Wednesday, January 09, 2008
Pole Dancing: The Figure In Art
Girlie Show by Edward Hopper. 1941.
Big Blonde With Beaded Jacket by Lisa Yuskavage. 1997.
The other day Four Dinners asked a question on his blog "Why has pole dancing suddenly become popular?
Pole dancing entering the mainstream is part of the move we've seen of the body and the figure returning to art in a conscious tactile manner. Although artists like Madonna have always used the body in their work...for a couple of decades, outside of Hollywood, supermodels and pretty pop stars... in the visual arts, the body had been replaced by ideas and conceptual art...what I call "punchline art". The disdain for the figure in art reflected a general neurosis of separation of the spirit from the body which we see throughout contemporary families and culture.
The figure in painting and sculpture disappeared during the time of radical questioning of sexual identity, politics between genders and the idea of pornography denigrating people.
I've probably had about a dozen posts here about dancing...I love dancing! And...coincidently, I was wanting to post something about Carrie Ann Inaba a dancer and now judge of Dancing With The Stars a tv program I love. Carrie Ann is just starting another dance program called Dance Wars which has her competing to find, form and train a dance troupe that can not only dance but sing. The first episode began the other night and it was a lot of fun.
Bruno and Carrie Ann promo for their new show Dance Wars.
Pole dancing is a popular strippers format because the pole is a phallic symbol and in order to manuever the pole a dancer is emulating moves that occur during sex. It's a perfect format for erotica. The dancer must also be in incredible shape strength wise as it takes upper body strength and stong legs to work a pole. :)
I think the mainstream popularity that pole dancing has today which we can see by poles installed in nightclubs, the dance/workout was featured on Oprah and now there are gyms that offer pole dancing like aeorbics in the 80's because...it offers a really literal exercise associated with sexual activity and confidence.. The trends of jogging, or areobics or yoga offer great benefits to our cardiovascular health, to stamina and anti-aging...but the real reason people work out is to stay viable sexually. Pole dance students say they feel really strong and sexy using the format as a routine. I think it's a healthy sign removing "exercise" and going straight to the purpose of activity: as a way of getting food, making a living and having regular sex!
Pole dancing has breached the gap...it is a literal workout...obviously embracing why humans exercise: to be more sexy!
Pole Dancing began in Canada, which has some of the most talented and beautiful strippers...or peelers as we often call them, to be found. I first saw pole dancing in a Vancouver strip club in Vancouver in the 80's.
Wrestlers and some yogi's have used ropes and poles for strengthening exercise for decades. The stripper pole may go back to pagan rituals like the May Dance, a European celebration on May 1st where women would dance with flowers around a pole for Spring celebrations. May Day Dancing is a polka style dance, moving around a pole which symbolizes a tree of life, the constellation Orion, maybe even intuitively the strands of dna, the spokes of a wheel, Plato's Spindle of Necessity and the earth's rotation itself and around the sun celebrating fertility and natures cycles.
For America to adopt the ritual ancient pole dance is an accomplishment likely reflecting the rejection of Puritan fundamentalist religions that founded parts of America, and still have a firm grip on politics. It took hundreds of years for America to return to the Pagan dance of the Pole. In Communist countries the first of May, May Day, is an opportunity not to celebrate fertitity or pagan sexuality, but rather the Pagan day was co-opted to celebrate militatry vitality and power.
In 1993, Madonna toured her Girlie Show concert.
The Girlie Show was named after the Edward Hopper painting, and the program opened with burlesque and polka style circus music inspiring the arena and audience to a Caberet feeling.
