Ascendance

Ascendance Pole & Aerial Arts is a nonprofit studio coming soon to the downtown Renton, WA area.

Q3 Scholarship Recipients - Meet Erin!

Next up, we’re excited to re-introduce Erin! Erin is genuine, focused, and inspiring. She’s working on a doubles piece for PSO Northwest and we can’t wait to see her own the stage with her doubles partner.

Here’s what Erin has to say about her time as a Scholarship Recipient.

“Ascendance is my "Happy Place!" I came to the studio looking for a new challenge, and a place to explore my passion for dance. And I did! After my first class, I was hooked and couldn't get enough. The studio has given me a new way of expressing myself, confidence and a sense of community and belonging. As a scholarship recipient, I was able to truly immerse myself into pole technique and explore the many styles each teacher had to offer. A goal I had at the start of my pole journey was to perform and compete. With only 9 months under my Pleaser platforms, I will be competing in a doubles routine at PSO (Pole Sports Organization) this November. This was a goal I had months ago in December and it's finally here. Once I finish the competition I'm sure I will be inspired to set a new goal but for now, I'm to grind till November.

If I had to give someone toying with the idea of taking a pole class advice, I would say "DO IT"! Find a studio that fits your personality and go for it. If you hate it it only cost you a few bucks or nothing if your first class was free. But if you love it, the friends, community, and self-empowerment will last a long time.”

Q3 Scholarship Recipient - Meet Cheyanne!

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Q3 Scholarship Recipient - Meet Cheyanne!

As we close out Q3, we’re excited to introduce Cheyanne. We love the energy Cheyanne brings to classes and her sweet disposition. Cheyanne recently joined our Front Desk team as a workstudy, so you can see her smiling face greeting you for classes on Tuesday nights.


Here’s what Cheyanne has to say about her time as a Scholarship Recipient.


What drew you to Ascendance?

I have been searching the greater Seattle area for a pole studio that had both a strong sense of community as well as diverse class offerings. Ascendance has a ton of different classes, as well as a diverse group of instructors all with different dance backgrounds. One of my goals is to be a well-rounded dancer and Ascendance definitely honors all "genres" of pole from contemporary, to acrobatic/gymnastic to exotic.

Your decision to apply for scholarship and the outcome of it.
I applied for a scholarship because I haven't been able to afford to take the amount of classes I needed to push my abilities to progress. Previously, I had been taking a few classes a month, but for me, this wasn't enough to see improvement in my skillset. The scholarship program was a great opportunity to become apart of a beautiful new studio without financial barriers hindering my progress.

How was your experience in class?
My very first class at Ascendance was a class full of encouraging, fun and silly people. Each student and instructor has been incredibly welcoming and supportive. Its so fun to cheer each other on and celebrate each other's achievements in class.

What are your pole/aerial goals?
Initially I started pole because I needed a new hobby, and quickly fell in love with the empowerment and strength that comes with it. My goals are to continue to gain confidence in my dance, and work on strength and flexibility to get into those crazy inverted split moves someday.


What has been the most challenging to learn?
In general, engagement. For the longest time, I did not understand how to engage my shoulders, and still am working on keeping my core active during training. It really makes all the difference in the world when your whole body is paying attention, and finally that one elusive move just "clicks".


What would be your advice to students who wants to try pole/aerial/dance?
Absolutely do not be afraid, intimidated or self-conscious. Pole and aerial are such empowering sports and really are for any body/ "ability" level. The pole community, especially at Ascendance is full of people who will always cheer you on and lift you up both figuratively, and sometimes literally.

Click below to find out more about our Scholarship Program or to apply a Scholarship.


Happy Birthday Ascendance

Happy Birthday Ascendance! We started classes on 9/24/2018 but this whole week has been one big celebration for us!

I can’t believe you’re turning a year old. We have much to celebrate and have accomplished so much with that time. It’s been an incredible honor to be a part of building something so big, something so special, and something we can all be proud of. I thought this would be an appropriate time to put some of my ramblings together and share a little bit about how this thing came together. 

If we haven’t met yet, hello! I’m Tara Steed, founding member, Board Secretary, Program Director, and I teach a few classes. When you call, email, or interface with someone online in one of our many channels, it’s likely me you’re chatting with (but you’ll soon see Ascendance is much more than me!). I am responsible for much of the studio operations and business-y things, curriculum and programs, and managing our staff. I work closely with my partner and Executive Director Maggie Nation, get an immense amount of help in the financial/accounting department from Catherine Budinger, and much of our social media is organized by Kirstie Chan. Annalisa Mai helps lead and run our Scholarship Program, and Tram Le wrangles our Workstudy Program. It’s takes many hands to make this thing go, and there are many more to thank for their invaluable contributions.

