I have a pole dancing photograph in my online dating profile and as you can well imagine, this results in a wide range of messages in my inbox. The most interesting message from my perspective was the following:

Dear Alison,

Do you pole dance for extra money, or are you wanting to make sure that your next boyfriend is a very lucky man?

I wrote him back and let him know that while I don’t have any judgement about the exotic industry, I am actually a data analyst by trade, and that I dance for me, but that my next boyfriend will be a very lucky man regardless. I can guarantee it won’t be him, at any rate. My audacity in sending those kinds of answers is why I’m surprised I went on any dates at all from my online dating experience. I have my reasons for resenting the implication that my dance is about keeping a man.

I have only deliberately danced in front of a man twice in my life, once for a boyfriend who said something uncharitable about my lack of grace, and another time after some Pinot Grigio made me forget what a horrible idea I would normally consider this to be. Otherwise, my audience has been comprised largely of other students or my son. The reason for this has been rooted in the purpose of my dance, my “why?”.

For me, dance is how I process things. If I am having a bad day, I’m coming home on my lunch break to hang upside down and consider things from a more empowering angle. It’s about finding me, it’s therapy, it’s reconciliation with my body, it’s my solace from judgement in private. Yes, it’s something that’s fun and hot, but it’s also extremely intimate because it’s the outward expression of inner turmoil, or uninhibited celebration. I dance for me without considering how it looks from another person’s perspective and find it liberating to work from this orientation. I found myself re-examining this at the request of a friend and mentor.

My pole mama called to ask if I would be willing to do a solo for our upcoming showcase. I was caught off guard and, frankly, the idea sounded terrifying. This is precisely why I decided to do it. This month has been all about leaving my comfort zone and after committing to performing, a plan began to hatch. I picked music that suited my personality and style. Then I thought long and hard about why performing scares me so much.

I was terrified of performing because I second guess myself constantly. I live by lists, procedures and colour coded spreadsheets. My biggest fear was getting in front of an audience, forgetting my choreography and freezing. I tried to figure out how to get around this obstacle. I know no matter how many times I practice, this fear would be nagging. I have difficulty giving myself the benefit of the doubt. So I decided to take a different approach. Don’t plan. Wing it. My organized, type A, “must schedule every second” brain was protesting vigorously. It turns out this was a stroke of luck and brilliance because the next month did not go as planned.

I tackled a couple large projects that distracted my focus from the performance that seemed very far off on the horizon. My reasonably stable personal life threw me a curve ball in my final week before the performance. I was so consumed with processing the implications that I completely blanked on the fact that in just 72 hours I would be before an audience. I didn’t have time to panic about that until the morning of the performance.

performance two

I was very thankful for the love and support my classmates, instructors, friends and family for keeping me as calm as possible. I hadn’t done a dance performance since I was about seven years old, so I was pretty stressed about how it was all going to unfold. I attacked the challenge armed with the knowledge it would be literally impossible for me to pass away from embarrassing failure.

performance one

As it turns out, my fears were unfounded and failure did not materialize. I survived the experience and enjoyed it (mostly). I was able to lose myself in the music. This is a link to the video of my performance and I can honestly say I’m looking forward to the next one.

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