Why you should care
Because dancing is a definite pathway to freedom.
It’s hard to believe that dance didn’t come naturally to Mona Marie (née Nieves Bonilla) when you watch her glide and turn across the hardwood floor and around the silver pole that stands at her fitness studio, aptly named Poletic Justice. Located in the Bronx, Poletic Justice is a pole dancing studio that goes almost unnoticed among the bodegas on the corners and the residential homes that line the streets. But for many, the building stands as a beacon of change and investment in the future of the area.
Growing up heavily involved in a youth dance program, Marie recognized the need for women to find a release from their daily routine and worries. She opened Poletic Justice after years of pole dancing in the gentlemen’s club scene in New York City.
“[For] three months, I went to the gentleman’s club every single day, and I walked into work after class at 5 or 6 and didn’t leave [until] 4 in the morning,” she says. “All I did was practice on the pole in the back of the club. That’s all I wanted to do.”
[For] three months, I went to the gentleman’s club every single day, and I walked into work after class at 5 or 6 and didn’t leave [until] 4 in the morning.
Marie’s hard work and training on the pole eventually paid off. She worked club stages around the country and landed a spot as a pole choreographer for Madonna on her “Rebel Heart” tour in 2015.
Her family’s reaction to her career choice was negative at first. But after watching Marie dance, tears turned to support. Her mother, aunt and grandmother “were shocked” at Marie’s skill.
“They’re very proud of me, and my grandmother Facebooks about me all the time,” Marie says with a laugh.
For Marie, pole dancing offers women a chance to find empowerment through vulnerability. It’s encouraging for her as a teacher to see her students at Poletic Justice develop confidence and strength using an industry that is often tainted with negativity and misinformation.
“Pole dancing is an escape. It’s an escape from your everyday,” Marie says. “[It’s] literally shredding layers of yourself, because you start with all these clothes and you shed, you shed down, to you being able to be vulnerable and you being able to look at yourself, your true self and your true form.”