
Sometimes, people do need the truth put to them. I will admit to having given a few notes that were terser than others, particularly in moments when I felt the competitor was sandbagging (a pet peeve of mine), or when they had potential and did something that I felt took away from the performance. An example would be a competitor I watched who started out super funny, but who – in my opinion – did nothing to sustain it. Without the dynamics and hard work that I saw from other competitors, their routine felt boring, as if they were relying on one gimmick to get them through, instead of having put in hard work to create a full routine. Keep in mind, that is MY personal opinion of what I saw, and my notes reflected it. I know another judge on the same panel absolutely disagreed with me!
Which brings me to this…
Judging is very subjective. Just because your neighbor loved something, doesn’t mean you have to. One thing that is interesting to me is the issue of handling deductions. During my pole panels, we generally didn’t chat much amongst ourselves about the performances, save for when there were some obvious deductions. But, in the lyra panels, there was A LOT of talking amongst the judges about the deductions – everyone consulted each other, and in general, the judges were a little more critical about what they saw. Again, if you ever aren’t sure about a deduction, ASK! :-) On a side note: There were definitely some issues this past PPC with judges not being informed of when competitors had gotten moves cleared ahead of time, so they were adding deductions for things that had been okayed by PSO, which upset me – I do hope they fix that issue soon.
As a competitor, you must be prepared that some judges will love you, and others…not so much. Case in point, in my PPC 2012 routine, one judge gave me the highest score on the board – a good 20 to 30 points higher than most of the others. I still don’t know WHY, though. I got very few actual notes back. Just try to not take it personally!
Remember that part of your job as a judge – as I see it – is to help these competitors be better! Providing excellent notes helps – it really does. So, if you’re thinking about judging soon, or you plan to in the future, keep these tips in mind. It might make all the difference to someone you watch. :-)
So, I wrote this post about a recent bullying incident in the pole world. You might have seen it.
Here’s how it went down: I read the thread, talked about things online with some other bloggers, wrote my post, then went about trying to battle the cold I’ve had for a couple of days. I glued some rhinestones on a leotard. Watched some Six Feet Under. Took more cold meds. Talked about the blog post with my boyfriend, and about potentially making some edits to it. Went to bed.
Next day, I woke up, and Felix Cane had shared it. People I didn’t know were friend requesting me on Facebook, commenting on my blog, sending me messages of support. Friends were texting me about where they had seen it pop up. By the end of the day, it had racked up over 800 shares on Facebook and over 6,000 views on the blog. In other words, it went viral.
So, thanks for that!
I did not want to amend my previous post, now that it’s been read so widely, so this post is to elaborate on some of what I brought up.
First, to clarify: I don’t think the issue of bullying in the pole world begins and ends with the behavior exhibited by KT, or by any other famous pole person who gets called out. My choice to mention her by name was less to single her out, and more to use her as the most recent example in a widespread problem. The only “side” I am taking is the side of the pole community as a whole.
Regarding the points I made? I’d like to elaborate on those a little bit.
Maybe it’s because I live in Hollywood, and I worked in the industry, so I know a little more about how the sausage is made, so to speak, but PR is a thing you need to understand if you want to be a representative of a company, community, or movement. It’s one of the ways you legitimize the thing you want to legitimize. Knowing what to say – and what not to say – helps you craft your message in the way that best serves you and your cause. If this isn’t something that comes naturally to you, do some research. Learn about how public relations work. If you can afford to, hire someone to help you – and make it someone who knows what they are doing! This is not just about advertising, although that is part of it. This is about crafting a public persona and staying consistent in your messaging/branding. Beyond that, it’s about creating a positive impression (if that’s your goal) and sticking to it. And, if you do fuck up…it’s about proper damage control.
I feel like I see a lot of room for growth with PR in the pole industry, at all levels. From how studios market themselves, to how pole stars interact with people online, to how pole businesses try to connect to the community….a lot of work could be done. Even my own business suffers from a lack of proper PR (mostly due to money – good product photos cost money!) – but, we do what we can. And, I think a lot of places do what they can – they try – but others? Not so much.
I don’t have a grand plan or suggestion on how to improve this in our community, but I do like putting it on the table as something to consider.
Too Much Bullying
Seriously, stop it. I’ve seen it at all levels, but it’s the most exposed when it’s online, between famous people in our community. And, that seems to be the only time it’s discussed, but people usually only go as far as taking sides or discussing that particular incident. So, let me be clear: bullying happens at every level, and at every level, it is damaging, toxic, and unnecessary.
