Call it what you want, dancing, stripping, pole dancing, cabaret, or booty popping it is a profession. With each profession comes a set of norms and decorum that should be followed in order to maintain the professional barrier required for the business to function. Some people may think that the casual nature of an adult cabaret warrants a more a less rigid set of norms. While this may be true it is not without standards of professionalism and Yana was more than happy to share these with us while telling the story of her career.
First it must be made clear that Yana holds no shame and full agency surrounding the work that she does. Her family is well aware of how she makes her living and says that her mother recognized that she had an interest in dancing as early as the age of six. “I was walking through Louisiana with my mother as a kid and I saw a woman on stage dancing and I stopped and starred. My mother said she knew then that this is what I would be doing someday.”
When Yana describes the feeling of being on stage she sounds the way you would expect any performer to sound. The thrill of pure expression and the energy from the audience are what fuel her movement, the money is a great benefit, but she truly loves dancing and feels privileged to be able to do it for a living. “The idea that I get to go on stage every night and move however I want to is insane to me, like how could this be a job.”
She’s become more passionate about her body and her health realizing, “if I don’t work out I can get seem kind of chubby because of my body type so work has motivated me to stay in shape, because I feel more confident and have better stamina.” On top of this Yana has begun to take ballet to increase her strength and flexibility. “I never felt like I had grace before”, she says and this is not something that most people would expect to hear an exotic dancer say but Yana feels, “I bring grace to the stage now, and it feels great.”
It wasn’t always such a joy though, a couple years ago she was a rookie dancer and new to Los Angeles and felt awkward on stage. After a year or so she found her groove but admits that it takes some women longer and she feels that the older dancers are often times more interesting to watch. Although she does not see her self- doing it for the rest of her life, Yana has no immediate plans to quite and her husband has no problem with it.
“My man is an entrepreneur, and knows what I do for a living is my job.”, she says. This is exactly why the etiquette piece is so imperative. Some women are mothers and wife, like any other place of business. Just because you “look like your fucking” on stage, doesn’t mean that is the case. It is performance, and just as you would not be disrespectful to a stage actor you should not cross the line with an exotic dancer either. “My job is to dance, your job is to enjoy the performance. That’s it.”
When she was dating Yana says that it was always the men with conventional employment that fetishized her when they found out what she did for a living, but she has dated other men in the night life who thought nothing of it. This is pivotal to the conversation about sexualization of women’s bodies and the type of cultural conditioning we see around them.
The interesting point that Yana makes is that even in a sexualized context her body is still her own. There are clear limits as to what type of contact is consensual or not and there are even parameters of general politeness. “It is not cool to crumple up money and throw it at me. If you want to make me smile throw it in the air and make it rain.” When these rules are broken there are consequences but Yana says that by-and-large most men respect the rules and her boundaries which is what makes the job enjoyable.
If we zoom out to a social context we quickly see that it is not necessarily the amount of sexual energy in an environment, but how we are cultural conditioned to behave in that environment. We also see that women have to stand behind their values as well, but this is less of a problem. Yana continues to dance and if you are interested in seeing her do so, she welcome’s you on by Sam’s to she a show and tip.