Ascendance

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

Meet our Instructors | Annalisa

Next up we have Annalisa, another member of our board. Get to know her better with our interview questions below!

Annalisa_Vegas

How long have you been pole dancing? How did you start?

My pole journey started in April 2015. Prior to pole, I have tried all types of fitness programs but quickly lost interest. One day, I decided to take a pole class and got hooked! 

What made you try Pole Dancing?

I saw a pole dance performance on YouTube and thought it was the coolest thing ever. The pole dancer executed her moves with such strength and grace. I was intrigued and told myself I need to find a pole studio! 

Why did you start teaching?

I have gained so much self-confidence and strength from pole, and I wanted to help others who also want to achieve the same.  

What advice do you give beginning pole dancers? Advanced students?

Beginning pole dancers - Allow yourself to be vulnerable and believe in yourself. You can master any move your heart desire if you train for it. Look to your pole sisters and brothers for inspiration. They will be your biggest fans! Fun fact - my intro pole class instructor is now one of my besties.  

Advance students - Pole is an addiction and it's common to feel pressured to master every move and compare yourself to other people. This will hurt your morale! When you're feeling this way, bring the focus back to your training. Revisit the moves you've mastered and be creative with it. Maybe find a different transition in and out of it. Always remember, this is for you and no one else! 

What do you do in your free time off the pole?

When I'm not in the studio training, I like to hike, practice photography, find good eats, and hang out with my two daughters and friends. Sometimes, I get to do enjoy them all at once :)

Meet our Instructors | Catherine

We hope everyone had a great long weekend. We're starting this week with another board member and our CPA, Catherine. This will be her first time in an instructor role and we are excited to be a part of this next step in her journey.

Catherine_Pole_sit

What drew you to teach at Ascendance?

Our mission speaks so closely to my experiences with pole - I've met so many different types of people, gained confidence, strength, and feel when I'm in the pole studio - I can truly be myself.  I am really excited we have the opportunity to make this experience more accessible to people in the Renton and surrounding area.

How long have you been pole dancing? How did you start?

I've been pole dancing a little over two years.  I was close friends with Tara Steed and had seen her posts for years and years, but never found the right timing & bravery to try.  Two years ago I mentioned to Tara I might try it out after my busy time at work, and she helped coordinate the timing of me attending an introductory course to take it along with a mutual friend that was also interested in trying it out.

What made you try Pole Dancing?

Boredom of the standard gym routine and sitting at a desk for over 12 hours a day.  I needed to move and was moderately unhappy.

What advice do you give beginning pole dancers?

Remember that everyone starts at the beginning, so enjoy the process.  Make friends with your classmates.  HAVE FUN!  Advanced students? I think patience with yourself and having an open mind is really important in this community.  We generally don't become advanced students in everything - so give yourself some grace when things don't go your way.  

Why did you start teaching? 

I have always enjoyed helping others succeed or break down moves in class.  It is really fun to see someone do something for the first time, and have a glow of confidence around them.  

What is different about your teaching style that you think students are drawn to?

I will be teaching Pole Orientation starting this fall and it will be my first teaching experience!  However, as I am planning on continuing to be a student as I teach, I am hoping people are drawn to having an instructor they will see in class along side them as they gain more knowledge.

What would you say is the biggest struggle or obstacle among pole dance students that you come across? 

I've recently had a lot of discussions with people that have an interest in trying but are struggling to commit.  What I've noticed is that the large majority are hesitant to feel vulnerable around others because they feel they are awkward or imperfect.  

What would be your advice to them? 

Do it anyway. It is that easy and that difficult, but honestly, there is so much beauty and confidence in letting yourself be vulnerable in a safe and supportive environment.  If you can allow yourself to be brave enough to give it a shot, you will be so proud! 

What would your advice be for students who want to find their own style in dance? 

Music has always been important to me, so I think a lot of it can stem from what music you enjoy the most.  When you're sitting in your car in traffic and the right song comes on, how does your body react?  Next time you're in studio or dancing at home even, put that song on and just lose yourself to the music.  The biggest hurdle here, in my experience, is to stop thinking and just move.

What are your feelings about pole dancing for fitness being associated with exotic dancing/stripping? 

Pole dancing for fitness IS associated with exotic dancing/stripping!  I don't know how we could separate the two.  The real question here, for me, is that why is it an issue? Why, as a society, have we demoralized this industry so much?  There absolutely are issues and real people being hurt within the industry, but we cannot sweep that under a rug.  Instead, we need to continue to build up the community, bring confidence and self-worth to more people.  Maybe if the lens becomes more positive, changing the issues and harmful things that happen will become the focus.