But back to how we got started - I vividly remember sitting down with Maggie and Cynthia at a dessert shop in Seattle’s Chinatown in early 2018, talking about a crazy idea we had. I was very pregnant, it was dark and cold out. I’m sure I had a mango smoothie (mangos were my pregnancy craving).


In the weeks prior to this meetup, we were talking about renting a small space to put up some poles in and share with friends. At first, it was a group of 5-6 of us, then we wanted to invite a few other pole instructors we knew, and then it was a few more dancers, until we realized that we were basically just talking about a studio at that point. That’s what brought us to this conversation.

“Should we do this thing? Would it be insane to think about starting a studio? Could we build a true community?”. We are each true realists and knew this was not a decision to take lightly, and that it would require a huge commitment from all of us. I think deep down, we each knew what the answer was before the questions were even asked. After some fruitful conversation, we agreed to give this a shot and to start planning.  As we enjoyed our sweet treats, we knew we had just agreed on the birth of something incredibly special. 


The summer before this meeting at a Pole Unbound retreat, I had many conversations with studio owners and long-time pole veterans who all seemed to voice the same concerns: Studios thrive when community is its heart. Studios collapse when the weight of running that studio burns out the owner. It was evident early on that the key to building a successful community for the long term was to start building it WITH a community. It was also evident we needed to bake in a structure that would support the studio’s leadership and not burn anyone out. Community and teamwork were to be the foundation in which we build this new thing. 


After our meeting, we began to share our idea and meet with like-minded people. We talked through many iterations of this studio. Each meeting we had seemed to pick up a few more excited participants. It was clear from the start that it didn’t make sense for us to go with a traditional business model. We talked through Co-Op Models, a Multiple Owner model, traditional LLCs, and Non Profit structures.  We wanted to have a more distributed leadership team, to be community-focused, and for this organization to have longevity. After evaluating all we had in front of us, we decided collectively to set up as a non-profit, as this model would keep the focus on benefiting everyone equally, while also building on the community-focused intention.

We got together as a group to ask some hard questions. We whiteboarded, soundboarded, each took on copious amounts of research to understand what it would take to make this successful, and finally we created a business plan. It was fun and exciting, and still very much conceptual! And then Candace found it - THE place. The future home of Ascendance. It was perfect. Tall ceilings, perfect street front location, a wonderful and supportive landlord, and it ticked all the other requirement boxes. A space like this doesn’t come along often, if ever at all. It was time to act. 

What was first a maybe 2019 or 2020 goal and a slow, steady build, was now a decision we had to act on immediately. Spring of 2018 was a flurry of activity. Shortly after giving birth to my son, I filed for our business license and drafted our Articles of Incorporation. I remember having my new son Felix on my chest as I made those initial phone calls and filings.

Next, we carefully selected our initial Board of Directors and started more serious planning. Not long after that, we signed our lease and started designing our studio space, picking out poles and apparatuses, and selecting building materials. By June, we had the keys and were starting demo and construction. Just a few short months later, Ascendance opened its doors.

It has been a true whirlwind, and I am immensely proud of what we’ve achieved so far. We’ve built a true organization with over 25 staff, instructors, and volunteers in less than a year. We offer 40 classes a week, host monthly workshops, setup a Workstudy Program,  launched a Scholarship Program, created a Holding Space program, hold Community Events, and do so much more. We have more ideas than hours in the day, and the potential is enormous!

It’s not all sunshine and roses, and we’ve had some hard months, some overwhelming challenges, and many, many growing pains (ouch!). Through it all though, we’ve stayed dedicated to learning, growing, and continuing to lift each other up and to trust that we can rely on each other’s strengths in good times and bad. Each day brings a new learning opportunity, a new curve ball, new things to consider… and with that new ways to learn, grow, and get bigger, better, and more efficient.

