There are many ways to strip as there are strippers. Off Duty Stripper Amber invited me to her studio where we drank tea while she bestowed some of her teachings in her ten-years-and-counting career as a naked goddess.
When did you start dancing?
I started dancing in 2005. I was 18, and I had just moved to America from Eastern Europe. Since I didn’t speak English, it was the only option I had for work. Those early days were a very scary and stressful time. But I’ve been dancing for almost ten years now, and my perspective has transformed completely. Dancing it’s no longer just a way of making money; it's a spiritual practice.
What prompted this evolution in thought?
My perspective started to shift upon discovering yoga and meditation. I've developed a way to work that complements my spiritual studies, and I believe it has a positive influence on the people I meet. A lot of people who go to strip clubs are just lonely. I meet a lot of people who are deficient in simple things like hugs. When I discovered that it wasn't ‘terrible’ people coming in to these places, that they were just… people, my whole perspective shifted.
What is the anatomy of your lap dance?
When I began this profession, I would concentrate on the sexual energy of the lap dance. The goal was to make a guy hard. I believed that this is what they paid money for. But then I realized that what people really desire is much bigger than that. The sexual part is so minute compared to the bigger picture - they are plagued with loneliness and just want to experience a connection with someone. Now, when I dance, I don't concentrate on the sexual part at all. I concentrate on my own personal state of mind, and I share that with my client. I focus on my own rhythm; I dance with a slowness, incorporating the sensuality of the way my hair moves, my scent the shadows my figure casts as I move… It’s a mediation. So that’s why I call my dance sacred, or tantric. It's not simply a lap dance; it's an art form. They cannot touch me, not even a finger. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not a very intimate experience. Clients still do get aroused when I dance for them, but it's not my purpose. When a man asks me if he can touch me in the private room, I say (holding her hand up) ‘NO. My breast is my temple. You cannot touch my temple. You can only pray on it.’
And they still go?
Of course they do! All the time.
Do you have any rituals that help you prepare for work?
I always wear my crystal. I have a beautiful citrine crystal that I only wear to work. Citrine doesn't absorb harsh energy. It reminds me that I am who I am, everywhere. If my environment changes, it's not going to change me on my spiritual path.
So you're the same person when you're Amber, and when you're off duty.
Yes. But Amber inspires me in all that I do. She is such a strong fucking warrior! In truth, she's my highest self. I become so strong at work. I'm trying to apply her strength to my regular life. I’m always learning from Amber, this character who appears at work. At work, I'm like, "Ok, I'm going to have 8 hours of movement meditation. I'm going to invite as many people into my space as possible.”
I really aspire to be more like her. In real life, I can be pretty human. I get angry when someone steps on my foot on the subway. But when I'm at work, I'm on duty. It's like Dakini duty. In Buddhist tradition, the Dakini woman is the Astral Dancer. She shares her wisdom with others. Feeling this way makes me so happy to go to work, because I know I’m going to learn new things and be challenged.
I consider work to be the darkest place in my life. I go into a dark room where there’s money, desire, sexual energy… prohibited things…. It's easy to sit in a temple and chant with like-minded people. But it’s the dark places where we face the toughest challenges where we grow the most.
What's your favorite thing to do when you're off duty?
Every day I have my ritualistic way to live. I wake up, meditate, do yoga… I run, as well. I'm a painter, and thankfully for this job, my schedule is very open. So whenever inspiration strikes, I can create. That freedom is important to me.