What are your thoughts about pole dancing being included in the Olympics as a sport? 

This would be so cool!

What is your teaching philosophy? 

I'm still building this, but my plan is to build a class where people feel safe, have fun, and give themselves a chance to try something new.

Where do you see Pole Dancing ten years from now? 

I look forward to seeing the community grow.

What is special in pole dance for you in your opinion? 

One in which I lose myself in the movement instead of thinking about what to do next or who is watching me.

What has been your biggest challenge in your pole journey? 

Body awareness - like understanding how to move certain muscles to achieve a lift or move.  

How did you overcome the difficulty/challenge? 

Listening to as many people as I can explain a move to me.  Then forcing myself to practice the move and not succeed as long as it takes until I finally get it.

What has been the most challenging move/trick to learn? 

I have more difficulty with moves that require strength (as opposed to flexibility).  Inverting into a chopper on pole, and basket hang are probably the moves that are proving to take the longest for me to acheive.

What is your favorite pole dancing move? 

Ballerina on spin.

What is your greatest achievement so far in pole dance?

I am most proud of the confidence and the self-worth I have found.  Pole helped me realize the level of unhappiness I was in, and gave me peace in times of stress.  It also gave me the confidence to change my life to be happier.

What are you currently working on?

I really enjoy gaining more flexibility, so am pushing myself to train more in this area. 

What are your goals for this year? 

My goals for the year were: inverting into a chopper, gain both side splits, have a basket hang on the lyra, and do ONE pull-up unassisted.

Besides Pole Dancing, are you involved in any other activities?  

I enjoy taking lyra and am excited to try aerial yoga.  My dream is to someday learn silks.

What is your proudest moment in your career? 

I can't remember a time I was more excited than the first time I inverted into a chopper

What has made you stick with Pole Dancing? 

The way I feel after leaving the studio from taking class or being around the friends I've met while pole dancing.
 

How did people around you react when they learned that you were doing pole dance? 

It has changed over the time I've been dancing.  I honestly think a lot of it comes from the way I have presented it.  If I'm shy and afraid of their opinion on it, I've had negative and disappointed reactions.  If I am confident, unapologetic and excited about it, most people respond the same way.  

Do you perform regularly? 

Not yet.

What is the most important in a pole dance performance in your opinion? 
 

That it makes the dancer happy.

What is your favorite pole workout wear? 

I don't think I have a favorite brand yet, but I enjoy building an outfit I feel cute and confident in..

What are your other hobbies? 

I enjoy learning how to take landscape photography photos, strategy board games and watching TV.

What do you do in your free time? Off the pole? 

Usually I am lazing on the couch watching TV. 

What is your all-time favorite song to pole to? 

I don't think I have one yet.  I do enjoy dancing to a slower tempo best.

Give us a sexy floorwork song. 

PILLOWTALK by Zayn

Do you have any pole idols? 


@tututara, @kpbueno, @kittenscratch, @dirtybirdy, @titojane, and @jordankensley ...to name a few :) Anyone in the pole community who inspires you? I think almost everyone in the pole community inspires me.  

Meet our Instructors | Candace

Our next instructor is Candace who is also Secretary of the Board. Get to know her better with the interview questions below!

Candace at competition

How long have you been pole dancing? How did you start?

I have been pole dancing since 2014.  I started because I had experienced several deaths in my family, and my mom had just had a heart attack at 57 a few months prior.  While she had always been on the thinner side, she definitely wasnt taking care of herself.  Her health scare made me turn inwards and ask, how was I taking care of myself?  In tandem with feeling depressed from the grief, I knew that I needed an exercise routine, so i tried everything i could - barre, kick boxing, yoga, water aerobics, crossfit, so many!  I desperately wanted to find a workout routine that was fun, rewarding, and inspiring, in the hopes that i would stick with it.   Pole dancing was such a different experience from the very bigginning.  I felt so out of my comfort zone, but so inspired!  I knew walking out of my first class that this was it for me!

What made you try Pole Dancing?

I have always been very impressed with the athleticism of professional pole dancers.  So when the opportunity came for me to see into that world and learn their secrets I was excited!  I also loved how it was completely different from what I expected it to be.  And it continues to challenge and inspire me!

What advice do you give beginning pole dancers? Advanced students?

To the beginners: Be patient with yourself, don't rush and relish the small achievements.  Everyone will tell you that, but here's the real talk: fight like crazy against that voice inside you that says that "you aren't good enough/pretty enough/thin enough/fluid enough/flexible enough ETC ETC"  It's not being honest, it's just the voice of a horrible bitch and you can't trust it!  Focus on building up that positive voice inside of you and keep coming back; keep practicing!


