[GRACE ALLEN | Refinery 29]
With ever more burlesque and strip clubs opening around the UK, exotic dancing has seen something of a reinvention in recent years.

Pole dancing classes have been embraced in many cities as an alternative to the usual workouts – Pilates, yoga or spinning. The connotations are positive and wholesome: gain body confidence, get fitter and healthier, feel sexier.

While there are many for whom exotic dancing continues to have a sinister side – women often turn to this industry when they find themselves in financial trouble, out of options and lacking support – there are others who choose to make it their profession, citing benefits like flexibility, fitness, and high earning potential.

"Dancing is like a love-hate relationship. It’s a tough profession. The best thing about dancing is just being able to express yourself... [but] We dancers are often the punching bag of society."

— Mysterious Exotic Dancer

We speak to one exotic dancer to find out the ups and downs of the job, from clients to hours and pay.

How long have you worked as an exotic dancer?

Since October 2009.

How and why did you start working in this industry?

When I moved from Europe to the US in 1998 I started working as a fitness instructor, teaching mainly yoga and Pilates. In 2005, interested in pole dancing, I took classes. I was later trained to teach pole. Then in 2008 the economy took a hard hit. My family was struggling financially so my husband and I decided to stake out some high-end strip clubs. I thought I had all the skill and training to take matters into my own hands and bring in enough money for us to live more comfortably. We did a lot of research and after an audition at a fully nude club, I started working there. Little did I know that dancing was just about 30% of the job.

What are the best things about the job?

The best thing about dancing is just being able to express yourself. With every stage I take or every private dance I do, I get the chance to make my audience feel. I can touch people, bring them to life, wake hidden desires. This applies to men as well as women (the club I work at has a mixed clientele – men, women, couples). The other thing I really like about dancing is that I choose who I talk to, who I spend time with, or who I dance privately for. At the club that I work at there’s no pressure from management to ask for private dances if I don’t want to.