Strip Down Rise Up premiered on 5th February 2021 on Netflix. Directed by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Michèle Ohayon, the 1 hour 52 minutes long film features a diverse group of women who heal their trauma and body image issues through sensual movement and the art of pole dancing.
Harnessing The Inner Power
“Shame will hold you prisoner, but really all shame wants is to come into the light and be let go.”
Pole Dance as an art form is not easy as it requires core strength, dedication, determination, and inner calling. This performance art form takes place not only in gentleman’s clubs as erotic dance but has also as a mainstream form of fitness, practised in gyms and dedicated dance studios. And while there are various competitions around, the same people have narrowed this infamous art form to just erotic dancing, taking away from it its healing and self-worth boosting qualities. Various people enter this art for various reasons like athletism, eroticism, competition, and environment. It’s an intricately designed world.
Strip Down Rise Up takes us inside the world of pole dance and places it between healing and empowerment, all the while bringing to light the widespread normalizing of women abuse. The film is led by celebrity instructor Sheila Kelley who has dedicated several years of her life to helping women reclaim themselves at her studio S Factor, where she teaches pole and erotic dance to everyone who aspires to enter the art form. She wishes to help people to step into their power through movement and grace, to expose shame to the light of day and let it go.
We witness a group of two dozen women embarking on a journey of six months with Sheila, and they’ve all got stories; there’s Evelyn, a widow still processing her late husband’s affair and the hollow feeling of loss, Megan, a survivor of infamous gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar’s abuse, and there are women who have struggled for long with body image issues, self-loathing, sexual assault and identity and are a victim to internalized patriarchy and societal norms. And they’re all here to take this terrifying journey.
Other than Sheila, we are introduced to Amy Bond, a competitive pole dancer and pro bono attorney who also owns two studios in San Francisco. Like Sheila, she too is all about helping people realize what their bodies can do and how it can positively influence their mind and peace. Throughout shedding all the shame she experienced as a Mormon and later as an adult film performer for which she is shamed to date by society.
Elsewhere, the film introduces us to Jenyne Butterfly, a Cirque du Soleil performer who turns her pole performances into graceful art. Strip Down Rise Up is glorious, powerful, inclusive, and impactful. The moment you start watching the film you feel inclined towards the art form, growing sympathy for all the women. The film is profoundly moving and encapsulates the true meaning of reclaiming oneself no matter how much society pulls you down or restricts you.
Strip Down Rise Up offers a lot of moving and empowering moments throughout. There are enough things that’ll make you sad and smile simultaneously! Women are provided with a safe place to cry with all their hearts and laugh with all their souls and as Sheila says that if anyone judges anyone for anything, they can leave! It makes for one of the best experiences in the film. It is sporadic to watch anything at all that puts a spotlight on the female form without instantly focusing on the male gaze, and this film does that.
These people aren’t perfect humans with perfect methods or some one-stop-shop to idealistic self-love, and a lot of the process is real and sometimes uncomfortable. But that what makes it so rewarding. It tells you that it’s not how you use the pole, but how it works for you – whether it brings emotional catharsis or body positivity, or anything else. And we see it work in a myriad of ways in various people’s lives. The film is not just about empowerment and it won’t overdose you on that idea with huge ideals but it is more about a woman’s claim on herself and her life which is often stolen and infiltrated by men, it’s beautiful and engaging!
Stream It Or Skip It
STREAM IT! Strip Down Rise Up is empowering and beautiful and it won’t be a surprise if, by the end of the film, you would want to join a pole dancing class too because I can’t wait! More than how this art form caters to the sensual and erotic appeal of the human mind, it caters to the holistic healing and health of body and mind. The film takes you through various lives, stitching stories together flawlessly and it’s on Michèle Ohayon!
Strip Down Rise Up is now streaming on Netflix.
Read our other reviews here.