Upping the ante on dance coverage and conversation

Join thINKingDANCE this Spring For In-Person Events in Philly!

tD is partnering with Philadelphia Dance Projects to host THREE WRITE BACK ATCHAs this Spring! Our next  is on Wednesday May 22nd  at 7pm after Dance Up Close: Joe Gonzalez. 

Then, join us the next day at  drINKingDANCE, a  social gathering at Dahlak in West Philly on Thursday, May 23rd from 6-9pm.
We hope you can grab a DrINK with us!

Timespan of a Melting Candy
Photo: Rosie Simmons


Timespan of a Melting Candy

by Megan Mizanty

“Hi there.”

Ella-Gabe walks to me, extending a hand. Their eyes are warm, inviting, kind. Their voice soft and enunciated.

In here, everyone’s special. All 25 of us are greeted individually, and Ella-Gabriel Mason* takes us in - I mean, really takes us in - names and all. They languidly stroll through the audience and offer each of us a folded paper.

“I have a note for you. Don’t open it yet.”

Hot air whooshes through the fans in Fidget Space as Ella-Gabe eases into Sex Werque: Notes from the Field. They casually take off their blue t-shirt. Then baggy gray pants. I see the Barbie-pink fishnets hugging their stomach first. The steeple-high stilettos, impossibly hard and unforgiving. Cleavage-tight tank. They begin to shape shift, chameleon-like, into different characters.

Vera. She’s coy.

Eden. A sought-after character for Boomer men.

Electra. You can guess how she puts you in line!

Finally: Cherry Daiquiri. Sweet, fun, here for a wild night.

All of them touch the pole, dancing a little, flirting.

“What name will appeal to which person?” Ella-Gabe asks us. That’s the challenge of stripping: you need to sense what each customer wants. Their unique desires - even if that’s pretending to get a private lap dance at a bachelor party and chatting nervously about your wedding instead.

Ella-Gabe - or maybe Prudence, or Ingrid - reveals the myriad of striptease positions, all the subtle and in-your-face contortions–smacks, skin ripples, dips, humping–that fit into an eight-hour (yes, eight hour) shift. The most money they made in a day: $1010. The least: $-57 (entirely possible after paying the club, staff, bouncers, etc). In Sex Werque, numbers reign supreme.

Cut to a video projection - an array of arms, legs, tattooed torsos but never faces. We listen to stories of other strippers: reasons they started doing it in the first place (paying student loans, taking care of family, etc), instances of assault, exploitation - especially for women of color. The collected field notes are fascinating; of all the parts of this hour, I want more of this.

I’m tapped on the shoulder. The box office manager hands me a tiny plastic cup of five M&Ms.

“Try eating them as slowly as you can,” Ella-Gabe says, watching us.

About 35 minutes in, they’re glistening in sweat, vacillating between pole-work and talking with everyone.

“This shit’s hard!”

They gyrate their hips into the ground.

“Are you finished?”

I look down at my cup. One M&M left.

“Try stretching that out for eight hours. How slow you can experience something.”

Ella-Gabe offers a nuanced and acutely compassionate glimpse into the minutiae of sex work. Sex Werque    occupies an ever-changing space of danger, connection, profit, intention, and ultimately, power.


Sex Werque: Notes from the Field, Ella-Gabriel Mason, Fidget Space, Cannonball Festival, Philly Fringe Festival, Sept. 7, 18.

*Ella-Gabriel Mason is a writer for thINKingDANCE.



By Megan Mizanty
September 8, 2023

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