Photography: Ryan Stanford
Interview by Haüs (web)
HOW DID THE COLLABORATION WITH RYAN COME TOGETHER
Ryan got in touch with me on Instagram and we started chatting back and forth. I appreciated his work and he wanted to collaborate.
Since I am in Los Angeles with some regularity (I live about 2 hours south), it made sense to schedule a shoot.
WHAT DOES POLE MEAN AS A FORM OF ARTISTIC EXPRESSION
I think that pole dance means different things to different pole dancers. At the time that I started learning pole, I was actively seeking a skill to bring to the stage (I am a burlesque entertainer).
So for me, pole dance has been an outlet for performance. Some folks pole purely for fun or for fitness and their experience is more solitary expression. Strippers use pole as part of their job. I began to be attracted to circus arts and I know a number of performers who work with trapeze, silks, chains, and other suspension media as well as pole. I started pole dance in St. Louis at Michelle Mynx's studio and instantly fell in love with it.
IN YOUR OPINION WHAT ARE THE STIGMAS OR MISREPRESENTATIONS OF POLE
Modern pole dancing as we understand it in the West derives from strip clubs and has expanded to incorporate tricks from circus and gymnastics and other aerial arts. However, the core of pole dance was created by strippers in nightclubs. Stripping and other forms of sex work have unfortunately been afforded an unhealthy amount of stigma in our culture. As a result, now that pole dance has moved out of the strip club and into the "dance studio" or the "gym", a lot of polers attempt to distance themselves from its sex work context. These folks are quick to point out that, for example, the art of Chinese pole acrobatics (which is a circus art form not derived from Western pole dance) has been around for centuries. However, there is absolutely no question that the pole dance that we learn and do was invented by strippers, and all the basic moves anyone learns in an introductory class are nightclub moves. You simply can't learn the acrobatic stuff on your first day anyway.
I was taught to embrace and celebrate the culture that gave rise to the art form that I am study. I would never make a very good stripper (I absolutely hate customer service). But I started learning pole dance in an environment that included strippers among all sorts of other people with varying professions, ethnicities, sexualities, gender identities, and desires for fitness or self expression or both. That culture of mutual respect and admiration is something I am forever thankful for.
WHAT DOES THIS SERIES MEAN TO YOU
I had wanted to do some outdoor stuff with my stage pole for a long time, so it was awesome that Ryan was up for it and he suggested great locations in Los Angeles for us to set up. I also brought along some other costume pieces and we had a good time experimenting with different styles of shots.
DO YOU LIKE THE IMAGES THAT WERE PRODUCED
Ryan and I got some great shots and he has a great eye. I am definitely happy we had the chance the work together and look forward to future collaborations.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR GENERAL EXPERIENCE WITH
PHOTOGRAPHERS & WORKING WITH RYAN
I have been fortunate to have only really good experiences with photographers. Every photographer has a different process in approaching their work, and Ryan and I had a lot of fun conceptualising our shots together.