Yesterday, I watched Jennifer Lopez in Hustler (2019), where she plays the role of Ramona, a stripper who fleeces Wall Street men for everything they have. Her knowledge of their seedy business transactions provoke her to “victimise” them, with no remorse, for her own financial gain. The storyline thus thrives on a negotiation of power. On one hand you will see men absolutely falling to the feet of highly feminine, self-assured women, to women almost begging for money as she removes her clothes. This intercession of self-objectification for personal gain and objectification for the pleasure of the viewer is complex in terms of the mutual gain. For example, extraction of data collected through interviews with strippers (women who remove their clothes for money), prompts Pilcher (2009) to confirm yes, these women are empowered, but this feeling of liberation is temporary because ultimately, her erotic act cannot be viewed or deemed worthy until the consumer completes his financial transaction. Thus, the patron feels in charge because he has the choice to purchase this particular “act, or not. This is fascinating because it aligns with every type of performance in that the act does not exist until an audience, even one person, has viewed it.

Related to dance within erotic performance, I am no stranger to strip club style pole dance and lap dancing (which is very different to a lot of what is taught in “pole fitness” classes and rarely has anything to do with tricks) and find the movement lexicon absorbing to view. As I watched the woman in the film I was given a firm reminder that is it not about the way you dance, or how good you dance, but how comfortable you are in a) touching your own body, b) letting others view your body and c) looking at and reading your viewer(s). When I was writing content for “Erotic Edition Choreography Cards”, these were some of the points I pondered over for some time before I developed the ideas to a more self-centred space. Anyway, back to Jlo (Ramona) and her pole performance. For her, the pole enabled her to highlight her assets as she span around, hung upside down, and revelled in the money that was being thrown at her. She owned the stage and appeared to be liberated because she knew exactly why she was there and how it would impact her lavish lifestyle. But again, on the flip side of this, there are snippets of other women on the pole who looked more like meat on a skewer. There was an absence in their face and an apparent internalised sadness to the act of selling their own body. A brief conclusion of this would therefore posit the exploitative and empowering elements as subjective to the dancer and her motivation to be there. To strip for survival is detrimental, but to strip because you enjoy revelling in the manipulation and the potentiality of control is empowering. Or, at least this is what the film suggests.

Choreographically and performatively, I am intrigued by how this type of opposition can switch so suddenly or actually even exist in the same space. I played with this a lot during the creation of “Object (auto) Biography” (2017). I took a situation I felt very confident in and one that made me feel worthless. I worked with each stimulus separately and then brought them together to signal a simultaneity of choice / lack of control. Although this method worked really well for that piece, I think it could be further refined and reused for one of my next projects with more women.

Rowena x

I will be back with more notes next week, but in the meantime, you can see my daily updates by following me on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook

Privacy Preference Center