Raw & Real: The Healing Power of Pole Dancing. ~ Michelle Cordero

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Being this raw and real has unbelievable healing power.

It was the naughtiness that first drew me to pole dancing—I loved the idea of doing something risqué and different. Surprisingly, it was the deep healing that captured my heart and soul, and kept me coming back for seven years.

In my first class, the instructor expertly guided us using visual and kinesthetic (feeling) cues to move and feel. Close your eyes and just breathe. It could have been my own yoga class—with the exception of the darkness, shadows and chrome poles glimmering in the dim red light.

The women who came “just to get their sexy on” would get it and move on, and the rest of us (regardless of what initially drew us to pole class) stayed because the depths beneath the surface of “just sexy” beckoned.

Through pole dancing, I learned to own my feminine power. I wore more form fitting and feminine clothes and my relationships with men shifted for the positive. I started to make real friendships with men.

For the first time in my life, I really understood that I am a beautiful woman. I thank my dance sisters for being the mirror that showed me my own beauty and taught me to treasure it like a precious jewel.

My pole dancing, as all healing processes do, shifted four years ago. I had to join another class due to schedule changes; unbeknownst to me, this class would mark my life in ways I never imagined possible.

My dancing became more raw and real because my new class thrived on honesty and vulnerability.

Raw emotion glued us together and it was through my connection to this class that I survived my recent life crisis.

I was a mother for 15 weeks.

I had reached 43 years of age without ever hearing the tick of my biological clock, and only then had my first pregnancy—completely unplanned and shocking—changed everything.

I searched outside myself for signs that it’s ok, but this world doesn’t praise those of us who have made a similar choice as a parent. I hated that I even had a choice, and it still haunts me.

I would have preferred to remain ambivalent to having children, walking my path in alignment with my spirit. My path before the pregnancy was clear, no confusion or meandering; I saw my way and kept moving forward with relative ease.

Now I question my past and grieve my present on a daily basis.

Fortunately, one thing the pregnancy did not unravel for me was my relationship. My partner and I were living together at the time, and we are now happily married. If anything, this storm brought us closer together.

Neither one of us wanted kids, yet we were suddenly having one.

We walked around the first few weeks in a dense fog of disbelief and terror, feeling out of control and worried about being able to actually do this thing called parenting. Parents? That was some other couple—not us.

After couples’ counseling together and individually, we pledged to bring our child into the world and raise it together. We were going to have a baby. I continued to dance my way through the nausea, and my ever changing relationship with gravity.

When we found out many weeks later that the baby tested positive for Down’s Syndrome, a new rug pulled out from under us.

Here we’d just done all of this soul searching and spiritual shifting to be parents and now we were choosing to let that all go. But was it really a choice? Not for me; it was what I felt I clearly had to do for the good of all involved.

At the time, I never questioned my actions—and I still know it was the right choice for me. Yet, I never ever bargained on the weight of this grief that I still carry with me. I guess I thought it would be a small backpack size grief that I could strap on both shoulders and carry with relative ease; instead, I got a set of mismatched luggage that varies in size according to the trip and some of the wheels get stuck from time to time.

Yet, whenever I arrived in dance class, all I ever needed to carry was in my heart, and my neat little dance bag. Dance class—the only place I could be so raw and real.

I spent three months in a grief support group for women like me who had “to choose” to terminate a pregnancy based on some genetic or serious health issue with the fetus. It was good to be around other women who had suffered this impossible choice. Our partners were welcomed, and I learned a lot from some of the men strong enough to feel and share in our group. My husband came once and it felt so good to hear him speak about his feelings.

In the group of some six women, I alone had lots of outside support from friends and family. Most of these women felt afraid or ashamed to tell even their closest friends and family about their abortions.

While it was helpful and necessary to go to this support group, it was through my dance class I received unconditional love and acceptance to begin to let go of some of my heavy baggage.

I had my entire dance class of ten “sisters” who knew and supported me throughout this time. And I exposed myself weekly, tearing my heart open in my dance class. I would dance out my demons boldly, without edit in front of these other women every Thursday.

We’d been dancing together for three years before I got pregnant. I danced through the entire three months pregnancy, the abortion and recovery. Our class ended exactly a year from the day I found out the fetus had Down’s Syndrome.

Obviously, this was no ordinary dance class or group of women.

Hearts and bodies exposed in the dimly lit room with no mirrors. No voyeurs, only all of us voyagers together on this ship of feeling, emotion and self expression.

