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  • Writer's pictureErin Clark

Special Process

Updated: Mar 28, 2021

(Comments from YouTube are used throughout. They appear in red. I did not edit them. Grammar errors and typos are original.)


My inspiration the day that I filmed a short piece of pole dance choreography was Japanese artist Yoshiko Jinzenji who invented a special dye process.

I quoted Jinzenji’s words in the text box when I posted the clip to YouTube: “Although I said I got white when I first used bamboo dyeing, many people didn’t believe. ‘The cloth itself is white. Is this really from bamboo dyeing?” They asked me this and other questions puzzledly. People can tell red and black, but all of them can’t recognize the white from bamboo dyeing. Nothing can be done about those who can’t. Those who can, however, will see elegance in and get strength from this cloth.”

Who can tell the difference between subtly different things, and who can appreciate the meaning of that difference? In the interplay between my dance and my words, I was asking: can that meaning be a collaboration?

Look at this cripple bitch go, I hope that vag ain't cripple

There is something subtle in the distinctions between disability and not disability. What the body can and can’t do is more like white dye on white fabric than it is like black vs red. My first aerial session, over ten years ago, was spontaneous. Allison Williams toured with a circus troupe and taught beginning aerial skills throughout Canada and the US. My friend participated and I observed. I could not do the basics —a foot lock around the silks— which is the building block for all the beginning moves. During lunch, one of the instructors was playing around, showing off, impressing us all. He tangled himself up in the silk and when he unfurled he was hanging entirely by his outstretched arms. The iron cross. I could easily do the end result, I showed them from the ground, but I could not do any of the bits he used to get high and then into the pose. We played around, found alternatives, and I jumped straight into advanced aerials my first weekend.

At the end of the workshops, Allison emphatically told me that if I wanted to, I could perform. I had skill and stage presence. I asked her if she’d still tell me that if I wasn’t doing it to share a motivational —an inspirational— message.

“That’s what backstage is for,” she confirmed. “Your job is to perform, you don’t have to interact with anybody after that. You can just disappear if you want to.”

I don't understand what she's doing.

Can someone explain this in better detail?

Disappearing into a performance is a goal for most artists. Being disappeared by a wheelchair is a common experience for most who use one. Could I use one disappearance as the basis for the other? When an artist disappears, they do not become ignorant of their audience. Neither does a disabled person when they are disappeared by social projections. An artist's disappearance is an act of presence, not disconnect. The kind of presence people don't usually tolerate for long in social environments. We crave it from the stage. We are excited by it from a distance. This is also true about disability, except the audience forgets to be present with us. They forget this distance, as well, is choreographed.

Not sure I understand.. is the chair because there’s not enough strength in the legs to hold her up, even though she has movement in them?

Why is she in a wheelchair is she can move her legs and grip the pole with them?

I am so confused? Why does she need a wheel chair if she can move her legs like that? No hate at all, just curious to know.

If you can move your arms and legs, why do you need the wheelchair? 🤔

Once, a journalist wanted to tell ‘my’ story —it was really her story using my details, writing it in a faux-first-person narrative, and getting everything wrong. She read her piece to me over the phone, “ I came down from the silk I was training on and saw the other women, bodies spinning around the gleaming pole, I envied them —” I laughed and interrupted her.

“Why would I envy them? First of all, silks are way harder than the pole, I was ten feet higher off the ground than they were, doing significantly more advanced moves. And when I would transfer that skill to the pole, it came easily. I don’t have to fight for it the way they do. They envy me.”

Most people’s bodies are used to walking. And that’s it. My body does gymnastics to take a shower. Acrobatics are innate to me. There is struggle involved in gaining the skill, but there is no struggle involved in executing a skill I have acquired. There are basic and simple movements my body will never execute, but I don’t struggle with them, I simply don’t bother.

I killed the article. I kill many interviews and articles when I know their intention is to perpetuate disability myths of powerlessness and despair. But the attitude persists: You must have hated your body until you learned to pole dance. You must have grown up insecure. You must have thought “I can’t do that. Not me.” You must have had someone give you that confidence when they believed in you. Who was it so we can give them our real praise? This dance is a story about that insecurity. This dance is a story about the person who believed in you. This dance is a story about what you lack and envy. Disability is a story about perpetual struggle.

But no. None of that is true.

