Brook Notary didn’t think about pole dancing until she got what she thought was a prank call. She had had a mega successful run as an aerialist and cast member with De La Guarda, the sweaty, sexy off-Broadway hit show at the Daryl Roth Theatre in Union Square. She’d toured the country as a dance captain and acrobat with a circus, taught Usher to fly in an aerial show, and choreographed a Brooklyn Academy of Music opera, but nothing captured her artistic heart like the pole. Five years ago, not long after that call, she created The Pulse Project, an all-female dance troupe that combines contemporary dance with pole dancing, in what Notary calls “Industrial Movement.” Her passion challenges stereotypes and preconceived notions when it comes to women dancing.
How do you describe your work? It’s pole dancing that celebrates the badassery of women—their strength, sensuality, complexity, and bravery. It’s sexy, it’s raw, but most of all, it’s moving. I combine my background as a modern dancer, acrobat, rhythmic gymnast, aerialist, and musician for a show based on and around a linear playground of poles.
How did you become interested in the pole? I was home feeding my two-year-old daughter lunch when I got the call from the United States Pole Dance Federation asking if I’d be a guest judge for their next national competition. I thought it was my girlfriend playing a joke, so I played right along while laughing and then I realized it was for real. I explained that I’d never touched a pole, but they wanted a professional choreographer on the panel. The pay was great and I was beyond curious. So of course I said “yes” and started combing YouTube for pole-dance videos… some blew me away, some didn’t. I thought I should give it a try myself before judging so I’d have an idea of the difficulty.
My background at De La Guarda led me to believe I’d be pretty good at pole, at least in the strength department. Boy was I wrong. Pole dancing is the toughest sport I’ve ever tried. I was awful at it, which made me mad. So I signed up for 10 more classes.
I remember at my third class I was finally able to climb to the top. It wasn’t pretty, but I did it. That day, I felt like I was walking around NYC with a little secret in my back pocket and maybe a bit of a side smile too. It felt damn good.
During classes, my mind was going nuts; I saw so much in my head as far as combining contemporary dance and the pole. I started to see a whole show in my head and got my favorite contemporary dancers to come to the studio and let me experiment on them. That’s how my project [The Pulse Project] began.
Yes, the strength required to do what you and your dancers do seems immense! Is it hard to find dancers who are that strong? Pole dancing is crazy hard. Hardest thing I’ve ever done. The strength comes along with the bruises and skin burns. They call it “skin conditioning.” I have to find dancers who are not only hungry to learn a new skill but willing to go through the pain to learn it. I can see it in a dancer… that hunger is what I look for. My dancers are incredible and tough stock. Above all, they are kind, wonderful people. That comes through [in their dance].
How does the city inspire you and your art? I saw the entire show in my head on the subway train. I missed my stop for work by about 8 stops… I was stuck choreographing in my head, staring at the pole in front of me in the train. Even the sound of the train coming was like a heartbeat, a pulse. Hence, the PULSE project name.
One of my favorite things about New York City is the art that happens underground. One day this past winter, I was coming home after teaching nine hours of Pilates. I was done, exhausted, and ready to get home. But on my homeward platform, there he was—Damiyr and his guitar, eyes closed and singing with a smile on his face. I was transfixed. As much as I wanted to get on my train and get home, I let two pass me by. I knew I was in the presence of something special. I watched others on the platform watching him too, in awe and inspiration, hands on their chests. I wasn’t alone in knowing we were witnessing and hearing a true artist! I couldn’t leave without getting his contact information, and as soon as I got home, I messaged him, told him he was amazing, and asked if he would sing live for The Pulse Project.
I am so honored that he will be singing live for us at our next show! Sometimes we cross paths with artists who truly know the human heart and create from that place… Damiyr is one of those rare artists.
What other dance in the city are you digging? What do you go see yourself?Seeing anything live inspires me. I wish I could see more! With my schedule and budget as a single mom/artist living in New York City, I don’t get to see as much as I’d like. I treat myself to tickets at BAM whenever possible!
What does your daughter think of your performance? Rowan [age 9] is a huge fan. She is always making up new moves for me on the pole since we have one in our apartment. She puts on a show for anyone who comes over. Most people get an idea in their head when they see a pole. Row just sees an object that is used for launching, spinning, climbing, and expressing feelings. Her upper body is insanely strong because she is on that thing every single day.
Notary and her Pulse Project dancers are the guest performers at the United States Pole Dance Federation competition on October 1. Check them out!