Saturday, October 23, 2010

With My Naked Eye

I did a photo shoot a few weeks ago with a very talented artist by the name of Gregory Beylerian.  He was interested in capturing some images of women on their poles at home and he was especially interested in capturing the emotionality and the sensuality of the dance – much more so than the tricks and technical skills.  The experience was…sublime.  With the exception of my classmates, I rarely dance for others.  And when I dance, I let an extremely sensual, extremely erotic part of myself come out to play.  This makes me feel equally powerful and vulnerable.  So sharing that part of myself with a near stranger in my living room and subsequently my bedroom was initially nerve-wracking.  In addition, my studio doesn’t have mirrors, so I have absolutely no idea what I look like when I move.  When I told Gregory this he said, “I’ll be your mirror.”  Eek.
            But as it turns out, I had no trouble at all dropping into that sensual, sexual part of myself.  And after the first couple of songs (and ok fine, one glass of wine) I found that I really enjoyed sharing my sensual self with the camera.  In class we use a chair and the person sitting in the chair as a reference point for our dance.  The chair helps us to focus our dance in a certain direction and reminds us that we are telling a story to someone else.  In this case, the camera was the reference point.  I teased and taunted and hid from and seduced the camera with my eyes, my hair, my hips, my back, my breasts and my ass – especially my ass.  I told my story with my body.  And while I was doing all of that a funny thing happened.  I began to discover that I really enjoyed it.  There was something exhilarating and liberating about exposing that part of myself to someone else.  And rather than feeling like an object of the camera’s gaze I actually felt like the camera was the object of my gaze.  That I was pushing out my sexuality, owning it and forcing it onto the viewers, whomever they might be.  While certainly Gregory put me at ease with his demeanor, I uncovered a part of myself that I did not know existed.  At the same time, there were these moments of discomfort where some sort of old programming about what is and isn’t appropriate for a woman to be doing with her body would pop into my head (usually when I was pushing things a little bit further – pulling off a layer or rolling around in the bed).  In those moments the question “Is this bad?” would rattle around my brain for a few seconds.  Literally.  And then I would drop my head into a lazy circle, arch my back, circle my hips and think “Well it feels too good in my body to be bad.  So F*@k it.” 
            At the very end of the shoot my boyfriend came home.   I was leaning provocatively against the pole and Gregory was clicking away.  “Hi my love!” I called out.  Immediately Gregory invited him in to see what we were doing.  And again, I was struck at how comfortable I was with my boyfriend watching me be photographed in lingerie.  The whole experience made me realize that the erotic, sensual part of myself is not separate from the rest of me at all – it isn’t something that I can only turn on for dance class. It’s actually fully integrated into my being.  It’s a part of who I am - a big part.  I’m not ashamed of it.  In fact, I love to share it.  It may sound strange, but it almost feels as though the photo shoot took apart a dam in my stream of sensuality.  Whereas before I could stop up that stream after dance class, or I maybe felt that I had to out of fear or shame of it flowing out into the world, now I don’t need to - or want to.  I know better.
            It goes without saying that a big part of this realization has to do with the kind and  almost sacred reverence Gregory has for the female form.  He makes a woman feel beautiful and safe, which allows her to unwrap her sexuality at her own pace and feel empowered in the process.    He quickly understands the way in which a particular woman moves her body, and captures those movements so that her natural beauty is highlighted.  He is a genius when it comes to lighting.  His photos reflect an understanding of what it means to capture a moment, and then to create a work of art. But it’s more than that.  He sees his subjects not just through his camera lens, but through the lens of his heart (which is, after all, the mark of a true artist).  Because the technological aspects of photography are second nature to him, he is free to focus on the story that is being told by the woman in front of him.  And because of who he is, you want to tell him that story. 

 For more information on how to schedule a shoot with Gregory Beylerian please email him at: or call #323 385 5200

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Did you hear WHO was at the California Pole Dance Championships?

Ohhhh the California Pole Dance Championship was splendid!  I had the immense pleasure of hanging out in Bad Kitty’ s VIP box and mingling with the dancers backstage.  So much fun!  The setting at The Avalon was the perfect mixture of lounge and theater and the show was sold out.  A big thanks to Anjeldust for putting it all together.  It was gorgeous. 
I haven’t been to a showcase since The Pole Convention in DC and, once again, I was struck by the differences in each contestant’s choreography.  Some dancers’ routines were more technical and elegant while others were extremely sensual and erotic.  Madeline Eve’s tender and angry dance (dedicated to anyone who had lost someone) was heart wrenching to watch.  She poured so much emotion into each movement.  It was a delicious reminder of how pole dancing is as much about emotional expression as it is about skill.  Erika Labansat playfully danced her way in and out of a coffin and Flying Laura Martin lived up to her name by finishing her dance with a dizzying inverted spin combo.  My boyfriend actually leaned over to me and asked “Why do I feel like she isn’t holding on to the pole with anything?”  There were fantastic performances by Felix Cane, Bad Azz, Alethea Austin, Jamilla Deville, Estee Zakar and Amber Kittle, last year’s champion. 
            If you had the chance to attend the Champagne Meet and Greet just before the show then you know that Felix Cane was there, signing autographs.  You might have also seen all of the super sexy posters decorating the lobby.   Some were of Felix Cane, some were of Stripperella (striptease heroine extraordinaire), and some were of Felix Cane as Vixxxena, Striperella’s trusty sidekick.   Yes, that’s right!  Felix Cane is officially a cartoon character!  Named Vixxenna!   If you’re not in the know (and I was not) comic book genius Stan Lee (president of Marvel Comics, invented Spiderman) and artist Anthony Lee Winn (he is responsible for every one of those drawings at the CPDC) have teamed up to create a rather sassy and scintillating graphic novel/wireless comic book called “Stripperella”.  The premise?  Stripper by night and super heroine… by day and night! Her superpower?  Why seduction, of course!  Personally I’m looking forward to seeing how this comic strip helps shape the public’s perception of female sexuality into something a little more liberated, powerful and playful.  I had the chance to speak briefly with Anthony Lee Winn, and when I asked him what drew him to the Stripperella character he said, “Empowerment .  It’s about empowering women through their femininity, through their sexuality.”  Couldn’t have said it better myself.