Issue 12  •  Spring 2013

The Emperor's New Pole: Stripping Away the Stereotypes

Written by Jennifer Robideau
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If you pole dance, you are a stripper.
A lap dance must be given to another person.
Striptease means getting naked for an audience.


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Photos by Jennifer Robideau 
If you pole dance, you are a stripper.
A lap dance must be given to another person.
Striptease means getting naked for an audience.

These stereotypes have long been marauding as truths because people have long allowed the pole, the lap dance, and the art of tease to be ruled and owned solely by the stripper. Dancing for money has given these movements such a seedy reputation that most women dismiss the art of the dance in an effort to avoid being lumped in with “strippers.” Those who can’t see past the stereotypes are a lot like the subjects of the emperor who wore no clothes: the subjects pretend to see his clothes out of fear of voicing a different opinion but little do they know, they have the power to change the general consensus simply by calling the “emperor’s” bluff. Women can call the “emperor’s” bluff by learning how to pole dance.

Sheila Kelley S Factor
in New York is one of many schools across the country dedicated to teaching “everyday” women pole dancing and other stripperly arts. This new breed of pole dancer moves in the warm, dim safety of ruby-red dance studios, absent of mirrors and men. There, women dance for themselves, not for money. Women may exercise in colorful hot pants and tank tops or dance in lingerie and six-inch stilettos, but unlike the emperor, they never get naked.

The “no nudity” policy helps to welcome women of all comfort levels and demonstrates that even stripping off a sweatshirt can be sexy. Similarly, lap dances don’t need a lap. The dance can also be about the relationship between a woman and an empty chair. Such lessons are part of an eight-week progressing curriculum whose core focus is on pole tricks.

S Factor takes the seed out of seedy and plants new meanings in the word pole (and by extension, strip): fitness, empowerment, and celebration of self. As a result, the pole gleams like a chrome scepter stripped of its stereotypical “sin.” Pole dancing is not merely an unconventional livelihood; it is a way for any woman to assert her own power and ownership—of her own body, of words and their meanings—and ownership is sexy; power is sexy. So go on: usurp the throne of the stereotypes that tell you not to give pole dancing a  whirl.  I bet it would make an excellent lap dance chair.

Now, a brief lesson on how to do a simple pole trick:


•A mischievous mood
•A reason to celebrate your body, your agility, and your strength
•Access to a subway pole, street sign, or someone you know who owns a stripper pole—trust me, this is more common than you think.

1. Stand next to the pole with your feet hip distance apart (as if you are about to walk) about 2 feet from the base, and grab the pole with your right hand about a foot above your head, thumb facing up (reverse these instructions if your left hand is dominant). Take a slow walk around the pole, shifting almost all of your weight away from it so that your arm is stretched long, and your body is relaxed. Let your head be free.

2. After you have done the walk around (once or as many times as you need to warm up), step forward with your right foot and allow your left leg to swing (instead of step) forward and around the pole, bending it like a hook, pointing your toes, and catching the pole in the curve behind your left heel.

3. As this motion swings you clockwise, secure your left hand on the pole at about waist level and release your right foot from the ground, bending at the knee to sandwich the pole between the back of your left heel and top of your right heel, using your metatarsals (the long bones in your forefoot) to do so. At this point you should be airborne and free, and free to try again!

4. After feeling comfortable with this trick, or simply walking around the pole till you get the hang  of it, start to put your free hand on your body and enjoy your own curves. Take time to touch the places not ordinarily appreciated, such as the point where your earlobe joins your neck, or the slope of your inner thighs—feel your unique landscape and appreciate it. You’ll find that as your movement on the pole becomes second nature, every swing or caress stems from a  desire  to celebrate your amazing self and body.

If you are interested in learning more pole tricks, lap dances, or stripteases with a workout element, you can try out an introductory class at S Factor for half price when you say Sadie sent you, now through March 1, 2010.

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