by Alessandra Izzo aka Ally Cat
In 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 new 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.
Upon 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
From 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
Perhaps 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
I 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
When 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
Regardless 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.
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.
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.