It took a few months of begging but finally last summer I got my partner to take a pole dance class with me. Let me set the scene. I consider him a superhero. He’s a retired fugitive investigator. President of his motorcycle club. Community basketball coach. Public speaker. The blend that makes him up, goes as follows:
Hank Voigt from Chicago PD – (I can’t find a suitable video to link to. He’s being bad in all the ones on youtube.)
and really any blend of a Denzel Washington character from Mo Better Blues to Training Day. Except he’s not corrupt. He’s strictly by the book. But his nickname is Savage.
You put all those in a blender, mix in all the abs in the world, caramel skin, freckles and more and the hybrid superhero that comes out is Savage.
And he…he FINALLY took a pole dance class with me. For the longest, I really wanted to share this particular experience with him. I wanted him to understand my obsession with it. And I wanted his feedback on the class…considering he’s a fitness trainer and health nut. As stuck in his ways as he can be….for instance, it took me 12 years to get him to try Thai Food, he finally said YES.
This is our conversation afterwards.
Shay Au Lait: How was your first pole dance class? What are your overall thoughts?
Savage: We tend to think that strength is power and I got to see how strength can manifest itself in motion and [from] the ability to transfer energy from one part of your being to another. I think of power and strength and FIGHT! On the pole how you move, its with a swiftness. How a guy works a heavy boxing bag. (demos punching) in Muay Thai, you never hit the heavy bag, you push the bag as fast as it can and you watch it come back and you move your body with it and around it. The ability to redirect strength, that’s what I found with the pole. Also, I can use my strength to hold up there forever but with climbing, how do I use strength to balance my way down?
Shay Au Lait: Would you take another pole dance class? Or keep progressing?
Savage: Yes, its exercise. It helped my back. But you have to market the class to athletes like yoga or ballet. Also, the bottom of my legs are hyper protective of the top of me, random aside. Just sharing my thoughts as they come. What’s next?
Shay Au Lait: What are your thoughts on men & pole dancing and women & pole dancing?
Savage: When you hear the word pole [dance], you think feminine and sexy and female. And you think pole as far as masculine or as men are concerned is for your visual enjoyment and not your participation. My experience is that women in certain communities like burlesque and pole want to keep that as a “woman performance thing” and they resist making it androgynous. Like for instance in the steps yesterday…and let me preface I don’t give a fuck because I’m secure …but ten guys I know wouldn’t do those steps. I’m not walking like that. I’m not being sexy because from my generation, sexy isn’t a man thing to do. (He’s 22 years older than me) Its a man thing to enjoy. I think if you guys changed that whole, “do a sexy movement” then a male would be comfortable doing it. I dance and play around so for me to do it is nothing. I do hip circles and drop it like its hot and twerk but a great deal of men, their bodies don’t work like that.
(Savage is actually responsible for teaching me how to isolate my twerks. He understands how muscles work and was able to explain it in a way I could understand. That also comes from his background of competitive body building. His routines were always a bit more extra with more dance mixed/burlesque mixed in.)
Savage cont: You gotta gear it towards an androgynous step. Like the in and out steps could have been less “female” and more middle of the road. Climbing the pole could be less female and more androgynous. Putting that pole between your legs, for me, its a challenge. I have a pole there too that I have to make sure this pole doesn’t touch that one. We have extra stuff in here. Maybe talking to a guy like Bentley Rebel would help. (watching me do a pole sit.) We would need to use more of our middle thigh than our upper thigh. It would rub my nuts away.
Shay Au Lait: Having gone to a pole dance class, does it inform the stereotypes you know of regarding pole dance?
Savage: People are going to have stereotypes. The only way you’re going to change it is to change it. I’d have to see something different. Just wanting people to think differently about pole dance isn’t gonna do it. You have to teach it and show more examples. Teach guys who are aware to teach pole to guys. Anatomy is different.
Shay Au Lait: This is why Roz the Diva, for instance has a class for plus size dancers.
Savage: Its nice to have the sexy but if you want to broaden the appeal, you have to broaden the appeal. Pole dancing by the general public is a strip club and booties and popping.
Shay Au Lait: It sounds like marketing. Pole dance needs better marketing
Savage: For some men, we climb and attack. Tell me that. Say something like, “Let me get this out of your system. Lets climb to the top and back down. To the top and back down.” Ladies work up to that. Men, we work down to it. Kenneth Kao, he didn’t start off [his routine] with a leg around the pole and a hair flip. He started with jumping from one pole to the next.
Shay Au Lait: Thank you for taking a class with me.
Savage: I should have worn a wig. Then I could have done some hair flips like you.
A Few Things to Note
The usage of the word FEMALE- Savage uses the term interchangeably with woman. Just as he consistently used the term “male” interchangeably with men throughout our conversation. If you are triggered by even the slightest usage of the word, you just might be missing the point. Do give thought to the context of language usage.
The usage of the word ANDROGYNOUS – One way this can be interpreted is also having movement that isn’t gender binary. My questions to him were focused on “stereotypical cis-gender, heterosexual men” versus a conversation on being completely inclusive no matter your gender. Still his feedback is iterating a need for more inclusivity that isn’t geared just towards women. A lot of pole studios focus on cis-gender heterosexual women. I make mention of this in “What Does It Mean to Be Queer Friendly?”
Have you ever taken a pole dance class with a cis-gendered, heterosexual man before? What was that experience like for you?