A few weeks back, I attended the PDX Strippies, an annual performance and awards show celebrating the people—not just dancers, but the cooks, DJs and cocktail servers, too—who make Portland's strip club industry tick. As is reflected in the clubs, the majority of the performers who danced in between award announcements were women. However, just before the bestowment of a prize for male dancing, a certain Jon Dutch took the stage.
It's probably been too long since I last saw male stripping in Portland, and Dutch's set was hilarious. He started dressed in a panda suit, then stripped that off to reveal a Duffman costume, was at one point dancing to the theme of Team America: World Police, and had shaved a faux six-pack into the hair on his torso. As funny as he was, he was also clearly experienced and agile on the pole. I couldn't tell if he was an actual stripper or not, so I made some inquiries that eventually resulted in no fewer than six long emails filled with the fascinating details of a Portland performer who, it turns out, has been published in the Mercury three times in his underwear, is the ride marshall for the World Naked Bike Ride, has a day job as a circus performer and acrobat, and also cross-trains high level pole dancers in preparation for competitions.
Click the cut for a lengthy Q&A in which I ask important journalistic questions like, "What the fuck is up with tall bikes?"
MERCURY—Are you originally from Portland?
JON DUTCH—I am originally from New York, [and] moved here in 2005 after college.
How did you become involved in acrobatics?
Before Portland, my physical side was dominated by sports, primarily football. After moving here I felt a real hole in that part of me. I took up extreme sports like Zoobombing and tall-bike jousting (for a while I was winning a lot of tournaments). Then I saw a Wanderlust Circus show, featuring Kazum, at a bike culture/circus crossover event. I loved what they were doing and immediately had a dream of doing it myself. I've always had a deep love of performing (bands, choirs, drama, dance, silliness in general) and got to know the acrobats. Not too long after I found out they were auditioning for a new base, and I tried out and just pretty much hit the ground running from there.
How typical was your set at the Strippies of your performance style in general?
The set I did at the Strippies, the 11-layer strip tease, is both typical and very atypical. The large majority of my shows are heavily dominated by me being the base while a performing partner does acrobatic dance routines. The Strippies set was the first go at what I'm hoping will develop into a strong solo act. However, its elements are very, very Dutch. Spandex, crazy costumes, absurdity, getting upside down and throwing people over my head. Drinking a beer in a handstand (my end trick) has been a party trick of mine since before I even joined the circus (it's a whole lot easier to do now, though, for sure!). I very much appreciate having a wide variety of moods and settings I can bring for performances, it's something I've worked a lot on lately. In the last few weeks I've gone from a completely serious, sexy doubles acro set at Sinferno, to an old time vaudeville-style Kazum show, an intense dark piece of sorcery and witchcraft, to death metal, and of course, hopping around in spandex shaking my butt at the crowd (which I think is definitely my favorite, and my most natural, state).
What kinds of qualities can you help a stripper bring to the table through your training?
A different kind of performance. Pole acrobatics is AMAZING and is something I deeply respect. However the addition of partner acrobatics into routines can be incredibly impactful, if used properly. We also do a lot of handstand training, as well as some light gymnastics, which I personally love watching dancers excel at. There are definitely some dancers in this town who are FAR better hand-balancers than myself.
Describe the instances you have been published in the Merc (in your underwear).
I'm not sure which was my first or second time, but once in the Pic of the Week, where I was photographed on a hot summer day, on a dock with a bunch of Zoobomber friends, and one of my best friends and I were wearing matching Hooters short-shorts (mine were size medium, so I'd qualify these as underpants) and nothing else. I was bent over on all fours looking at the camera and smiling/laughing as he blasted me in the butt from a couple feet away with one of those water cannon guns. The next time still is a bit of a mystery to me, but I was pictured as one of the runner-ups in the original "Portland's Sexiest Person" article. I was just in some skimpy underpants, looking quite happy. More recently I was again featured as the Pic of the Week, on the fourth of July in my Patriot Eagle outfit, and at that moment I had my American flag spandex booty shorts pulled down to show off my Captain America underpants. I was touching junk with another friend who also happened to be wearing Captain America underpants.
How do you define the significance of the World Naked Bike Ride? Do you feel it's changed since you began your involvement?
