Michelle Mynx and Karina Dohl, better known as St. Louis pole-dancing duo Gravity Plays Favorites, talk world domination, tussles, Beggar’s Carnivale, performance injuries, sexual ambiguity, sci-fi and broken glass.
Interview: Divertida Devotchka
You’ve been performing as a duo for at least five years and you were voted number 24 in 21st Century Burlesque’s Top 50 Performers for 2010, and it’s no surprise to us why! What are your goals for Gravity Plays Favorites, both short term and long?
M: Our first performance as Gravity Plays Favorites was April, 2005. We performed at Venus Envy, a weekend long event celebrating female artists of all kinds. Ahh, the future of Gravity Plays Favorites… To continue mingling this double Scorpio energy into titillating and innovative numbers, to keep the surprises coming, and I guess we’d love to continue performing in amazing, diverse shows of all kinds all over the world… Oh, and a taller travel pole would be fantastic!
K: Well I guess the next logical goal would be taking over the world. I don’t know how Michelle feels about it though. She would probably be down.
You won the Golden Pastie award “Performers You Wouldn’t Want to Tussle With in a Dark Alley” at the 2010 New York Burlesque Festival. Aside from your totally kickass physiques and incredible upper body strength, do you have any other thoughts as to why you’d be given such a title?
M: Well, we have a tendency toward being a bit feisty and unpredictable, which I guess can sometimes be misunderstood as “feisty” or “unpredictable.” In actuality, both of us prefer a good verbal debate to a tussle… for the most part.
K: Well, we drink. And we molester. And I love a good row. She might claim she doesn’t but she does. Actually the night before the Pasties we were drunk on our air mattress “discussing” the other award we were up for, Most Fitting Name. We couldn’t agree on who came up with it and things got evil. Ever see two scorpions go at it? Anyway we don’t talk about it anymore, though we both know who Really came up with it!, and besides Ophelia Flame won that one anyway. Hussy. By the time we got called for Tussle we were all fought out and thanked our audience wrapped in that warm glow of after-fight. It was shameful. If you want the good stories ask about why we won Most Scandalous the year before. We drink. And we molester…
You perform fairly regularly in the Beggar’s Carnivale, a St. Louis variety show produced by Van Ella Productions that is enjoying a successful first year of production. Have you been a part of the cast from the beginning? How have you seen the show change and grow over the last several months?
M: I think we officially became cast members on the third or fourth show, but had the pleasure of observing the conception of the idea through Sammich the Tramp’s utter excitement as her dreams and ideas flowed forth. At the risk of getting mushy, Sammy is truly one of the most genuine artists and passionate performers I’ve ever known. A fearless dreamer she is, and this world is blessed to have her here. As far as the show changing, it has gotten bigger and better, yet managed to maintain the integrity of the original idea. It’s what we all hope for. I’m sooo thrilled to be part of such an amazingly talented group!
K: I don’t know if we were a part of it from the beginning or not. Does something really exist if you’re not a part of it? If it doesn’t then yes, from the beginning. If it does exist then I suppose there might have been a show or two before we joined. I don’t hold it against them though. Sammich and Lola are our sisters from some other misters so we forgive. Besides we don’t really have a choice because it is one of the best shows we’ve been a part of and we want to keep doing it. There really isn’t anything like Beggar’s and it is a fantastic experience for first time audiences and vintage show goers alike. Its humor has both physical and mental aspects, there is continuous momentum, and the people are pretty good looking. Mostly. With a show like that the audience gets so wrapped up with us that everyone feels in on it together. As if… as if we were feeding on their energy like two dozen hungry succubi. So do come to the show. We give as good as we take.
Do you find it difficult to stay innovative when it comes to developing new acts together? Could you describe the creative process for creating a new routine?
M: Just when I feel like we’ve got nothing, something strikes one of us. Sometimes it is the theme of the show we’re preparing for that inspires us. Sometimes it’s a song, or just something in life and one of us will get an idea and the balls just start rolling. Maybe we have a couple of drinks to start, then we brainstorm together and edit the good ideas from the better ideas.
K: I’ve found that just as we are starting to despair over not having any new acts that something great happens. One time we got a new music mixing program that got us all hot and bothered to create. Sometimes it’s as easy as hearing a song we haven’t heard in a while. We are kind of limited with the height of our traveling pole so inventing new tricks is especially difficult. Freaking painful too. We learned most of what we do by performing and as the venues and shows get bigger the opportunities to screw around up there get smaller. Still, every so often, we get to run off stage grasping each other and squealing, “what the balls was that?! Do you remember how we got into that?” And a new trick is born. From a vagina named Screw-up.
I know that at least Katrina has been hospitalized after a stiletto-to-the-forehead incident, but have there been any other performance injuries or mishaps over the years?
M: Well, not really… Unless you count Katrina’s left nipple’s refusal to hold a pastie, or our double trick, The Red “C'”, named so for causing my clit to bleed almost every time we do it. But if you know there’s a very strong possibility of it happening, is it really a “mishap”?
