"Dancing Through Anxiety" Pole Dance by The Pole Comedian
Dancer and Choreographer: Amy Scarlett Rosvally
Song: Laughing With by Regina Spektor
Amy is an incredibly talented performer who has made a name for herself as the hilarious Pole Comedian (you may have seen her as a pole dancing T-rex on America’s Got Talent). When you think about any of Amy’s performances, you’re likely to start chuckling to yourself, or at the very least smile. So when she posted her latest piece, it really made me pause. I immediately wanted to know more about it. I wrote this in her voice based on our interview:
When I perform, I want everyone laughing, smiling and enjoying. If I can affect one person, then I am having a good day. However, this piece was different, this one I did for me. It was important to me that the audience stop and question what was going on in my performance. I knew they might feel a bit uncomfortable, but my main objective was still the same: if I can affect one person watching, to make one person feel that they are not alone, then I did my job.
As the Pole Comedian, everyone assumes I’m this happy bubbly person all the time, and that is just not true. I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety all my life. That’s something we as a society don’t really talk about. It’s something very hidden. For me, I never want to bring other people down. I want to bring happiness to others by sharing my own and by making people laugh. I know what it feels like to feel like shit and I don’t want that for them, so I don’t talk about my depression and anxiety and I certainly don’t share it.
In spite of that, I had this really strong desire to show this side of me that most people don’t get to see. I call it my Darkness Series- the tragedy to my comedy. There are things I want to express: with every up, there is also a down; with happiness, sadness too; with great performance, comes great anxiety. I am always concerned that I’m not good enough. For every conversation I have with someone, I will go back and think about it for days, wondering if I upset the person I was talking with. Dance has been a wonderful outlet for coping with my anxiety. It helps me feel less alone. With anxiety and depression, often times you feel like you’re the only one going through it, and you’re not. I want to use my art to show people that I’m a human and to feel inspired not just because I am funny, but because I am struggling with them. We’re all doing this together. Maybe someone who sees this is feeling the same way, and it helps them to know it’s gonna be okay.
I wanted to go about this piece in a very real way, and so I set myself up to have a panic attack on stage and then try to move through it. I was terrified to step on stage and do that. I’m normally very precise with my art. I practice all my routines over and over and over. I seek perfection in every tiny detail. I consider my Unicorn piece to be a perfect routine because it’s exactly how I intended it to be. With this anxiety piece I didn’t have that luxury because I wanted it to be raw. I didn’t get to practice it. This entire performance was improv, freestyling my way through my panic attack.
I tried not to prepare too much beforehand. I had listened to the song and I knew how I wanted to enter and exit the stage. I started with my clown nose on, and then I took it off immediately and dropped it on stage. This was actually my favorite part of this dance- taking off the nose, going to sit and rock- that’s how my panic attacks usually start, so it felt real and I like the musicality of the first flow. The lyrics of this song, "Laughing With" by Regina Spektor, really spoke to me. I loved that it was about laughter because I felt it connected it to my Pole Comedian work despite it not being funny. No one is laughing when things get real, no one is laughing when I’m having these moments. It felt very appropriate and very me.
In order to translate my emotions into this piece, I needed to put myself in a very specific mindset. I spent the night up to that performance cornering myself off, and I wasn’t as friendly as I normally am backstage. Just the sheer fact that I was gonna be freestyling was enough to send my anxiety through the roof. It started when I got there and they announced “and the Pole Comedian will be performing later” and everyone was clapping and turned to me smiling. Instantly my brain went to “this is going to be terrible, I’m going to disappoint everyone in this room.” I hadn’t told anyone I was doing this serious piece. I wasn’t going to meet their expectations, and I felt I was going to let them all down. It was really scary, but I had set myself up for that.
On stage, I wanted my movements to show how I feel when I am having a panic attack. I start shaking my hands, it’s a big thing for me, and I start rocking back and forth, and trying to make myself small. That’s me in a panic attack, and these are the types of movements I incorporated into my performance. “Close and open, close and open” is something I kept thinking about when I was on stage. I want to be small, and now I want to be big, and now I want to be small and now I want to rock, and now I want to open and close, open and close. To be honest, I almost blacked out on stage because I was so in the moment- I was actually having a panic attack- so I totally blanked on what I did by the time I got off stage. Some of the people backstage actually thought I was hurt because I let out this cry when I was done, but it was such a release of energy. It felt so good to get it out.
This performance was difficult to process. It took some time for me to accept the piece afterward. It was hard to watch because it made me relive the anxiety that I was actually feeling in that moment. Once I did watch it, I didn’t want to post it. I wasn’t sure that I should be proud of it because all I could see was how sloppy I felt it was. There are some moments that are incredibly raw. I had wanted it to be like a rough diamond- very special and unique, but definitely to have it’s edges. I didn’t want it to be polished because anxiety isn’t polished. At the same time, my biggest fear as a professional performer is putting something out there that doesn’t meet my own standards. While it may not be what I would consider perfect, it’s really not meant to be. It’s meant to show the craziness and whirlwind of the panic. Moments of calm, moments of rocking, moments of feeling liking I’m going to burst apart. In the end, I decided it was something worth watching and something worth seeing.
Every character I have taken on teaches me something important about myself. I learn from my art and make myself a better person. Richard Simmons taught me to love myself, Charlie Chaplin taught me how to be funny, T-rex taught me that I can overcome anything, Unicorn taught me I could be glamorous and that it was okay to be confident, and Bearded Lady was like Unicorn Part II- being fabulous. “Dancing Through Anxiety” taught me the very powerful lesson of how to let go. It's probably the hardest thing to do at times, but also the most liberating. Like a weight lifted off of your shoulders, letting go can save you from a lot of pain. Each character has been an exploration of finding more of that person that I truly am.
Performing under the stage name, “The Pole Comedian”, Amy Rosvally has dedicated her pole journey to bringing laughter and silly dances to her audience. Amy is the Southern Pole Entertainment Level 3 2015 Champion as well as the Northeast Aerial Art Entertainment Level 3 2015 Champion and has no intention in stopping there! With a BA in Theatre and a MS in Entertainment Business, Amy believes strongly that pole dancing is the one arena where she is able to bring everything she has learned into one cohesive extravaganza. You can see her amazing work here and follow her on instagram here.