Bullying can look like trashing individuals online; but it doesn’t have to be that. It could be not greeting the new student at your studio or including them in the group. It could be excluding someone at your studio because of a beef somebody else has with them (real or not). It could be a studio owner taking advantage of their teachers or guest workshop instructors by not paying them monies owed. It can be vicious, or it can be subtle, but it is happening, and it is happening too often.
Why? I wish I knew. I think pole can build wonderful, strong, passionate people. But, I think that the flip side of this is that it can also attract people who seek that, but aren’t ready for it yet. So…they get mired in petty bullshit out of fear. Or, they were never taught that true empowerment has nothing to do with making anyone else “less than” – empowered people don’t need to shit on others to prove that they or their way of thinking are great. They prove it through leading by example.
So, I ask you: what example do you want to set for our community? What example do you want to set for those already in it, but also for those who are going to join it? I’m not talking about sexy vs. fitness. That argument is moot to me. We’re ALL under this umbrella, together. We are ALL part of the pole community. Leading by example is the responsibility of all of us, at every level: from hometown studio to international superstar.
Opinions & Phrasing
We all have opinions. That’s good. We should. And, we have every right to have them, as well as to express them. But, in the public realm, it becomes tricky, because phrasing is hugely important. How you express that opinion, and what you choose to say – or NOT say – is vital. Think twice before you post something that could be inflammatory. Consider phrasing from the points of view of other people. Be thoughtful, particularly in your reactions to someone else.
Bullying the Bully
Where is the line between standing up for yourself and bullying the bully? I believe it is when personal attacks come into play.
You can be honest about your experiences and your feelings about them without crossing that line. I’ll give you an example, from a real situation: a few months back, Oona Kivela posted something inflammatory about the sexy side of pole dancing on her Instagram page. Many people called her out on it, most famously Michelle Shimmy. I think calling her out is fine – to be clear, calling someone out on bad behavior is not bullying in and of itself. But, I saw multiple comments that flat out attacked Oona on various points, including comments trashing her movement in the video. A few of these were incredibly harsh. I think it’s good to challenge people to stimulate thoughtful discussions, but the line was crossed in that situation. Telling Oona she sucks at sexy movement is not any better than Oona trashing it herself.
Be better. Sinking to the level of the bully doesn’t accomplish what you want it to accomplish. So, what do you do? Stand up, say in very clear terms, “This is what happened to me, and this is why I did not appreciate it.” Tell your side, without taking personal swipes at the offending individual. Behaving like the balanced person will highlight how off-balance the bully is behaving.
For those of you who are all, “Ugh, pole drama, shut up you guys!”…you need to care about this, whether you want to or not. This is your community. If you sit on the side lines and don’t say, “Hey, we want this to be better!” and then follow it up with your actions, things will never get better.
That about wraps up what I wanted to say. I hope that the bright side from this incident is that people will start to acknowledge that bullying is a real issue we need to solve, and that we’re now on a positive track.
Best to all of you, whether you love the Spatchcock or not. :-)
If you’re in the pole community, and you’ve been on Facebook this week, you’ve probably seen an influx of Spatchcock photos. For anyone who doesn’t already know, this is a reaction to an incident in which the head of IPSF – KT Coates – posted the following status update:
Later in the same thread, KT doubled down and made a poorly veiled dig at the originator of the move, Felix Cane. The results? Felix defended herself, other people defended her and the move, and calls were made to post Spatchcock photos. Thus, the influx.
I don’t really take issue with anyone expressing a dislike for a particular move – hell, I’ve been fairly vocal about how much I dislike Fonjis – but I do take issue with bullying. KT has a rep as a bully. She had an incident a while back with complaining publicly about Emma Haslam, the plus-size poledancer who made a splash on Britain’s Got Talent (and who, incidentally, deserves every bit of praise that comes her way – she’s incredible).
Incidentally, that video has nearly 25.5 million views. MILLION. Wow.
Anyway, Facebook exploded with the spatchcock support photos, and Alex Shchukin responded to the incident by posting a blog about his own experience with KT. It’s a mess.
I have some scattered thoughts on this:
One, KT needs PR help. If you are the head of a movement that is trying to legitimize our community to the world, you need to watch your mouth. Hire professionals to help you with your public image, if you can’t keep it together on your own. This extends beyond KT’s issues – I see a lot of poor marketing and behavior in the public realm of pole, from various businesses and “professionals” around the globe. It’s wildly dumb.
