An investigative story into the evolution of pole dancing in Melbourne from strip clubs to dance studios and a closer look at the performers who walk amongst us.
Story by Ann Nguyen
Images by Pole & Aerial Divas Richmond, 2021
AT FIRST SIGHT
When you walk into the Pole Divas studio in Richmond, prepare to be accosted by how pink and shiny everything is.
From the bright neon "Divas" embossed on the walls to the silver chromatic poles which take centre stage in the middle of the room, every pink spotlight is reflected in the wall-to-wall mirrors that line the studio.
While Lego has opted for a gender neutral approach, this space is all about females. In fact, Pole Divas' mission is to "create the ultimate happy place for women."
No men beyond this point.
All men — even the “extravagant, fabulous gay” ones — have been banned from the Melbourne pole dance studio chain with founder Kenetta Hutchens saying the move allows for woman to feel "free to express their sensuality in a safe environment." (Lackey, 2019)
In a landmark decision, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal has agreed and will soon sign off on allowing female only membership of the classes (Herald Sun, 2019).
"The war between the sexes is over. We won that war the day women started doing pole dancing for exercise."
- Crazy, Stupid, Love
(Carousel Productions & Di Novi Pictures, 2011)
"Definitely, it's so empowering for females. I remember [...] that Crazy, Stupid Love quote. I think it's just so ridiculous. It's not about performing for the male gaze at all..."
Image by Shannon Prickett
"It is actually a lot of work and a lot of training. I'll usually start by finding a song so that's like the first step for me. I'll usually know instantly when I hear a song that it's the one..."
Images by Pole Divas Reservoir, Jealous by Nature, The Black Light & Vertigo Photography, 2021
THE SOUND OF MUSIC
That feeling when you walk into a club and the music is overwhelmingly loud. You see the vibration of the speakers a split second before the bass pulses against your ear drums, the rhythmic sound of your heart beating in your chest.
It's Britney, B*tch.
You have arrived.
Hear from fellow
Then next thing, we’ve developed this whole squad of people that are going up to Sydney to watch the finals of Miss Pole Dance Australia. It kind of became our annual pilgrimage...
I think for most people they're probably interested in watching it because it's something a bit different, a little risqué but once they actually start watching they're like OMG...
I feel like society kind of puts a label on it and when you do it, you just kind of reclaim that label.
Images by Cole Bennetts/Getty Images & Jealous By Nature Photography, 2021
Touched by an Angel
“Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.”
- Pablo Picasso
The Arts have the transformative power to inspire and move us. However, recent pandemic spending has shown little to no love for the Arts sector which has been deeply impacted. Funding, when it does arrive, is cited by creatives as "too little, too late and too confusing." (The Conversation, 2020).
Perhaps, most concerning is the selection criteria stating that projects must contribute to government objectives and be financially viable. Many arts projects, by their nature, are critical of government objectives and policies with academics arguing that Art's role to hold a mirror up to society and present a critical or different perspective of the world we live in (Cunio, 2019).
As we emerge from lockdown, how do you think the Australian Government could better support the Arts and Artists moving forward?
SMELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT
Named after female deodorant, the "nihilistic, revolutionary call-to-arms" became the became the official anthem for Gen X (Radio X, 2021). Referencing "over-bored and self assured" women and the call to "entertain us", Cobain could have been talking about any pole performer.
Because of its stripping origins, pole dancing is still considered taboo by many who believe that recreational pole dance is the embodiment of everything that’s wrong with sex positivity (Bond, 2020). According to Mayer, it's precisely this stigma that makes the community so strong - with participants bonded by a shared passion, just like any other team sport (2021).
So what does teen spirit smell like?
Come to the Studio and find out for yourself!