Shereen sat at her desk during a short break she had at the bank where she worked, having a regular green salad that she added some amount of vinaigrette to change its blandness to a more agreeable taste, while at it she was watching some YouTube videos on her smart phone in some sort of pass time way.
Then one of the videos played where a pole dancer did a performance, where she did a lot of swirls , twists and climbs ..Shereen got for some reason hooked, there was something about it, that got her to watch video after video for pole dancers kept streaming on her screen she actually got distracted and lost track of time, and haven’t realized she hadn’t been eating her food and that the break was over when her boss walked up to her and told her “Are we planning on continuing work anytime soon?”
Shereen’s day at work had ended but her mind was already thinking about what she saw today something about it, attracted her, the defiance of gravity perhaps? As soon as she reached home she dropped herself on her beanbag and opened her laptop and continued to watch more and more video, all what she could think of was the defiance, the woman she watched demonstrated. Shereen then called up her boyfriend and asked him what does he think about it? His reply was a typical Egyptian/Middle Eastern mentality “What got you to watch that sort of stuff? It’s fun and cool to watch but I don’t take these women seriously, you know a lot of pole dancers work in strip joints and stuff like that!”
Shereen took the comment and went silent for a moment before blasting back at her boyfriend “Which age do you bloody come from? Look around you! When is the last time you tried to get your head out of the gutter!”
And she hung up instantly on him, while he was stunned at her response. He tried calling back but she didn’t answer him and cancelled him a couple of times.
By that time something sparked up in her head, something was urging her to try this new thing, experience, experiment. Feeling “I want to feel how they feel up there!” these words echoed in the back of her mind and the echoes got stronger.
She began to search for places in Cairo where she could try this new ‘Thing’ , she didn’t know what to call it really, she personally was confused and while she hated her boyfriend’s comment but she somehow felt, well maybe that’s how it started and hence the view of the people. Shereen had almost certain she wouldn’t find anything related to pole dancing in Cairo, despite the fact that there’s a new wave of arts hitting the country from every direction, but she thought it was a farfetched to actually find something then suddenly a Facebook page appeared on her search screen, she checked it out, it was a place in Heliopolis run by a Hungarian woman called Gina Orloff.
She hesitated for a second to dial the number “I’m crazy! What am I even doing? Pole. Seriously? Egypt? Everyone will pick on that no one will let me out of their heads!” She paused for a second as her typical Egyptian side began bash her left and right, her fingers frozen in front of her mobile screen as the flow of thoughts on “What will people say? And how will they perceive her? And how they will react to her” it was all too clear, all to vivid, she could hear already the comments and the giggles and people talking about her behind her back. But she was frustrated with life, that she always had to do whatever was acceptable and pleased “Them, the people, the society, not herself, not her feelings, not her beliefs or thoughts”
Shereen shook her head violently in an attempt to shake off this thought and felt a rage boil inside of her, screams coming deep from within “Screw them, screw them all, they don’t know me, they never cared for anything but to find someone to talk about, someone to mock because their own low life insecure personalities, I’m going to do what I want! And no one will stop me”.
Shereen dialed the number without having a single clue what to expect, as the phone rang once, twice, maybe up to five times and still continued, and then the thoughts began to race to her head, maybe they’re closed, maybe it’s the wrong number, she would look at the Facebook page to find any indication perhaps from a recent conversation that they’re still active but noted that the last comment was 3 months ago, It wasn’t until perhaps the 8th ring when suddenly signs of life came from the other side “Hello this is Gigi Pole” the voice came with a broken English accent. Shereen was stunned for a second she struggled to get to answer that but went on “Hi, my name is Shereen, I saw your page on Facebook and I was interested to know more about Pole” the voice came from the other side “Well sure! Sure! why don’t you drop by and visit us, we generally have 6 classes a week morning, afternoon, and night, why don’t you come visit us, today? We provide 2 free sessions for people interested and if they like it, they could then register in our training programs”, “Training programs?” Shereen asked, Gigi laughed for a bit “But of course, this is not the sort of dance, a girl comes normally trained for like other regular dances, pole is SPECIAL” she said the word special with a tone that resonated in mind of Shereen. Who was silent for a moment “Why don’t you visit us today?” Gigi fired away the question, “And we won’t even consider it part of the 2 free sessions! “Shereen was surprised at how open the lady is when she’s hardly spoken to her for five minutes! “Today?” Shereen asked, Gigi replied instantly with no hesitation “Yes today! Come have a look! Unless you have some other engagements”. “No, no, no engagements at all” Shereen replied
They finished the call and sat there thinking if she should really go, the procrastination and hesitation were trying to kick in but she stopped them right in their tracks and decided she will give it a try, it’s a free session anyway so no strings attached.
She drove from Mohandessin all the way to Heliopolis, asking herself “Am I crazy? Driving all this distance just to checkout Pole? Is it worth it?”