What is true is that when I was competing in pole sport at the international level, Salima (my coach) was one who could discern. At the world championships, we were crushed by judges who could not discern and were frustrated that there was nothing that could be done about it. Salima suggested that we contest my score. It would cost hundreds of dollars, but it would mean that our objections went on record, which would maybe influence the judging of disabled athletes in the future. I was sulking vehemently, traversing the dirt path that ringed the lake at our hotel in The Netherlands as Salima reported to me from the arena. She texted, “The judge reviewed your video. They stuck with their decision to remove any points for not pointing your toes or extending your legs all the way and unfortunately decided to dock more points. There was a transition from the pole to your chair that was much sloppier than one performed earlier. I told her that you would at least be pleased she could tell the difference.”

Pole dance is not generally used to convey emotional or psychological subtlety. It’s good for displays of power. It’s good for erotic expression. The height of performance in a pole dance is measured in how clean the lines of the body are, how effortless the tricks appear, the seamlessness of the transitions between them. Whether or not the pole artist or athlete makes the audience think or feel is not part of the training. But sentiment is inevitable when wheelchairs are involved, and if a wheelchair can possess neither power nor erotic capacity, then I must anticipate other feelings and impressions, turn them into tricks, measure them by their lines, their transitions.

Imagine faking being in a wheelchair, disgusting

Do you genuinely think she is lying?

I’m not gonna say she’s faking, but something here is sus

Yes 100%, as someone who is genuinely wheelchair bound it’s very easy to pick apart fakes. She slips up a couple times in the routine if you look closely, not to mention the amount of muscle on her legs, she can definitely walk normally

see rhat was my line of thinking but I was too worried to say anything in case of back lash! I know have had people around me and the display similar things you have mentioned right there

could she maybe be a recent wheelchair bound victim? I will look into how long she has been in one as my eyes went to her legs and the muscle definition.

In her book, The Childless Witch, Camelia Elias describes a dance and dancers I had never heard of before. Butoh, Aï-Amour, Carlotta Ikeda. First I read Camelia's every word. "She wants him. He wants her not. He regrets it though. That's why he brings her flowers. She takes them and smashes them to the ground. Why? There's more to this than I can tell. I want to tell. But how? I imagine starting with this question addressed to the man: Why bring her flowers if you don't want to be with her?" Good questions.

I google the dance so I can see the flowers being smashed for myself.

I find a documentary called Carlotta Ikeda and her Butoh. Pieces of Ikeda's work are interspersed with behind the scenes, interviews with her talking about the innocence of nudity. The narrator says, "Butoh was created in a spirit of rebellion as an intense form of life. And allows one to transmit meditative and conscious thoughts. Butoh dancers did not want to communicate with their bodies, but wanted their bodies to call forth expression of their inner selves. Thus, freeing themselves from external social influences."

What??? Have some one who is really on a wheel chair do what she does!.. Dag cant you see she is able to move and use all her lower limbs ? That means she can walk.. People in a wheel chair who have no use of lower half body, have to grab their limbs just to move them.. She does it wothout help... You should be ashamed

I doubt she evn disabled

She can move her legs she ain't disabled it's a shame

Of course a disabled person gets money. Money to have what they want not what they need. A stripper pole and ballet mirrors are YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!?! Then there are people like us who truly need help and are starving only wanting to sleep in a clean bed and dont get it because we arent disabled.

Audiences are not used to disability being on stage without it explicitly being about disability. If they see a wheelchair, they prepare to be educated. But what is there to learn from a pole dance? There must be something, a moral lesson about determination? What understanding would precise medical detail provide? If not a teachable moment, then to inspire! The key ingredient in this form of inspiration is that you first must feel pity. Therefore, my intention for dancing must be to make people feel sorry for me. In order to justify feeling this pity, the audience must verify that I am deserving. It acts like a permission slip to investigate the nature of my disability because the response pivots on the wheelchair —not the dance itself.

I don't need an awnser or anything and I don't want to seem rude because I'm just curious. Why do you use a wheelchair?

Was wondering the same thing and was scrolling through the comments to see if anyone said and sadly no one mentioned why, but it's all hot or strong, or inspirational comments.

Not to be that guy but I am wondering as well. She seems to have some sort of movement with her legs, as she can use them in the air and to get to the line/pole but goes back to sitting. Just curious, as the internet is full of crappy people who do anything for the clout

Her Legs Are Broken if you look closely. About near Her feet.