We reveled in the power, the exquisite feeling of being truly “seen” and “understood”—beyond the physical. We laid our deepest fears, concerns, and loves out like a banquet feast.

There was no critique or judgment; only acceptance and mirroring.

Being this raw and real has unbelievable healing power.

I don’t believe I would have been as graceful grieving without this class. Sitting in a circle of chairs talking with others about our shared pain helped me feel less alone in my experience, yet never transcendent. I would have been quite literally and figuratively stuck in that group process chair for years without my somatic practice—my Thursday morning pole dance class.

The songs I danced to in this three months period tell the real story that words couldn’t.

The last provocative and openly sexual dance I remember was right before I found out I was pregnant—I danced to Peaches’ Boys Wanna Be Her.

I stripped off a leopard coat, carried it in my mouth as I crawled across the floor stalking the entire room; this dance screamed “I dare you.”

The following week after discovering I was pregnant, I rolled around on the floor softly and sweetly to Falling Slowly. This song about falling in love became my story of a long slow backwards fall from shock to loving acceptance to pride of new motherhood.

On the day I got the call from the genetics department, I went to dance class fifteen minutes later. It was the only thing I really could do in my shock, and I knew the song I’d dance to before I even got off the phone with the counselor: Bruno Mars’ It Will Rain—a song about the devastation of lost love—is forever linked to my own loss of a child.

Because of my training and understanding of trauma, I knew that I should move and dance if I could.

Like Bruno sings, I had quite literally been brought to my knees. My dance sisters moved around me that day in silent support, and they picked me up and held me as I cried my eyes out.

My pain and trauma may never be entirely gone, and I am forever marked by this experience. However, I know that being able to embody my grief immediately and share it without apology jump started my healing. To have women who love me without question hold space for me was beyond anything I might have imagined possible.

Even though I lived it, I am still incredulous about what I went through.

Once I healed from the abortion physically, I danced to Only If For A Night by Florence and the Machine. Florence wrote the song about seeing her grandmother’s ghost, whom she had been quite close to while she was alive.

Similarly, one night right after the abortion I had a dream where I said goodbye to a little girl whom I know was my daughter.

For me, as for Florence in her song,

The only solution was to stand and fight

And my body was bruised and I was set alight

But you came over me like some holy rit

And although I was burning

You’re the only light

Only if for a night

I had a child only if for a night, and I truly hope that someday it will make sense why it was so brief.



Michelle Cordero, an E-RYT500, brings years of yoga, bodywork and fitness experience to her yoga teaching.  She is a graduate of three of the most highly respected yoga teacher trainings in the country: the original Yogaworks Teacher Training Course (TTC) with Maty Ezraty and Lisa Walford; the Ana Forrest TTC; and Shiva Rea’s Embodying the Flow TTC.  Her primary influence and inspiration is Ana Forrest and the Forrest Yoga method; and she is a certified Forrest Yoga Instructor. Deeply committed to high quality instruction and to evolving her practice, Michelle continues to study with some of the most accomplished yoga masters in the world including: Ana Forrest, Shiva Rea, and Sarah Powers.  She recently completed an 85 Hour Prenatal Vinyasa Training with Jennifer More and is now a Registered Prenatal Yoga Teacher (RPYT). In addition, Michelle holds a Master of Fine Art (MFA) in Dramatic Art, and she believes in movement as a healing art and as a form of personal expression. A dedicated mover, Michelle is certified to teach pole dance fitness by OC Pole Dance Fitness/ Felix Cane Inc.



 Like elephant I’m not “Spiritual.” I just practice being a good person on Facebook.


Assistant Ed: Josie Huang/Ed: Bryonie Wise


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anonymous Oct 16, 2015 8:16am

I can relate– Pole helped me out of one of the worst places I’ve been in after a very messy ending to a relationship. I truly believe that without it, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. It helped rebuild my confidence and make me feel happy again. Never met a more supportive community of women.

anonymous Apr 16, 2014 6:23pm

I was in an unhealthy relationship and my aunt, who used to be a professional dancer, built me back up piece by piece through pole dancing. The most amazing experience!

anonymous Apr 5, 2013 6:20pm

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anonymous Mar 24, 2013 2:38pm

touched. thank you for sharing and for being so vulnerable. it is inspiring.