Many people will advise you not to go into business with friends. I actually feel quite honored that my friends share this very special thing with me. It’s definitely not easy, but the payoff is so worth it. Our friendship and mutual respect is our strength, it’s what gives our studio heart. It also let’s me see and appreciate all new facets of these beautiful women. Each person on this team gives me more than they know, and I appreciate each one of them for the grace, forgiveness, and trust they each give me as I learn to grow as a leader. I am so thankful and appreciative of all they give and sacrifice to make this beautiful thing work. It’s been a huge year of personal discovery and growth for me, and I have the studio and all it’s wonderful people to thank for so many revelations. I’m looking forward to growing more and to giving back to this place and the people that have helped me along the way. I hope the studio is that for many others too. A life-changing place where magic happens, where discovery is made,and  where real self love happens.

I am so excited for all that year 2 will bring Ascendance. I am so grateful for each one of our clients and the trust you have placed in us. So here’s to us Ascending into year 2! Go Ascenders!


Tara Steed
Program Director

Here’s some fun behind the scene photos leading up to our opening last year to commemorate how far we’ve come. <3

 
 

Approaching our 1 year!

Has it been a year already?  When we look back at all of the work we’ve done, and how far we’ve come since opening, it feels both much longer and much shorter at the same time.  This time last year we had just finished painting and started laying floors. Our opening date was getting closer and closer and we still had so much work left to do.  Building out the studio space and getting everything ready for opening required all of us to pitch in and work harder than we ever had before. Seeing our studio filling with students who were excited to learn and make new friends made all of the late nights and early mornings worthwhile (all 619 of you unique beauties!).  In the course of this first year, we’ve continued to grow into our beautiful space, we’ve worked hard to build a talented team of instructors, and we’ve put many hours into developing the framework to make this nonprofit stand the test of time.

Speaking of nonprofits, one of the top questions we get asked is… What is this nonprofit thing all about? At Ascendance, we want to invest whatever the studio makes back into the studio, back into the community, and into programming and scholarships to grow and support our mission of making this artform more accessible for dancers from all walks of life. Choosing to go the nonprofit route means we are governed by a Board of Directors, who help set the direction of the organization. The Board is responsible for hiring the Studio Directors to run the studio and manage all its assets. This structure also allows us to submit for our 501(c)(3) charity status - once granted to us, this status will open up the doors to grants, donations, and other unique opportunities that will enable us to lower operating costs and provide more services for our students. We run our business just the same as many other studios - we sell classes and services to our clients in the same way many other businesses do. However, any profits over and above our payroll and operating costs goes right back into the studio. 

From the very beginning, we knew we wanted to do things a little differently.  We wanted to build a community with intention, to structure the business of running a studio so that no one person was responsible for everything, to share our talents and build something together as a team.  We set to work early on key programs to support our mission. Our flagship program is our Scholarship Program. Launched in the winter of 2018, to date we have subsidized and supported 8 scholarship recipients. We look forward to growing this number in 2020. This Scholarship Program has enormous potential and is already making a  difference in accessibility of pole and aerial for those who otherwise couldn’t afford it. We also have a work-study program with many wonderful work-trade students who help keep things running smoothly, greet and check in clients and in exchange, we are able to help keep their class costs down. 

Going into 2020, we have big goals for year two. We hope that our completed 501(c)(3) application is submitted and approved. We intend to expand both our Scholarship Program and our Holding Space Program (if you don’t know about it, learn more here. We’re so excited about it!) and keep offering work-study opportunities. We also want to make monthly Community Jams a priority to help knit all of us together even more. Big, exciting stuff on the horizon; all while we continue to refine and expand our curriculum and programming, and keep this positive momentum driving us forward. 

We thank you all for your continued support. We would be nothing without our students and are grateful you trust us. We look forward to serving you, dancing with you, and growing together in year two! 

- Team Ascendance

 
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Thank You!

Love, Team Ascendance!

 

Holding Space: a place for you

 "What does it mean to hold space for someone else? It means that we are willing to walk alongside another person in whatever journey they’re on without judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them, or trying to impact the outcome. When we hold space for other people, we open our hearts, offer unconditional support, and let go of judgment and control." -Heather Plett

As a nonprofit, our mission statement is: “Ascendance Pole and Aerial Arts serves a diverse community, builds self-esteem, and empowers artistic expression in a supportive and safe environment.”  In order to serve a diverse community, we must build one with intention. Just existing in space is not enough to reach the people who might benefit from joining us. We must accept that many people are not ready to jump into a class filled with strangers of different backgrounds, ages, and levels of experience.  In addition, many marginalized groups have reported being made to feel unwelcome in pole studios and are unlikely to expose themselves to another rejection. In order to reach these people and welcome them into our community, it is necessary to create a space that is specifically labelled as just for them. It is not enough to say, “Our studio welcomes everyone.”  We must seek out their participation and show clearly that we would welcome their presence in our studio and our community.  This is where the idea of the beginning of Holding Space came to fruition.

