Meet Erin Clark, A Pole Dancer On Wheelchair, Who Is Redefining The Rules Of Sexuality

Lifestyle Sexuality

Thanks to the lithe-like movements of beautiful women on a pole, I was instantly drawn to pole-dancing as a gawky teenager. Perhaps it was the oozing sexiness of the dance form or the way the dancers performed confidently around a metal bar, pole-dancing opened the gates of understanding female sexuality and confidence for me and I was determined to pursue it as an adult.

But as time passed, my view of pole dancing slowly underwent a change as I realized there’s more to pole-dancing than just ‘oozing sexiness.’ In fact, feminism began to brew inside me after realizing how the art-form has been degraded to only be seen as means to titillate male gaze. Soon, I realized that pole dancing was beyond the seedy clubs and scanty outfits and there’s more to pole-dancing than what mainstream media displayed.

One woman who has ushered in a radical change in the way the world sees pole-dancing is 37-year-old Canada-born Erin Clark. A champion pole dancer in the competitive circuit, Clark is one among the many dancers who are changing the rhetoric surrounding pole dancing and how it is perceived by people. However, what makes her stand-out among the crowd, across the globe is her wheel-chair pole dancing routine.
 Clark was born with sacral agenesis—a condition that affects the muscles in the spine that left her disabled for life. Instead of losing hope, Clark, who had previously worked as a circus aerialist was determined to show the world that there was nothing she couldn’t do, which included participating in fitness competitions and taking up pole dancing.
“I did not consider pole dancing inclusive – having a specially-abled person show up does not indicate inclusivity. It means that more likely, that person is doing a whole lot of adapting to an environment that is not equipped to them. There are not a lot of disabled pole dancers. In fact, the first time that I competed, there was no disabled category,” she told Barcroft.

But Clark changed the rules with her determination and emerged victorious in the in July 2017, when Clark competed at the IPSF World Championships (Spanish Pole Sport championships) and won a silver medal for Spain, paving the way for disabled competitors in pole-dancing and proving the adage true—nothing is impossible.

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View image on Twitter

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With the aim to unravel more about her life and work, I spoke to Clark on certain aspects of her life and what I managed to take away from the conversation was her infectious confidence and spirit that refuses to let anything come in her path of life.
The Daily Net (TDN): Your life has been inspiring, to say the least, thanks to your much-noted work as a pole-dancing athlete. Do you look up to someone for inspiration?

Erin: My coach Salima is the reason I pole dance. She taught me everything I know about the pole. She has a vision of how the sport can be inclusive and the drive to fight for it – even when it might cost her. She stands up for what she thinks is right, she does the work of 5 people, and she believes in me in a way that makes me work hard, take risks, and really care about how well I do. Salima inspires me.

Clark (right) with Salima (left). (Facebook/Erin Clark)

Clark (right) with Salima (left).
TDN: Who are you other than a pole-dancing athlete? What does your everyday routine look like?

Erin: I’m a writer, I publish my own magazine about my life as an International Sex Icon, artist, and traveler. I do all the photography, modeling, writing, and layout design. I also have several essays published in various journals and magazines online and in print. When I’m not traveling, my everyday routine is pretty relaxed.

I enjoy a lot of solitude and free time to let my ideas and creative impulses steep. I live about a 45-minute wheelchair-role from the Mediterranean Sea in Catalunya. I go there a lot. I love the exercise, the scenery, and that I can see the sea in so many different moods. In my town, I go to the same cafe every day. I call it ‘my office’.

I sit at the bar and practice Spanish with my friends and let my head get lost in whatever I’m working on. When I’m working I get obsessive. I’ll put hours into a selfie shoot or photo shoot, or a video – a minute clip for Instagram can take an afternoon. My writing takes me over completely. Writing – mostly creating content, I think – is a form of obsession that ends with a product. It is freakishly consuming. I live in another world when I’m writing – even though I’m writing about my own life.

When I finish a piece that has taken a while to work on, it feels very similar to when I return home from a trip. I have to recalibrate to my present surroundings. Generally, I do that by relaxing at home, going to the studio to dance and train and, you guessed it, visiting the sea.

Clark is currently traveling to India for her birthday celebrations. (Facebook/Erin Clark)

 

TDN: How’s life changed since your first competitive pole dancing championship? Do you notice a change in people’s attitude towards yourself?

