Pole explores different people’s perceptions and reactions to pole dancing. A physically rigorous piece that is visually impressive, the three girls move in perfect synchrony, and layer their own thoughts with verbatim theatre that includes different women’s experiences of pole dancing. Exposing the social stigma that continues to surround it, the women find joy in the absurdity that dancing with a pole should have sexual connotations, and take any chance they can to parade their physical strength.
The choreography in Pole is undeniably incredible. Lyndal Marwick is in particular almost painfully impressive. To take on choreography and a plot line, all within Underbelly’s less than accommodating dungeon simulator, requires enormous amounts of physical and mental talent. Adding in stories of wardrobe malfunctions, disapproving family members and incorporating it as part of their fitness regime (a more interesting alternative to zumba), the three women undress pole dancing as a sport like any other, their laughing humanity making them immediately likeable.
Occasionally the plot lacks a sense of flow, and the dancing is undermined by what appears to be a lightly insulting rendition of a dim-witted stripper. When one of the girls reveals herself to be a secret agent, and the story morphs into a hyper-tragic rendition of sexual slavery, it is hard to tell who is acting as who, when, where and why. If only the character development were as sophisticated and clean cut as the physicality, Pole would be flawless.
The final choreography taps into the heart of what the three desire to get across to the audience. It is virtually impossible to attach anything sexual to the three women dancing in white dresses, shadows created on the wall, their movement hauntingly beautiful. They prove through practice that pole dancing can be beautiful, sexy and as neutral as ice hockey, depending ultimately on your perception.
Pole is playing at Underbelly, Cowgate (Venue 61) until 30 August as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. For more information, visit the Edinburgh Fringe website.