by Eisa Jocson
Informed by my pole dance practice my research 'Politics of Pole' explores the potential of pole dancing in questioning power relationships within the sexual, the private and the public realm. In the process, I am probing into themes such as sexuality and space, sexualization of culture, sociology of the body, normalization and surveillance.
During my residency at FoAM 3 directions were explored. Each evolved into a specific project with its own discourse, aim, methodology and process.
This project is an interventionist project that uses guerilla street pole dancing in combination with graffiti tagging to question and map the limits and possibilities of the body in the urban landscape. Using the body the research works on subverting specific systems of urban authority and control.
This is an experimental film project currently in development at SoundImageCulture in Brussels that started at the same time as my residency at FoAM. ‘Domestication of the Pole’ explores the recent phenomenon of the physical integration of pole dancing in contemporary domestic spaces, and the psychological and symbolic meaning of such transition.
This research platform explores the dynamics of a pole dance performance from its vertical orientation to the relationship of performer and audience. I am interested in exploring the vertical vocabulary of pole drawing upon contemporary methods in dance and performance.
Probable origins of pole dancing started in the 1920's depression period of America where dancers in traveling shows used the center tent pole as a prop. Eventually the pole prop found its way into strip bars, becoming popular in Canada in the 1980's and in USA. At present pole dancing is being widely practiced as a form of exercise/ hobby. Its popularization is partly due to social media sites like YouTube. Other forms of pole acrobatics like Chinese pole performed in traveling circus and 'Mallakhab' an Indian pole sport are practiced by males. Today acrobatic techniques from Chinese pole dancing and Mallakhamb are adapted for use in advance level of pole dancing. Since the last 10 years the fitness industry appropriated pole dancing from strip clubs turning it into a mainstream wellness activity. The pole dancing practiced today is a combination of dance and acrobatics with the overall sexuality toned down,.
Recent phenomenon of pole dancing falls under the category of gendered leisure/ exercise and body fashioning making it a given indicator of the so called ‘hyper-sexualization ‘of society. The leap from the strip club into fitness/dance clubs and into domestic space can be argued as a clear sign of mainstreaming of sex in daily culture.
Pole classes are of particular interest because they fit into many current academic and cultural debates about shifts in society (particularly around sexualities) and changes in leisure and exercise. For example, pole addresses issues about the sexualisation of culture, body, image, gendered leisure time and exercise fashions. -Samantha Holland, Introduction, Pole dancing, Empowerment and Embodiment p. 1
Stainless Borders research domain is in the public urban landscape. It follows the path of Parkour and graffiti culture. In contrast to the masculine practice the research project is performed with a strongly feminized presence of pole dancing. It is a proposition and a challenge on how bodies and gender are performed in public space.
Domestication of Pole research investigates through a visual anthropological framework the phenomenon of the appropriation of pole dancing in relation to current shifts in society. The research operates in the context of a domestic setting, addressing the journey of the dance pole from the original context of strip clubs to the fitness studio and into the family space.
Untitled: A Pole Performance research focuses on exploring new methodologies in movement and performance creation. This research builds upon the different embodiments of a pole performance through cross- disciplinary collaboration using exploratory methods, technology, etc.
description of how the work relates to other works in the field of inquiry
‘Stainless Borders: The Deconstruction of Architectures of Control ‘closely relates to the work of Willi Dorner’s Bodies in Urban Space. Bodies in Urban Space are an urban based series created as a set of human sculptures spread throughout the city. Both works explore the relationship between body, space and architecture and urges the viewer to reconsider which behaviors they deem appropriate for public places.
YouTube Reference: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z-eBvR-YwY0
Varsity of Maneuvers is an artist label formed by Birgit Binder and Jorda Planellas in Bristol (UK) in late 2007. ‘Street Pole Dancing’ is their vertical beginning of their work in public. As mentioned in their website: “We believe that Street Pole Dancing is fit for being established as an independent discipline. This is due to its unusual movement vocabulary, which is informed and catalyzed not through griming up and down on the pole, but the thick layer of grime (from pollution) covering it. This trivial detail won't allow you to work them in evocative ways like shiny steel poles one finds in night clubs. The dirt layer on the lamp posts covers up the gender issues a critical consciousness is confronted with in night clubs.”
