I have a rather interesting profession. It involves me dancing around in my underpants covered in glitter in front of hundreds (and occasionally thousands) of people on a weekly basis.

Not everyone I come across understands what it means to be a gogo dancer. Some people think I get paid to party, others think it’s about the attention, or still some think it’s the same as stripping (FYI this isn’t a judgment on strippers. The few I’ve met have been amazingly kind human beings and incredibly skilled athletes.) The primary differences are that I rarely make tips, my costume stays on, and there are no private dances.

But it doesn’t matter if some people understand it or not. This job has changed my life and I feel I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I didn’t get into this type of work.

There’s so many lessons I’ve learned and I’d love to shine the (spot)light on some of the most valuable ways it’s impacted my life for the better.

1. LEARNING TO NOT GIVE A FUCK

One of the very first things I truly had to learn before stepping on that stage is not giving a fuck what other people thought.

I had just moved to a new city before I started gogo dancing professionally. I was making a ton of new friends and connections, and I finally started to feel like I was getting a new beginning after years of being bullied growing up.

And none of my new friends knew that this is something I was interested in. I was scared shitless of what my new friends would think. Would I be called a slut? Would people think I just wanted attention? Would I go from seeming innocent to being viewed as a sex object? Would I lose this tribe of people where I felt like I belonged?

But at the end of the day I realized that if I didn’t follow my heart and live in alignment with it’s desires, then I would forever wonder “what if”. Then I made the choice to do something that I was crazy compelled to do for my own self-expression and joy.

I said “Fuck it”. I don’t want to ever change who I am for the love and approval of others. If my new social circle didn’t accept it then they weren’t really true “friends” after all.

PS. For the most part people were supportive about my new passion project.

gogo dancing(One of my first gigs opening up for Teisto.  Dancing for Datsik, Excision, and Dowlink)

2. DEVELOPING CONFIDENCE AND A HEALTHY BODY IMAGE

This point is closely related to not giving a fuck. I had to learn to love my body.

You’ve all seen the women who are so stunning with a “perfect” figure, and yet you feel their essence of insecurity. It’s heartbreaking to see such beauty and know that no matter how many times a day they genuinely hear “you’re so gorgeous!”, they won’t feel it until they believe it themselves.

This was me most of my life. I remembering struggling with my relationship to food and battling eating disorders for years during my teens and early twenties. I started obsessing over my weight when I was just 11 years old. I always thought I was fat or curvy, and I would cry looking at my cellulite and “love handles” in the mirror.

As a dancer it affected my movements, my posture, and my smile. Which was definitely not ideal for giving an amazing performance (or healthy self-love in general).

Then when I was aspiring to become a gogo dancer, I realized that something was going to have to change at a deep core level. I needed to be comfortable in my skin if I was going to be comfortable shaking my scantily clad tush. I needed to get out of my head, stop listening to the thoughts that would list off all my self-perceived “flaws” and just let it go.

Confidence is non-negotiable in gogo dancing and it’s not something you can fake.

So I told my inner critic to beat it. With a lot of time, practice, and positive self-talk, I realized that my shape was beautiful. In all it’s feminine glory and all it’s imperfections. It became my mission to show other women that it’s okay to be comfortable in their skin too.

gogo dancing(My weekly residency in Vancouver, BC)

3. MASTERING MEDITATION

The question could be asked if I was feeling all these fears and insecurities, then why was I drawn to gogo dancing anyways?

For me the answer is simple- I had an experience where I was pulled on stage to dance at a music festival. And when I was up there, I felt so connected to source and universal energy. I understood what it felt like to feel alive.

Afterwards I found out that there were people who did this as a job! They actually got paid to perform and dance freely from their heart. I felt the calling to make this my reality.

I came to the realization that when I am in my freestyle dance “flow” I’m not thinking of anything else. My mind isn’t obsessing over my day, or that awkward conversation I need to have, or my to-do list. It’s just blank. I’m in a complete meditation. The sound of the music and my body’s expression becomes one and I become so insanely present. I often feel like my body has a mind of it’s own and I hardly even give thought as to what moves I’m doing next.

