Did you start pole before or after your kids came along?
Cynthia: I started after.
Annalisa: Me, too.
Tram: Yeah, pole came first for me.
Tara: Yeah, pole was first for me, too
Yael: Pole was my first love. Everything else came after that. I will say that, pole was actually part of the things I thought about when we were talking about getting pregnant. And I know that sounds crazy, but I was just like, "What's this gonna be like for my body?" “And not just like how's my body gonna look different, but how is it gonna behave differently in terms of the things I wanna use it for."
And then, you know, lifestyle change after that. How is that gonna affect my ability to still be an athlete. And those were things I thought about really seriously, and had to kind of struggle through even a little bit of guilt about that, like, why should I prioritize this versus a baby? And ultimately decided well, I'm just gonna try and do both, 'cause I want both
Tara: I had very, very similar thoughts. It was like, this is the timing to have a kid, but is this timing in my, like, "pole career." Am I, like, ready to slow down? And I wasn't. But then deep down I was. So it was really hard to make that decision to start a family. It's been a hard adjustment to give up the level of dancing I was doing, but it's been so worth it. And this is just a different season; eventually I’ll be able to pole more for myself again.
How has pole changed your relationship with your body?
Cynthia: I have to say that my relationship with my body and my self care really, kind of, changed after I had a kid. I think I picked up pole when my son was ... I don't even remember anymore. He was a little older, but, I just felt big. I couldn't stay in shape in a regular basis. I felt big, and I really didn't like my body very much. You know? I saw pole as a way to regain that confidence and that perspective on being happy with my body and it's strength.
Tram: I feel like doing pole before having a baby made it very ... easy on myself when it came to post-baby, because, you know, post-baby you kinda just feel like garbage. You kinda just feel like this big blob of, like, extra-ness (everyone laughs in agreement). But I feel like pole helped me just forgive that about myself. Like, it teaches you the self love that you need.
Tara: I actually struggled- still struggle with that. Coming back after baby and being really hard on myself. I think I came back to pole a little too quickly and maybe before I was ready. With the studio ramping up so quickly, I didn't feel like I had time to really, like, to just love my current postpartum state. There was perceived pressure… I'm sure there was none and that I created it in my head, like, to get back in shape and hurry up and be ready to do this thing. To be strong again and creating new content for my students. I was really self-conscious about my abilities and my body. It wasn't until I got in the studio more and seeing my students reflect this message of self love back to me, that I was able to give myself more grace. ..if that makes sense. Like, as much as we say pole is about what you can do and not what you look like, that was a message that I didn't really internalize until way late in my postpartum recovery. I learned a lot of that back from my students. So, it's funny how it comes full circle. Here we are, telling our students, "Love yourself no matter what. You are amazing. You're perfect as you are. You're, like ..."
Yael: But it's hard to do it for yourself.
Tram: But when it comes back to yourself it's a hard pill to swallow.
Tram: I think I still struggle with it, but pole definitely makes it easier.
Tara: It does. And this community we're building and this vibe, like, everyone's just so supportive
What do your children think of you and pole, or what would you hope for them to see?
Annalisa: I started pole four years ago. At that time, Elexyss and Kiera had just started gymnastics. We have been on this journey together as a family. We would share our goals, such as getting our splits, do a backbend (a bridge), handstands, etc. And so... being able to show them how I’ve worked hard to achieve those goals meant a lot to me. And, in a way, this journey has strengthened our bond. We have more interests in common now, and they are more willing to talk to me about their struggles because they know I’d understand. I feel like we have a special connection because of this.
Cynthia: I really feel like pole has such a stigma with it, you know? A negative one. There's so much body shaming that already goes on, right? I don't want my daughter to feel that way about her body, and I want her to be able to see women be proud of who they are no matter what size they are. Women wearing pole shorts and tops and dancing with heels, and not thinking that that is, some, stigma or negative thing. Whatever your self expression is, or however you wanna keep in shape, I want my kids to kind of embrace that.
Tara: Yeah, I think a lot, I- I have a son. And how different that'll be for Felix, with his mom being a pole dancer as he grows up. I want him to think of that as a positive thing and not a stigma. Like, yeah my mom is this badass. And she can lift her body and do all these crazy tricks, and she helps these women, and men... everyone who comes in to feel really good about themselves. I do worry about, like, as a young boy growing up, how classmates are gonna treat him as he shares what his mom does, so I think that's something I'll continually be thinking about, is how to just empower him with the right messaging to not feel ashamed about what his mom does. And related to all that, I think that's my mission as a mother of a boy is to raise a boy who is, you know, supportive of all the women in his life, to recognize they can express their sexuality without shame or not just for men’s benefit, and to know he can be sweet, kind, and sensitive.
