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.
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!
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!