What counts as inspiration in circus and pole

Jessica John on aerial rope at Sweet Retreats
Aerialist on Aerial Rope


What counts as appreciation, inspiration, or sharing of art… and exploitation & plagiarism in pole dance and the aerial arts?

Is every trend and style that started in one community and ends up in another appropriation?

Art can be shared without exploiting cultures. But how exactly? What are the lines?

P.S. They’re fuzzy.

I was listening to The Changemaker podcast today by @mariebeech (it’s fabulous, check it out), and was thinking of the role of appropriation in pole and circus cultures.

According to Marie, societal-level cultural appropriation is appropriation that starts in a marginalized culture & makes its way to mainstream culture. Once seen as tasteless in the marginalized culture, it is now seen as chic in mainstream culture.

Do you do a “hip hop climb?” Oh, hey. That’s societal-level appropriation. 🎯

This type of appropriation is impossible to keep track of. And if we had to scrap it, well, most people wouldn’t be able to do pole dance or do circus, which both have strong roots in marginalized cultures.

So what can you do in these instances? Do you need to do a thesis to recognize the correct people in circus and pole? 🧐

I think that we can do a better job respecting and honor the marginalized communities at the heart of our cultures. My belief is that if you participate in these art forms, you (yes, you) have a duty honor $x workers, the disabled, people of color, and the otherwise othered. Full stop.

And what about DIRECT imitation of people of marginalized cultures? That’s a hard no from me. Any digital blackface (for example, lip syncing to an IG audio because of how racialized the voice sounds) and direct imitation and impersonation (e.g., copying of acts) just has to go in our industries.

What do YOU think? I’d love to hear your voice in this dialogue.

If this is the type of conversation you would like to see more of in pole and circus, I invite you to join the next round of Cardinal, my 10-month mentorship program for coaches ready to take their teaching beyond cookie cutter skills, change lives, and elevate the industry. Join the waitlist!

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