World Champion Pole Dancer Marlo Fisken
photo: New York Times

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Austin Lee Dylan: Pedicabbing Pole Dancer

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure to finally meet Austin Lee Dylan at Yaffa Cafe. As far as I know she is the only pole dancing pedicab driver in existence and will be joining PoleRiders for the 2010 Gay Pride Parade in NYC. Lee has generously shared her story for the PoleRiders blog.

How did you get into pole dancing, how did you learn and what do you like about it?

I don't know if I should respond with my life story here... I started dancing as a stripper to support my nomadic lifestyle in Sept '06, mostly in NY and SC. I was always fascinated by the pole dancers. Every clubs had at least one. The first pole dancer I remember seeing was Gucci at Masters in Myrtle Beach when I first started )Autumn '06). The poles there were like 30 ft tall and she would climb inverted all the way to the top and then hang like a monkey off the ceiling. Later (Autumn '07), when I was living in Savannah, GA and dancing just over the bridge on Hwy 17 at the Gold Club, I remember all the black girls having the sickest pole tricks. Outside the club I'd hang out with a lot of stinky hippies and weirdos, and my friends outside the club at the time kept telling me about this girl Stacy, and how I had to meet her now that I was a dancer cos she knew pole tricks and would probably teach me. Every one built her up too much in my head so that when I finally met her with a dude we'd both slept with in between us, I couldn't fucking stand her. So I packed up all my shit and moved to Texas. I decided she was my arch nemesis, and I would learn to pole dance and I would be better than her. Even though I'd never actually seen her pole dance.

So I got to Texas and started working at the Yellow Rose where I first saw fliers for Brass Ovaries pole dancing lessons. The Yellow Rose was home to feature entertainer and winner of many, many Miss Nude Pole Dance competitions Erotic Rain. She would get on the pole and her feet wouldn’t touch the ground for her entire set. I remember standing by and watching her set with my mouth gaping open on many occasions. She was so inspiring to me, but pole dancing lessons weren't really in my budget, as my income had dropped significantly since leaving the east coast. However, Miss Natasha (who was taught by Pole Dance Hall of Famer Mercy Killings, and who teaches/owns Brass Ovaries), was one of the first acquaintances I'd made in Austin, also at the Yellow Rose, and we had become pretty good friends. My stage dancing was crazy and I had a lot of potential, so eventually when she started hosting an open practice at her home for her students (where she wouldn’t teach anything new, but the girls could all practice together), she invited me to come along. I never actually took a Brass Ovaries pole dancing lesson, but I learned from all the Ovaries before we were Ovaries. Mostly I learned just from watching the other girls practice, and we all learned from watching other girls on YouTube. Felix Cane was one of our early heroines. Nashvillepolequeen was my first favorite. There was a lot of Tara Karina in the beginning too. Then Jamilla Deville and Pantera. and Jenyne Butterfly. Its crazy to think right now as I'm writing this how I've only been doing this pole dancing thing for a little over year now..

How would you describe your style?

I stand out from the rest, that’s fer sure.

What inspired you to become a rickshaw rider?

There's an urban legend here in Austin that you have to really hit rock bottom before you end up becoming a pedicab driver.

I got really depressed during the spring for 2008 when the economy first started to take a downturn and there was a lot less money being spent. It's hard not to take that kind of thing personally in the adult entertainment industry, cos you start wondering what's wrong with you and why nobody wants you… the dressing room in the strip club in a recession is not a fun place to be. So eventually I got so crazy with depression that I decided to quit dancing. I didn’t know what I was gonna do, but I was gonna figure something out. I remember being stuck on really wanting to do something sustainable. There was this one Saturday afternoon in the middle of the summer I remember being so broke and so hungry I decided I was gonna go downtown and something was gonna happen for me. I thought about dressing up like a bum and sitting on the street with the rest of the crack heads begging for change just to see what that would be like and if I could even get any money. As I was walking up and down 6th looking for something to happen to me, I saw this guy with a pedicab posted up on one of the street corners downtown and I just got inspired to ask him about how his job worked and how he liked it and what kind of money he made and can I just tell you how psyched I was when he told me he worked for cash tips as an independent contractor and paid lease for the trike just like a dancer pays a house fee? I was so sold. Only it took like 2 months to get all my paperwork together cos you need a permit to ride one of these things here in Austin..