To advanced students: It's normal to have your affinity for pole wax and wain.  But in those waining moments turn to your community to support you and inspire you.  Be ok with starting at the beginning to learn new movement and new styles.  Stay dedicated to doing what makes you feel good.

Why did you start teaching?

I started teaching because it felt like the right step for me.  I have always been good in teaching roles, and I was excited to help other people in ways that I felt was missing in my own education.  I also really loved being a beginner because it was the most exciting part, and I wanted to stay in touch with that.

What is different about your teaching style that you think students are drawn to?

Having no dance education in my back pocket, I think I can really connect to students who feel like they are coming at this effort blind.  I am a very technical thinker and an analyzer, which allows me to bring very clear instructions to my students.  I am also a big believer in making sure that students are conscious of their movements and WHY they are moving that way.  I think my students appreciate that in my class you are going to be learning solid technique and that I don't let my students develop poor body-memory (which honestly is the hardest thing to rewire).

What would you say is the biggest struggle or obstacle among pole dance students that you come across? What would be your advice to them? 

A lack of self-love and appreciation is the most uniting struggle it seems.  We spend a lot of time admiring other peoples' movement and tricks but we definitely dont spend enough time celebrating our achievements and praising ourselves.  My advice is, we can't change things we arent present with - stay conscious of when those negative narratives arrive and take the time to relish how amazing your body is!

What would your advice be for students who want to find their own style in dance?

I dont know if I have done that yet, it's such a journey!...but i think its helpful to try and capitalize on the movements that come easily to you at first, for me those moves involve my back which is the most flexible part of my body and my butt which I've always felt is my sexiest attribute.  I still find dancing the hardest part of my experience, and I am still trying to not let that feeling of not being "in the zone" derail my movement.  But practice, practice, practice!

What are your feelings about pole dancing for fitness being associated with exotic dancing/stripping?

Personally, I dont really have any feelings about it; I just want my sisters in the clubs to feel welcome in establishments where learning safe technique is the main objective.  I think society chastising women is an endless story, and I'm over it. Internalized misogyny is real and it is the worst reason to hate other women, or not embrace your sexuality and celebrate your strength and beauty.  

What are your thoughts about pole dancing being included in the Olympics as a sport?

I AM SO EXCITED ABOUT IT!  When i look at gymnasts and ice skaters I see so much over-lap in our technique and movements, it only makes sense that this should be a part of the Olympics because it's also SO HARD

What is your teaching philosophy?

Keep your mind, body and intention aligned and focused - if you're aware of what you're doing, it's easy to change, if you embed flawed technique in your muscle memory, you're making your job harder!

Where do you see Pole Dancing ten years from now?

Im not sure if it will be as popular as it is now.  But I do think the sport overall will be much more streamlined and technically clear-cut; the terminology will become ubiquitous globally and I hope that some of the conversations around exotic and "stripper style" has been laid to rest.

What is special in pole dance for you in your opinion?

On and individual level, the community and the mental and physical empowerment you gain.  On a general level, I think that pole dancing is really unique in that there are so many avenues one can explore.  It feels limitless and for all ages, stages, and levels.  There is never a time when you're "the best" because there's always something else that you could be better at.

What has been your biggest challenge in your pole journey? How did you overcome the difficulty/challenge?

My biggest challenge is flexibility in my hips and legs and where that ties into my dancing.  I really want to do a lot of things that I have tried for a long time to achieve - rolling through my middle splits is a dream of mine!  But I have come to accept that that may never happen for me, and that's ok.  I have also struggled to stay motivated and in shape when i'm healing from injuries.  I quickly slip back into my lazy ways...old habits die hard.

What has been the most challenging move/trick to learn?

The Scottish Spin *not sure if there are other names for it* it's not a very popular move, and many instructors dont like it, but regardless I just can't get it no matter how many times I try!  It's so frustrating!  It's a pretty basic level spin and I've watched so many people get it right away.  Someday I hope I can figure it out, even if i never use it

What is your favorite pole dancing move?

Ayesha moves and moves that feature my back flexibility.  I have always felt that Ayeisha moves came very easily to me; I've always felt stable and very comfortable in it from the beginning.

What is your greatest achievement so far in pole dance?

Competing is by far my biggest accomplishment.  Having never performed on a stage before, it has taught me so much about myself and what type of person I am (and how I handle stress!) I am usually a great starter but a horrible finisher, so when i compete it really feels like a huge success.