I discovered that you don’t need to be sitting on a meditation pillow in a quiet room in order to tap into higher states of consciousness. I could get there by simply letting go and allowing the music to conduct my movements.

It’s heaven, it’s bliss, and it’s joy. And that feeling seeps out into all areas of my life making me happier, healthier, and more radiant.

gogo dancing(In my flow state dancing for Excision)

4. DISCOVERING SELF-RESPECT AND SETTING BOUNDARIES

But with this dream job also comes a certain type of work environment. One that isn’t necessarily conducive to “peace, harmony, and love”.

In fact in the night life industry you have to experience a lot of shit. There’s unpleasantly loud music, sweaty crowds to walk through (while wearing a costume comparable to a bikini), and a sea of intoxicated partiers.

There’s always going to be the girls who make it their goal to provoke insecurity in you. They try mocking your moves, pointing and laughing, or actually saying things to your face like you’re fat or a bad dancer. I’ve learned I can’t take it personally, and that internally they may be experiencing pain, so they project their insecurities onto others.

Then there’s the boys who don’t think you deserve respect because of your job. Some will attempt to grope as you walk by, blatantly hit on you, or shout out derogatory cat calls.

And what I’ve learned is that it’s necessary to use my voice and state my boundaries. It’s an opportunity for me to stand up for myself in an empowered and respectful manner, and be firm in saying, “Hey, that’s not okay. Not for any dancer, woman, or human being.”

I’ve become a master at telling people how I want to be treated, and as a result I emanate self-respect and therefor started to receive it too.

(Note: there are also some very lovely crowd members, both men and women, who shower you with respect and praise. I’m very grateful for the compliments I do receive!)

5. OWNING MY SELF-WORTH

I think something a lot of artists struggle with is charging for their work.

I know I definitely had a hard time with this one when I first started out. Especially when I started my own gogo team. It was a new concept in my city and not a lot of clubs, promoters, or party-goers understood exactly what we did. So I did a lot of free shows. I needed to get the experience to get my foot in the door. I worked hard, absorbed the costs of costumes for my whole team, and showed the them how much entertainment and value we brought to their events.

And as I grew my confidence and resume, I started to understand that I was worth more. That yes, there was an endless amount of girls that would do it for free, but I had something more to offer. So I started asking to get paid. I began turning down free shows. And I found my worth as an artist.

My work became to show people that gogo dancing is more than “sexy girls shaking it” and that we are performers, artists, and costume designers whose creativity deserves to be compensated.

gogo dancing(My team rocking the costumes I created for Shambhala Music Festival)

6. ACCEPTING MY SEXUALITY

My last lesson was a hard one to embrace. I had been slut shamed growing up and as I mentioned above it was one of the first fears that came up when I started gogo dancing.

But what I realized is that there’s nothing wrong with expressing our sexuality. There’s a beautiful freedom in having the space to tap into your creative and sexual energy and fully embody it.

We are human. And you aren’t a whore, or a slut, or a sinner to be a woman and want to feel and look sexy. This one may be a hard pill for some people to swallow, but sex is natural. Women are allowed to feel sexy. We can be flirty, playful, and sensual and it’s all apart of our divine feminine expression.

Dance has been apart of the feminine expression for thousands of years. Cultures all across the world worship the female form through dance and it’s beauty.

When I dance I connect back to my tribal nature. I feel my sexual energy pulsating through me and it feels like a safe space to allow myself to express what’s there.

Through gogo I’ve felt years of sexual shame and blocks melt away as I realize how natural it is for humans to express this energy. And I realized that by embracing my Goddess within, I can help empower other women to see that it’s okay to express there’s as well. By accepting this part of ourselves we take back our personal power.

It’s not for others, it’s for ourselves.

I know how much this profession has impacted my life for the better. Through facing my fears I’ve learned how to express parts of myself and my creativity in ways that have left me feeling expansive and whole.

I hope one day you also find a similar path that challenges you to grow while simultaneously lighting you up. If you have, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Stay Beautiful,

Amy Meraki

Amy Meraki