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Pole Dancing Scientists Break Down Stereotypes Part II

By on July 20, 2017

About a month ago I interviewed Laura Shankman, a research scientist at the University of Virginia , on why pole and aerial are important to her. She shared a lot about how pole gave her a space to be feminine and empowered in a male dominated world. In this interview I speak with another intelligent pole dancing lady (initials JS*) who also works in the field of scientific research. Specifically, she works to advance knowledge in the medical field.

Even though we have evolved as a culture over the past three decades, sometimes people fail to keep up with the changes. For example, a recent pole commercial sparked outrage because young girls were wearing yoga shorts and sport-tops whilst performing an Allegra on a pole and cartwheels in the video. While that all seems perfectly normal to most of us pole dancers, we have to understand that this kind of publicity is still shocking for others. My hope is that interviews like these will help people understand that pole dancing, for some of us, is a place where we can feel safe and complete.

Anna by Oleg Sharonov on

Stock photo (500px).

BK: What is your primary career? What sparked your interest in this career?
JS: I am a histotechnologist at a public university in Southern California. I process human and animal tissues for clinical diagnosis by pathologists or for biomedical research purposes. I’ve always been interested in medicine and felt driven to help others. I never wanted a desk job, so working in a laboratory is a great way for me to work with my hands and be of service to patients.

BK: When did you start pole dancing? What about it do you like?
JS: I started pole dancing in 2013 and was instantly hooked. I felt like it gave me permission to be feminine and expressive through dance, including expressing my sexuality. In most public places being overtly sensual or sexual as a woman is frowned upon, but not in the pole studio! I had almost forgotten that side of myself, and lost a lot of self-confidence through not embracing what S Factor calls the “erotic creature.” It was great for my own spirit as well as my relationships with others. It also helped me to realize and express myself in a more full and complete way. And how wonderful it is to meet other like-minded women (and men) who support your personal expression rather than cutting you down!

BK: How do you thinking pole dancing is different from your career?
JS: Well my career is very objective, and pole dancing is where I get to be all me and express myself however I want. Moreover, science is generally considered to be a male dominated field. While this is definitely changing, I still feel very much that I have to suppress my femininity to be taken seriously in my career.

Felicia at Kendall Square #29 by Clinton Blackburn on

Stock photo (500px).

BK: Has anyone ever commented negatively on the fact that you pole dance?
JS: Absolutely! I avoid mentioning the fact that I pole dance to my conservative (and somewhat sexist) male boss. My male colleagues called me attention-seeking and inappropriately commented on my body. Other people, including women, said they find it “slutty,” and that if I’m wearing heels, I couldn’t possibly have done it for the sake of physical fitness.

BK: How did you respond?
JS: I told them I pole dance for myself or I just ignore them completely. I explain that there are other types of pole dance besides exotic; that pole dance can absolutely be beautiful art, that the heel can elongate the leg in a similar way that a pointe shoe does for a ballerina; and that pole dancers need skin exposed to stay on the pole. Neither swimmers nor gymnasts wear a lot of clothes, and they are not considered vulgar. I shared videos of  artistic or athletic pole routines so that others could see that pole isn’t always sensual. But so what if someone wants to dance exotically? I point out that women have a right to express their sexuality however they like. It feels counterintuitive to many people when they hear how pole dance really sparked the feminist in me.

Untitled by Maksym Dykha on

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BK: What about pole gives you what you can’t find in your other job, and vice versa?
JS: I focus on results and outcomes, and that focus is related to doing good for other people. But pole is something that is 100% about me. I can just be in the moment. I can’t be that emotional at work, but I have laughed, cried, and truly worked out a lot of emotions in the pole studio. It is a therapy!

BK: Why are they both important aspects of your life?
JS: It is important to have a healthy balance of work and play life, just like you would devote time to your relationships as well as to yourself. I work to achieve my goals in my career, and pole is great for fun things I do on the side, like for my mental and physical health—it’s “Me-Time” well spent! And with all the great people in the pole community, it’s also time well-spent with great, supportive, fun friends!

Ana Gabriel y Alma, Pole Fitness by Alex Mendoza on

Stock photo (500px).

BK: Thanks JR for sharing your story and experiences with us!

Do you know someone who works in a traditionally male-dominated field and pole dances? Want to share your story? Email us at or post below in the comments!

*At the request of the interviewee only initials were provided and no images of her were used.
Rhyn Cheung

Rhyn Cheung

Rhyn fell in love with pole dancing in Los Angeles, California. He competed in PPC, NAPA, CPDC, PSO Nationals, and was crowned Men's Division Champion of Colorado Pole Championship 2016.

Rhyn now teaches workshops in Hong Kong and is pursing his PhD in marine biology at the University of Hong Kong.

Instagram: @rhyncheung
Rhyn Cheung

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