Then the opening sequence transitions to Carrie Ann Inaba doing a pole dance. I have this concert on dvd, but Stagg hadn't seen it yet...and like many people, he wondered what qualified Carrie Ann to be a judge on the popular dance program? Carrie Ann has an incredible career as she danced with Prince, Ricki Martin, and she was a pop singer in Japan, appeared in two Austin Powers movies, and has her own film company. So I showed the opening of Madonna's Girlie Show dvd last night to Stagg (as it is below)...and his jaw dropped heh heh...
an interview with Carrie Ann for US Asians:
US ASIANS: You've stated that your biggest break as creative person seeking a challenge was during this tour during your racy "Pole Routine." As a result could you describe the various obstacles and rewards that was experienced during the following:
* Responsibility of opening every tour performance by going down a 50 feet fire pole
CARRIE ANN INABA: This was huge to me. I took it very seriously. I rarely went out with everyone after the shows because I didn't have a SWING replacement that could really do what I did and I was hired to do my special routine and did not want to let any one down. I had negotiated pretty hard with them about the financial aspects and I felt that I needed to live up to what I said I would be. Before every show, my rigger, LETI ALCALA (who is a close friend of mine now) and I would check the pole and run the routine. You see, since it was a dangerous stunt, we had to be careful. I always ran the routine full out, and did a few checks and had to be at the stage much earlier than any of the other dancers for preparation. But it was worth it. I remember in Japan, I got really sick. I was in the hospital until it was time to go to the stage, and I had an IV in my arm right up until I walked on to stage to go up to the pole. They had given me steroids and I knew I had to do the performance. Not doing it just was not an option. Being chosen for that spot was an honor. Madonna gave me a minute and a half on stage alone to open her show.
*Performing topless and with a shaven head
CARRIE ANN INABA: My family still teases me about this. But I loved it! I thought it was so amazing to be given an opportunity to be a little different, to be edgy and not what a "TYPICAL, stereo typical Asian woman is represented as usually. I took it as a challenge. The original idea was for the show to be filled with androgyny. I loved the idea and wanted to find the beauty in that type of performance. It was risqué but it was so exciting to see how people reacted to it every night.
*How did you get Madonna to trust you with this important role?
CARRIE ANN INABA: I didn't have to get her to trust me, She asked me to do it right off the bat. There is a long story about how I got the job….I was managing my friend Alex Mango who they were considering for choreography. I was also his partner and one of his lead performers. He was out of town and I was submitting his package to Madonna and her assistants. I was talking to them and handling everything for him while he was away. I was also his featured dancer on his reel. So, to make a long story short, they called me and told me that they decided not to use Alex but that they wanted me as a dancer and could I fly to New York to meet them and audition. It was such an honor but I felt that I was supposed to be representing Alex and that I could not do such a thing. So I turned her down. It was so hard but then again, it was the right thing to do because I just didn't feel right about it.
Well, the next day, I spoke with Alex and told him what I did, and he told me I should have gone because knowing me, I'd get the tour, and then somehow, I'd get him in as well. But it was too late… A few days later, they called back and told me that they were having an audition here in Los Angeles and that I was to go and meet her brother Christopher for the call backs. So I went and I got the job. It was great.
And later, when they were having difficulties with the first choreographer they hired, Madonna called me to talk about Alex again. I told her that he would be great and that she should hire him. And if she didn't like him, she could fire me as well. I basically put my job on the line for him. I felt he was worth it. She was surprised by my confidence and hired him. What was hard for me was that I wasn't allowed to assist him in the creativity of anything which we usually always did. So it was a strange dynamic once we started working with Alex but it all turned out ok. And I always feel good about the decisions I made…
US ASIANS: How did this routine come to being created? Did Madonna have the initial idea and then flew out the stripper that inspired the concept?
CARRIE ANN INABA: YES..she saw the stripper and got the idea.
US ASIANS: How many months did it take you to choreograph the "Pole Routine and what did it involved (i.e. rehearsals, props, staging, lighting, attire, look, etc.)?"
CARRIE ANN INABA: We rehearsed the tour for 4 months and toured for 3 months. I loved the rehearsal process.
P.S. Hey speaking of androgyny and cross dressing...Malcolm has a tv poll...which was your favourite cross dressing movie? I love Malcolm's blog he posts about classic tv shows and musicians...it really has a lot of fun energy and good posts...check him out: his is one of the coolest blogs...here...and thumbnail portrait of Malcolm:
Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon in Vanity Fair , 1995, in homage to their roles in the brilliant Some Like It Hot. Hollywood has been one of the art forms that never completely rejected the human figure.
Dancing At The Blue Iguana2000.
The Pole Dancing Diet CBS, 2003.
Accordion and Burlesque