FROM HEARTACHE TO SALVATION
SuzeQ explains how pole brought her back from the brink and inspired her documentary film
For SuzeQ Williams, April 28, 2009 is a date that has been etched permanently into her memory. It was the day after her birthday, and sadly, the day her father died of cancer. SuzeQ had flown home a week earlier to be with her family, who had just discovered the cancer. She did hospice care with her mother, taking the night shifts because she is a night owl. “Basically seeing my dad move peacefully towards death, and walking him there…screwed me up pretty badly.”
One month before her father’s death, she lost her corporate job. Returning to LA, without family and without a job, she turned to heavy drinking and drugs in order to cope with her grief. She lost weight, lost her hair, and spent her days sick and vomiting. The decisive moment came one hungover morning. This time she decided to do something to help herself. As fate would have it, SuzeQ walked into Heart and Pole studio, in Redondo Beach, CA. She met Trina Lance and Cat Landry. They welcomed her with open arms, offering her nonjudgmental love and training. “You know, when we do pole, it hurts. The tough athletic training required for pole weaned me off the drugs and alcohol. And I threw myself into it.”
SuzeQ’s journey into the pole community made her aware that she was not the only one who’s life had been turned around by the pole. She began reading social media (i.e. Alethea Austin’s “Pole Scars”), researching the history of pole dance, and listening to a number of different stories: from divorced women who needed to find themselves, to couples whose marriages improved when the wives took pole class. There were also stories of women working through sexual trauma her pole classes, as well as children who pole dance for fun.
Simultaneously, she started getting into film. After shooting a friend’s wedding on her iphone, she discovered she had a natural talent for making movies. SuzeQ always knew she wanted to make a documentary, and Pole Life became a new passion. Her school did not teach documentaries – only feature films. So she had to teach herself. She did not sleep for two months. Every other student shot for four days. She shot for four months. Her long-term goal is to create a trailer for graduation and get into the awards next year.
Part of the goal of the documentary is to enlighten people about the history of pole dance. It’s roots lay in belly dancing and fertility rites, as well as circus performances. SuzeQ is quick to say that she tries not to focus on the exotic side of pole because so many people are already familiar with that aspect of the dance. Rather, she tries to present the broad spectrum that is pole dance today, as well as its history.
In an effort to get an “international opinion” on pole, SuzeQ set up shop at Graumann’s Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard, which was no small feat. In two months she learned everything there was to learn about permits, insurance and licenses for public performances, as well as obtaining endorsements from the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, and creating demonstration videos to show that what she was doing was not “dirty”.
The three questions she asked people from around the world that day were, “What do you think of when you hear the word pole dancing?” “Why?” , and “What do you think of it in terms of fitness?”