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  • Phoebe Robertson

Review: Kick Up a FUS

Updated: Apr 2

By: Phoebe Robertson (she/her)

Photo credit: ana.filmz (photos have been used with performers consent) 

Venue: Valhalla 

Seeing Valhalla transform into a strip club was not something I had predicted for 2024. But on March 30th, the Fired Up Stilettos (FUS), produced by Takatāpui Performance Artist and Writer Vixen Temple, made that happen. As Ava (a member of my group) put it: “what a fucking night.” 

In January 2023, the abrupt firing of 19 dancers at Calendar Girls Wellington made headlines. 35 of the dancers who worked there, wrote and signed a letter expressing their concerns over the venue's plans to take 50% of their earnings instead of the previous 40%. The next day, those 19 dancers lost their jobs. This incident sparked a larger movement among the fired dancers, leading them to form FUS - a grassroots organisation that fights against exploitative practices in the adult entertainment industry.

The venue itself Valhalla was a surprisingly good pick for the event. As Stephen, who came with us says:

Valhalla kinda nailed the atmosphere, and it was easily the least awkward strip club experience I've had to date, which is thanks to all the positive vibes and fun atmosphere put on by the FUS team, but probably also because of the lack of any seating. There's something about sitting down in a strip club that just immediately makes the experience so much weirder (it's like the difference between pissing sitting down versus using a urinal. Only one of those is awkward when there's another person in the room).

For students, visiting a strip club for the first time can be intimidating. Two of our group members had never been to one before, making it an even more daunting experience. However, FUS organised this, and performers at the door welcomed us with open arms. For an even more welcoming night.

Photo credit: ana.filmz (photos have been used with performers consent) 

But don’t just take it from me. Will came along with me, and he had this to say about the event: 

Having never been to a strip club before, I wasn't sure what to expect when Phoebe invited me to join her at Valhalla for the Fired Up Stilettos fundraiser. At first, I thought it would be a typical night out with a local band playing, but boy was I wrong. Despite not being familiar with this scene, I was excited about the new experience and it was delivered. The performers created a welcoming and comfortable atmosphere that made me feel at ease, and the crowd was similar to my demographic which added to the overall ambience.

As this was likely going to be one of the only times I ever visited a strip club, I decided to go all in and take advantage of Phoebe's offer for a lap dance. Surprisingly, it was a comfortable experience even for a first-timer like myself.

These performers truly deserve recognition and compensation for their hard work. It takes courage to put on these performances for the entertainment of others, and they deserve tremendous respect (and money!) for it. That's why I tipped all the cash I had left in my wallet and left feeling impressed with my experience.

Approximately 14 performers, each doing multiple acts on stage and interacting with the audience. As Stephen puts it the “highlight of the night was seeing a horny demon light a nun's tits on fire. Definitely better than your usual Easter religious experience.” And you know what? I have to agree with him. 

The most rewarding outcome of the night was in terms of the money. Every bit of profit went straight to the performers, giving them 100% of the earnings from lap dances and tips from patrons. This demonstrated the goal of the event: “to experience first-hand what a strip club can be like when run by the workers, for the workers.” 

So this review isn’t just from the perspective of customers. Here’s what one of the performers had to say about the night: 

It was my second time dancing for a 19FUS event and gosh was this one good! We opened at 8 pm and had people lining out the door already. It was a big reunion for old and newer dancers from all over Wellington. Big smiles and lots of hugs were going around, everyone fizzing for the night to come. It ran incredibly smoothly, the lapdance spaces were full for most of the night! Really driving home the point that we DON’T need the controlling and manipulating style of management to make money. It was a beautiful safe space, giving us all a chance to talk about issues we might not be able to at our home club. I know that myself and most of the girls from the night will be waiting for the next one to happen, feeling very proud of everyone involved.

Last night was a remarkable showcase of grassroots activism, providing the same services as a commercial strip club but with ethical and safe practices for the performers, who received 100% of their earnings. This event provides a sneak peek into the potential future of the Fired Up Stilettos movement, and sex work, leaving this reviewer feeling eager for future events. 


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