Tram: Mm-hmm. Different journey with a girl.
Yael: I wanna add that my self talk has changed a lot from pole, and then it really helped me through recovery after having a baby. And then, what's really important to me now, and it's always been important to me to set a good example about how I treat my body and how I view my body with- in front of Grace. I want her inner voice to be a powerful, strong, positive one. And I think that pole has given me that in a way that nothing else could.
So, most of the time that I'm looking in the mirror in front of Grace it's, I mean, yes I get ready in the morning, but, like, that's not that big of a deal, I just get ready. But when I'm looking in the mirror and I have, like, pole clothes on, I'm talking about my body in terms of how I'm using it and what I'm trying to do with it, and she's participating in that, and there's never a moment where I'm criticizing something about my body. Not to say that I don't have thoughts like that, 'cause I think we all do, but the majority of the things that she's experiencing are about what our bodies can do and not what they look like.
And then similarly, when I have her here in the studio, she's getting to witness women of all different sizes and shapes and abilities doing awesome things, and I wish I had that when I was growing up. Because everything that I saw, especially women with their clothes off to some degree, was like, "Oh they have to be a certain way, look a certain way." And I was never exposed to something awesome like this, and she sees that all the time, and it's just normal, and if it wasn't for pole I don't think she'd have that.
What's been the most challenging part about combining family and pole?
Tram: Oh. Time. Number one.
Tara: (laughs) Yes, yes, yes.
Annalisa: Definitely time.
Tram: It's time. I feel like, it might get easier as Kaia gets older, but being the mother of a child that is under one who's bedtime is like 7 PM when we start classes. There's just, no time. And then now, that I'm back at work and I'm a working mom too, by the time I get home and feed my kid, it's time for her to go to bed. And it's just like, do I sacrifice my time with her to come to the studio? It's really hard to find that balance.
Cynthia: Yeah. I, I think it changes too as your kids start to grow older and their time change. Yeah. I feel like I've evolved my practice. I don't do as much pole anymore. And I found that I had to pick and choose. Like, you can't do everything and you can't like carry everything forward at the same pace, right? So, you kinda have to pick and choose what you want to focus on in that precious one evening or couple of hours. Just do it and let go of some stuff. If you don't take care of yourself, it's hard for you to be there for your kids. Plus the kids are older now, so I'm kinda reaching that age where they don't actually always want me around. That's Friday night. Honestly that's where the Friday nights come from. They really don't want to do anything on Friday night with me, or anybody else.
How do you balance your pole/aerial commitments and your personal life?
Annalisa: Yeah. Adding on to Cynthia said. During my first year doing pole, I was really obsessed with it. I’d feel the need to reach a certain level and always wanted to learn “harder” tricks, so I would spend all my free time at the studio. Then, when I took a long break last summer, I didn’t feel the need to focus on pole, so I started focusing on other aspects of my life. It felt good!
Now that I’m back to training and teaching regularly, and you're right Cynthia. Finding a good balance is important. I would frequently talk to my girls about how important it is to have independence and do what makes them happy.
And I also explained to them that the reason why I’m involved in this “extra work” is because that’s how I develop myself. I need to develop myself in order to help them grow. It’s important that they understand, so they don't feel that I am neglecting them or that I don’t want to spend time with them.
Tara: So that saying, you can’t pour from an empty cup…
Tram: Right. Mm-hmm
Tara: Yeah. For me it's time and finding balance. Easier said than done. I compare my life to a baby’s crib mobile - I’ve added a new balls to it and am now trying to find a new balance point and find a new equilibrium. The mobile’s rocking right now, but will find stasis and settle eventually. But I think, being really intentional.. like before I used to pick up and head in the studio whenever I felt like it with zero planning. Now it’s... I have to be very deliberate about any time I dedicate because it takes so much coordination and comes at the cost of something else. But I think like, like Annalisa said, I reframed my practice. It's not, “I need to get the strength more, I need to be this strong”. It's, “I'm just gonna move because it makes me feel good. And if I get a little better great.” (laughs)
Yael: Time is uh, definitely something that we struggle with as a family too. And I think for us it's been more about finding a balance of family time and work, you know, two parent working family. For a while, Chris was a stay at home dad, which made things a little bit easier. But now that we both work, it's constant insanity. On the flip side of that, I think I got pretty lucky in that my intention when Grace was born was to include her in my practice as much as possible and hope that she was going to be into it. And I have been lucky that she's really into pole and aerial and wants to participate as much as possible.
