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September 17, 2014

Pole Positions

Sarah Scott Flips the Strip-Club Practice On its Head

Director George Harvey captures award-winning pole performer Sarah Scott in this hypnotic, enigmatic short. As the exotic performance-turned-health activity takes over the fitness world, NOWNESS talked to the YouTube-taught, UK-based dancer and instructor about the origins and ideals of her strenuous practice.

Do you view the pole as more of a sport than an entertainment?
Sarah Scott:
No, there’s definitely two sides to it. It is athletic and fitness-based because you have to have so much strength and flexibility and make your body do all these crazy things but it’s still an art form; it’s still dance. You get that creativity from it without having to go the gym and run on a treadmill.

Do you find a lot of people you come across have that kind of background or experience?
Yes, a lot of people are coming in from different areas and find that they can pursue a lot later on in life. Whereas the ballet careers and gymnastic careers tend to finish at quite an early age, there are pole performers and instructors well into their 60s, and they’re incredible.

Why do you think pole dancing has been growing as a fitness trend?
I think because there’s a lot more to it than just the aesthetic of what it does to your body. It’s something that you’re doing practically with your body, so instead of going in and thinking “I have to go to the gym to lose weight” or “I have to go to the gym to look a certain way,” it’s empowering, for men and women.

How has it evolved to where it is today?
It came from different areas. You have the more exotic-dancer side from the strip clubs and you also have the Chinese pole influence from the circus: they’ve combined to form what it is today. A lot of the influences of the crazier tricks, they come from China, where it is very male-based. The more sensual, creative dance comes from the exotic side. If you put them together with a bit of a fitness background then that creates pole dance as it is today.

Can you name some of the moves you performed in the video?
Handsprings, shoulder mounts, and a lot of ‘spin pole’ use—when the legs go quite crazy and you’re whipping around, inverting, and going upside down.

Who does it appeal to?
I know women over 60 who do it. I know guys, street artists, who come from a parkour background who get into it through street poles. There are a lot more mums, which is kind of the main demographic: 25-40-year-old professional women, they go crazy for it. I think the misconception is it’s a lot of younger people or young girls, but actually I know army and police offers, lawyers who come. I even had a girl in a workshop over the weekend who was the mayor of her town.

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I Used To Be In Pictures

The British Twins Who Gathered the Untold Story of Hollywood's Golden Age

Born in Surrey, England in 1972, twins Austin and Howard Mutti-Mewse were raised in a household that enjoyed classic black-and-white Hollywood movies, and aged 12, the pair enthusiastically began writing to their on-screen legends. “Ultimate glamour personified,” says Howard of old Hollywood’s faraway appeal. Many responded with heartfelt, handwritten notes and signed pictures, with Lillian Gish the first actor to reply. The so-called First Lady of American Cinema was entranced by the twins’ “Englishness” and was followed by Katharine Hepburn, Frank Sinatra and Shirley Temple. Letters soon turned into invites for tea, and the twins made their first visit to Hollywood in 1992, long after the demise of the much-loved studio system. “Someone once asked our mum about our fascination for film, but she was always nonchalant,” says Austin. “She and Dad were equally relaxed when Marlene Dietrich called and one New Year's Eve when Robert Mitchum rang.” Over a decade later, the twins—who continue to keep in contact with surviving stars—compiled their treasured findings in the book, I Used to be in Pictures. Below, Austin Mutti-Mewse reveals to NOWNESS some of his untold Hollywood stories.

Only one screen legend eluded us: Greta Garbo.
Rex Harrison who lived in the same apartment building as Garbo suggested to Howard and I that our flattery was futile. “Gentleman, she has no interest,” he once told us. “Miss Garbo has made a second career out of trying to avoid anything relating to her first as a film actress, and like the former she's succeeding rather brilliantly at it.”

Mildred Shay once told me that at the famed movie director Cecil B. DeMille’s estate Paradise Ranch, guests would eat oysters with the pearls still attached. For the females there was a gift of an ermine cape on each of the dining room chairs with tiny ermine tails around the collar.

We walk along a path and through a small gate and suddenly, there’s Anita Page. Sitting poolside on a white plastic sunbed wearing a white and pink polka-dot short sleeve day dress. No makeup; bare arms with just wisps of white hair; her skin, alabaster. On spotting the pair of us [her companion] quickly grabs a Walmart carrier bag and pulls out a honey-colored wig and in a flash forces it rather haphazardly on her head.

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Brigitte Lacombe: Shadowing Hollywood

The French Photographer Captures On-Set Moments with Joaquin Phoenix and Marion Cotillard

Palme d'Or-nominated director James Gray invited Tinseltown’s favorite photographer Brigitte Lacombe to document the atmospheric off-camera moments of some Hollywood heavyweights for his 1920s-set epic The Immigrant. The plot sees Polish native Ewa (Marion Cotillard) lured by an illicit New Yorker (Joaquin Phoenix) who forces her into prostitution, before being rescued by his worldly magician cousin, Orlando (Jeremy Renner). Lacombe, who recently worked on the set of Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street and Spike Jonze’s Her, prefers to remain in the background, capturing the actors in the intensity of a fleeting exchange. The NOWNESS regular's first break came at the 1975 Cannes Festival when she met Dustin Hoffman and became the set photographer for All the President’s Men. She has since captured some of the greatest actors in cinema—from Meryl Streep to Al Pacino, Jack Nicholson and Viggo Mortensen—but this latest film marks her first meeting with French beauty Marion Cotillard. Ahead of the film’s release next month, Lacombe talks meeting her subjects halfway.  

What was the most interesting thing about working on this particular set?
Brigitte Lacombe:
I have always wanted to photograph Marion Cotillard because she’s quite fascinating. I don’t know her at all but she’s good in every single movie I’ve seen. I always find her absolutely true emotionally—there is never a false note. I also photographed Joaquin Phoenix in a completely different mood than on the set of Spike Jonze’s Her, it was like meeting a different person. He’s really interested in the work and is incredibly intense and focused. That’s what great actors are like.

You like to shoot your portraits with very few props, artificial lights or set-ups. How does that change when you are shooting film characters?
I always keep a minimum of people around. The ideal thing is to be by myself with the assistant. That’s the best way for me to make a portrait. The subjects relate to one person, not a group. When working on a film you want to do something that is close to the film. You have to respect the film as much as possible. In this case I lit it in a similar fashion to the scenes they were in. I wanted to make very classic portraits with one source of light—very stark, simple.  

You are known for the intensity of your portraits. How does the photographic portrait capture the subject?
What I do is very far from concepts and ideas. I want to work in collaboration with the person I photograph, more than give my take on them. I want the person to meet me halfway. I don’t want to steal anything; I want a true classic portrait with the person wanting to be there. It’s about being 100% present and that I’m able to do—it’s easier to achieve if you’re not speaking.

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