Those caged dancers are a thing of the past, real mid-20th century nostalgia, out of date, yet retro enough to be seen in hipster places today. Caged dancers are dancers of an era I thought I wanted to be a part of; cool enough to be anti-establishment and dangerous enough to be part of an alternative world that wouldn’t cause too much trouble. Or so I thought.
When I first started dancing, I thought that’s how stripping would be. Me, behind those cage bars, writhing away as if in heat or panic or both. Frenzied maybe, on fire, seething, most definitely. A real sexpot brewing forth from the embers of the underworld: I would let the whole space seduce me while I seduce it, then seduced them –the customers, the perverts, the lonely, the tragic. Oh, how we had so much in common.
I figured I would really give my all, give it my all, give them my all; gyrate until the every inch of me was as loose as it could be, a loose wheel, a loose bracket or parenthesis, a loose nut or bolt –both. I would sweat out the anger of the day, or at least as much of it as I could, authentic teenage angst for when I started stripping since I was still a teenager. And I would sweat it out all over the clients, get them sopping wet, caught under a rainstorm wet, nightmare sweats wet. My idea might have been some slippery slide or slope, either way, we were all going down. I would toss about my pheromones, give it to them good, real good, drench them with all my damp, young DNA, drown them in a sea of my liquid hate and denial, drown them so I didn’t have to drown myself. Quite intangible, yet tangible at the same time. My notions were rather erroneous. Remember, I was but a teenager after all.
Stripping was a cage. It meant I would wear something fringy or laden with sequins, play the part of the vixen or the kitten, but giving artifice baby, at every cost. Artifice oozing from my pores, dripping down their god awful faces, faces that reminded me of caskets and tombs and caves where men once watched women dance by the light of a bush fire, of a fire started with the clank of two stones or the vigorous rubbing of two sticks over dry, bushy tinder, the pressing of two bodies –a fire of today and yesterday and all the days. A steaming kindle gathering, bunched together, tight and tighter, friction and person and non-person. But mostly non-person, always energy, mostly the imagined, the fictitious friction generating heat –one so warm and soothing bodies became gelatinous, like a jelly, a jam one swipes on a piece of toast and says, yum.
Stripping was not a cage, it was free as fuck, it was being a body I never imagined, it was being a body I wanted to try, one I might have known in another life or a dream. I could tap into those nether regions rather easily. The guilt would be that which fueled, that which set me apart from the other strippers. No one carried guilt on their body the way I did –no one carried such a heavy, sober body, a body full of life and death and resurrection. That was my saving grace, well, at least something to save me from grace or grace me into saving, stacking paper. Stripping was a cage and not a cage, both spaces guiding me to a precipice. Nothing to do with money or sex or attention, everything to do with healing and breaking boundaries –breaking open a body and watching how it spills out on the stage, the floor, how it pours into a pair of cheap heels and out of a dental floss g-string. Tons of Mars action, Venus attraction, and Saturn bones. Plenty of Jupiter expanding into a pair of thongs, a platform slipper, expanding out while remaining inside, expanding the mental body beyond the physical, seeing what it could accomplish in such darkness. Full of Pluto, digging, anthropomorphic portions, finding that which rest as if below but always dangling from above.
It was cage dancing, but it wasn’t. There was no physical cage, just a stage –circular like time passing inside the black box. The circle stage not only represented time, but all the eyes glaring, consuming, all the eyes hungry for something, anything –a collection of coins, an astrological chart, a tunnel, a tube, a hole, a big, wide gaping hole, or a smaller one, maybe even barely big enough for a finger or a rolled up dollar bill. Just big enough to slip between the folds or inside an orifice, contraband dealings, dealing with the devil, with Faust, dealing with mortality and our immortal punishments. Self-flagellation, tied up inside the cage, yet crafty enough to pick the lock, remove cuffs, remove nipple tape, latex cover-ups –slick enough to be an eel, a serpent, a stripper. A greasy glare reflecting off a body like the sun catching a piece of metal on asphalt, like a shiny penny or a glass eye.
The jailhouse affect hit us hard, not just me, but all of us who took the cage route, the cage life, the cage rage. In the mirrors, we didn’t just study our own faces, we studied each other’s faces for signs of going under or rising above. The signs were obvious. I can’t tell you what they are because, well, you either know or you don’t know. Some of this shit is stripper code, too. I can’t let all y’all in, of course. But anytime you want to come to the cage and toss a handful of bills, you’re more than welcome. Don’t ask to hear our sob stories, they are not few and far between, they are plentiful, they are growing wild like dandelions, not the medicinal ones who’s stems and leaves alike are stuff of the gods and goddesses –but the fluffy white ones, the ones that grant wishes. And oh, were we wishing, coveting anything that would bring us from inside the cage to outside. We paraded inside the cage, making wishes with every step, wishing on stars which meant each other, ourselves, turning energies into monies into commodities, forever delving into that lonely Chiron vibe, being Chiron and being outside of it. Being the cage and the bird and the human and the spirit at the same time. So complicated if you’ve never stepped foot inside the cage, so logical if you have.
WORDS BY: Jacklyn Janeksela