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Female empowerment fills Strip Down, Rise Up

The artistic beauty and grace of pole dancing take center stage in Netflix's documentary Strip Down, Rise Up. Directed Academy Award nominee Michèle Ohayon, the feature documentary is about women who come together to heal through sensual movement, specifically pole dance.

The vérité-style film follows a diverse group of women of all ages, ethnic backgrounds, and body types. Women who reclaim themselves through pole dance either as a sport, an art, or a way of unlocking their body to heal from trauma, release shame or restore self-acceptance. Shot by an almost all-female crew with rare access, Strip Down, Rise Up offers an emotionally gratifying, visually astounding, and unexpected look at the fascinating behind-the-scenes world of pole artistry and expression.

Eighteen years ago, actress Sheila Kelly started S Factor as a fitness gym in Los Angles. Through the years, the gym took on a life of its own and lead to Shelia appearing on TedX, Ellen, and Oprah; as the go-to authority on feminine empowerment, healing, and discovery. Shelia is a regular speaker on stages across the world. One of the first things that stood out to me in the documentary was that we don't meet Shelia first; instead, we meet widower Evelyn. Of all the women featured in the documentary, Evelyn's is the one that I enjoyed the most.

The journey we see Evelyn go on as she learns about love and self-love acceptance is somewhat reminiscent of my life struggles. Kurt Cobain once said, "Wanting to be someone else is a waste of who you are." I feel that is the perfect way to describe our lives and the journey we go on in genuinely discovering who we are. I was also fond of competitive pole dancer Amy Bond's story. By day, Amy is a pro bono attorney and had had a short flirt with the sex working world decades ago. However, Amy doesn't run from her past. Her ambition to overcome the past is handled well in the documentary.

All of the women are given equal time in the documentary, which allows us to see women in different facets of life. However, the women all have scars of the past that have affected them. In turn, they've lost part of themselves in the process. There was a great scene towards the end of the documentary where Shelia has men who are in touch with their masculinity and come to the dance studio and give off positive energy to the women. It's an emotional moment. Should Michèle Ohayon decide to do a companion, I would love to learn about the tools they used.

I do want to point out that if you are expecting any nudity or a reality version of P-Valley or Showgirls, then the documentary Strip Down, Rise Up isn't for you. However, as a man, I can say the film didn't need that angle. Instead, the documentary stays true to its title of striping down negative energy and rising to the phenomenal human being, you're meant to be. Concurrently the film also offers an artistic look at the art of pole dancing, beautiful female bonding, and most of all, empowerment, Strip Down, Rise Up is worth the view.

Final Grade: B+

Strip Down, Rise Up is available to view on Netflix now.

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