I love the WNBR. When I first started doing it, there were only a few hundred people. I started getting involved around the time when there was no specific route. Me and some friends took out our freak bikes and tried to form a official "front," so we could take it on a proper route, and keep the pace intelligent for the number of people on the ride. In the years prior, things were getting ugly as the ride would spread and splinter. The next year, I worked very closely with the other organizers and brought a very official crew of "marshalls" to lead the ride on a route that myself, Carl Larsen, and a few others had developed (and still mostly use to this day). To our surprise, at the last minute, the cops showed up in force to help lead the ride and keep everyone safe. There were some awkward moments at first, including one of my favorite moments of all time, having a VERY serious conversation with a cop, still in his squad car, while I was buck ass naked, dick winging around in the wind. Now we work very closely with the city, and things go much smoother. The ride is definitely undergoing serious growing pains. The biggest being, that at its current size (15,000 people) it takes a large amount of money for even the most basic of services to be provided legally. And forget trying to throw one big official after-party. You know a venue that wants 10,000 naked people showing up? And can give it to us for virtually nothing? Exactly. I've run unofficial after-parties that have gotten as large as 5,000 people, but obviously that comes with its own unique problems. OVERALL I LOVE the WNBR, and what it stands for: bicycling as a viable alternative, that we are "naked" on the road, referring to how vulnerable to injury we are, and that bicycling, and the bicycling community, can be FUN!
What the fuck is up with tall bikes? People either love them or hate them.
Tall bikes. LOVE THEM. I started riding them not long after moving to Portland. I got so into building them and riding them that I helped run a public bike/welding shop for years with my crew, the North Freak Collective (who also runs the Loud and Lit Ride), helping people build and fix freak bikes. Tall bikes are awesome. You can take scraps of bikes that are otherwise completely dead, and turn them into something amazing and rideable. You get to use your creativity in your own design. Building something yourself from the ground up is a great feeling. And on top of that, they are just far superior to ride. I honestly refuse to ride normal sized bikes, I think they are horribly dangerous. You can't see over cars at intersections, you are hidden from traffic, and you are so fucking close to the ground! On tall bikes I can see traffic, traffic can see me. If I fall (everyone falls sooner or later, but I think it happens less frequently on a tall bike, because of the just listed reasons), I have far more time to control my body in the air and land properly. I have gymnastically tumbled out of what would have been serious crashes and walked away with scratches.
Back to dancing: While you you don't strip in club you mentioned that you've done a few bachelorette gigs. Were those more of the typical stripper performance? What did you think of the experience?
The bachelorette gigs were definitely different than my other work. Or at least my other "professional" work. Long before I joined the circus or even dreamt of being a full stage performer, I was pretty much the go-to person for a birthday lap dance. This was never because I was the sexiest, or had the sweetest body, but because I just loved dancing, being silly, and putting a smile on people's faces. There is something very tongue in cheek about the way I do sexy dances. "Sexy" isn't my natural state. I'd say its much closer to "ridiculous." But blending those two is really fun, and some people really appreciate it. My first bachelorette party I ever did was for a friend of some close friends. And it was actually the first time I did a layered strip act. I figured I needed something more entertaining then just me being silly, doing handstand, splits, and booty shaking all up in their face. I have so many costumes, I said why not. Plus I thought a lady opening the door and having a giant panda walk into the room, only to end up taking off all its clothes, was just a great way to get things started. When I do bachelorette parties, I always make sure to bring in some friends who fit the male "ideal" body much closer. Ripped abs and flawless body. Everyone loves that shit. I can't deliver, but I can bring friends who can! Overall I think we put on a pretty damn good show. Also I think my favorite thing in the whole world is to shake my butt, and number two is to make people watch me shake my butt, so it all works out.
What's the best point of entry for people to see you perform/find out more about your teaching?
The best place to start is the all-levels circus acrobatics class I co-teach on Sunday nights at 7:30pm at the Egg (Afru Gallery) at 534 SE Oak. There are group warmups, stretching, and conditioning. There is no experience necessary, and you don't need to bring a partner. It's lots of fun and a great workout. We have a Facebook group called "Circus and partner acrobatics classes at the egg," and I am also available for private lessons, [just contact] "Jon Dutch" on Facebook. Some upcoming shows [are the] White Album christmas at Alberta Rose theatre with Wanderlust Circus [Dec 21-23], which is going to be AMAZING. I am in five songs, as well as a major character in the plot line. However, you don't even really need to pimp this show that hard, as we are almost already sold out. [There's also the] Vespertine Ball New Years at Melody Ballroom, [where I'll be performing as] part of a dance troupe that is the pre-ball drop show.