Two, there’s far too much bullying going on, in public and behind the scenes. It’s not just the shit that gets blasted online – it’s the stuff that happens at studios. It’s much more subtle: lack of encouragement, exclusivity, things like that. I wrote a piece about it for Bad Kitty a while back. As my good friend (and editor at BK) Claire stated, it’s just mean girl shit. And, it is – all of it. I’ve seen it from world class, internationally famous pole dancers, to owners of pole dance supply shops, to local studio owners. It’s at all levels, and it’s bullshit.
Three, we all have a right to our opinions, but how we choose to share them is important. Phrasing is vital, especially in a close knit community.
Four, bullying the bully isn’t the answer.
This last point is why I wanted to write this post. While I think it’s absolutely important to stand up to bullying, and to be honest about ones experiences, I don’t think it’s a good idea to go after the bully with personal attacks. And, I have seen those popping up. Did KT behave like an ass? Yes. Should she be called out on it? Yes. Should people be personally attacking her? No. Why? Because it’s no better than her behavior towards Felix, or Emma, or Alex, or whomever. Picking on her doesn’t solve the larger issue, and while it may shut her up for now, it isn’t likely to change her behavior. This is true in every case. I have seen these issues come up before, with other polers, and there’s always a backlash that involves personal attacks.
The best thing we can do? Support those who are bullied. Call out the bullies in clear, direct, and sensible ways. And? Refuse to support those who bully. Don’t participate in their events, visit their studios, shop from their shops. Whatever it may be. Use your dollar – or your energy – elsewhere.
Update: I wrote and posted a second piece on bullying, which dives deeper into the points I made above. Please check it out: A Lot More About Pole Bullies
2014 brought a Hurricane to the US Pole Scene: Cleo The Hurricane, that is! Over the last two years, we’ve watched as Cleo launched her incredible DVD series, expanded her clothing line, and made the leap from Australia to LA. With so many exciting things happening in the World of Cleo, I was eager to get the chance to sit down with the pole rock star herself and hear more about where she’s been and where she’s headed next!
Poleitical Diaries: How were you first introduced to pole?
Cleo The Hurricane: When I was 27, my best friend took me along to a Breast Cancer benefit at her Pole Studio. I was blown away by the instructors’ performances and signed up for lessons right away. After 2 weeks of learning, I got asked to teach just from my momentum turn – haha – and the rest is history.
PD:When did you first realize you could build a business from your pole career?
Cleo: I knew from the beginning that I wanted to make a career out of pole dancing. Originally (as you would expect) the goal was to own my own Pole Studio; however, my path changed when I moved to Sydney to teach at Bobbi’s Pole Studio in 2010. That year I was so motivated to compete in Miss Pole Dance Australia and I did the following 2 years. From there, I went on my first big tour to Asia, Canada and the USA, and that’s when I got a few t-shirts printed. I think that’s really when I realized I could build a business for myself. Plus, I was having so much fun with it. I was using my creativity in other ways and starting to explore other opportunities. Originally, building the ‘Cleo The Hurricane’ brand was never planned… it really just evolved. I only got my Cleo logo and website designed for the tour! How it has changed from those early days!
PD: What was your first pole product idea? Did it come to life the way you envisioned?
Cleo: When I competed in 2010 I danced to “Rock You Like A Hurricane” and played the guitar (well, pretended to). The intro to my show was a man’s voice over “The Hottest Rock N Pole show in the world…Cleo!” Kinda like what Kiss do at the beginning of their concerts. The whole Rock N Pole or I Love Rock N Pole slogan also happened by accident because of that show. Even my name Cleo ‘The Hurricane’ came from the show. The first T-shirts I ever had printed said, “I Love Rock N Pole.’ I’ve had many other designs based on the original, and yes it has DEFINITELY come to life. My whole brand is built on Rock N Pole. As far as Rockin’ Legs N Abs (my first DVD), that has FAR beyond exceeded my expectations. I’m pretty sure we’ve nearly achieved ‘GOLD’ sales according to Australian certifications. So yes, everything is awesome!
PD: When did you make the switch from pole as a hobby to pole as your sole job/business?
Cleo: Well, considering I have been teaching my whole ‘Pole Life’ it was always kind of my sole job/business. But, it’s also my hobby: I still put my favorite music on and dance, no cameras and no Instagram…just for me.
PD: What is your philosophy on being a pole entrepreneur and how has your philosophy evolved as your business has grown?
