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by Alessandra Izzo aka Ally Cat

 

kintsugi bowlIn Japan there exists a practice known as Kintsugi, in which broken pieces of pottery are repaired using glue laced with gold. Through this process, the beauty in the original piece is honoured, but the resulting effect brings a new element to the pottery that adds artistry only possible through the breakage.

The allegory of Kintsugi as it relates to our human experience is that when we feel shattered or broken by life circumstances, we have the opportunity to put ourselves back together in a way not previously imagined. In effect, we alchemise ourselves into a shattered womannew masterpiece.

The way I see it, pole dancing offers us the “golden glue” we need to Kintsugi ourselves. Even those pieces we didn’t realise had been chipped away can be remodeled, leaving us stronger, more resilient and more beautiful than ever before. And I think I’ve figured out why.

Have you ever noticed that the pole community contains many women who have traversed some very dark places, yet blossomed into extraordinary and inspirational humans? It seems to me that we house a disproportionate number of members who have suffered immensely in their lives, carrying physical, emotional and mental illnesses, limitations and scars.

kintsugi statueUpon finding pole, these women discover new depths to their inner strength. Pole dancing gives them an activity, and an identity that offers a path through their pain. It’s not just a coping mechanism, pole offers them a means to climb out of their respective ruts, no matter how deep. And once they have, they begin to flourish.

I speak of women, because I am less familiar with the paths our wonderful guys have walked to find pole dancing. It may well hold true for them also. But having intimate knowledge of some of the burdens and challenges faced by literally hundreds of female polers (either through teaching, or through my connections via other endeavours), I have witnessed incredible journeys of self-discovery, growth and development.

Pole dancing can change a person at a very deep level, and I have spent many a moment pondering why this is. I believe it comes down – at least in part – to the following reasons:

 

Pole pushes you outside your comfort zone

kintsugi womanFrom day one, when you walk into a pole class you know you’re not in Kansas anymore. You are forced to trust your body in ways you’ve probably never experienced. You may be shy about being sexy, revealing your body with others around or challenging your own body strength and awareness. Even seeing yourself in the mirror might be a harrowing experience.

From day one, you’re fighting a battle in your head over whether or not you can do what you’ve been taught. This is the point where you learn much about yourself. Those who persevere will be faced with the same battles many times over. But each time you overcome the perceived limitations in your mind, you reach a new level of inner strength. Moment by moment, you are growing in resilience, and you may not even realise it.

 

Pole forces you to question the way you see yourself

kinsugi womanPerhaps before pole you didn’t think you were strong. Maybe you didn’t imagine you could ever do the splits, or a backbend. It’s possible you didn’t believe you could get on stage and perform to an audience. The challenges pole offers forces us to adapt and change, pursue goals not previously conceived, and see sides of ourselves we didn’t think existed.

Through these experiences, we begin to see how truly capable we are. How we cope with stressful and painful situations. How we can push ourselves to achieve. And all the while we are becoming more aware and grateful towards our body and what it can do.

All this leads to a deeper appreciation of self, which I believe in turn, leads to a deeper understanding of others and a new perspective on life in general.

 

Pole forces you to be proud of who you are and what you can do, regardless of the opinions of others

 

kintsugi lipsI feel one of the greatest life lessons that pole offers comes from the public resistance and prejudice surrounding it. By finding something you love and persisting with it, regardless of the beliefs of those around you – whether they praise you or persecute you – you learn to stay true to yourself.

Too many people allow themselves to be governed by the opinions of others. This is especially true of women, with much of society geared into shaming us in order to mould us into behaving a certain way that is deemed “acceptable”. Pole dancing sits outside of this mould. And by persisting in something because you know it brings you joy even while others insist there is something wrong with it, you become more resilient, and learn to trust your own judgment.

 

The pole community gives us incredible role models and friendships

kintsugi ceramicsWhen you step into your first beginner class you still have that veil of separation between yourself and your fellow classmates. But fast forward just a few short months and this breaks down as you live the unique, exhilarating and challenging pole journey together.

You gain a greater appreciation for those around you as you watch them overcome their own perceived limitations. You feel a sense of family with others at your studio, as you all work together to produce performance pieces, clap for one another when you nail a new move, maybe even get closer than what is usually deemed “socially acceptable” when you spot one another (with the teachers’ guidance, of course!), and naturally, forgive a little body odour due to the glass houses rule.