    Holding Space is still a fledgling program that will grow and change over time, but at its core it is simply what it says it is: we are holding space for you.  We will strive to ensure that the events are led by instructors who are members of the community that we are reaching out to, so that they can see that not only do we welcome their group as students, but also as instructors.  From time to time that may not be possible, or we may have to work harder to make it happen, but we recognize that this is important enough to put in the work.  

    We have hosted two events to reach out to the LGBTQ+ community and have an upcoming event (Black Pole Experience with Tinkk Holt) that focuses on welcoming the black community into our studio.  These have been met with an overwhelmingly positive response so far (in fact, our BPE event filled completely within 48 hours) and we look forward to adding more.  

Whereas we hope that the people who attend Holding Space events will join our community and continue to attend classes in the future, we understand that this may not be possible or comfortable for everyone.  In fact, often by coming to our event, the person has stepped so far outside their comfort zone that they may need a while to process the experience and may decide not to return, or may need to attend a few events in order to feel comfortable enough to attend a regular class.  We honor this as a success as well; stepping outside of your comfort zone is an achievement in and of itself. We hope that whether or not attendees decide to join us again in the future, they know that we recognize and celebrate them just for coming through the door. We hope they enjoyed the experience and time we shared with them and thank them for sharing our space and trying something new. 

If you would like to learn more about us, or be notified about future events, please sign up for our newsletter or follow us on social media. We look forward to welcoming you into our studio!


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Q2 Scholarship Recipients - Meet Nettie

Learn more about our net Q2 recipient, Nettie, in our Q&A below!

What drew you to Ascendance?

I have literally been to EVERY aerial/pole studio in western Washington, and even some in Portland. I’ve also literally worked with tons of pole, aerial, and flexibility trainers/instructors over the years. It is my honest opinion, that Ascendance has taken the best instructors throughout the state and assembled them into one studio location. Not only am i confident, through my ongoing training relationships with these individuals, that Ascendance has the best team of qualified instructors...but the studio itself is one of the best designed, as well as being the newest. On top of that, the studio is one of the most affordable, and what little it might cost in excess to some other studios, it makes up for in quality of trainers, class content, environment/atmosphere, and more. Plus, this studio is conveniently located closer to me than any other studio in the state.

 

Your decision to apply for scholarship and the outcome of it.

I decided to apply for the studio scholarship because of a lack of financial resources. I was the recipient of the spring quarter scholarship. I’m very grateful. I decided to focus my class efforts towards the Lyra and was able to do my first student showcase, which has always been a goal of mine. 

How was your experience in class?

I always enjoy my classes at ascendance. All of the instructors and other studio members/clients are very kind, supportive, and fun to be with. I always learn something new, and always challenged while having a great time.

 

What are your pole/aerial goals?

After a 2.5 year shoulder injury recovery, I’ve taken a few pole classes to start getting back into pole. But, my focus has been on learning more with the Lyra, becoming more fluid and confident with it, and rebuilding my strength. I look forward to doing more showcases in my future, and want to perform and/or compete (I’ve done neither so before).

What has been the most challenging to learn?

I choose to confront my fears and push past my limitations. I have been working on getting into higher hoops, working on the top bar of the Lyra, and doing things in the span set. I am afraid of heights, spinning, and falling. Sometimes these things trigger my anxiety and it takes me longer to be able to learn these new things. Thankfully, Ascendance has wonderful instructors that make me feel safe even when my anxiety is working against me. After a long injury recovery, it’s also sometimes hard for me to do things that require a lot of rotator cuff strength. I could literally lift ZERO pounds for four months after my injury. Put the two of these challenges together and one very difficult trick I have not been able to attain is the inverted man on the moon. I see many other people get this in the first class they attempt it, so I am sure it’s something I’m going to have to work on mentally. And, that brings up another challenge, remembering that it’s ok to take my time with things. 

 

What would be your advice to students who wants to try pole/aerial/dance?

Many people do not think they have the strength to do this. I literally had ZERO strength and I am doing it. So can you.


Thanks for sharing, Nettie, and for the kind words! We love having you in class!