“too great an emphasis on technique arrests naturalness. The material from which I will create comes from living from the personality, from experience, adventures, voyages. This natural flow of riches comes first. The technique is merely a way to organise the flow, to chisel, shape; but without the original flow from deep inner riches of material, everything withers”
The Journals of Anais Nin – Volume Four.
There is so much I love about this quote. Anais Nin is not a dancer, but her words speak to every artist. This is the final post in a three part series that unpacked each of Anais Nin’s ideas and how it relates to artistic expression, including pole dancing.
I think sometimes pole dancers forget to see themselves as artists. We’re told by the media and social memes that we are strong, empowered women. That we are athletes, stronger than our counterparts. We need sass, attitude, and if people don’t listen we’ll just bust out a move and prove them wrong.
Just like other creative endeavours pole dance is a form of expression, in your lounge room or on the stage. Just like a painter, photographer, writer, or singer, a pole dancer is expressing part of themselves. It feels good and that’s why we keep doing it! At the heart of the matter, we are not in it for the likes, nor to show off in the gym when we can do more pull ups than the guys. Our intentions when dancing come from within. We are artists and dancers, and shouldn’t be afraid to take that seriously.
“The material from which I will create comes from living from the personality, from experience, adventures, voyages.”
As I begin to write this post I sit looking at a vista. The lake a calm blanket of blue after a few days of rough winds, the birds chirping and playing in the Spring time sun. It is so quiet, my tapping on the keys seems to interrupt the air in the room. A paradox of time and space, that I finally have time to sit and write, but the space is begging for me to just enjoy the view.
My partner and I are house sitting, a stepping stone on an adventure of a life time. Last month I quit my job and we sold most of our belongings. We have been together for 12 years and although being attached to our routines and habits, and many pieces of furniture and knickknacks, it is time to take stock and see what else the world can bring. Sydney has been great to both of us. I have a strong supportive pole community and space to perform a few times per year. Lee has been able to create an amazing portfolio of photographic work and meet hundreds of inspiring models and artists. But Sydney is also draining our creative energy. The cost and lifestyle sadly no longer contribute to our vision for the future and so it is time to move on.
Anais Nin, the author of the quote above, was a writer. She traveled for a long time with Henry Miller, one of her lovers and a fellow author and artist. She says, “The material from which I will create comes from living from the personality, from experience, adventures, voyages. This natural flow of riches comes first.”
My choreography and performances also emerge from my personality, experiences, adventures and voyages. A few months ago I wrote a playful post using all the titles of the songs I have danced too. It was a humorous reflection on five years of dancing, but it really reminded me of how much each piece was an expression of a moment in my life.
(Remember at the beginning of this series where I said that pole dancers shouldn’t be afraid to take themselves seriously? yeah, that)
In 2012 I was training with Jamilla Deville at the Art of Pole Studios in Sydney. We were preparing for a showcase and I was with just one other student and Jamilla in an open play practice time. After running the combos and reviewing my choreography on my own, Jamilla asked if I would like to dance the whole piece while Donna and her watched. My dance was full of nerves and not very polished but the song offered time for pauses and allowed me to stay inside myself. My final pose was a swan, a kind of pole sit where you lean your torso around the front of the pole, laying over your legs. The music finished and I reconnected with Jamilla and Donna who were smiling and praising my efforts. Before I had even dismounted the pole, Jamilla said, “Thank you for sharing your dance with us” – a statement acknowledging the intimacy of the moment while also acknowledging the exchange – “sharing your dance with us” – sharing a part of me with you.
After Solotude 3, I had a few people ask about my inspiration for my choreography, wondering where my sometimes ‘out of the box’ ideas come from. The answer was simple, but probably deeper than most want to realise. It comes from the same place that Anais Nin talks about.
I have danced to French composer Yann Tiersen (J’y suis Jamias Alle) pictured left, choosing the piece after returning from a trip to Paris. Frayed by Hermitude, pictured right, was a routine that came together while I was working through some personal issues, in addition to having torn a hamstring. Pole dance was healing.
Sometimes a piece works in a cathartic way, while other times a dance is simply an unpacking of thoughts about an experience. Next time you are creating a dance piece consider your intentions behind your movement. You may have lost someone recently and that may inspire a whole new way to express your emotional energy. You can find inspiration in new relationships even those as fleeting as a snippet of conversation from waiting in line for coffee. Isadora Duncan used nature, her observations of palm fronds swaying in the wind, inspiring new movement possibilities.
When I choose a song for my choreography I find an artist who has also created something that will compliment or emphasise what I am expressing. The eventual choreography is then an interplay with what I feel I need to convey and how the song already says part or all of it.
“The material from which I will create comes from living…”
And so my partner and I have started a process to keep on living. Moving away from the squeeze of Sydney we are setting off to Cambodia, landing in Phnom Penh at the end of September.
I will still be dancing and writing, but the form it takes will be inspired by our new landscape, friends, adventures, and all the riches of an ancient culture. I have goals to work on my flexibility, hoping the weather will work in my favour to always be warm enough to stretch. I am also open, however, to see what happens! I’ve been working full time now for more than 12 years am excited to stop the snowballing effect of debt and obligations, and open my mind to learning new things.
What will pole dance look like in Cambodia? I’m not sure yet. There are multiple studios in neighbouring Thailand and Vietnam which I am excited to be able to drop in to, but it’s an exciting prospect to be able to see what comes up and find new inspiration in another culture, a new lifestyle, and a new community.