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A Horse of a Different Color

As a kid, my favorite part of The Wizard of Oz was this scene:

I loved that horse. At the time, I suppose I would have said that it was because I liked horses, and look, it’s a rainbow horse, how did they do that?!

As an adult, I recognize something else about the horse: It is one of a kind.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I tend to feel like I don’t always fit in when I am in class. Sometimes, it’s an ability level issue – I’ll go to a class and find that nothing is working for me, and that everyone else seems so far ahead of me – but a lot of the time, it comes down to size.

I’m not what most of the country would probably refer to as a big girl. I’m 5’6″ and probably around 160lbs. That’s dead average for the US. But…in pole? Not so much. At least, not in Los Angeles, where thin is a religion.

In most classes I attend, I am the biggest girl, or one of the larger girls. This isn’t always true – I’m not always the biggest gal, and it’s not something that upsets me most of the time, but…I am always aware of it. No matter how advanced I get, it remains a fact that things are harder for me because I have more ass to get over my head. And that’s really frustrating.

As of late, I’ve felt like I am at a pole plateau, where I am struggling to feel like I am moving forward with  my peers. I think that’s a big part of the reason why I have been seeking out other ways to be successful in this world, like taking the free dance exploration class and my lyra classes. That success is important to me. I feel more alive and inspired when I feel successful, and it makes the days where things don’t go right a little easier to release.

A few days ago, I read a great post related to all of this – if you haven’t read Pole Geek’s recent post about being curvy in the pole world, I recommend it. It got me thinking about feeling like the odd man out, as expressed above. And, for some reason, as I was standing in the parking lot of our building, watching my boyfriend park our rental car, the “Horse of a Different Color” song popped into my head.

Somehow, it all relates. Because, here’s the thing: maybe it’s not so much about being the odd man out, but maybe – just maybe – it’s about finding an authentic way to celebrate that which makes you different. It’s about making the choice to say that it’s okay, that it might even make you special.

In this week’s free dance exploration class, we had a partner exercise, where we worked with a partner to interpret and tell stories. After our last round, there were two compliments that stood out about me and my partner. For her, the compliment was about her legs, and how amazing they were (and they are – she’s incredible). For me, it was my gaze as I danced, and that it had an emotional impact on two individuals who were watching. I don’t feel that it’s fair to boil either of us down to just those things – my partner told a story through her dance, and it was gorgeous and emotional, and yes, her body is beautiful. But, it was of interest to me that the things that were highlighted about us were so different in context, and that maybe there was a lesson there about not being disappointed that you aren’t seen in one way, but instead, celebrating the positive ways we are seen. Would I have loved a compliment on my legs? Of course! But, it means much more to me that my expression during my dance was emotionally moving to people, and I think that is its own kind of special.

I’m not saying anything earth-shattering, or even anything new, but what I am trying to do is to coax myself around to making this a practice for myself, instead of saying, “Oh, yes, totally!” and then going back to how I have always done things. I think that shift makes a difference, perhaps not in the quality of what one does, but in the quality of what it brings to their life.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Nadia Shariff, who was kind enough to grant us an interview for our Poleitical Clothing Newsletter that came out around CPDC. In the interview, we asked her, “Is there one trick that still eludes you?”

Her reply? “I’m not one of those pole dancers that is good at everything; I’m good at what I do. 😉

I think this idea is so important to remember, as we get frustrated with our differences, and as we celebrate what makes us, us:

Do what is yours to do.

Dancing at The Pole Garage

Free Style at The Pole Garage

Dancing in Someone Else’s Shoes

Last night, I danced in someone else’s shoes. Literally and, I suppose, figuratively.

I never dance in shoes. Part of it is that I just got really comfortable dancing in bare feet – it felt more organic to me, and less like I was playing at something. Part of it is that inverting with shoes was really hard when I was first learning to invert, so I abandoned them in favor of being able to get up without struggle.

I dropped into an extra class last night at The Pole Garage, which is my pole home base. My first class was a pole work class, which is all working on tricks and such (like my Magic Split, which looks infinitely better if I am having a bendier day – see photo below).

Magic Split at Choreography House

Magic Split at Choreography House

Pole work is really best when you’ve got a plan you want to work on for the class – there are instructions given and demos done on certain tricks people have requested, but it’s always best to go in with a plan of your goals for the class. I worked on a few things, and after class, hung out with some of my pole sisters while they waited for the second class of the night. On a whim, I decided to crash the class since the roster wasn’t full, and I am SO glad that I did!

The class was a transitions and dance class, which normally follows a lesson plan of learning various transition pieces and doing more dancing in general – we usually start with a flow through dance, where we have a specific “assignment” for each pole we touch, then work on the lessons, then do a freestyle. This class was set up differently – Jo, our instructor, taught us a simple, sexy routine that was within everyone’s reach. No inverts, nothing too fancy or crazy, just beautiful, classic pole dancing. She requested that everyone bring leg warmers and shoes if they had them.

Now, I always have leg warmers in my bag, but I never bring my shoes. So, I borrowed a bitchin’ pair from my classmate, Kim: I think they were 7 inchers, with tiger stripes on the platforms/heels. I did the entire class in shoes – the learning of the routine AND our final dance, where we had to use the routine, then could improvise afterward.

It was really fun to wear shoes again! I never really felt much love for shoes (beyond the typical female interest in shoes), and I never really got what it is to be a dancer who chooses shoes over bare feet, but it was a fun change for me. It just felt it was SO not me to dance in shoes – as I said, I felt like I was playing at being sexy, instead of just being it. I always felt more myself in bare feet, so I stuck with that. Having danced in Kim’s shoes, I find myself open to the idea of exploring shoes again, especially for dance-based classes.

In honor of dancing in shoes for the first time in at least a year – if not two years – I also decided to tape myself for the first time in ages. The last time I taped a full dance in class was 2 years ago (I don’t count my tape from PPC, since that was a performance in the public realm).

This dance is made up of the approximation of the routine we learned in class tonight (first half or so), and my own freestyle (second half). I was exploring the movement in heels – especially in my own freestyle, because I really never do any of those moves in heels. I had to think on the fly with some of it, but I had fun. It’s hard to watch the video and not focus on the mistakes in moves, and I can tell when I’m in my head versus just dancing, but that’s okay. The whole point of taping it was just to do it. To get out of my comfort zone in more than one way and explore. There’s only one “advanced” trick in the entire thing (I invert once) – it’s not like I was looking to impress with being a trickster. 🙂

I also should mention that I never do much dancing anymore. Most of my classes are trick based. I rarely get the chance to freestyle and dance, to be creative in my movement, so in a way, this is also me exploring what it is to dance and express through the movement again.

Anyway, this is me, exploring dancing again. Exploring videos again. And dancing in someone else’s shoes.