What is the pedicab scene like in Austin?

Oh my god I love the pedicab scene in Austin so much. So much. Sooooo much. It is the best boys club I could have possibly gotten myself into. Don’t get me wrong, chicks pedicab here in Austin too, but you know, they're the kinds of chicks that make unshaven grease-smeared legs look damn good. I ride for Capital Pedicabs. There are several flavors of average pedicabber in Austin really, probably the most common is a kind of hipster/bike-punk hybrid—but nobody wants to be identified as a hipster, even though they tend to be some forward-thinking people around here. Personally, my favorite part about the scene here is getting together at the pedicab shops after work where the drinking/trading stories/bonding/competing with each other takes place [the drunker they get, the more likely a 'cock comparison'—like the time there were the arm wrestling tournaments, or the time they were measuring each others calves with tape measures to see who had the biggest legs, or the one time ill never forget, the mud wrestling on the floor of the Dirtnail shop- it was literally pedicab fight club till dawn.

Do any rides or customers stand out?

Somewhere on somebody's computer somewhere there is video footage of hopefully the only ride I ever really, really wanted to punch in the face. Oh, man! This woman just got under my skin with her self-righteousness, but she tipped me $40 at the end of a downhill ride 4 blocks down 6th st. Good thing I kept my mouth shut even though I kept giving her the evil eye, huh?

What other kind of riding do you do beside the pedicab?

I don’t really ride at all other than pedicabbing. Part of the reason I was so enthusiastic about pedicabbing when I first started was cos I hoped it would get me to ride my bike more. So far it hasn’t. I'm a driver. Have been since I could drive. I would love to transfer the security I feel in having a motor vehicle onto my bike.

How does being a cyclist impact your life?

I'm not really a cyclist and so I feel a little shame at being such a car driver.

Please describe your other bike(s)

I have this one piece of shit 13 yr old brand new bike (I got it for Christmas the year I was 12, rode it once, and that year decided I was 'too cool' to ride a bike-what foolish nonsense!) sitting in my living room that I had spray painted gold in hopes that it would motivate me to ride it more. But I don’t ride it at all.

In your bio you talked about quitting a lame mall job and hitting the road. Was that a positive experience? any good stories?

Did I not include the part about where I cut off all my hair? Of course it was a positive experience! I was breaking away from all the standards and boundaries and limitations and expectations that I felt had been placed on me all my life because I was finishing school, and I remember thinking about how all my life I just obeyed what I was told to do cos I was in school, but now that I was done with school, I was FREE. Totally free to do whatever I wanted. And I wanted to travel, cos I thought travel was the best way to get a real education (as opposed to an institutionalized education). Growing up in New York, you get to thinking the only places in America are New York and LA, and everything in between is a wasteland full of stupid uncultured people. I didn’t really believe that could possibly be true, especially after all the Jack Kerouac novels I'd read throughout high school and college, so two weeks after I graduated college, I packed up my little Toyota Camry and, as I like to say, turned my license plate into my address. I spent the next two and something years going back and forth between driving around the country [mostly up and down the east coast] and squatting around in Westchester County where I grew up in New York. If I start to think about it, there are probably too many good stories from that period of time for me to even begin getting into them.

As a pole dancer and pedicab rider, what did you think when you first heard about PoleRiders?

Oh my god I wanted to pole dance on that thing SO BAD! I entered Pole Superstar just so I could ride on it if I won…I didn’t make it past the semi finals tho..i had a horrible video..

Would you like to be a PoleRider? Any plans to visit NYC?

I would LOVE to be a PoleRider, and I look forward to doing so for NYC's Gay Pride Parade!!!

What are 3 or more cool websites you would like to share with readers. (Any topic)

I'm gonna be shamelessly self promotional here, check out, [cos shes our photographer and she is BAD ASS] and our flickr is You can also follow me on Twitter @Thunderpusss.