anonymous Mar 20, 2013 1:57pm

Thank you for sharing. It's so beautifully written and so true to the healing power of breath, feeling, and movement. Thanks for articulating what you feel and embody. I am glad to know you through your writing as well as your yoga and dance.

anonymous Mar 19, 2013 7:45am

thank you for sharing an incredibly personal journey.

anonymous Mar 19, 2013 12:36am

wow. I am so moved by you story and your choice to share it is a very brave one! Did you go to s factor?

    anonymous Mar 19, 2013 6:29pm

    yep, S Factor SF for 7 years! my last four were in this one class as you have read, which was incredibly special. I feel so lucky to have been a part of it. Honestly, I don't think a class like that comes around very often. thank you for reading and responding!

anonymous Mar 18, 2013 8:40pm

At 41, I also, didn't consider that I might ever have a child. I didn't know I was pregnant until I miscarried shortly after turning 41. It's a very different experience, to be sure, but it somehow helped me feel "like a woman" in a way that I never did before. I am also deeply moved by your story. I have been considering this pole dancing endeavor. Perhaps I will seek out a class.
Thank you!

    anonymous Mar 18, 2013 11:41pm

    Hi Amber! thank you for sharing your experience. I understand what you mean about "feeling like a woman" in a way you didn't before. For me, that was a bittersweet part of this whole experience too. I hope that you can find a pole dancing class that supports you as mine did…they are not all about healing. Some pole dance classes are much more focused on the technique and strength required to execute aerial moves. If you live near an S Factor, I'd try that. Good luck!

anonymous Mar 17, 2013 10:23pm

Michelle, I know your courage and beautiful, honest eloquence not only helped women who have been through similar experiences, but completely shattered a lot of preconceived ideas about pole dancing (including my own). Thanks for your inspiring, moving words.

anonymous Mar 17, 2013 12:49pm

One of the comedians in my (pro choice) tradition has stated, "It's a fetus until it graduates medical school."

anonymous Mar 17, 2013 9:18am

The transmutation of this dark time comes to a new level here. This is you NOT recycling …. you know what I mean.

    anonymous Mar 18, 2013 11:43pm

    Yes, I do understand completely. doesn't Ana Forrest write about that in Fierce Medicine??

anonymous Mar 17, 2013 8:43am

Beautiful honesty. If only we could all be more aware and transparent rather than shaming ourselves and shoving it down inside. Thank you for blazing trails for women to love ourselves and support each other.

    anonymous Mar 17, 2013 10:38am

    Yes, Anne. I hope I am blazing trails here, and thank you for being a part of that by reading and sharing a comment. This took me a year to write and then be ready to share. I can tell you from that experience, it's so much better than shoving it down. All that did was make me feel so alone…even when I had support. Every time we speak out truth we become a little bit lighter, love ourselves a bit more and hopefully inspire our sisters.

anonymous Mar 17, 2013 7:35am

Wow. Thank you for this! It's so raw and vulnerable and honest and beyond judgement. Thank you for sharing this tender side side to yourself (and for making me want to girl pole dancing a whirl!) xxx

anonymous Mar 16, 2013 11:08pm

Thank you for your honesty and vulnerability…it takes courage to share truth but in the end if it helps 1 person it was worth it. And I am sure you will touch more than one person with your experience.

    anonymous Mar 17, 2013 10:35am

    Hi Nicole, when I decided to share this that is exactly what I told myself – even if I help just one woman it will be worth it. As a result of telling my story and then receiving such sweet encouragement and support, I feel lighter like some of my lingering baggage has been lifted so one woman has already been helped:-)

      anonymous Mar 18, 2013 8:42pm

      It helped me! I don't know if that makes it "worth it" to you, but though our experiences vary, it appears that this may have pointed the way to an outlet for my own expression in this realm.

        anonymous Mar 20, 2013 1:21pm

        Beautiful, Amber. I hope that you too end up feeling lighter and stronger having found an outlet for your own expression and found your healing road. If it makes sense, please keep me up to date on how it's going for you. You can post to me on my FB page privately if that's best for you. Michelle Cordero Dance and Yoga or go to my website and click on the FB icon. Only if you are moved by that, I'd love to be a witness if you need one.

anonymous Mar 16, 2013 8:25pm

Wow, what a beautiful article and story. I wish it was only that, just a story, and you never had to suffer this anguish.

    anonymous Mar 17, 2013 10:40am

    thanks JD, me too. me too, and yet today I feel like my voice just might be a help in this world so I take solace in that.

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