K: How do you define “mishap?” On separate occasions we each have kicked out lights and been carried off stage to avoid broken glass. Which honestly makes you want to kick out another one. One time we rolled into each other and I got a finger in my eye that had me in bed for two days. My roommates brought me ice cream so that was a win too. There are always scrapes and bruises but the worst kind is when you hurt and have nothing to show for it. It’s pretty unfulfilling to brag about the injury no one can see. One time Michelle’s foot was bleeding like a Jesus wound and all she wanted to do was get a picture. She’s like that, one minute wiping the blood from your scalp and the next one taking a picture of it.
Michelle, you own the Michelle Mynx Academy of Pole Dance, located in St. Louis. When did you start the academy and how has it grown since its inception?
The Mynx Academy was born in January, 2010. I started with a loyal group of around thirty students and now have a handful of wonderful instructors, 15 regular weekly classes, plus parties and a waitlist to get in for beginner classes. I’m thrilled to be expanding to a larger location in the next few weeks. I’ve been really lucky to have such amazing, talented, and selfless students supporting me along the way.
Katrina, I read that you are a black belt in karate and Michelle, you have an associate’s degree in Psychology, correct? What else might our readers be surprised to know about you?
K: I’m a huge nerd. I think it’s my mom’s fault. When I was a kid she would drag me around to yard sales every Saturday during the “season” and appease me with a big bag of science fiction books. I don’t know how she always found them, must have had some kind of radar built of necessity. I now have a very special and complex relationship with my couch, sci fi, and late night cartoons. And snacks. Always with the snacks. That’s her fault too but I think more nature than nurture.
M: Hmm..Probably anyone that met me past the age of 15 might be surprised that I seriously considered the convent growing up. I was raised Catholic and went to school at a small parish, St. Martin of Tours, through my entire childhood. It was like an extended family and my priest and Sisters were nothing but a good influence. They taught me that no one can do everything, but everyone can do something to make this world a better place. I was raised with the “it takes a Village” mentality. I was never taught any of that Hell and Damnation stuff. To me, being a nun just meant being committed fully to making this world a better place. Then, my hormones kicked in. I still do my best to make the world a better place though.
In a 2006 feature in the Riverfront Times, Michelle explained that the decision to perform on the pole together was really more out of necessity than anything else. The club they worked at built a smaller stage and performing on two different poles in a small space became hazardous, so they opted to share a pole. What was your relationship at the time that you started performing together? I mean, if you were simply work acquaintances I could see that being a little awkward… were you close friends already? I’d love to know more about the dynamic between the two of you in the beginning and how that has evolved over the years.
M: I felt connected to her the very first time I laid eyes on her. She was on stage, by herself, dancing to Snake River Conspiracy’s cover of “How Soon is Now?” I saw immediately that she was part of the music and it was part of her. It’s how I felt on stage, and I knew right then we would know each other. Or already did, cosmically at least. She was adorable. And a bit weird. Cute little blond pixie hair. Plus she had come in alone to work having never stepped into a strip club before and was only nineteen; the girl has balls! How could I resist? So, we started dancing together and discovered a sort of magic between us. Right away we felt a bond and a mutual admiration for one another. Both of us being of the sexually ambiguous variety, we kind of fell in love with each other. So for the first four years of our relationship we categorized ourselves as girlfriends. Then one day (I’ll spare you the sordid details), we realized that wasn’t really the right title. But when you have the connection of best friends, sisters, mother/daughter, daughter/mother, lovers, and dance partners, and have for centuries, it’s hard to put the proper label on it. We love each other. We always have and we always will.
K: I remember the first time I ever saw Michelle. Like any good story it happened as I glanced across the strip club at a commotion. In bustled what I can only describe as two little forest people piled with old suitcases covered in stickers, giant shiny boots, and wings. I thought, “those are the weirdest girls I have ever seen.” To be fair I was right off the farm. I mean the literal farm. Turned out she wasn’t as frightening as all those piercings and hair colors suggested. I became friends with both of them and when her partner took some time off we would occasionally dance together. And then more than occasionally. She showed me my first two pole tricks, hanging upside down and a sugar glider (which didn’t even have a name back then), and massaged my elbows when I cried from the pain of learning to climb. By the time the club got a tiny satellite stage we were quite comfortable, mayhaps over comfortable?, with being naked together but we began to get frustrated with waiting for the pole. I mean I know I was. That chick can stay up there forever. We started doing tricks on the pole together but not touching. I don’t remember the exact point when we began to use each other’s bodies (ha!) but I’m quite sure it involved jägerbombs, someone getting impatient, and… taking that hop. I don’t think my life could have gone any other route than to find her this time around. She has filled almost every role imaginable at one time or another and I get a little tearful when I think too hard about it. Don’t print that. I have a reputation to maintain.
What’s next for Michelle Mynx? Katrina Dohl?
M: I could not be happier in the life I have created for myself. I feel so incredibly blessed to do what I love in life. I just want to continue growing as a person, as a performer, and as a teacher.
K: I’ll be in school for probably the next ten years learning how to teach your children!