What is your ideal vacation activity and destination?

I have a hard time taking vacation cos I'm addicted to working. But I do miss the beach.

Please describe Brass Ovaries where you work.

Although we now have a studio location, Brass Ovaries isn't so much a where as a what. And I say this because were kind of all over the place (we have semi-secret half-serious fantasies about being a traveling circus--probably because Brass Ovaries as a performance group has roots that spring from traveling to New Orleans for Voodoo Fest in '07 and '08).

We've been in our current studio on South Congress in Austin for 6 months, but we had another studio just up the street for 2 months before that. We teach mostly private pole dancing lessons and pole dancing parties at our studio. But we also teach a group beginner class outside our studio at our sponsor (Forbidden Fruit is the first and oldest female owned sex shop in America)'s retail location on North Loop. But Brass Ovaries isn't just a pole dancing school, we're also a performance group as I mentioned above, and we perform mostly at various locations around downtown for various events all the time. More often than not, we get hired by a band playing at a bar downtown to dance to them playing live, though we have also been hired for some swanky stuff, like the Austin Ballet fundraiser. Currently we've got two Platinum stages with I think 7 or 8 foot poles and a ton of sandbags to weigh them down. Before we had the studio, we used to actually go to people's houses for pole parties, and we'd be hauling all this stuff around all weekend till your arms just wanted to fall right out of the sockets and you never wanted to see another sandbag again. In the end though, I suppose it made us a lot stronger for better pole tricks...

What are your current favorite songs to dance to?

The Animals – House of the Rising Sun

CCR – I Put a Spell on You

The Beatles – Come Together

Heart – Barracudda, Crazy on You

Cage The Elephant – No Rest for the Wicked

Pony – [covered by] Far

David Bowie – Lets Dance

Eurythmics – Sweet Dreams

Depeche Mode – Personal Jesus

Nirvana – Heart Shaped Box

NIN – Physical, Head like a Hole, Closer, etc[pretty much anything by NIN]

The Sword – Winter's Wolves, The Horned Goddess [they're from Austin..]

And I have a minor crush on Lil Wayne, I never pick his songs to dance to on stage at work, but hell, its good music to dance it was written for the strip club.

What is your favorite food?

Currently, rice. I love rice. I love pretty much any kind of rice, but my favorites are probably wild and brown. heh. And you thought I was going to say pancakes ;)

If you could spend 24 hrs with any person from past or present history who would it be and what would you do with them?

I would want to spend the day with Ninon D'Enclos, a famous seventeenth century french courtesan whose, in my opinion, 'feminist' thinking was radically well ahead of her time. She's kind of an idol of mine.

What do you do for fun when you're not working?

I have a lot of fun socializing with the world thanks to all three of my jobs [adult entertainer, pole dance instructor, pedicabber], so when im not working, I stay home, tidy my apt, do dishes, smoke out the window and sleep all damn day cos I hate alarm clocks. Its not a bad life. Not bad at all.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Did I forget to mention I plan to take over and own the pole dancing industry? Cos I do.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Interview: Michelle Stanek Winner of Polesque

Where are you from and what is your pre-pole dance background?

I spent my childhood and rebellious teenage years dancing with a "pre-professional" ballet company in PA. I turned to modern in college and worked with Tere O'Connor, Todd Rosenlieb, Gabriel Masson, Sara Pearson and Patrik Widrig. I still perform modern (and the occasional hip hop when encouraged) in NYC.

How did you get into pole dancing, how did you learn and what do you like about it?

My old co-worker and fellow sassy dance enthusiast Kelly McLaughlin roped me into Crunch pole classes. Never looked back. Thanks Kelly!

How would you describe your style?

Sassy McNasty VonMelty

What inspired you to become an instructor?

I'm big on imparting knowledge and skills to others. I do what I can to have a positive effect in the world, one pole dancer at a time.

Where do you teach art history?

Pratt Institute and I lecture in Italy every summer on St. Francis, St. Clare, Giotto, fresco technique and give tours of the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi. This year, I'll be working Naples and/or Pompeii into my lecture-tour-repertoire.

