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Featured Artist: Scarlett and Sapphire take center stage

Sapphire (left) and Scarlett (right) are two of Centerfolds’ dancers are smiling and posing in front of a pool table. Photo credit: Brian Luong

Centerfolds is a strip club that is a 20-minute drive from downtown Chico. From 7:30 p.m. until 2 a.m., give or take, you can watch athletic, beautiful women dance and socialize with members of the audience.

The Centerfolds is a sex-shop when you walk in that also serves as a strip club. Photo credit: Brian Luong

One dancer, Scarlett, is a 22-year-old former Chico State social science major. After two years, Scarlett quit school because she didn’t feel passionate about it. That’s when she fell in love with stripping. Within the first three months of working at Centerfolds, she was able to afford a car and stop biking everywhere.

“Dancing taught me a lot about myself in ways that I feel I wouldn’t have been able to learn otherwise,” Scarlett said. “Like how to be comfortable with myself and how to (be more creative). I don’t consider myself a creative person, but with dancing I’ve been able to hone in on something that I feel is a well-rounded hobby. It’s my gym, it’s my social life, it’s my job, it’s my relaxation time. I like being able to be my own boss and do things my way.”

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"I do zone out (when dancing) definitely," Scarlett said. "If I feel incredibly into it and it's a big night or if I'm traveling. It feels like I'm on top of the world. I feel like a bad b***h." Photo credit: Brian Luong

Then there is Sapphire, a 19-year-old Chico local. Two weeks after turning 18 she went to an amateur night at Centerfolds even though she had never been to a strip club in her life, let alone danced in one. Her three years of high school dance, contemporary jazz, ballet and Tahitian dance were all she needed to make a statement and thrive in the world of stripping.

“I grew up in a very sex-positive environment. My mom taught me (that the human body) was art,” Sapphire said. “So (sexual expression) wasn’t weird and I always thought (strippers) were so pretty and cool. You know, we’re self-taught. I’ve always said that actual work is better than any practice you will have at home because you could do something and you can think it looks amazing and then it looks terrible when someone’s looking at it. Actually doing it in front of people is the best practice.”

"I love this industry," Scarlett said."I love everything it's done for me. I've gotten to go to Vegas for the AVN (Adult Video News) awards last year, which was an amazing experience." Photo credit: Brian Luong

Stripping, like any other form of dance, requires hours of practice and preparation to stay in top shape. It isn’t something someone can wake up one morning and master. Dancers have to consider their diet and lifestyle before coming to work in order to ensure they’re able to perform at the top of their game.

“I found that when I was eating bad I would be sorer,” Scarlett said. “I wasn’t as flexible. I’d get more cramping, bad blood circulation. I was fatigued. So, it’s best if you do treat this as kind of a low-impact workout.”

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Scarlett (left) and Sapphire (right) are smiling.
"Dancing's probably 10% of the job," Scarlett said. "It's really about how you can maximize your profit in a way that is appropriate for you. And what makes you feel good." Photo credit: Brian Luong

“We’re professionally working out and there are (many) ways for us to hurt ourselves,” Sapphire said. “If you hurt yourself, you don’t have a job anymore.”

Stripping may be one of the most scrutinized and glamourized forms of entertainment in existence. The stigma surrounding stripping is dissolved when talking to Scarlett and Sapphire. They are not degraded by their work, though they admit you have to have a certain amount of emotional strength to strip for a living. It is obvious that they are empowered by their job choice and love being emblems of alluring, erotic femininity.

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"My job is to make them (customers) personal cared for and important," Sapphire said. "They're spending all that money. You want to make it worth it for them. You want them to be like, wow! I had a great time." Photo credit: Brian Luong

Even though Sapphire and Scarlett love their job and the opportunity to express themselves, there are still many that hold a negative opinion of their line of work.

“I don’t do anything outside of work, not by choice because (stripping) is basically my priority,” Scarlett said. “All of my friends work here. When you work every Friday and Saturday night at the club trying to make your rent and pay all of your bills, it’s hard to find people outside that want to actually get to know you for you and just finding the time for it. I wake up at one or two and then I need to go grocery shopping, I need to go do my chores, take care of myself and make sure I’m eating right. I don’t go out. I don’t drink either. It’s all here.”

"I found this particular niche of entertainment that I feel I'm naturally good at," Scarlett. "I know I'm sexy. I know I can dance and it's completely my own. Every single time I go on stage, it's all me. People like watching it." Photo credit: Brian Luong

The job of a stripper can be an exhausting one. Working a six-hour shift dancing and putting on a positive demeanor to entertain guests until 2 a.m. gets intense. Sapphire and Scarlett want to make sure their customers feel that they get their money’s worth. They would hate it if a customer left thinking they weren’t given the experience they hoped for from their night. When they get home from work, they want to unwind and relax just like anybody else.

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"I always have a thought in my head when I'm dancing," Sapphire said. "Whether it's what I'm going to do next or what I'm going to eat at the end of the day. I'm always in my head." Photo credit: Brian Luong

“I like to spend a lot of time at home with my animals,” Sapphire said. “I have nine snakes and two cats. I love animals. I like to play video games and binge-watch TV shows like most of us. It’s nice to sit and do nothing because we’re constantly talking to people here at work. Even if we’re just in the back, we’re socially interacting with each other. It’s draining, you know? I’m the most extroverted person in the world but after working a handful of days in a row, there’s nothing better than doing nothing at all.”

Ricardo Tovar can be reached at [email protected] or @rtovarg13 on Twitter.

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