Cleo: Continually staying positive despite struggle; believing in myself and my brand; and reinvesting in my business when I’ve had the profits to do so has always been my philosophy. In fact, it’s the only thing that has stayed the same. Everything else is constantly evolving and so am I.
PD: What are you currently most excited about and/or proud of within the world of Cleo?
Cleo: I have many things to be proud of: currently it’s my new website (well, the re-launch of my new site). This is something I’ve been working on for 2.5 years now, since the first version came out. Originally, I had hired a company in Australia to design/develop the site, and was completely disappointed with how it turned out. So, I started again from scratch with a new design team, and I’m OVER THE MOON! It is so shiny and pretty and glamorous and cool at the same time. It’s been a LONG, LONG time and finally, my vision has come to life. I can’t wait to show the pole world! Not to mention all the awesome new merch I have coming out. 2015 is very exciting for me.
PD: What is on the horizon for you and your empire? What can we expect next? What about long term?
Cleo: Keep building my empire, growing my online studio, and the Cleo The Hurricane brand. I have explored opening a studio in LA, but I am concentrating on my worldwide web students for now. Also, I’m shooting my 3rd DVD – back flexibility based on strength – and am really excited for that one! Long term, I am working on growing this brand to be not necessarily the biggest, but the coolest and best brand in pole dancing! There is always some project I’m working on, so you will always see something new from me!
PD: We love that you’ve begun adding guest instructors – what do you look for in those you invite?
Cleo: There are so many instructors that have perfect technique, but I’m looking for personality. From sassy, to strong, to a little quirky or crazy, everyone brings something different. (I’m the crazy one, by the way.)
PD: What brought you to move to LA?
Cleo: I have always loved LA. Plus, I fell in love with a California boy. I told him, if I’m making the move, it had to be LA. However, it hasn’t been easy getting used to living here…and it’s taken THIS long to be happy with the move.
PD: Was it fun for you to participate in and sponsor this year’s California Pole Dance Championships? Were there any moments from the show that stood out to you?
Cleo: Of course it was fun! Nothing really stands out though.
PD: Who inspires you in the pole world? (Doesn’t have to be anyone famous) Outside the pole world?
Cleo: I get my inspiration from my community. I am only doing what I do because I feel rewarded helping women feel sexy, or achieving their goals, getting their splits or even having a good laugh from my videos. Outside the Pole world, I’d have to say Joan Jett, because I love strong females who do what they wanna do, despite what people tell them. That’s Rock N Roll, and that’s the whole attitude I’ve brought to my brand.
PD: Do you see any differences between the pole community in Australia and the community here in the US?
Cleo: I guess the big difference is the 38mm brass poles compared to the 45mm chrome. That also relates to tricks, because there are tricks that are easier on a 38 and some that are easier on a 45. Also, Aussies love wearing heels -in comps, in class, training etc. Over here the percentage is significantly lower. In the USA girls say ‘NIIIICE’ to their pole friends doing a trick. In Australia, we say, “AWESOME!” or “UNREAL!” There are also a lot of differences in how studios are run, so it will be interesting to see if the Aussie style adapts over here!
PD: Where did you first teach? What do you love about teaching? Can you say a bit about touring?
Cleo: [I first taught at] Pole Princess in Melbourne. I love the students. I’m a real people person for sure! Touring is really fun, especially when I meet members of my community. I feel like I know them already. Physically it can get very exhausting, because my workshops are very challenging.
PD: How did you get started with your clothing line? Who comes up with the designs?
Cleo: My friend Richard, who I used to work with, is a great designer and designed the Cleo logo. I used to work with him at a publishing company that did music/street/fashion mags.
I have about 4 designers that do work for me. One in Canada, two in the USA and one in Australia. I’m lucky because my background before pole was advertising, marketing, design, video production, and production management, so I have some great contacts…not to mention the experience!
PD: How did you get your nickname Cleo the Hurricane? And how did you develop your own pole signature style?
Cleo: I was having lunch with Chilli Rox in Sydney, and she told me I looked like Cleopatra…so that’s where Cleo came from! The Hurricane was because of my show in 2010 to “Rock You like a Hurricane” I had to change my name on Facebook and couldn’t think of anything else!!!! Once again…Cleo the Hurricane was never planned…it just happened!
Thank you to Cleo for taking the time to chat with me! I am sure I am not the only one stoked to see your plans unfold! To find out more about Cleo, including her DVDs, apparel, and more, check her out online at http://www.cleosrocknpole.com/