Unfortunately, I am quite sure that none of my Art History professors at Pratt were pole dancers.What is one of your favorite pieces of art and why

Oh jeez. I'm gonna go with the Nike of Samothrace (in the Louvre) I weeped when I saw it atop a flight of stairs in Paris when I was 20. Her movement is so powerful and graceful. It's so dramatic. And grandiose. And old. And now headless. I also have a thing for decapitation-subject-art (like anything to do with St. John the Baptist's head or Holofernes). I also cant get enough Jenny Saville paintings. So luscious and sometimes gory. And don't get me started on Italian Baroque sculpture and painting...Anyway, as a professor and person living in NYC, I appreciate contemporary and modern art, of course, but I love art that can also teach you something about history, religion, mythology, politics. This is where the imparting of knowledge comes in again.

Nike of Samothrace was one of the inspirations for the PoleRider logo.
Do you ride a bike? If yes, What kind?

I rode a hybrid, but it got stolen out of my apt building landing. I felt so violated. :-(

So sorry to hear that but don't let it stop you from riding! Tell us about the work your brother does.

WELL my older brother is a cyclist-extraordinaire. He just rode his bike across the whole country, camping gear attached, was a messenger in NYC and directs Bike Shorts Film Festival and the awesome and generous Cranksgiving Bike Race. I have mucho respect for cyclists and am always on the lookout for them when crossing the street. But I hate the snot rockets. Why do that have to do that?! And I wish cabs and bikes could just get along. Be careful out there cyclists!!!!! (I worry)

What did you think when you first heard about PoleRiders? How did you hear about it.

I think I first learned about it from stalking Marlo, then Ariel, now Kat. My brother also hired PoleRiders to perform at a Bike Polo tournament. Worlds colliding. I remember seeing it in Union Square a while ago and thinking...oh, only in do a trick girl! (now I know better)

Would you like to be a PoleRider?

Why not?!

Great! we will schedule you for a PoleRider tatoo. What are 3 or more cool websites you would like to share with readers. (Any topic) (I'm trying to cook better meals for myself) (Favorite: Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis and Brad Cooper/John Hamm) (NYC's hottest new pole studio!!)

What is your ideal vacation activity and destination?

I want to ride a camel in Egypt. Also, Bora Bora, where I would stay in one of those cottages out in the blue water (like in the movie Couples Retreat, which kinda sucked) and there must be lots of topless sunbathing, sexy time, hiking, swimming, snorkling, rip lining, biking, star gazing, skinny dipping. I like action-adventure-sexy-time-relaxing vacations!

Please describe your experience competing in Polesque.

SO. MUCH. FUN! All the girls are my friends and we love each other and pole dancing and it couldn't have been a more supportive and hilarious experience. From swapping pasties and sharing moves to dancing to Britney Spears in the dressing room, it was a blast. And having people clap, cheer, scream and stomp the floor in applause for me was probably one of the most exciting moments ever! Thanks everyone!

Tell us about your pole classes and where you teach.

I teach at Crunch Gyms (Mondays 6-7 @ John St., Tuesdays 8-9 @ 59th St., Wednesdays 7:15-8:15 and 8:15-9:30 in Park Slope) and also for Body & Pole whenever needed. Even when I am ty ty as hell, going to Crunch to teach a pole class is guaranteed to rev me up. It's hard to monitor everyone's level and capability. But, I am always there to help get students to their next level. I can't stress "baby steps" and proper technique enough. It took me 3 months to climb the pole, the RIGHT way and maybe close to a year to chopper, the RIGHT way. It ain't easy ya'll! Plus, you must master the body roll and booty pop in my class. And point your damn toes. No exceptions.

What are your current favorite songs to dance to?

Ha. "Father Figure" by George Michael, "Call My Name" by Prince and "Piggy" by Nine Inch Nails. Also into Peaches.

What is your favorite food?

Authentic Italian pasta and wine

If you could spend 24 hrs with any person from past or present history who would it be and what would you do with them?

