Irm pitched a fit. She pitched the biggest fit I had ever seen. For a woman who dances with ease while weaving in a technical expertise of dance moves and pole passes that blow my mind as skilled as a prima donna ballet dancer, I didn’t even know she had this side to her. Watch her video below to see how I’m used to her moving.
Irm does spinning splits and jades and cupids and all kinds of other things I don’t know the names for. But for this exercise, she pitched a fit. She threw her pointed toes and technicality and splits out the window and she threw her body around the room. She hit the pole. She lost her fucking mind…in the form of a dance. It was crazy and I was engaged. We all tried to guess her prompt story. Was she angry? Well clearly. But what were the details? Was she a teenager throwing a tantrum? Was she a thug? Her movements resembled a thug getting ready for a street brawl. Was she a crazy person walking down the street losing her mind? I voted for either of the last two options.
She was a thug losing his mind walking down the streets of NY. She was all of this during a two minute freestyle pole dance and I loved every moment of it.
Except I was wrong. Sort of.
Earlier this year I joined a group of pole dancers under the leadership or Tracee Kafer and Jess Linick to form a new dance company, Pole Speak which is composed of dances based on freestyle movement. Imagine the various genres of theater. (Go here for that list, if you can’t imagine it.) We are what improve is to theater. With a few guidelines or restrictions in place, our entire pieces are freestyle danced based on prompts, music and ideas we simply want to try. (To be honest, our base as a company is “improve” but then the stories we convey through dance run the scope of every genre of theater. Go see that list again I linked to. I think our various dances have hit just about all of those themes.)
What we have been working on “projection” and our quality of story telling. For instance, you as a dancer could have the intent that you are dancing to a song that tells the story of a lost girl wandering through the forest. Red Riding Hood. Snow White. Pick your character.
But take away costumes, prompts and even overt facial expressions and obvious dance moves… How are you truly communicating this story? How does a spin or climb convey lost in a forest versus sensual passion based on technicality and execution of the move and with personal expression? What happens when you do the dance but the audience interprets it as you were dancing the story of sorrow or grief or anger or longing?
How can you be Little Red Riding Hood telling her pole dance story if you can not wear a red cape, utter lines about going to grandma’s house and there is no wolf and the song being played is some violin number from an Opera done in Paris or its Katy Perry’s latest hit?
It’s like writing a poem where the metaphor is about water and rebirth but years later when students evaluate and discuss it in college LIT 101, the discussion is about the poem’s implication of original sin and forgiveness. That’s not at all what you meant.
BUT the audiences’ interpretation isn’t necessarily wrong. It’s influenced by their own filters, senses, memories, hopes, dreams and experiences. And you as a performer weren’t wrong or ineffective. I mean, that’s art, right? It’s all up for interpretation.
The point though, is that if we are to be masters and performers who really want to hone in on our artistic expression, these are things to think about and explore.
Thus Pole Speak…..where sometimes we explore how we can tell a story without the bells and whistles, without snake oil and glitter and convey in a two minute freestyle dance how to tell a story in a way that the audience understands what we mean and they are engaged and interested in what we’re doing AND its authentic and truthful for the us as the performer.
Does a sad story mean no flying body spirals? A sad story shouldn’t include a body roll. Or maybe it should? Should the movements be slow or fast? Should they be smooth and flowy or choppy? What is the movement quality of sad or happy or longing?
Thus, we have Irm pitching a fit and the rest of our company watching and providing feedback on what her dance was in our eyes.
After we guessed and discussed why we thought our versions of her dance was the right story, Irm told us. Her prompt was that someone had bumped into her while walking down the street and she decided to get angry about it and bump into everybody else …. while throwing a fit.
It’s hard to describe this but the dance was amazing. I’ve seen Irm perform in showcases and competitions and even on TV on Law & Order. And I know her style. She’s a great dancer. Secretly though, sometimes I wish she’d forget technicality and just let loose. That night in rehearsal she did and it was a joy to watch. It was different and fun and something I had never seen before.
It’s one of the things I love about Pole Speak. Because it’s all freestyle and we never know our prompts or assignments or what song might be chosen, we PLAY! And in that play, I see people dancing outside their comfort zones. I see new moves and shapes being created. I see new story ideas I have never seen performed before. I get inspired to push myself and try new concepts.
Emotionally, at times, it can be exhausting. Sometimes I don’t think I have any ideas left. Or sometimes I think I’m not using the pole enough. But another great thing about Pole Speak is that we say these things out loud. We are expressive and vulnerable with one another. I’ve lost track of how many times some one has cried out of sadness or joy or frustration. I’ve seen dancers just refuse to dance because the song was just “stupid.” I’ve seen it all.
But when we circle up and say it to one another, we include that in our rehearsals too. And usually our fears, frustrations, hesitancies or questions become prompts to dance out as well. In this way Tracee and Jess are brilliant. We use everything to tell stories.
Watching Irm lose it….Discussing how movement styles and movement qualities convey different emotions, stories and forms of expression….Dancing a freestyle and getting immediate feedback from a group ….. This is why I dance. This is why I know art has power. This is why we must express ourselves. Stories must be spoken and danced out loud. Thus Pole Speak.
Video Still Photography by Tracee Kafer
Costumes provided by BodyBinds for the BodyBinds Black video “Bringing Sexy Back Video.” This video and our other video, “Introducing Pole Speak” were both produced through freestyle dance movement and exercises. These were not routines that we rehearsed. Tracee or Jess got an idea/prompt, they played a song, turned the camera on and then we danced.