What happens to a pole dancer when they stop dancing?
For many of us, our hobby defines us. It puts us on the fringes of society, in a group that says “hell yes” to working to reclaim our sexuality and sensuality. It puts us in a rock star group of people who say hell yes to booty shorts, and badass feats of strength and beauty, and working towards progress and self-expression, and confidence and unapologetic love of self. We wave a flag of identity that says “I am all these things because I pole dance, and this is my freak flag flying proud.”
We go to classes and see the same people over and over again, we all wave our freak flags at each other, we become friends, we become confidants, we share in the ups and downs of pole and life together. We find other pole dancers online, in other studios, we travel, we bond, and strike up fast and ready friendships because we share something so deeply fundamental about who we are and where we are going. We invest in our community with time and energy and this idea that we are moving forward and growing and changing together.
So then… What happens when you stop going to class?
When you’re injured, it’s not really a choice, you simply can’t go because your body says no. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel; there’s healing, and there’s recovery, and there’s more classes and more dancing on the other side as soon as you’re able. It’s a break, it’s intermittent, it’s temporary. And then everything goes back to the way it was. Your passion is even stronger for the partial loss you felt. The “being left out” made you realize how much you missed it, and how happy you are to be back.
But what happens when…. You fall out of love with pole?
Or your finances change?
Or you just don’t have enough time?
When you stop pole dancing, what happens to this piece of your identity? Who are you then?
Do you simply rejoin muggle life in its entirety?
Do you find a new hobby?
Do you just close that door of your life, but always have a piece of pole in your heart, like breaking up with a significant other?
What about when you have to take a break with an indeterminate end? What if you move? What if you start a family? What if there’s a stop, with no assurance of a start? Do you need to cut ties? Do you even have anything in common with your pole friends anymore?
Here is the thing: we identify as pole dancers, but really what we are, is a group of people who have chosen to take classes in something and learn about ourselves. That’s the nature of every class you take: you think you are learning how to cook, or knit, or ride a horse, or do ceramics, or whatever- but really what you are doing is adding to your knowledge of the world, how it works, how you work within it. Everything you spend time and effort on is first a declaration of yourself. When you take that knitting class you may actually be saying: “I want to be able to clothe and gift my friends with something I make with my hands. I want to provide for others.” When you take that cooking class you may say: “I want to experience new things. I want to learn about the world by eating through cultures and flavors. I want to nourish my body while also exciting my senses.” Just by walking into a pole dance class you say: “I am a strong person who is not afraid to challenge myself. I am curious and I am willing to be open minded and non-judgmental.”
Here are some of the many things I have learned about myself through pole dancing:
I love to share what I know with others. I love giving my knowledge away.
I am a highly competitive person with myself, but love encouraging and helping others to grow. I love cheerleading.
I will work on something tirelessly because I have faith that I can do better and I can be better. I have tremendous confidence in my capacity to improve over time.
I am sensual and sexual without apology, but the most important part of that to me is how I experience and claim that pleasure, and not how others may see me.
I love to learn. I love to understand. I love to pull things apart and get to the fundamental problems and solutions, whether it be a moving body or a logistical issue in planning an event.
Through the people I have met in pole dancing, I have learned to work on my consideration. My communication. To make sure to tell the friends I love, as often as I can, how important that they are to me.
These are things that are with me forever. These lessons are etched into who I am.
I’ve always thought that I would always be pole dancing, that hasn’t changed. I mean, it’s been about 10 years and I’m still here, doing the same basic pirouettes and dip turns and trying to keep up with the kids nowadays and their crazy new-fangled pole stuff. I can see myself 70 years old, and doing slow and unhurried floorwork on mats. I can see myself leaning and stretching in big circles and grounded spins. But the reality is that my relationship with pole dance will continue to change over time. Maybe one day I will look down at the pole in my hand and think, “wow, this is really not the same to me anymore. It just has lost its magic.” I may walk away from the pole, but I know I will always keep the true friends I have made. I will keep the pieces I have learned about myself. And maybe at that point, there will be a new hobby, a new endeavor, which will shift the lens through which I see myself and the world in a new and exciting way.
Maybe walking away doesn’t need to be the ending of something, but the beginning of something else.