I've been wanting to create a blog about pole dance for a long time now, but I've been so busy with training and the studio that I've been putting it off. But now it's the new year, and so no more excuses. Blog time.
The first thing I want to write about is: Developing A Thick Skin. And I'm not talking about callouses (although I could - and I know we all have them - and not just on our hands... personally I think the back of the left knee is the worst place to have that calloused elephant skin ugghh). But back to the point. Developing a thick skin is something that all performers have to put a little effort into, sooner or later. As a dancer and a performer, you put everything into your performances. All your heart, emotion and energy. The thrill you get from a wildly applauding and appreciative audience is like nourishment for your soul - and part of the reason why performing is so addictive.
The flip side is of course the fact that not everybody will go wild for your performances. Some people may be left feeling nonplussed, and some may even go out of their way to let you know how much they disliked it. And let's not forget that although pole dance has come a long way in recent times and become more acceptable in polite society, it's still a fringe activity (part of the appeal, right?). Watching a pole performance can be very confronting for some people, especially if they don't feel comfortable with the sexual element of a pole performance.
I recently did a solo and a doubles performance with Matty Shields, my dance partner, in Dubbo at a festival. It was a family affair, and so I made sure to keep my show strictly G-rated and more acrobatic/circus style. After the show, we had kids asking us for our autographs (well, to be honest - they were asking Matty, after all, he's the Australia's Got Talent star - they only asked me because I was standing next to him!). A whole bunch of people approached us to tell us how awesome they thought the show was, and how surprised they were to learn that pole was so acrobatic and strength-based. All this positive feedback made us really happy, until I found out that after the show a couple of women had complained that my performance was inappropriate and shouldn't have been allowed. No one complained about Matty's performance. Double standard, maybe?
Similarly, a couple of friends of mine were recently very upset to find some extremely derogatory comments made about one of their doubles performances on Facebook. Now, most people understand that a performance is a performance, and that just because you dress up like a pirate or a monkey onstage doesn't mean that in real life you carry on like a pirate or a monkey. But people don't always get that when it comes to a sexy pole performance. To be clear - there was nothing vulgar or dirty about their doubles performance. It was an impressive doubles performance that saw them place in the competition. But someone posted on the video that it was "slutty". Pretty harsh, and very uncalled for.
All the more reason to retreat into our happy, loving, pole community, right? Maybe not. I've noticed over the years that pole dancers are becoming more critical of each other. But I don't necessarily see criticism as a bad thing in itself. As more styles of pole dance develop, people will have different views on what they like and what they don't like. That's fine. So long as people take care to express their views in a way that won't make the pole dancer in question want to cry and hang up her stilettos for good.
But you can't control what people say or think. And you can't please everyone. And nor should you try to. Think of your favourite pole dancer - the one from whom you draw inspiration and motivation. The one who sends your heart aflutter whenever she posts a new video. I bet you can name at least one or two of your pole friends who don't like her style at all. But that doesn't change the fact that you think she's amazing. Or the fact that she is amazing.
Which is where the Thick Skin comes in. It's completely normal that not everyone will like what you do. As the pole movement gains momentum, and new skills are created, it's going to get harder and harder to impress people. People will become more discerning, and competitive. Sometimes, people will comment on other people's style of dance as a way of defining their own style. An example of this is a traditional "sexy" pole dancer saying she doesn't like contemporary pole, or a former ballerina saying she hates body rolls and hair flicks. What they're really saying is that they've adopted a particular style as their favourite way to pole dance, to the exclusion of other styles. That's ok too - there's room enough in the pole world for many different ways of pole dancing, and it's quite exciting to see new styles develop and change.
So: whenever you cop an insult or a bit of negativity, just try to suck it up and remember all the gasps and smiles that you've drawn from your audience in the past - even if your only audience is your cat or your mum ;-). Don't let a snide comment or backhanded compliment ruin your passion for the pole. If you're like me, pole means way too much for you to let yourself be put off by anything.
Remember that what we do as pole dancers is exceptional. There's not many people you pass in the street who can lift their entire body weight over their head and hang from one leg. So keep at it. Shrug off the useless negativity, or if you can, take valid criticism constructively and learn from it. And surround yourself with pole dancers you respect and admire, because there's loads of them around. At the end of the day, one thing we pole dancers all have in common is that we are a pretty amazing bunch, in my view :-)