I guess I’m really ignorant because I can’t see it but at least i learned something! Thank you for the response, I love watching the handicapable kill it out here!

Later on in her book, Camelia says, "What we find in the act of distancing, what underlies its structure, is a form of watching, a form of vigilance over just what and how language defines and constitutes our reality. And yet, while the body participates in watching itself thinking, it's not always the case that the thinking subject is actually aware of this process of watching."

When you objectify someone, you render yourself an object in that dynamic as well. In that you are compelled to play a role to offset the role you cast your object in. When we agree, this spontaneous, improvised co-objectification can be satisfying —and should be temporary. Two polite strangers pass each other kindly in the street. Or two people play with the sexual chemistry between them. Or, an artist creates a persona, and the audience learns or imitates the new language or aesthetic to convey that particular emotional harmonic.

Even a saint, after the rapture, must be only human again for a while, must bear her yearning for the divine without hope. But the unsanctified don’t endure their hunger bravely, they persist in their objectifications, they don’t care if others are willing. Like bringing flowers to a woman you do not want to be with, people force intimacy on disabled people who they do not want to actually know. Their entitlement to have their desired experience disappears you. They lose themselves as well.

In the text I posted with my video I wrote: Jinzenji wanted a kitchen she could live in, so she built one. In the photos of her house that the article included, there were open shelves displaying an earthen rainbow of hand thrown pottery from a lifetime of collecting from friends and artists. Wood pile, wood stove, dining room, counter tops, fabric, in great swaths, wreathes, is the entire house and all in one space. Nothing is hidden. Except for a tea room, which I learned from the article, is meant to be set apart from the rest of a house. Not just physically, but energetically. Where her kitchen house is built to buzz with friends and life and food and art, the tea room is separate and subdued, a still place to connect to her soul.

Online, the stage is over-exposed, it has no 'back,' no tea room, and not everyone knows they are an audience. I disable comments on a viral video, I leave them to trickle in on other videos, but do not respond. The assumptions people make about disability become part of the performance when I don’t refute them. When they are left to contradict each other. To disorient the performance.

This is pitiful…

I can’t even imagine what you’ve been through

What a Goddess

Skill in any art is meant to erase any trace of effort for the audience. Maya Angelou wrote, “I try to pull the language in to such a sharpness that it jumps off the page. It must look easy, but it takes me forever to get it to look so easy. Of course, there are those critics —New York critics as a rule— who say, Well, Maya Angelou has a new book out and of course it’s good but then she’s a natural writer. Those are the ones I want to grab by the throat and wrestle to the floor because it takes me forever to get it to sing. I work at the language.”

According to YouTube commenters, disability —in the eye of the beholder— equates to effort. My wheelchair remains, skill and dance disappears. My disability must be the performance, since the dance is not enough of a struggle. But if the dance was a struggle, then I would have no skill. What If I perform struggle? The body at work as art. No well-articulated pay off. No polish. Nothing to impress.

I still think it’s sexy

Keep up the skills your very talented

You’re doing so amazing, we’re all so proud of you

You are really great and strong and amazing

You can’t simply collect data and become discerning. Discernment is also how you feel about something and how that refines with time, it’s the quality of your attention and what is in your purview to compare between. An artist can explain their work away in that droning, banal text of grant applications everywhere and not inspire discernment. At the same time, context is useful. People don’t usually spontaneously notice the difference between the dye and the fabric unless they are familiar either with that fabric or with some aspect of dyeing. To know, they must already be in the know.

One can explain the mechanics of paralysis and how it is not always complete, but that answer leads to more questions, and by the end you are flayed by a forced oversharing of the function of your body and no one is talking about what discernment means when it comes to love and conditionality and how the wheelchair and the pole can symbolize both the love and the conditions of that love, the conditions of an audience’s acceptance, my love for what I’m doing as the chair holds me up, as I roll and spin, and the curves are infinite.

What you are doing is a disgrace to women. This is simply awkward and disgusting. Keep yourself in that chair unless you are doing physical THERAPY to be an inspiration to young women who should not be gliding up and down a stripper pole like a one legged dog

Nice to see someone doing something that gives them so much joy

You have a great back… loving the imperfection, making it perfect

She is hot

The context was always there. Yoshiko Jinzenji and the house she built on Mount Hiei at 75 years old who dyes white fabric with white dye.

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