Friday, 23 March 2012

Pole Dancing is an art form

My last blog was about prejudice towards fitness pole dancers and I was hoping to blog about a different topic today, that was until I received a phone from Plymouth Dance explaining why I wasn't listed on their website. Here is a copy of the letter I have just sent to them:

"I am writing in reference to your decision not to promote my fitness pole dancing classes via the Plymouth Dance website. I am deeply disappointed that my art is not recognised by your organisation and I feel that your decision not to promote my classes simply reinforces the negative stereotypes I have been fighting since 2004.

Whilst I do not deny that fitness pole dancing has some origins linked to strip clubs and exotic dancing, fitness pole dancing is completely different to the dancing that takes place in clubs as a pre-cursor to a sexual act. I would argue that Belly Dancing has far more inappropriate origins yet you are happy to promote that as an activity on your website. We teach a mixture of different pole dancing techniques including aspects of Chinese Pole and Mallakhamb. Our classes start with a warm up followed by some high impact pole dancing, strength training and then a cool down focusing on improving the flexibility of our students.

Modern fitness pole dancing is a cross between dance and gymnastics and to pole dance at a professional level takes extreme strength and flexibility. We use pole dancing as a way to boost the mental and physical health of our students. We teach both males and females from 12 years and over.

I wonder if you have seen the recent Sky Got To Dance series where a pole dancer reached the semi-finals of the competition demonstrating the modern fitness phenomenon of pole dancing and its incredible athleticism.

Would you be interested in visiting my studio and watching a lesson so that you can make an informed choice about my dance form?

I am more than happy to discuss any concerns that you may have to try to alleviate any misconceptions. Please take the time to consider your response as this is a subject that I am passionate about and I am finding it increasingly difficult to deal with the extreme prejudice I am facing from many organisations and individuals

I will let you know what response I get and hope that in the meantime you enjoy my beautiful new pictures courtesy of the lovely Tamar Preston. To see all our new and old images just visit the
Art of Dance Gallery.

Stay Healthy,

Sam x

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Pole Dancing Prejudice?

I was under the impression that people were starting to realise that pole dancing is a great fitness activity as well as a beautiful performing art but it seems that certain groups within Plymouth aren't quite that educated.

I start with the South Asian Society who I have blogged about before. Every year they organise an event called 'Integration through culture:Dance, Dance, Dance' - the event is describe as follows; "The unique and very successful Dance Dance Dance show is back again this year to enchant and excite the audience with extravagant dances from around the world.

Our aim is to raise funds for the Cancer Research UK charity with Integration Through Culture - Dance, Dance, Dance and to lavish the audience with a unique sense of diversified dances. The event aims to create an awareness of integration in the multicultural society we live today through dance, to realise the full potential of our co-existence and to promote racial and cultural harmony among different communities. Up to 20 dance styles including: Belly; Salsa; African; Morris; Cornish; Classical; Ballet; Bollywood; Western; Chinese; Folk; Nepali and Djing will delight the audience.

This event to promote integration and diversity has prevented me from performing for the last 5 years and this year they even failed to acknowledge any of my e-mails. I am so disappointed at the sheer prejudice displayed by organiser Sanjay Sharma and his colleagues. Despite my sadness at my 5th year of exclusion another group has disappointed me even further...

In 2011 I was invited to perform at the Attik Dance Community platform  and was delighted at the opportunity, unfortunate I managed to injure my knee (Grade 2 medial collateral ligament tear) just a few days before the planned performance, I was gutted but was looking forward to this years event. I sent in my 2012 application but heard nothing back, I e-mailed again, still no response. I then called and spoke to Attik's new artistic director Ben Dunks who told me that they had received my application and that they would get back to me. To date I have had no response so I assume they have also decided to exclude pole dancing from their event without even having the courtesy to tell me why. 

It seems it is easier to ignore me than to formulate an argument as to why pole dancing should not be part of a community dance event. But these are not the only rejections I have encountered; Plymouth City Council are looking for performers for their Lord Mayor's Day event
(Quote from P.C.C. "This year’s theme will be ‘Nations of the World’ and anyone can get involved – from individual people to community groups, clubs and organisations.) so I thought it would be a great opportunity to showcase my skills and educate people about what I do, again no reply to my initial e-mail so a follow up e-mail might have more success? I did get an e-mail on the 24th February stating that someone would get back to me, I am still waiting and am not holding my breath for a response let alone a positive one.

2 years ago I was invited to perform for the Plymouth Soroptomists, I even risk assessed the function room and met with Soroptomist members only to be told later that some group members had decided that pole dancing was not appropriate, I was offered no apology and was surprised that a group of women who are supposedly very open-minded could be so judgemental.

I should thank those people who have invited me to perform recently. I had the pleasure of being one of the guest performers at the University of Exeter Pole Dancing Showcase on Wednesday 29th February. The audience were fabulous and it was so lovely to hear friends and families of the performers talking about pole dancing and how their perceptions had changed after watching the showcase. And there you have it, if people watch a pole dancing performance (not an erotic or lap dance) they can understand the incredible strength, flexibility and cardiovascular capacity required to perform high impact pole for a 4 minute performance. However if pole dancing is excluded from events the negative stereotypes are further re-inforced.

picture above courtesy of Paul Garniss of me and the Exeter University Pole Dancers.
I do want to say a big thank you to Art of Dance student Claire Stanton who invited me to perform at her 50th Birthday party last night, she wanted to show her friends and family that pole dancing is not something to be sneered at and I hope my performance did the job, I certainly had some great compliments from audience members about the strength I displayed. Not sure how my choreography went as the DJ played a completely different version of the song I was expecting, I was crouched on the floor waiting for the instrumental intro when a rap by Kanye West started, hope I managed to wing it anyway. Thanks again to Claire for allowing me to perform :)

So just one more pending performance this week, on Tuesday I am guest performing alongside fellow Art of Dance Instructor Emma Thorpe and Rose Biggin from Exeter University at the University of Plymouth Pole Dancing Club. It should be a great night and I just hope we get a good turnout. Pics and videos to follow.

To those groups who don't want me pole dancing at their events don't be too surprised if a podium pole dancing unit suddenly turns up outside your venue, you can bury your heads in the sand all you like but it won't make me go away, in fact quite the opposite :)

Stay Healthy,

Sam x