What are you currently working on? What are your goals for this year?

My goals are to gain greater flexibility and focus on developing that with fluidity in my dancing/movement.  Maybe this will be the year I finally get my middle splits! 

Besides Pole Dancing, are you involved in any other activities?

With the amount of time I spend on pole there is no time for anything else.

What is your proudest moment in your career?


As a pole dance instructor, my proudest moment was the first time a student came up to me to tell me how much they enjoy my teaching approach.  It was so affirming.  And as cliche as it sounds, when you feel like you've helped even one person, it makes every other aspect totally worth it.

What has made you stick with Pole Dancing?

The challenge!  I just cant get enough of the instant gratification and the long-game that is Pole Dancing!


How did people around you react when they learned that you were doing pole dance?

I have a pretty small circle and everyone within it was very supportive.  We tend not to interject into each other's lives too much.  As my own engagement has grown I have become less hesitant to reveal that I pole dance to people in general.  I care more about correcting their conceptions than what they might think about me in the process.  I love it and that's all that matters.

Do you perform regularly?

No.  I am still trying to get comfortable with performing on stage.

What is the most important in a pole dance performance in your opinion?
 

Lines.  It just makes you look great when you've really got that element down.

Do you have any pole idols? Anyone in the pole community who inspires you?

SO MANY!  Maddie Sparkle, Suwasit, Phoenix Kazeree, Marion Crampe, Natalia Tatarintseva, Peter Holoda, Anastasia Skukhtorova, Yvonne Smink, just to name a few, because there are so many great athletes out there.

What is your favorite pole workout wear?


I have yet to find a brand where i love everything they make.  I really enjoy my Dirdy Birdy v-shorts, they make my booty look really great!  I also have some colorful lululemon sports bras that feel super supportive, and their seamless leggings are great - I hate camel toe from seams and seam imprints in my skin so im always on the lookout for seamless options.

What are your other hobbies?

I love working in the fiber arts - I spin, knit, weave, dye wool and other fibers; I enjoy sewing simple projects (and I wish I was a better at sewing); I love to cook (and I'm pretty good at it); I do lots of things. I am quite the Renaissance woman!

What do you do in your free time? Off the pole?

Rest!  No seriously, I like to keep my life super low-key.  I love to travel when i have a long stretch where that's possible.

What is your all-time favorite song to pole to?

Impossible to answer!

Can you share a favorite pole dance photo of yourself?

See above. This will probably always be my favorite picture of myself pole dancing, because it was my first competition and this move, The Seahorse, was really challenging to execute perfectly.  I struggled 90% of the time in practice to hold it and/or to land it facing the right direction.  I was SO STRESSED OUT about this routine and this moment particularly, but when the moment came, I nailed it.

Give us a sexy floorwork song.

Glass Animals "Gooey"

Meet our Instructors | Cynthia

Happy Friday! We're ending this week with a feature on our next instructor, who is also President of the Board, Cynthia. 

Cynthia-Lyra

What drew you to teach at Ascendance?

 Pole and aerial gave me a community. This community not only dances and teaches one another, it shares laughter, joy, sadness, and tears. This community is what formed Ascendance. Ascendance means much more to me than a dance studio – it’s the way I want to share what I found with others – with as many people as I can reach through dancing and teaching. I believe in Ascendance’s mission and its people – this is why I’m here.

How long have you been pole dancing? How did you start?

I started over 5 years ago – I don’t remember exactly when. I was looking for something different to try, something that would combine strength and movement. I found the web site of a pole dance studio in Seattle, and went to try them out.

What advice do you give beginning pole dancers? Advanced students?

 Never say no to trying anything different that’s shown to you, or that’s taught. Learn to do it safely, but even if your first reaction is, “There is no way in hell I will look good doing that” or “I can’t do that” – try it. And don’t just do it once – try again. Pole is a journey of discovering what your body can do, through exploration, repetition, and trial and error. If you stick it out for a couple of months – you’ll look back and be amazed at what you can do – and how you feel while doing it.

Why did you start teaching?

I have gotten so much out of learning pole and aerial – and still do. Not only does it keep you in shape, it is a great way to discover how your body likes to move and revel in it. It’s given me self-confidence. I started teaching because I wanted to share all this with others – I believe you’re stronger than you think you are, and I also believe everyone can dance and find joy in their movement. It’s my goal as a teacher to get you on your own journey of movement – and appreciate its beauty and strength.

What is different about your teaching style that you think students are drawn to?

