Let’s get one thing clear from the start: Cara Oshiver is selling poles. Pole-dancing poles. Portable pole-dancing poles.
When the 30-year-old walked into the Mountain Xpress offices recently looking for someone to tell her story, though, it was her sincerity more than her sales pitch that grabbed our attention. Oshiver wants nothing less than to strip away pole dancing’s raunchy undertones and endow it with a culture of empowerment, one spread-eagled spin at a time.
“I feel like I want to introduce a different view of pole dancing to the South, because it has this sleazy connotation that is unnecessary and I believe is a way to oppress women,” Oshiver explains. “It’s not about men; it’s not about pleasing men. It’s about rebirthing yourself and embracing every aspect of your spirit.”
Oshiver has a Web site in the works and plans to teach out of an in-home studio. But that’s not all. She wants to take her pole dancing to a whole new level—literally. Oshiver plans to pole-dance on local mountaintops. After an interview, Xpress met Oshiver and her boyfriend at a Craggy Gardens overlook, elevation 4,000 feet. There, she proceeded to put on a pole-dancing demonstration that left a few tourists scratching their heads and at least one construction worker snapping photos.
For Oshiver, it was all good.
“I’m just encouraging people to love themselves as much as possible, and this is a tool to do it. That’s all,” she says. “If this isn’t your way to do it—if anyone else can find another way that suits them better, then go for it.”
Mountain Xpress: How did you get into pole dancing?
Cara Oshiver: Well, about two years ago, I just desired a pole, and I knew it was feasible to purchase one and put it up in my home. So I looked on the Internet on how to do it. But I also found Web sites that you could buy your own pole. … I luckily found the best product of my life. This product can come up and down within 10 minutes, and it’s for dancers and it’s used in dance studios.
Do you have a studio?
Yes. It’s in my home, so I’m very selective of who I would invite into my home.
Do you have a dance background?
I’ve done so many different kinds of dance. I’ve taken on flying trapeze. I’ve learned a little bit about break dancing. My whole life is going to be learning. I’m not going to say, “Oh, I’m certified to do this.” I’m going to be learning, learning, learning until I’m 90, and I want to be on that pole. So I do have a dance background from going to Phish concerts and Dead concerts. And I don’t believe that dance is something that can be taught—it’s something that you find within yourself. Of course, I’m willing to learn, and I’m humble to the fact that I’m not as educated as someone who has been classically trained.
What does a beginning pole dancer need to know?
A beginner needs to find the play, find the comfort, do activities to break loose, to break those barriers of being embarrassed or ashamed. There are certain activities, certain visualization tools, certain just shaking it out, just loosening up and practicing being sexy. Just walking around your home being sexy. Then, what we’re going to do in my classes is just learn the pole positions, learn where your body is going to go, how it’s going to begin to hold itself on a pole.
I want to go back to walking around your home being sexy. What do you mean by that?
It’s feeling powerful and confident and enjoying and being focused on every move you make. Nobody is sexier than the next person. I’ve seen people who are not traditionally sexy who are the most beautiful creatures because of who they are in themselves. That’s what I feel like we need to practice, because I’ve never been around a woman [with] a mirror who hasn’t criticized themselves. We all need to practice looking at ourselves and saying, “I f**king love myself.” That is a mantra I want to come back to.
So it’s a state of mind…
If we say, “Oh, my thighs are too flabby,” f**k that! Who taught us that? You know? That’s bulls**t. If you have energy, that’s what you base it on. My problem is I’ve got too much energy. Let’s start basing our lives upon how we feel and not what we think other people think we look like. … Being around this pole, I hated myself before this. I’ve learned to just give it up and say screw it, I like myself and say screw it, I’m short, I’m going to make other women look tall compared to me—that’s why God made me short. Because it’s flattering to be next to a shorter person—everyone will be taller than me.
That’s a good way to look at it.
Can you talk about the origins of pole dancing?
Burlesque has been around a long time, and I encourage people to look at someone like Gypsy Rose Lee, because her take on it was so adorable, so wholesome and so titillating in such an innocent way that it should still be embraced. We need to get back to those kinds of roots, of just being creative and not having to degrade ourselves. Because it doesn’t have to be degrading.
How do you feel when you’re doing your moves?
I feel strong; I feel inspired. And I feel like sharing the joy I’ve gotten from it.
You’ve talked about pole dancing on Mount Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi. What other kinds of records have you looked at?
I want to do mountaintops. Like, I’m from Kansas: It’s flat there. It’s fun to pick a mountain, and to be on top of a pole that’s spinning the whole time will be phenomenal. It will be a personal phenomenal high. I haven’t done it yet, but I know it’s going to be everything I’ve built it up in my head to be. Except it’s going to be exhausting, because this pole weighs at least 200 pounds.