Season 3 EP#78 Polecology: Body Autonomy through Sensual Movement with Kristen Nichole
In this episode of Your Story Medicine, I welcome Kristen Nichole, a south Florida-based movement artist, social and community psychologist, and entrepreneur. In 2019, Kristen earned a certification in group fitness instruction from the American Council on Exercise and a certification in pole instruction from XPERT while completing graduate school. In 2020, Kristen earned a Ph.D. in community and social psychology with an expertise in identity development and storytelling from North Carolina State University. Kristen is the founder of Polecology, a platform for liberation through the art and psychology of sensual movement.
Main Topics Discussed:
- Dance as a form of storytelling
- Finding liberation through the art and psychology of sensual movement
- How pole dancing can be so much more than just a performance to satisfy the male gaze
- Reclaiming your body autonomy
- Making pole more inclusive
What are you celebrating about yourself today?
Kristen: Freedom. I recently experienced a divorce. I’ve been meaning to throw a divorce party to celebrate this life transition!
How would you describe your medicine?
Kristen: Storytelling. Stories are powerful. We tell stories in different ways. I tell stories with my body, as a researcher, with words. I help my students tell their own stories.
Tell me about your journey in pole dancing.
Kristen: I was one of those who got into pole by way of a Groupon with a friend. I experienced the “grad school industrial complex”, which left me feeling pretty disembodied—isolated and disconnected from self and spirit. Pole was my safe space from that environment. Pole became a creative outlet for me to alchemize my emotions and tell stories with my body. I’ve been in pole for five years now and my current work is informed by sensuality. I ground with my students at the start of each class to turn off that autopilot most of us find ourselves in as we navigate day-to-day life. I believe in slowing down and going with the flow to best learn what we want to express and how to express it.
What is Polecology?
Kristen: Polecology is a platform for liberation through the art and psychology of sensual movement. We center predominantly BiPoC and indigenous artists. This platform is a way for them to monetize their art and connect with people who want to work with them. A big part of our mission is to promote artists of color. We are also a community of people who are passionate about using movement to really express who they are. You create your own movement style by learning from other artists who have done the same.
How has this path helped heal your lineage?
Kristen: I’ve asked myself where I get my movement patterns from. I’m taking this West African dance program to connect with my roots as a person in the Black diaspora. I’m trained in Western dance styles, so this new program was like learning a foreign language, but I’m finding that I’m getting more in touch with dance instincts I’ve followed since I was a kid.
What do you say to those who equate pole dancing with seduction? How have you challenged that perception?
Kristen: There is a lot of discourse about intention in this community. We do have performers that entertain for external gaze, predominantly the male gaze. Others perform for internal expression, inviting the audience to witness them in their own world. I’ve experienced both, and both are very powerful. I started externally but have gradually grown to appreciate the internal expression of this kind of performance. I’ve learned to see pole as a love affair between me and myself.
What does “body autonomy” mean for you and how has pole helped you in reclaiming yours?
Kristen: The popular catchphrase is “My body, my choice.” It’s about seeing myself in this human form and expressing it in any way I desire. Pole is definitely a fem-dominated space, which is powerful and beautiful because we experience a lot of the heaviness of the male gaze. I intentionally say “male gaze” and not “male” because you don’t have to be a man to have the male gaze. Up till a certain point in my life, I’ve had the male gaze, and I’ve since evolved through my lived experience to be more embodied within myself and see everyone else as more human. Even as an entertainer, this is my art that I’m monetizing: I move the way I want to move, and you get the privilege of experiencing that.
What’s your response to those who fear the repercussions of putting themselves out there through a sensual movement practice?
Kristen: Number one, I’ve been you. I know what it’s like to want to express yourself but also want to appease a person or people who are important to you. When you reclaim your power from them, you recognize that you are a force. At the end of the day, when a person is asking you not to be yourself, you need to realize that they are afraid deep down that you are a force to be reckoned with. You just need to take that power back. Your sensuality is yours. It doesn’t belong to your lover, your parents, your students, or anybody else. If somebody is hesitant about your choice, they’re not for you. By closing one portal, infinite portals of opportunity open in response.
How can we make pole a more inclusive community for those who don’t identify as women?
Kristen: We have to think about the storytelling—how pole is marketed—and what makes some people feel unwelcome as a result of those stories. Fem-presenting, non-binary individuals who love this form of expression are out there, but they are underrepresented by the dominant stories. We just need to tell more stories to include them.
What are you doing to stay grounded and what have you learned to release?
Kristen: I have so much support. My ex-partner and I co-parent our daughter. I have an incredible village. I have connected with other pole moms. Community is so important, and we can build ours everyday. I used to hesitate doing this, but I’m so glad I make it a point to grow my community. I’ve also started the practice of soaking with epsom salt in the tub. I light two candles and play some music and settle for 10-15 minutes. Finally, I make sure I set boundaries to know who to say “no” to.
If you were a future ancestor, what would you tell yourself?
Kristen: Just be you and own it.
Conclusion: By lifting our self-confidence through the method of self-expression our bodies are most attuned to, we fully live out our internal world and our self-confidence skyrockets. When our tank is completely filled, we no longer feel the need to people-please or to seek energy from external factors, because we’ve done so internally already.
Action Integration: Protect your sovereignty, your bodily autonomy, your time for yourself. Choose yourself over and over again. Do this not just by trying to emulate the people you admire online, but by figuring out how your own body moves. Go with your own flow.
Learn more about Kristen Nichole
Visit her website: www.thepolecologist.com
Follow her on Instagram: www.instagram.com/thepolecologistphd