Your first role models may be your teachers, but as you begin to attend competitions, watch other polers on Instagram and read about some of the world’s best artists, you are awed not just by their abilities, but from their willingness to connect with those around them. So many polers who we idolise in the community use their platform to communicate important messages about self-love, acceptance and equality. We are surrounded by an abundance of smart, forthright, caring women and men, and I believe we all thrive because of it.

 

The pole community enhances your own identity

kintsugi modelRegardless of the difficulties we face inside the studio (or on the stage) we don’t have to look very far to find others who are having similar experiences. They may offer us counsel, commiserations, or even just that sense of community. I truly believe that the more you feel part of a group of people with whom you trust, honour and respect, the stronger your feel your own identity as part of that group. This is where the power of religion and culture comes from.

While I loathe religious dogma, I don’t see any harm in recognising pole as a spiritual experience. For example, in Australia we have our own recognised “religious holiday” celebration (Miss Pole Dance Australia aka Polemas), and our nationally observed day of rest (Sunday Bumday). We have our “Holy Trinity” (The Pole, The Pleasers and The Grip Aid), our “High Priestess” (Chilli Rox) and an extended list of clergy (both female and male) to whom we look for inspiration.

 

In Conclusion

We have so much to be proud of as pole dancers. Our inspirational stripper foremothers opened the door to a powerful method of self-realisation for women all over the world, and it has evolved to offer a place of healing as well as personal growth for so many.

With so much division and intolerance in society today, I’m eternally grateful that I may exist for at least part of my waking hours with all of you, my fellow rainbow unicorns, in this glitter-filled pole bubble we have created. And I am humbled and honoured to share my life with some of the most glorious Kintsugied women I’ve ever met.

 

kintsugi face

 

Do you have anything more to add?

If you have a story you’d like to tell about how pole helped you Kintsugi yourself, please send it through for us to add to our Pole Warrior stories. This section of the website is aimed at helping others on their own journey by reading about polers who overcame their own physical, mental or emotional challenges, and with the help of pole, walked out the other side recreated as a new work of art.

Email polewarrior@auspoledancersmag.com.au

 

kintsugi heart

 

About the Author

ALESSANDRA IZZO

AKA

ALLY CAT

ally apcAlly is a restless entrepreneur and passionate creative with a Piscean idealism and an aversion to authority. Having practiced as a Naturopath and Massage Therapist for 6 years, she abandoned clinic work in 2014 to spend more time doing what she loved most: working with her pole family at Bottoms Up! where she has taught since 2009, and instructing 80’s dance fitness under her own creation RAD Fitness

It didn’t take long before her creative juices led her to conjure up Pandemonium Events, and under this brand she has produced and co-ordinated ten pole, aerial and variety performance nights.

Besides teaching and producing, Ally loves being on stage. She competed in the Victorian Pole Championships in 2013 and then again in 2015 where she won the VPC Amateur division and went on to compete in the national finals. She also joined APDM Editor Jane Blair and their Bottoms Up! family in a Rocky Horror group performance at Encore! 2016 (nominated as a finalist for Best Group Performance at the Victorian Aerial Awards 2016) and competed in the Pro Comedy division of Pole Theatre in 2016 and 2017. She was also honoured to be awarded the 2016 Trailblazer of the Year award at the Victorian Aerial Awards. 

Having toyed with the idea of starting a pole magazine herself in 2011, Ally watched the growth of Australian Pole Dancers Magazine with much interest, contributing articles to the publication before formally becoming a partner in November 2015. She loves being part of APDM as she feels it is something that the entire pole community can use as a means of connecting with one another, learning from one another and growing together.

 

3 COMMENTS

  1. Fantastic article – thank you!
    Completely resonated with me. I started Pole at 45 and it wasn't just a step out of my comfort zone, it was a giant leap. I'd spent years as a shy gal, yearning to find a way out into the spotlight even for a brief minute, just to try it!
    As you say, life had certainly thrown me some challenges – being epileptic was probably the biggest!
    I found Pole by accident and now, 10 years on, I'm an Instructor – still loving it (unless I'm frustrated by my 'old' body!) and still enjoying the challenges!

  2. Beautiful words, Pole is such a misunderstood art & one of the best types of therapy, community out there. You don't have to be broken to love it but it definitely addresses allot of what our society lacks.

    Sarah G xx

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