Trigger Warnings: IPV, Sexual Assault and trauma, Infant Loss, Abuse, Body Dysmorphia
I first began my pole journey in December 2018. I had just ended a 6 year toxic and abusive relationship, was dealing with a Tinder date turned stalker, lost a baby, and experienced a sexual assault. Although this wasn’t my first assault, this time took the most from me. I had completely lost myself in an abusive relationship and felt like my body was nothing more than a trauma center. I couldn’t even stand to look at myself and the marks and bruises my abuser left. I had to cover every mirror in my house and shower in the dark for weeks. I was completely disconnected from my body, mind and spirit. I had lost myself in the protective dissociation that allowed me to survive, but not thrive.
One weekend, I visited a friend who had a pole in her home studio. Even though I looked a hot mess, uncoordinated, and goofy (my true nature), it was the first time in a while that I felt safe being in my body. Though the moment was short lived, my body craved more. The next day, I looked up the nearest Black-owned studio and found Atomic Allure Dance Studio, owned by the fabulous Donna Jane Walton, and signed up for an intro class. I had plans to just sneak in the back, take up as little space as possible, and remain virtually unseen. But that ain’t what happened…
I was on CP time and got there a little late. The only open pole was right in the front, opposite two walls entirely covered in mirrors. There, I was forced to see myself- full bodied, bruised, wounded, and alive for the first time in over a month. And I was…ok. I wasn’t struck with the pain or grief I had expected. I’ve been told stress doesn’t stick to movement, and man Donna had us putting in WERK.
I didn’t know my body could bend and stretch the way she challenged us to. With each spin, I would catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror… looking strong, capable, whole, and even a little bit sexy. I was telling my story with my body and releasing my traumas in the process. By the end of class, I started to look at myself with pride. This 60 min class transformed everything I thought I’d lost and reminded me that my body is beautiful art. While I felt I was broken into a million pieces, it was the beginning of me gathering them back and building myself back up differently: stronger, decorated, and empowered.
Along my healing journey I was introduced to the Japanese art form Kintsugi, which roughly translates to “Golden Repair.” In this practice, the brokenness of objects is seen as the history of that object, something to be acknowledged, decorated, and even celebrated. Bowls, cups, plates, etc. are broken intentionally so that they may be rebuilt with gold and metallic decor over the “scars.” It is an art of precious scars. Pole dancing taught me how to feel safe in my body post trauma, redefine my sensuality on my terms, in a safe space, without the male gaze. My scars are witness marks of all that I’ve lived and the battles I’ve conquered.
Two years later, the pole studio is still where I feel the most free, creative, and sexy. I learned to tap into my inner divine femininity and continue to celebrate myself as I watched my pole and personal goals manifest to reality. I’m constantly amazed at all my body has done and how she continues to show up for me. I learned to set boundaries for myself and my body here and that “No” is a complete sentence. Pole dancing saved my life.
As a birth worker, I plan to incorporate pole dance into my practice. My hope is to help Black birthers rediscover or redefine their sexy, before, during and after birth. I want to share this as an offering to aid in their healing, evolution, and transition to parenthood. Birth does not have to be a trauma. In fact, I believe it is sacred and beautiful in all forms. The process of growing and bringing forth new life can often leave birthers needing to relearn the newest version of themselves. It is an opportunity to rebuild yourself, decorated in gold, and offer a new perspective during this time as a precious new beginning. I honor all birthing people wherever they are in their journey and center Black Queer pregnant and postpartum birthers and families in my birthwork and movement practice.
If my journey has resonated with you in any way, I see you, I love you, and I affirm your wholeness and assure you that low moments do not last forever. Pain, loss, grief, abuse, uncertainty, and difficult transitions can be overcome. I invite you to get creative with your evolution. Whether it’s through dance, music, therapy, etc… you have the ability to recreate yourself as many times as it takes for you to discover the version of you that is needed in that moment. Hang in there. It gets better. There is always healing and joy on the other side.
Bria is a double mastered former senior clinical researcher, survivor, certifying Doula, and pole dancer. She is currently working as a UX researcher and Birthworker with aspirations of becoming a Homebirth Midwife and Pole Instructor. Through her own journey, she identifies as a Healer whose purpose is to evolve in her own healing so that she may heal others in her community and beyond. She is a native of Memphis, TN and resides in The Bay Area, CA.