The fact that she's here with me right now, Daddy was going to take her on an adventure this morning 'cause he hasn't seen her for a couple days, and she goes, "No, I wanna go with Mom to the studio."
Tara: Awe. (laughs)
Yael: So she just loves to be here and she loves to participate. And I think that that has made my life a lot easier because I have poles at home and any time I wanna be up there training, most of the time she wants to train with me. If she gets tired of it, she'll play with dolls or play her iPad or something else. But, I don't have to deal with a lot of guilt, at least at home when I'm training because she's participating with me. And I think that would be harder if she wasn't as interested. Um, but, my husband on the other hand (laugh). He's, he's well known for saying, "Would you please come down off the pole?" (laugh) "And have dinner." (laugh) "Because it's been ready for 20 minutes already." Um, yeah, so finding spousal time is a different-
Tram: Yeah. Spousal time is rough. We don't have it. (laughs). We don't have uh, spousal time, we have family time.
Tara: We're trying to get more intentional about setting date nights. But again, it comes all back to, you just have to plan everything. Nothing happens on a whim anymore.
What has pole taught you about yourself?
Tram: That's, a loaded question. Very loaded.
Annalisa: Lots of changes since. I think pole has given me a lot of self-confidence. Like, true confidence in myself. I don't feel the need to have other validate me. Physically and emotionally and mentally.
Tram: I would say that's true for me too. Confidence and self love. Real self love.
Yael: I think the biggest thing for me, there's so many things pole's given me over the years, but it taught me that I have abilities beyond what I ever dreamed. Like, if I could go back, you know, 12 or 13 years, and look at where I am now. I never would have thought that that was possible. I didn't consider myself to be this kind of an athlete. And I didn't think I could be strong like that. I remember when I first started taking pole and thinking, "Oh, I'll never be strong enough to go upside down." And the way that that translates to every day life is huge.
Because I'm like, okay, well if I can do all these things, there's other things in my life that maybe if I don't feel good at it now, maybe if I work at it I can do better. It's just, it's a, it's a motivator in all facets of life.
Cynthia: Yeah, I would say, I mean I agree with every single thing everybody said. I would speak to my experience teaching pole to other people and that is that you're not alone. Like there's actually quite a few students that are mothers as well, or are parents. And they all struggle with a lot of the same things. So just going in there a couple hours a week to teach and be with that community actually makes you feel like you're giving them something awesome. Being with people who share some of the same things that you constantly struggle with and look at you for that sort of inspiration feels great.
What advice would you give to another mother who wants to pole and says I can't?
Tara: You can. Get in here! (laughs)
Tram: And I think we do say “you don't have to do the hard things.” You can just, I mean, you just have to move. You don't have to do tricks or anything. Now that I'm a mom, I kind of shy away from tricks; new tricks and even my old tricks, I can't do 'em.
Cynthia: I can't either. (laughs)
Tram: (laughs) I still love coming in. I still love just dancing. You don't have to do anything hard.
Cynthia: Whatever it is. Maybe it's not pole. It's working on your flexibility. Whatever it is. Everybody always comes in here and then they're like really has spent some time and then they come out and they're like, I'm so glad I did that.
Tara: Yeah. I don't think I've met anyone who's taken a class and then like, "No. I shouldn't have done that." so it’s worth trying even just one. And even myself- on those days when I don't feel like coming in. I walk in the doors and all of a sudden something lifts and I never regret coming in. Even on my worse days, driving here in tears from whatever is going on… I don't wanna move. I don't wanna socialize. I don't wanna interact with people. And then I walk in and there's a smile on someone's face and we start moving and the music's going. And it's… just everything melts away. And you're able to be present with yourself and be with some amazing people.
Tram: That's how I feel
Cynthia: Yeah. Me too... It's really powerful.
Yael: My favorite thing to say to somebody who's unsure about pole- 'cause I hear "I can't" a lot from people who have not done pole before”, and my favorite thing to do in that situation is first ask them the question why. 'Cause I wanna hear what it is they think they can't do. And really listen to what they're saying. And not, just, you know, have a rebuttal to them about it. But just say something along the lines of "What's great about pole is that it meets you where you are."
It's not something that you have to be already strong for. Or already flexible. Or already whatever it is that you're struggling with. And I know time is, is a big barrier but you can carve out time if it is something that you really want and this is not like other forms of dance where you're facing, you know, certain requirements. We have available to people something that will speak to them. It's a matter of coming in here and finding what that is at any level.