Poleitico: Pole Dancing and Politics at the Den

Polaris, a new contemporary pole dance company, debuted at Chicago’s Den Theatre in Wicker Park on Wednesday night with their show Poleitico. Billed as “a contemporary pole show focusing on important social issues that are at risk with the current administration; Racism, immigration, climate change, gay rights.” The crew of 10 diverse performers delivered just that in cabaret fashion, with spirited acts that took on these civic-minded topics and defied every stereotype along the way. Although it is perhaps difficult to deeply explore political issues with a medium of physical expression, that did not prevent the cast from trying.

Dalton Rhode. Photo courtesy of wingshuttr.

Using just dance and the magical ability to climb a pole, Polaris members roused the audience to shouting and cheering on several occasions. Although they were playing to a home team crowd that seemed familiar and supportive of the concept behind pole dancing, their numbers were well-choreographed and often moving.

Working as an ensemble, they were able to make powerful symbolic statements about race relations with acts like …But Equal, and to express the tragedy of environmental losses with Hexus. By using the clever medium of a projector, sometimes inducing audience groans with Trump tweets, and tossing in inspiring music and a few voiceovers, the metaphors inherent in the physical expression that pole lends itself to were teased out by these talented performers of various skill levels.

Krystle Annice. Photo courtesy of Don Curry

A charming and flirtatious act that celebrated same sex love was performed by a dynamic duo Molly Meru and Mary Elizabeth. A stunning exploration of heartache and loss in Chicago called Reclaiming Our Lives and Crying Glory was performed by Lindsay Anderson. Perhaps the most fascinating part of this young contemporary company is how clearly empowering this mode of self-expression is to the performers, with their joy shining through in each bold artistic statement about what is right and wrong with the world. It remains to be seen if their follow-up work will always have a social mission, but it is clear that they intend to continue to develop their craft together in good company.

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Kim Campbell

Kim Campbell (they/them) is a freelance editor, podcaster and creative writer who has spent a career focusing on the arts, particularly literature, theater and circus. Former editor of CircusTalk News, they have written about theater and circus for Third Coast Review since its very beginning. Kim is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association and the International Network of Circus Arts Magazines. In 2019, they were on the jury of FIRCO in Madrid (Circus Festival Iberoamericano) and in 2021 they were on the voting committee for the International Circus Awards. See their tweets at @kimzyn or follow them on Instagram.