She arrived and was greeted by Gigi, a tall slender woman in her mid-thirties, “Hello and welcome to Gigi Pole” Gigi said, “You must be he lady who called us about an hour ago, or so, am I right?” Shereen raised her eye brows for a second then shook her head. Gigi walked her in and began to talk to her about the place.
Gigi was talking so casually when Shereen interrupted her “Don’t people bother you here? I mean you, the girls who come in here? I mean the sign on the door clearly shows pole? Don’t you get harassed? “ Shereen basically dumped her load of worries on Gigi who giggled out loud “ They’ve tried, and failed, see my dear its is quite simple at first they tried, and tried to put more pressure with the comments and sometimes notes they’d leave, but we kept doing what we want to do and in the way we do it , and I will not say it was easy , it was not but after they realized how crazy we are they gave up and let us be, we’re like our own hidden clan here! “
Shereen was surprised at how lightly Gigi is speaking, before Gigi added “You think this doesn’t happen in other places and other countries? I’ve been to 10 countries and have faced this also there, men are men my dear, specially the pig ones of them, all the same, same thoughts same arguments as if they’ve been brainwashed by the same machine! Anyway, come let me show you our programs!”
Gigi walked Shereen through the different classes and programs and explained to her, and the more she did, Shereen got convinced that she wants to do that.
Gigi added “Pole is a very physical dance, it is as tough as some sports and as graceful as any dance!”
Shereen thought to herself “How hard could it be? Anyway, I’ll find out”
Shereen signed up for one of the beginner’s classes after her discussion with Gigi and excused herself.
Two days later it was Shereen’s first training session, a lot of general exercising and explaining how pole works, followed by a 2-minute demonstration from Gigi which was mesmerizing, she had never imagined she could see someone at this age doing something like this right in front of her, except perhaps on Youtube where everything exists! But this was real.
A couple of weeks passed by, Shereen still learning the ropes and the basics, then today after the warm ups and some essentials for the first few classes, Shereen took her position on the pole and began to move very slowly, and climbing up, but she misplaced her foot and fell hitting her shoulder to the ground “fuck!!!” she thought to herself “this hurts like hell” it was her first fall. Gigi was there standing and watching quietly, she didn’t step in and waited to see what Shereen would do, Shereen pulled herself up and tried again the result was the same, that last movement where she has to balance herself, she never really got it quite right, despite being at a very short distance from the ground in each fall but each one hurt more than the other!
Gigi after the fifth fall stopped her, and asked Shereen if she’s ok, Shereen’s face by that time was full of sweat but a look of determination to get this right was written all over her face, she didn’t reply but nodded. And she went up again and again, on that day Shereen fell no less than 10 times but every time she got back up.
Week after week, month after month Shereen got better and better learning more moves, and beginning to get more and more used to the movements, her body still taking hits with each and every fall but she didn’t mind. Her mind was set on conquering this challenge.
She took no notice to how many bruises she had on her arms and legs, they became some sort of ribbons of courage for her. The Pole had redefined a lot of aspects of Shereen’s life, and the main one was to fight back, was to take the falls gracefully and come back up again, give the bruises some ice and go again. Pole was her way of defying the world. That word that stuck in her head since the first day she saw it on YouTube! ‘Defiance’, not just defying the gravity and moving her body in so many ways that she couldn’t believe but defying everyone who stereotyped her as a woman, who she is and what she should be, “I should be, I will be what I want to be”, that echoed in her mind every day in a stronger tone.
She wouldn’t stop, at first she told no one about what she did, but with time she began to feel more comfortable about letting people in on her little secret, she now takes their comments as a joke and even demonstrated to them, that there is both power and grace in what she does. They still joked occasionally, some of them never changed their minds, but a lot of people began to accept it , like and even some asked to join it!
Shereen had defied the male dominated society by what could she learn, where and how should she learn, going out with Gigi and rest of her dance club, they began doing performances and even certain displays in the middle of the street where they would do horizontal body stands on sign posts.
People would smile some would stand in awe and disbelief. And others would simply just stare.
Shereen found that pole taught her more about herself and personality more than she had ever known, because it is both a dance and a sport none alone like many of the other activities which are more defined. But it is what it is, this beating the gravity and letting her body float free in the air, relying on what looks to be very simple yet very tough grips of her body on the pole which have taken time effort and so many bruises that Shereen lost count. That cold metal bar that stood there in the middle of their training room became that escape she sought out whenever she felt frustrated from the world, it gave her magical powers, the belief that she could overcome everything. Being in her mid-thirties, she would have never believed she would be able to do that, she was actually expecting on the first day she came to be told that she’s probably too old and wouldn’t fit. But that was not the case
Gigi told Shereen once “Respect the pole, respect the ground, respect the gravity, love them, then defy them! In every possible way!”
This became her way of handling most of her challenges in so many aspects of her life, “Respect it, love it, Break free from it! Do it in a new way every day!”
She had life, her decisions, her way, her path and her moment defiance, where she conquered herself and the world around her, no fear stands in her way anymore, no bruise, no word her defiance became her shielf, and weapon , her defiance.
The Defiance of the Pole