Pole dancing has been amazing for my mental health, so it seemed about time to nuke that this year by doing the Edinburgh Fringe.
It’s the point in December when I’m planning next year (I don’t care for your shunning the basics and your “not making new year’s resolutions” resolutions – I love the Post It Notes, bring on Capricorn season, collect $200 every time you pass Goat) and figuring out what to prioritise: financially, artistically, personally. Because I operate in an industry based on collective self-harm but begrudgingly see the value of doing it, a large part of that is working out a new show for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. In the meantime, I’ve been taking group classes at my friend’s lovely new Venus Pole Studio and unintentionally re-learned what makes pole dancing so good for your brain. Especially the parts which can fall to the wayside while making a solo show.
It’s in group classes where the mental re-wiring of pole really comes into effect. Everyone’s there to progress at their own pace (my distractibility means I sometimes only follow about 30% of what’s going on) but generally the vibe is very supportive. Your sense of achievement is lifted by other people around you noticing and confirming it. When someone nails a hard trick, it’s really difficult for everyone not to clap.
I’m looking forward to having time soon to roll around the pole by myself – to develop new material and relearn older stuff. I think it’s impossible to do creative work without some degree of time alone to muddle through ideas. But the group classes have reminded me that what I really struggled with this year making a project was the sense of isolation. The most fun parts of Pole Yourself Together! were collaborations. The worst part was when I needed to record a run of the show but had run out of memory on my phone, so I used my laptop camera and spent an hour shuffling round a Zoom meeting with myself.
As I’m doing my VIBES HYGIENE on figuring out what to do more of and less of next year, a big takeaway is that I have to be more willing to lean on other people – both professionally and existentially. It’s very fun being a solo artist and having the obscene privilege of people coming to watch you spaff off about whatever you want and dance on a stick for an hour. But the flip side of that was sheer exhaustion from taking on the entire responsibility of bringing a project to life. Being a pole comic this year has required: a writer, performer, project manager, finance officer, pole roadie, nutritionist, social media manager, transport coordinator and promoter, and all of those people were me.
I would love there to be more WORK IN POLE-GRESS type events where polers can try out material, test things with an audience and work on each other’s stuff. It’s something we take for granted in UK comedy that there’s always new material nights to try things out at. Obviously because it’s inherent to the medium that no matter how good a joke is in your head, if it doesn’t make an audience laugh, it needs work. I think it would be cool to transfer some of that culture onto pole world and give artists space to experiment outside of e.g. only finished performances at a cabaret show, or high-pressure pole competitions.
Back to my little inventory though: next year I’m opening up space for other people to take the lead, and noticing how happy and restored I feel from doing things in a group rather than a one-woman operation. And meanwhile I’m also enjoying being back in group classes where if I gracelessly THONK off the pole to the floor, hopefully the instructor is paying attention to somebody else.