100% Soul-Sister Powered & Produced New Video!

Sometimes we choose our own family. In the eleven years since I have expatriated from the United States, and moved to this little, remote island off the Caribbean Coast of Panama, it is interesting to note that the people that have visited me me most are women I used to work with back in Tucson, Arizona. My parents, of course, have come to visit. This is actually the country of my birth, despite my parents being gringos, I was born on Panamanian soil – soil I am grateful for, as I own a little piece of it, on which my custom-built yoga studio stands. My three siblings show no interest in visiting. That’s fine – no grudge. I’m not called the psychedelic-sheep of the family for a reason. I know it’s not easy having a bipolar, anti-establishment sibling. I wouldn’t want to visit me either, probably.

The women I used to work with in Tucson, we were fierce competitors against each other. We were are hustling to our highest, yet over a decade later, since we’ve all moved on from exotic dancing, the strongest bond I have are the bonds I have with my dancing “soul-sisters”, which is how we think of each other. One simply does not go through such an intense experience without developing deep bonds. That experience (and really most of the REAL SHOW is what happens in the dressing room where men are not allowed – talk about shit getting real – wow, reality truly is stranger than fiction in the dressing room). The dressing room is too complex and profound to get into here, with tales of both sorrow and soaring heights of glory; tales of violence and thievery, combined with compassion and generosity, that really only a fellow-dancer could understand the mental and physical stamina it took to do that job. We have all had our injuries in that job.

As an introvert I kept to myself in the dressing room and served as an observer, yet very strong in demanding my “space” at the mirror. I earned it. You have to fight for your territory on the dressing room. I was known for stoically, quietly protecting my space. As an introvert then, it’s amazing that I am still so close with these women I worked with. It’s a deep bond that goes beyond words. When business was slow, I sat back there and taught myself German. Often yoga clients ask how I know so much German, and I just laugh to myself, if they could only see me in the dressing-room with my laying back on the bench, with my legs propped up on the wall studying German. The secret to maintaining that job, is that I had a professional work-ethic and was always polite, and ALWAYS over-tipped out. Tip your bartenders, Djs, bouncers, and always be polite, because THEY are the ones who will have your back when shit goes down, and this is life, shit will ALWAYS go down….and this street-smart mentality serves me well in my life now. Trust and believe I have a bad-ass bouncer at my disposal, and he deals with thing Bocaterranian style – let’s just say it’s an anarchic style you don’t want to mess with. No amount of rich, white gringo privilege can get you out of a jam down here – you have no rights down here on paradise island, let’s just put it that way. I paid my dues at the club to be heavily protected, and I’ve paid them here. It’s sad that one needs protection, but it sure is nice to have that security of my “brothers” backing me up. And yes, that’s how I think of the bouncers, as brothers. My Panamanian handyman/bouncer here calls me “hermana” (sister). We are ALL family.

There were may who didn’t survive dancing. Some of the women died of overdose, died of spousal abuse, died by suicide, some ended up in a mental institution. These are all women I knew, so by no means, let this glorify exotic dancing. It’s a tough gig that takes a huge amount of courage and confidence to even step foot in, much less thrive in. However allow this article be a testament to those of us who are survivors, those of us who did thrived, who played within the system, beat it, and got out with our lives somewhat in tact. That takes a certain amount of cunning, skill, and grace to get out alive, and thankfully before the market crashed.

Since I moved to Panama in 2006, three of my dancing “sisters” have visited me and the times we spent together were so precious, so deep, so bonding. Whenever someone of significance comes to visit me, I insist we get out of town, where I live/work, and rent a remote, secluded, private cabin nestled among the jungle, on the beach. There we dance naked solely for our own pleasure and not anyone else. We can talk of love and death. We can laugh and cry openly. Who are WE to judge anyone? Sex-workers (yes strippers fall into the category of sex-workers) are a marginalized community, have no doubt – there are deep prejudices against us, and that is why I am protecting my sisters’ names here. I personally have the freedom of being “out” since I have no one dependent on me – no kids, no boss, no husband. I have that freedom to be “out”. I have been shamed by the yoga community because of my past, when I first opened up my studio, but fuck them too. Actions speak louder than bitchy, envious, cut-throat gossip dressed in trendy yoga pants. MyTrip Advisor reviews speak for themselves. Take your shame and stigma and shove it up your ass. If that is not yoga – standing up for ONE’S TRUE SELF, that what the hell is?? My dancing soul-sisters and I have all gone on to make lives for ourselves, moved onto “respectable” professions, owning our own property, gainfully employed and contributing members of “society”. Some have kids, have husbands, we all own property. We can be proud of where we are. It’s all about self-love, self-acceptance, and sometimes we take a weird, winding road to teach that place of peace.

As I mentioned in my most recent article, I am now happily celibate, and my way of sexually expressing myself is to make these videos, and the ultimate outcome of said expression often depends on who is holding the video camera. This latest offering, the video “Tangled Up In Blue” was shot by one of my dancing sisters, who is now a nurse. The results speak for themselves. I pushed myself beyond limits I even knew I had! There’s a crazy back-bend in a hammock that blows my mind because I didn’t know I was capable of that strength/flexibility, especially at this age (born in 1968). If it wasn’t for her encouragement, I wouldn’t even have tried it. Actually you can HEAR her disguised, slowed-down voice, which was edited by yet another of my dancing sisters who came to visit me earlier this year. So, this is a 100% soul-sister shot, produced, edited production. 100% female empowered. You can hear the nurse’s voice encouraging me, prodding me on, “That’s nice, oh, that makes your ass look really good”. This is how we talk to each other. Do you, simply as a remote viewer of my art, have the right to talk to me that way? No. Nor do you have any domain over my personal space, even if you think you’re clever enough to my studio. Soul-sister’s have the right though – we have earned it, have paid our dues in blood, sweat and tears all commingled together. In the dressing-room there was also plenty of vomit, shit, snot, piss and breast-milk flowing abundantly. It’s a life of glamour, what can I say? After all we’ve been through together, it’s a family that is so intimate, nothing is shameful.

The closest bonds I have with women are these sisters, and even a former manager of the club (manager = authority, even though I was an independent contractor). I remember at the time thinking this manager was such a bitch when she was giving me a good reprimanding for going beyond the limits of what was legal (who me?) in the VIP room. She really sat me down and gave me a right strong lecture about self-respect. At the time I thought, “What a bitch”, rolled my eyes and was just more cautious. Now looking back, I love her for it, thank her for it, and we’re in touch and support each other now, again as soul-sisters. As an atheist I don’t know if I should even throw around the word “soul” but I have no other way to describe the closeness, the love, the connection, the sisterhood of SURVIVORS that we are today. Not all survived. To those sisters I shed a tear. We were all competitors, yet all belong to each other. Grateful for this life-long connection of the heart. We are not world-weary, we are WISE.

See the "Tangled Up In Blue" video here. 

Laura Kay