Erin: Pole dancing hasn’t changed anything – it’s a continuation of the things I have always done. Physically and creatively. I was a circus aerialist for 6 years before I started doing pole. The inclusion of pole in my life wasn’t a shift for me or the people who know me.

TDN: A hyper-sexualized world has unfortunately diminished the athletic and acrobatic importance of pole dancing. As a pole-dancing athlete, what can be done to bring about a change in the perspective?

The IPSF is taking care of the way the sport is perceived quite well. They worked really hard to have the sport recognized officially and continue to work hard to have it included as an Olympic sport. They present their athletes and competitions with consistent professionalism. Whereas I publically refer to myself as a sex icon. I have a magazine I publish called SEX ICON magazine.

I post a lot of pictures of me wearing very little clothing, I have an erotic story available for download on my website and was just featured in an article with the heading ‘pole sport and sex’.  As an athlete, I might not be helping to change the perspective at all.

Clark currently resides in Spain. (Facebook/Erin Clark)

TDN: If you had the option to go back in time, what would you erase from your life and do differently?

Erin: In a sense, I feel like I can change anything I want to at any time – a narrative is a powerful tool that way. I can’t change actual events, but I can choose what they mean to me, and use writing to explore that. Memory is so fickle anyway, if I don’t like something that happened, I can just wait a couple years and I’ll remember it differently! Life is so fluid and mutable to me that it feels unproductive to take my past too seriously or concretely. I’m really curious about it, though. I use it so much in my work, I’m glad all that background is there to create from.

TDN: If I am allowed to scratch the surface of your dating life, I would like to know what are the challenges you have faced in your love life? How do your dates react to your line of work and lifestyle?

Erin: My biggest dating challenge is that I am constantly moving and traveling. I don’t really date in a traditional sense. I just go right to falling in love with interesting and compassionate people that I meet as I move through the world. The challenge is finding ways of staying connected despite the inevitable distance.

My work is so essential to me that it would be impossible to be intimate with someone that didn’t get it and wasn’t proud of it. Like, what would we even talk about? People I really enjoy end up in my work in some way or other. And the reaction tends to be that they are pleased.

TDN: Do you see yourself married in the future?

Erin: Married? Yeah. I can see it.

SCENE: I’m wearing the most unrealistic dress a woman in a wheelchair could possibly wear. It is NOT possible to move in it. I’m a bridal sculpture. In an art gallery, I’d be titled: An ethereal re-imagining of Erin in organza and chiffon. Wildlife figurines and fresh flowers are nestled in my acres of the train. I’m arrayed at the top of the aisle in all my immobilized glory. Music starts, friends, and family stand. But I don’t make my way down the aisle. There is no one to give me away. I am my own. But I will share – with him.

I take a breath and watch as my groom makes his way to me, not too quickly, this moment is too sweet to rush. And we like to let our romantic tension build. When he gets to me, he lifts me into his arms. My dress falls in a perfect cascade around us. I press my forehead to his cheek. We whisper to each other as my husband-imminently-to-be carries me, on equal footing and as dramatic as possible, to the altar. END SCENE.

For me, weddings are theatrics and I love theatre and creating theatre. As an artist, I am always thinking of iconic imagery that represents key and regular moments in people’s lives – how I would arrange them to include a wheelchair in a way that evokes the emotion of the moment, not the sentiment of tragedy and overcoming traditionally, pervasively and aggressively applied to wheelchairs and disability.

But, you asked about marriage, and that is something else. Real and imperfect. A marriage (and variations of commitment) is not an event, it’s a way of moving through time with someone. And that too, yes, I can see it.

TDN: Other than pole dancing, are there any other interests/hobbies you are pursuing to keep your spirit kickin’?
Erin: I’m obsessed with paragliding. I have been learning to paraglide since November 2016. I paraglide as much as I can with my friends at zero gravity in Algodonales, Spain. We’ve been working with all these different kinds of harnesses to see what lets me fly as independently as possible. Once I got confident enough with my basic skills, I asked the guys if they would take the frame of my old wheelchair and turn it into a harness I could fly in and they did. I get to try it out this May. Super adventure experiment. I can’t wait.

TDN: Have you been recognized on the streets? If so, tell us about that experience. Any celebrity mentions?

Erin: I mention celebrities all the time. Hey, Beyonce! As far as I know, none of them have mentioned me.

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