The young woman at the table next to us apologized in advance. She’d seen Schtick a Pole in It five times already, she was their biggest fan, and it was her birthday, so she’d be screaming a lot. Little did she know that we had a surprise for her too: my wife would be singing along to every line of every song at this Styx-themed edition of the only show I know of that combines comedy and pole dancing.
Our table neighbor wasn’t even born when I saw Styx in the ’70s, or in the early ’80s when they were my future wife’s favorite band. On the other hand, when I was our young neighbor’s age, pole dancing hadn’t evolved into the athletic art form it is today. As comic and Schtick a Pole in It co-founder Joanna Ross told me in our recent exclusive interview,
Pole dancing is an art form…We aren’t putting on a show where you leave thinking ‘I can do that.’ Everyone on our stage has dedicated years to this…When dance is good you never see the effort that goes into it, and these pole dancers make it look effortless. That doesn’t happen by accident. They’ve put years into being great.
Fifteen seconds of watching any of these dancers is all it takes to see that. Their fusion of athleticism with showmanship and sex appeal is astonishing.
Ross and her partner Dan Goodman, the show’s emcee, tap into top talent. The first dancer, Lara Michaels, was the 2017 United States Pole Dance Federation National Champion, dancing to Styx’s new-age rock classic “Come Sail Away.” But any high-energy music would suit the excitement and pizzazz of these shows. New themes arise constantly: Last month was “Power Ballad Christmas”; this time around, while fêting “the dudes that sing ‘Lady’,” they teased an upcoming Prince theme.
The lineup included a male pole dancer, a new species to me. He was as lithe and athletically impressive as the women; seeing him also reinforced how far removed from its strip-club beginnings pole dancing has come. A pole dancing show like this isn’t a leer fest, but a display of human gymnastic and artistic achievement, with eye-popping thrills and a sizzling social scene attached. We don’t think it’s weird that male and female Olympic gymnasts perform the same feats on the same equipment. Why should pole dancing be any different?
Comedians alternate with the dancers at these shows. The comedy was uneven, but comedy nights always are. All three guest comics dealt plainly with the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects – on society, family, romance. Nathan MacIntosh was the sharpest; his unabashed set included the topic of fights on airplanes – something we never thought we’d see so many of. The pandemic has touched everything. I don’t think I’ve written a single concert or play review since it began that doesn’t mention it somehow.
But I hadn’t seen a live comedy show in all that time, and the night made me reflect that turning our ongoing public health crisis to humorous ends seems not only appropriate but necessary. Certainly the packed house was as primed for standup comedy as for the evening’s more visual fireworks.
So this seemingly odd combination – comedy and pole dancing – turns out to be just what the doctor ordered right now. As Tommy Shaw would say, you’re fooling yourself if you don’t believe it. Just in time, Schtick a Pole in It is planning to increase to a biweekly schedule. Visit their events page for dates, details and tickets.