From the past, my aunt Helen, my mom's sister. We never met. And I think she's an awesome lady.

What do you do for fun when you're not working?

Seeing as how I just got laid off, I pole dance for fun! I guess it is also "work." I have amazing friends and I like to do dumb shit like order pizza and play drinking games and just sit around and laugh with them. I love to put on a fancy outfit and go dancing. I like to travel (Miami is such a great winter get away!). I like to read about art and go to museums. I like to explore the city. I also like long walks on the beach at sunset. And Cranium never gets old.

Is there anything else you would like to add.

I'm just really grateful for these opportunities and for the unexpected blessing of starting my dance "career" at 30. Pole dancing has brought so much to my life. I've never felt stronger, sexier and I've met the most AMAZING friends I ever could have asked for.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Polesque Review:

I just returned home from Brooklyn's first pole dancing competition which also included a few burlesque acts as well. Polesque was conceived, directed and produced by Kyra Johannesen, Jen James and Kyle McBeth. It was held at Galapagos Art Space in Dumbo, Brooklyn.

Congratulations goes out to Michelle Stanek who won the event and looked stunning in her Groucho glasses. It's a look that not everyone can pull off, especially on a pole.

Could this be the new face of Pole Dancing?

Michelle's act was hot, energetic, humorous and she has some spectacular moves. Along with being a pole dance instructor, Michelle teaches art history. She fell in love with art while on a high school trip to Italy and with pole dancing only two years ago. Michelle's brother Ken is a dedicated cyclist and creator of NYC Bike Polo and the Los Marcos Polo team. Ken you should be very proud! Here is Michelle dancing to Leonard Cohen's "I'm Your Man".

The three runners up were Ariel, Eks, (Eksupar) and Roz.

Ariel (of PoleRiders) did a slow and sexy dance to a Bjork song that began and ended with her emerging from and disappearing under a green silk sheet. Ariel is a petite and percocious fetish model, aesthetcican and fitness instructor from NYC and she teaches pole at The Skybox in Brooklyn and at the PoleRiders Clubhouse. Ariel cherishes pole dancing for the strength, sensuality and sobriety it endows her with. Here is her performance with the music altered.

Eks surprised everyone when she whipped out a blindfold and covered her eyes while dancing on the pole and she looked breathtaking in her black outfit. Ekspur has been pole dancing for almost two years and she dances for the fun and challenges of the art form. She competed in the USPDF east coast competition.

Mere words could not begin to describe Roz's amazing performance; she has to be seen. the crowd went wild when she struted over to the judges and threw a fistful of singles in their faces! A certified gym rat at crunch, Roz has been a diva on the pole since October of 2007. Here she is with the other three finalists in the dance off

Other performers included: Alice Dugan, Gigi, Stella, Dalijah, Meritza Chang, Odessa, Brookelyn, Kat Freeman and Christianne Lauria. You might remember PoleRiders Brooklyn and Christianne from the Halloween Parade (as Hot Cop and Rebound Girl) and Kat from Comicon

The competition was judged by Raven O and Marlo. Raven O toured as a singer with Sylvain Sylvain of The New York Dolls. He was first a go-go boy at the notorious Limelight and a Cat Club dancer. Before landing his gig at The Box and now at Quo, Raven spent three years in Las Vegas as one of the stars of the Cirque de Soleil show "Zumanity".

Marlo, also a PoleRider, has performed with Diddy, Pharell, Don Omar and Fabulous in videos, the VMA's, and VH1 specials. She is a Wilhelmina fitness model with credits in Prevention, Women's Health, Shape and Fitness Magazine. Her skills on the pole landed her in a CNN special and the front cover of AM NY, a spread in the NY Post, roles on Law & Order and 30 Rock. Marlo teaches pole classes at Shockra.

Burlesque performances included The Hot Boxes and The Girl Next Door.

Part pole dancing, part burlesque, the Polesque series of competitions seek to present pole dancing as an entertaining art form while burlesque performers razzle dazzle the audience. This was a spectacular show and a great success. I highly recommend catching the next event coming soon.