In Arts and Culture, News & Blog, Sexuality

Meet Erin Clark, a pole sport enthusiast and wheelchair user who has taken the highly competitive world of pole sport by storm, through the combination of acrobatics and artistic moves- all on a vertical metal pole.

Photo Credit: Eli Mora Photography

Canadian Erin Clark’s sport of choice might just be the least interesting thing about her, but as a wheelchair user with congenital paralysis competing in pole dancing, it was almost inevitable that a recent video documentary about her competitive para pole sport career went viral in 2017 (pole sport is a competitive sport incorporating acrobatics with artistic moves on a vertical metal pole, based on pole dancing). The documentary couldn’t help but go viral: public ideas of sexuality, disability and a seemingly impossible sport for a wheelchair user collide irresistibly with the unapologetically creative, sexual and worldly Erin Clark.

“For me, being a competitive pole dancer is not my primary goal.”

“For me, being a competitive pole dancer is not my primary goal. My work as a public figure includes this, and pole dancing is the thing everybody is most into… it’s the most visible thing I’m doing, but I’m using it as a way to talk about the things I was already talking about and presenting. Now it’s just another element of my lifestyle, but isn’t any bigger than any other thing that I’m doing.”

Sure, Clark was a competitor in Spain’s first para-pole sport division at the 2017 Spanish Pole Sport Nationals, and went on to compete at the World Pole Sport Championships that year. There she came second to a competitor with functional legs and hips in a category still graded on able-bodied judging criteria. The ensuing dispute led to the creation of proper functional categories in para-pole sport. Her neighbours in the small Spanish town greet her with “Campeona.” You’d be forgiven for thinking that being a pole sport para athlete is enough fascination for one person, but there you’d be wrong.

Photo Credit: Eli Mora Photography

Clark moved to Spain several years ago and found a studio of circus artists to train with in the town she now calls her home. They saw her strong, petite frame and performing background, and encouraged her to try para pole sport. As a circus artist, writer, performer, world traveler, and disability activist, Clark sees her sport is just a part of her performance career that started as an improv and circus artist in New York City, and another creative outlet. No real surprise, as Clark is a person who used her dismay at how strangers in New York City felt entitled to conversations about her sexuality and disability to fuel an international conversation on disability, sexuality and self-love with her #internationalsexicon persona and web magazine.

“The ONLY images I ever saw [growing up] were defined by able-bodied people and were incredibly narrow.”

Her third-person “sex icon” vignettes on Instagram (@erinunleashes) read like a romance novelist writing a love letter to her audience, paired with exotic and often acrobatic poses in her wheelchair, on the pole, or in a glamourous sun-drenched Spanish locale. This is all a part of Clark’s ultimate vision… “to continue to be unleashed and free in expressing myself as an artist, in a way that I feel I have command over the narrative when my disability is included in it. And for the sake of the things I want to create, but also as an example that it can be done! As a disabled woman, I can be visibly disabled, and also all of these other things, and one isn’t more important than the other.”

You can check out Erin Clark’s website here.

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