I can only say here what my students have said to me before – I encourage you all the time. I show you things you initially don’t think you can pull off, but you do. I help get you beyond your initial jitters, and I help you realize you’re capable of doing more than you thought when you walked into my class.

What would you say is the biggest struggle or obstacle among pole students that you come across? What would be your advice to them?

It’s frustration when you can’t figure something out, and the person next to you can. Everyone’s progression will be different, and you need to accept yours and be patient. Some things will take more repetition and work from you than others, and some things will be easier for you than for others. It’s a personal journey. Rather than think about how you compare to the person next to you, think about where you were last week, or the week before.

What would your advice be for students who want to find their own style of dance?

Find time to just dance without thinking, to music that you love. Put it on repeat, find a lot of open space, and start to videotape yourself. You’ll be amazed at some of the things you find yourself doing when you let go. I know we all want to look like someone else when they do that awesome move – but accept that you also have a special way of moving that wants to come out of you, and the more you allow it to, the more it will grow into your own style.

What are your feelings about pole dancing for fitness being associated with exotic dancing/stripping? 

You can’t deny the history and origins of pole dancing. I have a lot of respect for those that did this long before I did, and had to do it for hours, to earn a living. They are the pioneers for what we do today – without them, I wouldn’t have the privilege of learning this form of dance and doing it for fun. They liberated and opened up pole dancing for the masses – with a lot of pain, struggle, and oppression. Those of us who aspire to dance like they did, need to remember that nowadays it’s more accepted because of what they started.

What are your thoughts about pole dancing being included in the Olympics as a sport?

I support the inclusion of pole dancing as an Olympic sport. Anyone who has tried it knows how much strength, grace, and mental endurance and thoughtfulness it takes. Just like any sport, it requires intense training, planning, and design of a routine that shows what you can do best, while combining elements of grace and strength.

What is your teaching philosophy?

First, safety. Always show people how to do a move safely, and how to avoid injury. After that – find your style of doing it and combining it with what you know. Make what you learn, yours – don’t try to look like me, or anyone else who does it. And don’t think that it came easy. Everything I teach, has taken hours, weeks to learn.

Where do you see pole dance 10 years from now?

While I love seeing the innovation happening with aerial poles, lollipops, and other styles emerging - I hope that it’s still done the same way we do it today.  I hope it’s still accessible, and perhaps we’ve found ways to make it more accessible to even more people with different auxiliary equipment. For example, I love how a hammock attached to the top of the pole make inversions way more accessible.

What has been your biggest challenge in your pole journey? How did you overcome the difficulty/challenge?  

By far, it’s feeling like I’m not making as much progress as I’d like and I keep doing the same things over and over again. It took me a long time, for example, to realize that doing more advanced inversions wasn’t a thing for me. I felt obligated to push because others around me were pushing. But I realized I got a lot more joy out of dancing, discovering more movement on the floor and staying low on the pole, and I’m happy with the inventory of inversions I already know. There are so many permutations I can do within that range of movement. Now if only I had time to explore them all…

What has been the most challenging move/trick to learn?

Some things require persistence, training, and above all – patience. My back is a brick. I don’t have time to train it every day. But I tell myself a little progress, over time, is positive progress. Learning how to fish flop in variations and from different starting positions, transitioning to and from a shoulder stand – is very challenging for me, but something I’m very determined to integrating into my floorwork over time.

What is your favorite pole dancing move?

Anything with a twisted grip spin (moving backwards) with my other hand pushing against the pole. I do spins like this standing, kneeling, and it’s my favorite transition from one thing to the next. I love doing several in a row varying how my legs are positioned and at different levels.

What is your greatest achievement so far in pole dance?

The fact that I can dance freestyle for a full hour. In heels.

What are you currently working on? What are your goals for the year?

So many! Back flexibility is a life long journey for me. Getting my original set of inversions back. Getting more fluid with my hips, torso, core, and upper body overall. There’s never an end to figuring out how to move more and more like… butter.

Besides pole dancing, are you involved in other activities?

I’m also in love with aerial, and building my repertoire and strength with the Lyra. I just picked up silks and trapeze last year, and am looking forward to developing those skills. I find they all compliment each other. These all make me a stronger pole dancer and more comfortable in the air too.

What is your proudest moment in your career?

Getting this far. Whoever thought that at almost 50, I’d be dancing 5 feet in the air?!

What has made me stick with pole dancing?

My students. My teaching.

How did people around you react when they learned that you were doing pole dance?

Most people are impressed and encouraging. I have no doubt some men I’ve mentioned it to don’t tell me everything they’re thinking, but that’s totally fine with me. I also have no doubts some people think it’s not appropriate and prefer not to tell me. All that is just fine with me. I do it for me, my community at Ascendance, and for my students

Do you have any pole idols? Anyone in the pole community who inspires you?

