When I walked into a pole studio for the first time in 2016, (it was right toward the end of an advanced class, with half a dozen butts gracefully spinning high above my head) I wasn't there to take a pole class at all. Pole wasn't even on my radar. I'd come because this studio also happened to offer silks, and after an especially dark period in my life I felt like I needed to try this new thing. Up until then I'd been making a gradual recovery, but this choice became a turning point. By itself, silks offered me something beautiful to be part of, goals to work towards, and eventually, greater strength and pride in what my body could do. Alone, this is wonderful, but I was even more fortunate that the studio I'd come to was one with pole dance instead of without. Before I'd even started poling myself, I was already benefitting from the culture and community that pole dancers are uniquely primed to build. There's extra vulnerability involved when you're learning a challenging new skill while wearing next to nothing; that bonds you. Everyone was so warm, caring, supportive; they cheered me on even before they knew me well, and when inner gremlins poisoned my thinking—sending all my anxieties and grief rushing out—they didn't hold grudges. People of all shapes and forms bared their bodies with pride, and they became my role models. I learned a confidence in those classrooms that radiated into other parts of my life. I became happier and more forgiving of myself. Silks will always be my first aerial love, but pole dance created the environment for all my best healing to take place.
Whenever pole comes up I urge others to try it. I want them to know it how I know it; to benefit from it the way that I have. Maybe it won't be life-changing for everyone, and fair enough, but it seems like a shame not to keep an open mind. Overwhelmingly, what I hear back are reasons not to: I'm not strong enough, thin enough, feminine enough, sexy enough. I'm too old. I'm too big. And even though I tell them that people of all shapes, and sizes, and genders, and ages pole dance, that there are many different styles, that you gain strength by practicing, that perfection is not a prerequisite—I don't feel like they really hear me. In the end, this project became my way of showing them.
In truth, I didn't start out consciously intending to make a pole dance coloring book. I've always loved drawing and I especially love drawing the human body. There's such a wealth of people out there making art through dance and sharing all these beautiful images that it's nearly impossible to resist getting a few drawings in, even if only for my own enjoyment and practice. At some point, I was online looking for coloring pages as a possible gift idea, when it occurred to me that I could make my own. (If you've seen the board game on my portfolio page, you know I can get carried away when it comes to making personalized gifts.)
I love the collaborative nature of a coloring page. You start making a piece, it moves into new hands, and it becomes something new and unexpected. At first I was only going to make a few drawings, but somewhere in the back of my head those conversations about pole dance were bubbling, and I thought, I should draw someone of a completely different body type. This dancer is beautiful too, I'm going to draw her. I should draw a male dancer. And another one. I want to draw someone with short hair/curly hair/braids... Over a few months the collection of drawings grew, until I realized I had long surpassed my original goal, and that I was on my way to having enough for a book. In the end I made about 30 drawings, and 21 of them made it into the final collection. My hope is that in making this kind of art, I can help illustrate (pun intended, ha!) that pole is not just for one type of person. Many of the drawings in the book are based on real people, and all of them are real pole skills. Folks that don't pole yet, I hope this book helps you imagine yourself accomplishing all the acrobatic feats you dream of. Folks that already pole, I hope it makes you feel celebrated.
If you're looking for a copy of the book, you can find it here.