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Arts & Culture

Poler Bears ‘Two Faced’ features variety of dance styles

Brown, RISD joint pole dance group exhibits student choreography in spring production

Senior Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Featuring a vast range of choreographic styles, the Poler Bears’s spring production, “Two Faced,” was a theatrical celebration of the diverse dance backgrounds and personalities that compromise the student-run pole dancing group. With performances this past Friday and Saturday, the show packed the house both nights.

As audience members rushed to fill the coveted seats, the stage was cast in a warm yellow light. Nine poles arranged on the stage were the main props that dancers used to perform “wild, sexy, and spooky scenes with a healthy dose of titillating plot twists and silly surprises,” according to their program description.

The show featured solos, duets and group dances, all choreographed by group members, with complex and elegant acrobatic ensembles inspired by masquerade, burlesque performances, Latinx soap opera romances and punk rock.

The title of the show, “Two Faced,” was inspired by the group’s desire to explore different styles of pole dancing in one production, said Jillian Hojsak ’19, co-director of the Poler Bears. “I’m choreographing a piece called ‘Hell,’ and it’s basically what you might see when you go to hell — just a lot of dancers being really sinister and evil, and it was really nice to use dance to explore that side of ourselves,” said Divya Maniar ’21, a former Herald writer and choreography chair of the Poler Bears. Dancers also experimented with incorporating other genres into their routines, including ballet, contemporary and drag.

Producing one show each semester, the dance group began choreographing and practicing for this show in early February, when members first submitted their ideas for routines. After reviewing each piece’s concepts, as well as the number of people required and the proposed music, the team finalized the pieces for the production. From then on, dancers practiced two to three times a week all the way up to the debut of the show.

Regarding the social culture of the group, Hojsak said, “There is something inherently bonding about pole dancing. … As a team, we want each other to grow in confidence, and we want to support each other in the process of this growth.” Aside from the rehearsals, Hojsak added that the group also hosted a Secret Santa exchange, potlucks and pre-show gift swaps to strengthen the bonds between members. 

“I’m impressed by their strength, gracefulness and sensuality. I feel like pole dancing is not just about being sexy and provocative, but the pursuit of artistic creation and self-expression,” said Xinyue (Annie) Ge ’22, an audience member at the Saturday night show.

Hojsak explained that while every member joins the group for a different reason, the Poler Bears is a safe space for “people of different body types, backgrounds, gender identities, etc. … (to) explore dance in whatever context they feel comfortable in.” Maniar, who has been dancing for a large portion of her life, said she found individuality in pole dancing.

“Since it’s a new art form that is consistently being created, there is not (a) definition of what a good pole dance looks like. So it’s really nice to branch out my dance” through pole dancing, she said.

The group has recently made several revisions to its modus operandi, with the first being an amendment to the group’s mission statement that aims to account for the “background of pole dancing” and to acknowledge their privilege as an Ivy League pole team. As the only pole dancing group in the Ivy League, the group wants to ensure that it recognizes its positionality and respects the fact that “around the world, the art of vertical dance has been developed by various cultures and classes,” according to the revised Poler Bears’ mission statement.

Another recent change in group policy was the addition of a supplementary interview to the original two-round audition process. Maniar said that most of the dancers on the team do not have prior experience in pole dancing, and that the auditions are more beginner sequence classes intended to evaluate the potential of candidates. With the large applicant pool, Hojsak explained that the priority of auditions is to ensure the safety of candidates and assess the level of dedication they commit to this dance form.

“Pole dancing can be anything you want it to be, and all forms of pole dancing should be respected. If you want to try it, even a little bit, you should,” Hojsak said. To satisfy the vast and growing interest in pole dancing on campus, the Poler Bears also hosts regular workshops that are open to the public throughout the school year.

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