The polers of @BlackGirlsPole (IG) are awesome, as are @RozTheDiva, @polinaginger, and @b.brazen. I love their creative spirit – these women are all very different in terms of how they present themselves and dance, and I find all of them an inspiration. It’s all powerful! And sexy!

I am also a fan of Jenny Janover @liquidmotionct and Alethea Austin @alethaaustineyes.

What is your favorite pole workout wear?

I have to say those Brazilian cheeky shorts make ANY butt look great. Big or small. I have not seen a butt, including mine, that doesn’t look good in those.

What are your other hobbies?

Oh, you mean my day job? I work on computer software. I’m a Senior Director at Nordstrom Technology. I love mentoring and being mentored by so many fabulous women (and men) in the tech industry in Seattle. And a few of them do pole, too.

What do you do in your free time? Off the pole?

Well, I do have a family – 2 kids. I spend time with them, cook for them, or eat what they cook for me. I travel a few times a year. I’m a member of a couple of other Boards and advisories  and also a volunteer in other organizations – Ada Developers Academy, the Northwest School, Female Founders Alliance, among others. I read! Not only Google News, but anything from fantasy/science fiction to leadership to geeky tech things (“The Design of Data-Driven Applications”).

What is your all-time favorite song to pole to?

I Can’t Say No – by Lea Rue

Give us a sexy floorwork song.

Every Breath You Take – by Chase Holfelder (thanks to Carissa M from Uplift Pole and Aerial, since this is one of her faves and has become one of mine)

What’s a YouTube pole dance video we should check out?

Any video from any of our staff!

Meet our Instructors | Ashlee

Our next featured instructor is Ashlee, who serves on Ascendance's board of directors. Learn more about Ashlee below!

Ashlee-PNB

How long have you been pole dancing? How did you start?

I’ve been pole-dancing for 4 1/2 years. I started my pole journey in an intro-to-pole class. I couldn’t hold a plank, do a push-up, or touch my toes when I started! I couldn’t even make eye contact with others when I started. I was so nervous! 

What made you try Pole Dancing?

I saw a friend stripping in Portland and was in awe of her confidence, strength, sex-appeal, and movement. I wanted to know what it felt like to feel as good as what she projected! 

What advice do you give beginning pole dancers? Advanced students?

Beginners:

Have fun!  You started pole because it looked fun, not because you wanted to go pro, right? I see so many people who approach pole and aerial and think they have to look a certain way or have a certain level of fitness already, but the whole point of beginner classes is that you’re new! You’re a beginner. We ALL started as beginners. The only way to ‘get there’ is to show up consistently and to keep trying.

Be patient with yourself. We all start pole with very different skill levels. I came to pole with 0 dance background, and was not ‘fit’ at the time. Through repetition, exploration, and giving myself permission to try new things, I increased my confidence, grew my skill set, and became stronger/bendier. 

Give yourself permission to be “bad”: I have run out of appendages trying to count the number of students who get frustrated that they don’t nail a new skill on the first try. They compare their efforts as students to mine as their teacher or other students in class. It’ your first time trying! It’s my 1,000th time demo-ing. Of course your movement is going to look different. Your job as a student is not to be perfect on the first try. Your job as a student is simply * to try*. 

Rest-days count as training. 

Advanced polers:

Learn to move/dance like YOU: Tricks only carry us so far. As polers we come in a variety of shapes, heights, sizes, and weights. All of these factors will affect in a very beautiful way, what your movement looks like. Getting caught up in comparing yourself to other polers is not only counter-productive, but can be emotionally damaging. There is only one you and you’re already fabulous. Don’t waste time trying to move exactly like someone else. Embrace your body’s unique movement paths, differences, and options.

There is no wrong way to move, there is only safe and unsafe.

Repeat this with me, Advanced Polers: Rest-days count as training. Rest-days count as training. Rest-days count as training.

Also: Think you’re ‘not bendy’ or don’t need to stretch? Think again! Training active-flexibility will unlock the key to every pole move you’ve ever dreamed of but can’t seem to get yet. 

Why did you start teaching?

 I started teaching because I loved how pole made me feel, and I wanted to introduce others to the art and sport that has brought me so much personal healing. 

What is different about your teaching style that you think students are drawn to?

I keep my classroom focussed, fun and do my best to make everyone laugh at least once per class. I keep modifications in my pocket for everyone. My focus on technique, musicality, and self  gives my students the tools they need to find their own style. I won’t teach you how to dance like me; I’ll teach you how to dance like YOU.

