By Sara Schreiber
Eight years ago, Joan of Tart took a one-off pole class. Even though her interest was sparked, she never thought it was something she could actually do. After spending eight years watching routines and tricks and doing private lessons in burlesque, Joan was encouraged by her husband to give herself a chance. “My husband gave me a lot of courage and positive reinforcement. He said, ‘If you want to pole dance, I’m not going to stop you. In fact, I encourage you to try something new. Do something you really want to try.’” With that, she started pole classes in October of 2021 with Amy Gould at Performing Arts and Fitness in Le Sueur, MN.
“I think I got bit by the pole bug a little bit,” says Joan. She says Amy Gould was big part of why she continued past the first class. “Amy is such an inclusive teacher. She was very reassuring. I think she could tell how uncomfortable I was for the first few weeks.” Amy’s extra care and effort to help Joan succeed made all the difference. “I knew that if she was my teacher, I could do anything.” Joan’s most recent accomplishments are cross-ankle and cross-knee laybacks and advanced plank. With less than a year of pole under her belt, Joan feels very accomplished to have nailed those already. Now, Joan is preparing for her first competition and her first public pole performance.
Joan competed in speech in high school and college, so competition isn’t new to her. However, she says, “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t incredibly nervous. I’ve never danced publicly before in any way, shape, or form, so doing it as a pole dancer, that’s just kind of upping the ante.” Amy’s reassurance about the inclusivity of the pole community is giving her a little less nerves. “I don’t really have to worry about a lot of things I’d typically worry about—judgment or not being good enough. [Amy] told me there’s no way to disappoint when you’re performing.”
Joan is one of the two MNPC scholarship winners for 2022. Submitting for the scholarship included answering questions about what pole means to the applicant and about their relationship with pole. For Joan, the hardest part about pole is telling herself that it doesn’t matter how she looks. “I struggle with body dysmorphia,” Joan says. “I have been recovering from an eating disorder. I really struggle with thinking I’m too big, that I don’t deserve to be looked at.” Pole is helping her change those beliefs. “I’ve been reassured in my time in the pole community that it doesn’t matter what you look like, it doesn’t matter what you think you look like. It matters what you can do. That’s been really helpful with the eating disorder actually. It’s been kind of convincing me to eat because I can’t be strong enough to jump on that pole if I’m not nourishing my body.”
In her work, she tries to give that same confidence boost to others. “My whole mission is body-positive boudoir [photography], so I work with men, women, and non-binary people. I try to make people feel better about themselves.” She hopes to grow her Dirty Blonde Boudoir photography to include pole dancers in action, but she says she needs to work on it a little first before she’ll be ready to capture those dynamic movements.
Joan tells anyone on the fence about pole to “just do it. It’s amazing. It’ll send your body confidence through the roof. It’s a great workout on top of that.” Having spent eight years unsure about it, she’s the voice of experience about that uncertainty. “I feel as though I could have been farther along if I hadn’t sat on the fence for so long.” It’s a lesson she teaches herself again and again when she pushes herself to try new things: “The only time we grow is when we’re uncomfortable.”
For her debut competition, Joan is planning something light-hearted and surprising as a novice in the Performing Arts category. She’s very secretive about it, but she says, “It will be music that I don’t think has maybe ever been used as part of a pole routine. Then that will shift into something a bit more fun when I do a little reveal in the middle of that.” An entertainer at heart, Joan of Tart’s biggest goal is have an engaging routine that keeps spectators on the edges of their seats. That actually comes second, as Joan says, “Not falling off the pole is the biggest goal.”
Come cheer on Joan of Tart at the Land of Lakes Pole Festival, September 9-11, 2022. You can check out her boudoir work on Instagram @dirtyblondeboudoir.