This post has been prompted by a discussion on social media. I have been ruminating over it myself for quite some time. So, no better moment than the present to discuss it.
OK, there are a couple of tough questions here…
‘Who should wear pole heels?’ and ‘Who should perform sexy style?’
This isn’t going to be an easy topic, because I know we are all invested in pole and our love for it, we don’t want to think that we may be doing something that disrespects our pole family members.
The short answer is everyone can wear heels and everyone can perform sexy. But, I deliberately phrased the questions as ‘should’ rather than ‘can’ for this reason. I believe everyone has the right to perform in stripper shoes, but I think we also need to dance responsibly, and examine why we are choosing to perform in the way we are choosing. In just the same way we would be mindful of our thematic or costume choices not insulting someone unwittingly, we need to take the same care with our dance style.
Sexy style & heels are a challenge
Sexy style pole is an art form. I strongly uphold the fact that Stripper and adjacent forms of pole are incredibly challenging in their own right. Sexy style pole dancers train for years in that style to become adept to the nuances that the moves, transitions and accents demand; the ripple of a body wave, the ability to engage and enthrall the audience, the micro techniques required for balancing and manipulating the heels. So, when someone expresses that sexy is ‘easier’, or reduces it down to simply donning a pair of stripper shoes, the challenge of the form is undermined.
Not only that, but the heels themselves are an apparatus to be trained. It isn’t just a case of strapping on a pair and dancing as you usually would. You need to practice and practice… Learning how to use the edges, the weight and the tips of the shoe to dance, clack and move. Just as ballerinas train pointe shoes to master this unique additional skill, so too do the pole dancers who train in Pleaser heels. It isn’t just the pole anymore, it is the pole and the Pleasers.
When someone says that pole dancers ‘just dance round a pole, anyone can do it’, you quite rightly get insulted. That is how polers who perform in heels can feel when you just stick on your Pleasers and perform sexy for the novelty of it.
And herein lies the issue…
Sexy style & heels aren’t just the latest fad
For those dedicated sexy stylers, the stripper shoe needs the respect it deserves. When someone approaches sexy style pole with the attitude that they can put on a pair of 8 inch shoes, do their usual moves, and they are automatically classed as sexy, it can feel a bit disrespectful. The heels are just another part of your costume, that you are putting on to ‘make you a sexy pole dancer’. Those who train and perform and compete in the sexy styles consistently treat the shoes as an extension of their dance form, not a simple decorative addition.
Heels and sexy style pole have gained huge popularity in the last few years, so of course some pole dancers will want to dip their toe into the style. Just be aware that although heels may be a fad or a trend to you, they are a whole dedicated craft to many dancers, who may not get the opportunity to perform as often because of their style. Sexy style polers don’t have as many avenues to showcase their skills as other pole dancers, so when spots in our competitions and performances are filled by dancers who are just doing it for the change, you can understand why some may be frustrated.
When you see a famous pole dancer who has gained their name dancing bare foot, in a commercial, sporty, lyrical or contemporary style, putting on some heels to compete one time in the sexy category in the place of someone who has dedicated time to the craft, it can sting. You’ve effectively put on the pointe shoes, and pushed the other ballet dancer off the stage so that you can have some fun.
This is especially true if that pole dancer is dancing exactly how they would without the shoes – same tricks, same floor work, same transitions. Heels don’t automatically make you a Stripper or Classique dancer by default. What you are doing is impressive, but is it really sexy style?
When someone puts on Pleasers to dance in them one time for a novelty, it can feel like they aren’t taking it seriously. It can feel as though stripper style, and the shoes, are the ‘easy, fun’ gimmick to boost their career and have a bit of a laugh – ‘Oh look, so and so has done a heels routine!’ That’s all we want them to realise.
This isn’t a Pleaser ban people!
Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of pro polers who bridge the gap between styles beautifully, and fully respect the art and skill behind dancing in pole shoes. I’m not talking about those wonderful creatures.
And I’m not asking you to stop wearing your shoes for a bit of fun, to feel sexy or have a laugh. Pole dancing shouldn’t be too serious, and everyone can get enrichment and joy from dancing in Pleasers.
So please, train, perform and compete in your stripper shoes all you like, live yo’ life. You can even keep doing your standard style whilst wearing heels, it is cool with me. But do stop and ask yourself a few questions if you are considering competing in a sexy style category, whilst wearing stripper shoes…
‘Am I giving these shoes the respect they deserve as a specialised apparatus?’
‘Am I giving due care and attention to the techniques required to master the shoe?’
‘Am I doing the sexy style justice? How have I adapted my movement quality to suit this style?’
Honestly, asking yourself these questions is only ever going to make you a BETTER dancer. Be thirsty for knowledge! Find out how you can use your heels to enhance your dance. Research the techniques required to use your shoes to their maximum potential. Learn and utilise sexy style with an attitude of respect, humility and curiosity. These will all stop you from being a Sexy Style tourist, and will ensure that when you perform in heels your movements will look more natural, self-assured and authentic.
For example, my post on how to dance in heels is a good start. You can also find workshops and classes dedicated to dancing in heels. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. You should always have the mindset of a student, and you are never too experienced to be a beginner.
What are your thoughts? Do you agree or disagree? Leave your opinions in the comments below!