By Sveindís Þórhallsdóttir
The clear blue water in the pool reflects the endless stream of sunshine on this beautiful day. There is not a cloud in sight. Laying on my stomach on a pink towel with a large photo of a kitten, sweat is dripping down my forehead. 26°C warmth is hard on my nordic skin. I still love being on a vacation in Spain. Especially since I have my best friend, Viola Thorn, with me. She is laying on her back on a green towel, her light, Finnish skin gently kissed by the sunlight. She’s wearing thick sunglasses and a blue bikini. Her legs bearing a few lightly colored bruises. Visual marks of the struggles of being a pole dancer. Pole …. Dancer. The words linger in my mind.
“Viola” I begin. Her head turns towards me, her attention focused. “How did you get into pole dancing?” She is silent for a brief moment, thinking. “Was it a bit over two years ago?” She wonders. “I began going to the studio in my hometown after I had dreamt that I was pole dancing… It all started with that dream”. We both laugh at the coincidence. Both thankful her sleeping mind created that scenario one fateful night. Otherwise we wouldn’t have met. “At first I went to random beginner classes, but after realizing how much I enjoyed it, I bought a monthly subscription and joined a training group. I started practicing more seriously.” She says as she raises herself up onto her elbows, grabs a bottle of water and has a few sips. The air is calm, offering no relief in the form of a soft breeze. The children from our neighbourhood are playing in the pool, splashing and jumping into it. Their laughter fills the otherwise silent atmosphere.
“I know you love pole…but you quit the studio a while ago, though….Why?” I ask her. She sits up, turning her back to the sun. “I just felt I was not getting what I was looking for there, anymore.” She pauses briefly, before continuing “The classes all have the same set-up, they are very trick oriented, like ‘now we learn this trick’, ‘now we learn that trick…In a way I think it is important for a beginner to do that…but then you need something more. You need to learn to connect them, and I felt I wasn’t getting that so much from my studio, so I decided to do it on my own… at home, instead.” I nod. I do agree with her. My experience is similar to hers. “I definitely feel classes are very trick oriented…I don’t know if this is just the method of the nordic countries…” I softly muse. “Might be.” She answers. “After a while I started to really wonder what is really ‘me’. What defines me? How do I like expressing myself?” She says, gently rubbing her bruised knees. “I bought some heels and began practicing dancing with them… it was really hard, but so much fun. I felt at home. I realized exotic pole is more my style, rather than the acrobatic, modern type of dance my former studio focuses on.” I smile, thinking about her shoe collection that has grown massively in the last few months. “I’m so happy you found your style” I say, reaching for the water bottle. “I love all of your flow videos, your attitude and your amazing floorwork. You’re getting so good at it!” I praise, genuinely very impressed with her progress.
“I don’t know if it’s a nordic country thing, but we seem to almost be afraid of exotic style, or judgemental towards it, not wanting association with it at all.” I wonder out loud. We’ve talked about this a million times before, yet it keeps surprising us. How can people be judgemental towards any certain type of movement? “Yeah” she says. “Like the time I asked my former studio for more choreography classes… they told me they offer a few but those classes aren’t so popular. Then, when I asked specifically for exotic pole classes, they literally told me that the studio is more ‘acrobatic and dance.’” She shakes her head in disbelief and again lays down on her back, allowing the sun to warm her face again. “By saying that, they basically told me exotic dancing is not dance…. Why? It’s not any less dancing than any other type of dance.” I snort. I hate when people negatively judge other people’s choices, just because they themselves don’t understand. “I think some people are afraid to move on their own” She continues. “They just like being in a class where they are led through everything…told to do this, do that. People are afraid of creating their own movement… not to mention exotic movement, that scares them beyond anything. Because they don’t know how to move”. I wholeheartedly agree with her. “Pole dance came from the strip clubs.” I say. “I hate how people want to do pole, but not be associated with strippers. As if being a stripper is so beneath everyone. I can think of many professions worse than showing off your boobs on stage. Big corporations, corrupt politicians, animal cruelty… I could go on and on. But the world has more problem with a woman openly expressing sexuality, being sexy, than all of those things. It’s crazy”. I feel my voice trembling from anger. I take a sip of water. Viola nods. “When you think about pole dancing, you immediately think about strippers. The association is always going to be there. Embrace it, don’t be ashamed.” She says, offering advice I think every pole newbie needs to hear. “When you watch professional routines, you see DANCE. Not just tricks. Not combos of tricks connected by a few steps. You see effortless looking flow, connection from one to the next. It’s beautiful. That’s what pole dancing is all about, to me. I want to perfect that. I already know a lot of tricks, but I want to learn to connect them effortlessly in dance.” She says. “For me, exotic style is that connection. Stripper style is all about flowing from one point to the next. Having attitude. Showing how fierce you are.” She adds, grinning. I can almost see the spark in her eye behind her dark sunglasses. The passion, it’s there.
“It’s not about how many tricks you can do in a row, it’s about all the little things that come together and make the picture huge. How you walk. Making the body rolls more dramatic. Sliding the hands. Little skips. Where you look. It all matters so much in exotic pole.” I smile, thinking of exactly how much the little things matter. “Unfortunately, the community in your country doesn’t feel the same way about exotic style…do you feel you’ve met some discrimination for openly liking it?” She sighs at my question and takes a moment before answering. “Definitely. As I said, they kind of told me exotic dancing is not real dancing. That sucks. I shouldn’t have to put myself in a certain box of dance to express myself. Dancing is expression. Exotic dancing is expression. If I’m forced to dance differently, that’s not ME.” She turns to lying on her stomach, sunshine again reaching her back. “I think people definitely are ashamed…people are scared of freestyling, showing emotions, but in exotic style you have to show specific emotion, and that’s almost impossible for some people.” She adds. “It does seem to scare them.” I say. “People seem to be ashamed of women expressing sensuality and being confident.” I add. “Yes, sexuality is a big part of human nature…there are for example strip clubs everywhere, sexuality is displayed in movies, ads, papers…everywhere” She tells me. “But when you openly want to practice it, then all of a sudden that’s a bad thing. I almost feel like people think that when I exotic dance, I am somehow degrading myself…that couldn’t be further from the truth!” She exclaims. “Yes! How can you degrade yourself by simply dancing?” I ask. “Hopefully, one day, we can all appreciate and respect each other, no matter our dance styles, choices or opinions.”
Photos by Wallineva photograhpy