"Zoya the Pole Destroya" Pole Dance by Val Oliphant
Dancer and Choreographer: Val Oliphant
Song: "Bad Reputation" by Joan Jett
If you’ve ever seen me dance, you know that this performance is not my usual MO- I tend to gravitate towards slow, flowy music and movements that showcase flexibility and grace. When I was asked to perform in a wrestling-themed variety show with burlesque, circus, and pole dancing, I immediately thought of the Netflix TV Show GLOW (Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling). If you haven’t watched GLOW, I highly recommend it! It’s about a group of actresses hired to be female wrestlers that is hilarious and poignant. This is one of the few shows I feel really portrayed female friendships accurately- they weren’t just catty mean girls or overly saccharine, but real women. Which is also one of my favorite things about pole dancing- the community it brings together and the strong friendships I have made are priceless.
I spent an entire week sewing my own Zoya the Destroya outfit, a very over-the-top ‘Russian’ wrestling persona that everyone loves to hate. The costume dictated the direction and vibe of the dance, as many of my favorite pole moves were not possible because my torso and one arm were completing covered. I choose the song “Bad Reputation” by Joan Jett because it perfectly fit the Zoya persona, and because I’ve always loved this song, which I associate with Kat from the movie 10 Things I Hate About You. As a teenager, I looked up to Kat, who was independent, outspoken, and brazenly feminist.
This dance was about reminding myself about how strong I’ve become. When I first started pole dancing, I never thought I would be able to do all these difficult strength-based moves, and especially not all back-to-back. Moves like the true grip handspring and pulling up out of a superman into a shoulder mount are ones I have worked really hard to master (and even hurt myself trying too early in my pole career- slow and steady wins the race!). I can’t tell you how many months I spent clicking my heels together in a silly leprechaun-like jump as I failed to fully lift my hips over my head in my handspring. As Zoya, I wanted to be a showboat- hamming up the pull-up portions of my climb and doing sit-ups in my layback. It was fun to show-off and brag so unapologetically.
I had an amazing time working on this and I’m so proud of where I am now. Do you ever compare yourself now to where you came from? What are you proud of these days? Let me know in the comments!