Focusing on what the body can instead of what it cannot

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This yearbook brings together twenty creatives and community organisers from all walks of life: musicians, visual artists, dancers, art collectives, and everything in between. From personal to political, their contributions reflect diverse forms of community-building through care. How do they inspire each other? Who do they care for? How do they care? 💘

  • Name: Jezebel Studio
  • Pole Dance Studio
  • Pronouns: she/they
  • Age: twentysomething
  • Location: Brussels
  • Instagram:

What do you care most about, and how is it relevant to your art/practice? It could be a social issue, your community, yourself, or anything!  

As a studio, we care most about our community. We will never stop asking our students, participants, audience, friends, allies and more, what their needs are and what Jezebel can mean to them.

Three words that come to mind when you hear the term ‘care’? 

Head, shoulders and hands. 

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What inspires you to care more for others, or to use your art/practice as a platform to do so? Both the pole dance community and the queer community has meant a lot to all of us. When you have experienced how it feels to be cared for by a community, you want to be able to give back. This is what we wanted to do with Jezebel; to care back and invite even more people into the community.

How do you hope to inspire others? 

From the first moment we decided to start Jezebel we promised each other never to take ourselves too seriously. When teaching and performing we all believe there is nothing as powerful as having fun and spreading joy. But fun can only exist when failure is not seen as a failure but instead seen as a way to connect with others.

From the first moment we decided to start Jezebel we promised each other never to take ourselves too seriously

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What type of change do you want to inspire in your community/environment? 

We hope to see more care and less comparison and competition. In a capitalist and patriarchal society, we are all guilty of comparing and competing with others. At Jezebel Studio we want to actively work on not doing this. This is not an easy task considering we are teaching sports, in an environment that is highly dominated by competition. We often hear people who would like to start pole dancing say ‘I could never, I don’t have enough muscles’ But at Jezebel, we believe in focusing on what a body can do and not on what a body can’t do. When practising pole dance it is a strength to be proud of your personal growth and at the same time encourage others in theirs.

How much influence do you think (y)our backgrounds have on (y)our art and practices?

Undeniably a lot. We were all trained at different dance schools, the most important being Brussels Art & Pole. We learned pole dance through a range of different teachers and got in touch with a lot of different genres. Along the way, we are trying to make our own style of it because of the backgrounds we have. Or don't have. None of us have a professional background in dance, but we each have different experiences in the arts or sports that we take with us in our classes.

Of course, in dance, our bodies are the biggest influence in our practice. We all have our insecurities and struggles with our bodies. Pole dancing in the community helps us have a more positive body image. We don’t want to promote an image of the malleable body. In today’s society we are obsessed with seeing our bodies as machines we can engineer into the shapes and curves that we want them to work and look like. We should use our bodies the way they are given to us, with all their strengths and weaknesses.

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What are some challenges that you face while doing what you are passionate about? 

Our biggest challenge is not being aware of our positions and as a result, excluding members of our and other communities. This is why we will keep asking people what they want and need. Our challenge is then keeping the balance between a well-functioning organisation and still taking time to listen. 

How do you define ‘community’? 

We try not to define community as it allows us to be the most inclusive we can.

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What is a ‘safe space’ for you? 

A safe space for us is a place where everyone can enjoy queer joy. 

Is receiving care a privilege, a right? 

Unfortunately, we still live in a society where care is seen as a privilege. Not everybody has access to it. Our name ‘Jezebel’ refers to the Old Testament: Jezebel was the wife of the Israeli Ahab, who had to sacrifice her care to have her freedom. We stand for a world where everybody can enjoy these two virtues hand in hand.

Unfortunately, we still live in a society where care is seen as a privilege

Do you think this generation is redefining care and community building? And how? 

Indeed. We do not only think about it, we also feel it around us. Brussels is becoming more and more community driven and it created a very supportive and caring and fertile climate. Jezebel can only exist because a lot of others in this generation helped us believe it is possible. 

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What small acts of care do you hope to see more of? 

Free hugs and tears. 

How do you balance taking care of others and taking care of yourself? Do you make that distinction in the first place?

Because Jezebel for us falls outside of this binary - between others and ourselves - it allows us to do both at the same time: taking care of others is taking care of ourselves because there is a common purpose. 

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Do you care about being cared about? 

Taking care of is taking care of is taking care of is taking care of is. It’s a full circle. 

What do you want to be remembered for? 

We want to be remembered for not being afraid of being ridiculous. 

<div class="editorial-banner"> <div class=“editorial-credits”> Photos by @sevo.visuals <br/> </div></div>

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