What would you say is the biggest struggle or obstacle among pole dance students that you come across? What would be your advice to them? 

Over-training and not fueling their bodies! Sure, “pole kisses” aka bruises can feel rewarding when you learn a new skill, but if you are bruising everywhere and not healing, that’s not a badge of honor. It’s a sign that your body needs a few days off. You’re not going to magically fall “out of shape” by taking 3 days off (or even a week!) If you’re sick, rest. If you’re tired, rest. If you’re hungry, for the love of all things sparkly, eat! (How are you supposed to drive a car on the freeway on an empty tank?)

Oh, and neglecting flexibility training. Stretching is not optional. Stretching is essential. The stronger you get, the stiffer you get. It’s crucial that you take flexibility training seriously to maintain healthy mobility and minimize your chances of injury. 

What would your advice be for students who want to find their own style in dance?

Show up to Freestyle Flow! Show up to choreo class! Show up to Exotic (sexy) class! Try conditioning and flex class! Go to dance classes that are outside your comfort zone. Your job as a student is not to be the ‘best’ in class; your job is to listen to your instructor, and to move your body to the best of your ability. 

What are your feelings about pole dancing for fitness being associated with exotic dancing/stripping?

It is important to recognize that pole is first and foremost an apparatus, than anyone can move around as they see fit, but I refuse to separate my art from its roots. People can talk about Chinese and Indian pole all day long, but the fact is modern pole fitness was born from an ex-stripper who came up with a creative business model. She turned her first career into a pole fitness studio and paved the way for an entirely new industry focussed on fitness, expression, and self-love. Pole was initially only something you could learn at ‘the club’. Then, polers began sharing videos online and eventually, major pole studios were born. We literally utilize moves in championship-style competitions named after strippers that are alive and dancing today. (The “Allegra” is named after Miss Pole Dance Australia 2010, Allegra King!) I often see those trying to separate the idea of pole from strip clubs doing so in search of validation from those already slut-shame strippers and women who seek sensual and sexual expression. To me, that is a pointless fight that I believe furthers a flawed narrative. Ultimately, those people should not be catered to, and when we as polers hop on the “I’m different, I’m not a stripper” train, we further repress everyone who touches a pole: woman, child, man, stripper, hobbiest, athlete, dancer, etc.

I am pole dancer who loves exotic style, and as I see it, a stripper’s fight for respect is a feminist issue, and is therefore also my fight as a woman, and ally.

What are your thoughts about pole dancing being included in the Olympics as a sport?

If pole is included, I feel like circus arts like Lyra and other aerial apparatuses should be added as well. I see this huge push in the community to have pole included in the Olympics and after many of the championship-style pieces I’ve seen, I agree that it is a worthy addition. Whilst I respect the elements of rhythmic gymnastics in championship-style pole, so much of the chatter I have read is focussed on disassociating from exotic-dance style and strip-clubs vs. the elevation of the sport. Seeking validation from those to aim to shame us for how we move is ultimately unproductive, and I don’t think this motive is a good enough reason to seek Olympic approval. 

What has been your biggest challenge in your pole journey? How did you overcome the difficulty/challenge?

Self-Doubt. I used to let the fact that I didn’t have a dance or fitness background get to me. Then I discovered that a lot of polers that I look up to also came to pole with NOTHING and build everything they had from the ground up, just like I am doing. Check out this article here: https://cleosrocknpole.com/blog/-fierce-pole-dancers-who-didnt-need-a-fitness-or-dance-background-to-kick-ass 

What has been the most challenging move/trick to learn?

 The Ayesha (hand-spring)! I learned mine with a very specific, difficult grip, and it took me years! Later on, I learned that there are much easier grips but the strength that I built training my true-grip Ayesha on both sides has translated into so many other skills so I guess I can stop complaining about that one. Ha.

What is your favorite pole dancing move?

 A bodywave. As cool as tricks are, there is nothing more satisfying than mastering fundamentals. At it’s beginning, my body wave was reminiscent of an awkward pelican trying to swallow a starfish. Today, 4 1/2 years later, I’ve trained my back to move like a snake. I am proud to be a one-trick pony in this way! I can body wave up, down, big, small, fast,  slow, from the chest, from the hip, while standing, while laying own, while kneeling, all the ways! I often dance to entire songs using only body waves.

What is your greatest achievement so far in pole dance?

Learning to love myself. Pole gave me the opportunity to explore my sensuality free from the male gaze, and gave me a safe space to appreciate my body for what it can do instead of what it looks like.

