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  • Writer's pictureErin Clark

Thoughts of a Parapole Champion

On Apr 2nd, 2017 I competed in the Spanish National Pole Challenge Championships in the first time the Parapole Category was hosted in Spain. I invented wheelchair pole dance, presented it, and won gold - qualifying for the World Championships in the Netherlands (June 30th - July 2nd.) I learned a lot about the nuances of victory. While we wait for the official video from the Spanish IPSF championships, let's enjoy some of the incredible photography from that day in a special photo series called: Thoughts of a #Parapole #Champion.

This is no #nolimits bandwagon. Motivationally-minded enemies of limits may want to hop off. Limits are the scaffolding of this #championship routine. Limits are the architecture of all your #physical #achievements. You start with an unflinching catalogue of everything you can't do. A blanket 'can't walk' is only helpful when getting assistance onto an aircraft. You need a precise set of parameters. You fill in from the outline. Sometimes you discover a greater degree of subtlety between can and can't to exploit. But your limits, overall, hold firm. If you are exactly the same amount of disabled after as you were before, what exactly did you 'overcome'? Exactly nothing. Besides, overcoming is not the only reason for doing. There is also '#feeling like it. There is also 'capable of'. A capacity, keep in mind, you were aware of all along. If anything has 'no limits', may it be the world's comfort with a disabled body. If anything has been overcome, may it be all limiting expectations of a #disabled body. Because your actual disabled #body is the same. It just has more first place #medals it can wear around the house.

#inspiration is what people make of it. They may attribute it to you. You are not responsible for it. You are responsible for your #art. Your #wheelchair is on stage because you are. Not as a statement about disability or motivation one way or the other. But, if it was making a statement, it would probably be this: "paralysis is complicated. The collective perception of disability has atrophied from lack of nuanced and varied exposure." Your wheelchair, if it spoke, would make pretty good speeches. You make a pretty good #poledancer. Somehow you manage to stay #friends. That's truly inspiring.

There may be some #element of despite-it-all-determination involved here. But that depends on how you define #determination. The morning after this #performance you could not roll over in bed. Your back does this thing sometimes where it forgets how to hold you up. Instead, there is pain. You had to gingerly remind it, shifting and waiting for your #body to let the slightly new position set in. Shifting, then waiting again. Breathing through spasms that caused quivering nerve deaths and resurrections through your hip and thigh. Bright ripples of *oh dear god* and * no no no no thank you*. By late afternoon you could sit in your wheelchair, but could not reach across the counter to grab your coffee maker. The next day it was the same. You cried on hands and knees in a slow, screaming stretch on the wood of your bedroom floor, thinking you might not make it to your flight that day. And certainly not the entire writer's retreat you were yearning at. Thinking - chokingly, but briefly -you might just have to cancel every damn thing in your life for forever and all time. Then you worked out the puzzle of the #muscles you could use without triggering the ones you could not and moved more sloth-like than any sloth ever moved until you were all the way in Iceland. It took two weeks of #tenderness, exquisitely deliberate #movements, no part of your torso engaged without #intent before the pain subsided and your agility flowed again like a gift you are not owed. Which #dance took more #devotion? They each took the same. You were determined, in both cases, just to be #present.

This is certainly not 'proof that anyone can pole dance!' (You can thank a rogue clip of your performance on FB for that tsunami of insult). This is proof that *you* can pole dance. The fact that other people can also pole dance is a thing which is true, but you are not proof of it. Everyone gets to be their own proof. As far as you know, #wheelchair #poledance did not exist until you invented it. Something you had never seen or heard of - while certainly not terribly important as far as things for wheelchairs to do goes - did not exist, then you made it exist. You also made it #beautiful. Then you made it look easy. So easy, some were dubious the wheelchair part was necessary. That is proof of #skill. That doesn't happen by accident, or just because you tried at all, or just because you're the only one. It certainly isn't something *everyone* can do. First, you must master the laws of physics. Then you must break those laws. Then, and only as an outlaw, may you show up and expect #magic to attend. 'Special' is given to you for no meaningful reason and with no effort on your part. 'Good' and 'the best' and 'champion', you will fight to earn.

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