HONOLULU -- Sisterhood is indeed powerful, at least when it comes to pole dancers.
Attendance was sparse at the Waikiki Acrobatic Troupe’s regular Wednesday night workout. The open practice in a dingy exercise studio at University of Hawaii, Manoa, can get upward of 60 performers. But this week was different.
On Sunday, Edward Snowden had become a household name after he announced that he was responsible for leaking secrets about U.S. telephone and Internet surveillance systems to the media.
Snowden had flown to Hong Kong, leaving behind his job as a computer systems administrator at a National Security Agency facility in the center of Oahu, and his longtime girlfriend, Lindsay Mills.
She worked out regularly with the Waikiki Acrobatic Troupe. Snowden has since gone into hiding and so has Mills, a self-proclaimed “world-traveling, pole-dancing superhero” whose 15 minutes of fame kicked off Monday with the discovery of her blog post, “L’s Journey.”
"The pole dancers said they’re not coming tonight,” said Richard Criley, one of the founders of the 39-year-old acrobatic troupe, as he prepared to practice his handstands in the near-empty Studio 4. “They are not showing up out of respect for her.”
Most of the acrobats stayed away too, along with the tumblers and the women Criley called “the silks people,” who specialize in Cirque du Soleil-style aerial routines performed using long fabric swaths hung from above. A couple of jugglers showed up, and a fire dancer.
And television crews from CNN, ABC and NBC. And reporters from the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times.
In fact, there were more journalists looking for someone -- anyone -- to say something -- anything -- about Mills and her connection to Snowden and her life in this Pacific island and her acrobatic exploits than there were performers for most of the troupe’s two-hour practice Wednesday night.
So what was learned about the elusive Mills and her equally elusive boyfriend?
Not much about her.
Nothing about him.
Juggler Billy Bellew spent part of the evening standing on the head of his partner Andrew Towl as the two men practiced tossing half a dozen Indian clubs to each other. Bellew said he had performed with Mills in the past, “but we really weren’t on, like, hang-out terms. ... I never got to know her. She was like a co-worker.”
And Snowden? “I wasn’t even aware she was in a relationship,” Bellew said.
Karl Vorwerk, who coaches the troupe, described Mills as “a beginner at acrobatics. I have no idea how much pole and other stuff she’d done.”
Of course, the ones who really know about Mills are the pole dancers. And they’re not talking.
“The pole people are definitely not coming back,” Vorwerk told the surfeit of scribblers Wednesday night, “as long as you’re here.”