What are you currently working on? What are your goals for this year?

My training this year has been entirely devoted to putting the ‘tricks’ down and working only on dance. Dancing for joy, dancing for catharsis, dancing to trap, pop, reggeton, rock, synth-pop, instrumental tracks, you name it, I’m dancing to it.

What is your proudest moment in your career?

Taking Silver in L3 Exotic (senior) at the US National Pole Dance Championships in 2017. Also, having my investments in myself as as performer and dancer being recognized with an invitation to dance with Valtesse Productions, which I’ve been doing since May 2018.

What has made you stick with Pole Dancing?

It’s such a diverse discipline and it can be different every day. Sometimes I can’t bring myself to dance or my heart isn’t open enough to really “go for it”, so I focus on conditioning and practical execution of pole tricks. Sometimes training tricks feels boring, and I’ll flip back to dancing and exploring self-expression/story-telling. Sometimes all I want to do is dance sexy and be a total boss. Other days my heart is heavy and I need to move differently and dance my way through the day’s challenges.

How did people around you react when they learned that you were doing pole dance?

My family was fairly unbothered by it. They were supportive and I’ve since had my mom, and multiple female relatives come take my classes! My dad and step-dad don’t always understand it but they have always been supportive of my chosen discipline.

The first question strangers usually have for me is, “So, are you a stripper?”, to which my response is usually, “why is that important to you?” If they are out to shame me in any way, they *always* end up making a fool of themselves trying to answer the question when I flip it back on them. If they are genuinely curious without judgement, it ends up being a respectful and productive conversation.  

Do you perform regularly?

 I have performed throughout the summer of 2018 with Valtesse Productions. I have also performed at several private corporate events, and local events over the past two years like Upstream Fest, SEAF, and as co-opener for SG Blackheart Burlesque.

What is the most important in a pole dance performance in your opinion?

Audience engagement, confidence. Audiences can quickly become desensitized if you overwhelm them with trick after trick. One of my favorite performances ever was from a rather junior dancer who never went upside down, but she had the audience eating out of the palm of her hand because she OWNED that stage and gave off, ‘You’re welcome!’ vibes the whole time. Being a good performer is not the same thing as being a good athlete.  

Do you have any pole idols? Anyone in the pole community who inspires you?

Olga Koda, Carmine Black, Marion Crampe, but that’s just the start! I follow over 300 professional dancers, aerialists and contortionists on Instagram. Each of these dancers has such unique style! Olga’s style is intense, explosive, acrobatic, sexy. Carmine is raw, smooth, sensual, nuanced, authentic.  Marion defies gravity whilst bending her body like a pretzel. She is elegant, fluid, and moves with such grace (a product of both her personal style and contortion training!)

What is your favorite pole workout wear?

When I show up for aerial tricks or conditioning class I almost exclusively wear a mix of random sports bras, and Mika tops/Bad Kitty bottoms. (FYI if you’re wondering why pole dancers wear so little and why we can’t just ‘cover up’, flesh-on-metal-pole contact is a safety issue. The smaller your clothes, the safer you are.) My attire when teaching Exotic and low-flow often errs on the side of a fashion-show. I dance my best when I feel great, and part of what makes me feel great is dressing up. I mix brightly colored heels with Rad crushed velvet leg warmers, open-back knee-pads, various swimwear and lingerie pieces that I’ve repurposed and layered together. Artista Apparel also has fantastic options for all sizes, skin-tones, and coverage needs.

What are your other hobbies?

When I’m not training flexibility or pole, or dancing, I rhinestone costumes, read outside, check out live music, eat insanely good food, and snuggle with my cats. 

What do you do in your free time? Off the pole?

I model for fine art projects, I travel for work (LA, Guatemala and NYC are my favorite destinations!) I mess up recipes trying to remember how to cook, and think of ways that I can help my students grow.

What is your all-time favorite song to pole to?

This is such an unfair question as I have over 300 songs on my top 2 pole playlists alone!! I suppose if I look at how many times I played each song, my favorite is PONY by Ginuwine, but lately it’s Cockiness(Love It) by Rhianna. See https://youtu.be/lbnoG2dsUk0 and  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mbJRVufEX00.

Give us a sexy floorwork song.

After Dark by Tito & Tarantula: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=srIqKYsRk78 

I Love Ya by Tank: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HzIwwc2Lzgk 

What’s a YouTube pole dance video we should check out?

Olga: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_u7Z899O_BE  

Carmine: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lg4ZA0C0ydQ  

Marion and Alex: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YZvSQutXO7E