Any woman who has taken a pole dance class will say it's empowering but rarely can explain exactly why. Author, blogger and pole dance instructor Claire Griffin Sterrett writes brilliant --and well-researched -- essays on why pole dancing empowers women of all ages and sizes, challenging popular pole dance stigmas in her new book Pole Story: Essays On The Power Of Erotic Dance available on October 15th.
Sterrett's book is a series of essays inspired by her thesis -- she has a master's degree in Somatic Psychology -- and analyzes the empowerment aspect far beyond what pole matriarch Sheila Kelley has marketed through her national chain of fitness studios. Sterrett has intellect, substance and a voice which makes for a great read for anyone interested in pole dance in any form, be it competitive, fitness or striptease. It's also great for any woman who is interested in finding a new outlet to express herself or explore her sexuality and emotions.
Pole Story answers popular misconceptions of the art of pole dance and the failure of society to see the evolution from shamed strip club activity to world class fitness championships. The pole dance industry has grown tremendously in the last several years. A friend of mine who is a key player in the industry told me dance poles and accessories sales have at least doubled in the last year -- and that was a modest estimate. And in this current economy, growth in any industry is impressive. So even though a lot of people might not talk about their interest in pole dance, industry sales are showing something completely different. One "pole dance" search on YouTube brings up the top competitive pole dancers where anyone can view the physical strength and beauty that these women train for. The pole videos available on YouTube have grown from stripperesque with some cool flips to gorgeous displays of strength and flexibility with no traces of raunchiness. So why are we still looking at pole dance as taboo?
"As a culture, we have many deeply ingrained biases when it comes to sexuality -- female sexuality in particular. And we see the world through these biases without ever realizing it," Sterrett explained to me. Good point. I live in New York City where it's almost a necessity for a woman to dominate a Fortune 500 company, be an entrepreneur, or an executive. But sometimes, women have to suppress their femininity so they can succeed in their career without judgment. Enough sexual harassment lawsuits have taught women that it's uncomfortable to climb the corporate ladder in a skirt.
Sterrett points out that pole dancing allows a woman to break through the uncomfortable and inappropriate feeling of being feminine, sexy or sexual outside of the bedroom. For some ladies, a pole dance class can open up a whole new world. Sterrett says she has seen many women transformed through the practice of pole dance.
One woman that stood out to Sterrett was in her sixties at the time of her first class. The student had lost her husband and mother in the same year and was alone and sad. As one might imagine, she lacked the strength necessary to do many of the beginner pole moves and could not even pull herself toward the pole. After a year of dedication and practice, Sterrett told me the woman "can shimmy up and down the pole like a pro, she can do the Chinese splits, but most important, she feels alive in her body and connected to the world." And that includes having new friends and being part of the close-knit pole dance community.
According to Sterrett, there is no shame in owning your sensuality. "The female body has tremendous power, and we are only now beginning to revisit that power, not as something to be wielded for manipulative purposes, or something to be ashamed of, but as something to embrace, explore and share."
Pole Story by Claire Griffin Sterrett is available on October 15th on Amazon and at www.PoleStory.com If you're in the LA area, you can meet Sterrett at her book launch party benefitting the Young Survival Coalition at Movement LA Studio on Friday October 14th. Tickets are $45-55, details at www.movementstudioLA.com or call (323) 424-7924.