‘Stainless Borders: The Deconstruction of Architectures of Control’ and ‘Street Pole Dancing’ share the same interventionist/exhibitionist vocabulary although ‘Stainless Borders: The Deconstruction of Architectures of Control‘inhabits the feminine vocabulary of pole dancing and genders the act and space it intervenes on.
Neo-Burlesque is the revival and updating of the traditional burlesque performance. Though based on the traditional Burlesque art, the new form encompasses a wider range of performance styles; Neo-burlesque acts can be anything from classic striptease to modern dance to theatrical mini-dramas to comedic mayhem. As with the earlier burlesque, neo-burlesque is more focused on the “tease” in “striptease” than the “strip”. Wikipedia
Untitled: A Pole Performance research platform is rooted in pole dancing practiced in strip clubs and relates to the discipline of Neo-Burlesque in that both disciplines are currently more openly performed in varying private and public contexts with strong sexuality by women. Both disciplines offer a multiplicity of female embodiments.
Joao Paulo Santos is a circus artist specializing on contemporary Chinese pole. To sum it up, his performances are acrobatic narratives. Untitled: A Pole Performance research platform and Joao Paulo Santos’s work is related in that both pushes the potential of a vertical movement vocabulary to communicate an idea or a narrative.
YouTube Reference: http://www.youtube.com/user/joaocirque
Stainless Borders research explores the domain of the body in public urban landscape, engendered with a pole dance vocabulary. The aim is to subvert specific systems of urban authority and control using a combination of guerilla street pole dancing and graffiti tagging.
Untitled: Pole Performance research probes into the parameters pole performances. The aim is to explore different methodologies in creation and embodiment of a pole dance performance. The intention is to establish cross-disciplinary exchanges in developing themes, ideas, experimental processes for future works.
Domestication of Pole research explores placement of the dance pole in the domestic domain. It aims to study and shed light on the physical, psychological, symbolical integration and performance of pole dance in domestic setting, translating the investigation into visual work.
“Pole dancing is beyond politicized, it is politics. It connotes a power struggle, a cacophony of conceptions and misconceptions. Its social implications extend considerably further than the gym or the strip club.”- Livia Perini, in The Pole-tics of Dance
There is limited study, research and exploration on the subject of pole dancing. It is a global phenomenon indicative of wider shifts occurring in society. The potential of pole dance as a medium for artistic production and discourse I believe is far reaching.
Initial research is done to formulate an action. Collaboration, coaching, discussions are the breaking points paving the way for breakthroughs to happen. The goldmine in my methodology is the network of people that I consult and communicate with. Time is a huge factor in making sense of research in relation to practice. Solution/Results concise description of the actual outcomes of the research
We gathered with our towels and cleaning detergents. There was no direction but to start cleaning the poles, spontaneously everyone with a rag started wiping the poles clean, doing some pole dance maneuvers in the process. It mildly disturbed the traffic of pedestrians, some stopped to watch, and one even commented that there should be more pole cleaning events like this.
Rasa introduced a drawing methodology that initiates exploration that taps into my visual arts practice. The drawing consisted of a base line in which other elements such as color and line and texture are plotted and numbered. The drawing was then used as an open graph for the creation of a pole dance choreography. The numbers and linear elements plotted in the base line represented the kind and sequence of movement. The physicality of flesh and steel were central images that emerged during this period. The work in progress was first performed during a Research Gathering at the end of my residency at FoAM and was re-performed at the Living Room in Manila in September.
For my performance at the opening of Coup de Ville, Rasa and I continued our collaboration building up on the previous exploration at FoAM. We focused on the development of a narrative that is based on the progression of movement. Rasa introduced the use of imagery related to segments of the narrative to help establish content and emotional shifts.
Books & Online database articles
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychogeography> <http://emptystreets.net/blog/> <http://confluxfestival.org/2009/> <http://www.virtualmuseum.ca/Exhibitions/Photos/html/en/index-html.html> <http://www.radicalcartography.net/http://www.radicalcartography.net/>
On-Line Database Articles
Ph.D Department of Dance. The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. <http://content2.bestthinking.com/s/1/thinkers/864/media/7eaf735e-b0bf-4960-95af-debd0184411c.pdf>
Conboy, Medina and Stanbury .