Ascendance

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

Meet our Instructors | Shanice

Up next, we have instructor Shanice who were are excited to have on our team! She'll be teaching Pole Orientation along with some L1 classes. 

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

I've been Dancing for almost 6 years. I started pole when a friend asked me to join the class, I refused unless there was an instructor who understood plus size dancers. 4 weeks later that instructor contacted Shanice for her first class and she has been dancing ever since.

What made you try Pole Dancing?

I decided to give pole dancing a try because it seemed like fun, and I was willing to try everything at least once, or in the case of pole 6 classes and then see if I still liked it.

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

To beginning students, nothing is perfect to start with, you are going to do a whole lot of flopping and feeling ridiculous before you feel pretty or sexy or even graceful. To advanced students, keep testing your limits, set new goals and find the space where you still feel challenged. Try moves on both sides, perfect your moves and keep reaching for the unattainable ones. At one point you couldn't even imagine doing all the moves you do now.

Why did you start teaching?

I started teaching for the fun of it, pole allowed me to feel graceful and sexy in a way I never thought I would and I wanted to help others find a space where they loved the body they had been given.

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

I'm a pretty goofy instructor, but at the end of the day I understand students who have body image issues. No matter your size we all have things we don't like, but anyone can dance ANYONE. Plus I think that occasionally dancing to Disney music is good for the soul.

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? 

I think the biggest struggle students will come across is the one in your own head. Society has trained us to think about ourselves in very specific ways often it is the voice in your head holding you back above anything. My advice to them would be to keep trying, combat that voice and find your inner beauty in everything you do.

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

Absolutely find your own style because no one dances the same, I can teach you moves but at the end of the day, your body moves the way your body moves and that is a beautiful thing.

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

Pole will always be associated with exotic dancing, but it can be as sexy, naughty, dirty, or athletic as you want it to be. If people want to judge they aren't worth your time anyway.

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

It would be awesome if Pole was included in the Olympics. I can't dance at that level but I have seen women who can and WOW. Goals to strive for. 

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

Pole dancing is special to me because it is place where a person can be completely free and enjoy the sensuality in their own body. Pole allows someone to enjoy music with their whole body in a way no other type of dance has allowed most before.

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

Size has been a real issue in my pole journey, I am also slightly bow legged and left hand dominant when I pole. I have overcome the difficulties by reminding myself everyone's body is not the same, and finding modifications that work with my issues. Sometimes I just have to table a move until later after I figure out how my body can make those shapes.

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

Going upside down, I still cannot invert on my own. Hopefully soon, stay tuned.

What is your favorite pole dancing move?

 I love the angel, it is my go to move, it is a knee hold side spin. I accidentally discovered it while attempting a front knee hook and it has been my go to move ever since.

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

This year, still working on that invert. And a double climb, my brain gets confused once I get off the ground.

What has made you stick with Pole Dancing?

Pole gives me an outlet I don't get anywhere else, it makes me feel beautiful and it is a place to release all the stress I deal with in my day to day life. 

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

My brother still calls it stripper class, and a lot of people react the same way. But more and more people say that they heard it was a great workout that they would try if they were not so self conscious or smaller or fill in the blank excuses to be afraid. It is an act of bravery to admit to being free enough to try something that people see as naughty or sexy only.

Do you perform regularly?

I perform twice a year.

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

Picking a song that speaks to your soul. If you don't love the song your performance will suffer for it.

What is your favorite pole workout wear?

I love artista activewear, derbyskinz, and swim wear from Torrid for pole. I am all about cheap with good support and coverage.

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

Sail by Awolnation

Give us a sexy floorwork song.

Desire by Meg Meyers

Meet our Instructors | Tara

Our grand opening is just around the corner and we wanted all of you to get to know our instructors better with a fun interview-style blog post for each of them. First up is Tara who is not only an instructor, but also the Treasurer of the Board and Program Director here at Ascendance Pole & Aerial Arts. 

Tara-butterfly

What drew you to teach at Ascendance?  

I was drawn to help build Ascendance out of a love for the Community aspect of Pole.  I think community this sport/art's biggest strength and asset, and saw there was a need for something in the Renton area. While thinking about how we could foster community in a unique way, and to how encourage a place where students could fit in, grow, and thrive in their personal journeys (both physical and emotional), I wanted to center it around a different kind of studio model. After briefly entertaining the idea for a co-op, for better or worse, I helped push our little group into pursuing a non profit model and am excited about what doors that will open.  

I'm looking forward to being able to have ownership in this project and to be able to be a leader in this space.  We will be able to use our resources to invite and support people into our community who might not otherwise get the chance to participate in pole and aerial and that is very exciting. I'm looking forward to being able to teach and share with a whole new audience!

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

I've been pole dancing for just over 7 years. I previously had danced ballet all my life in a pre-professional setting. I took a break to get married and focus on building my career and when I was ready to move again, I found Pole through a Groupon and never looked back!

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?

I think the biggest thing I see student's struggle with is comparing themselves to others. You will never move exactly like another person, you do not have the same body, and you do not have the same flexibility/strength/proportions, etc. So stop trying to be someone else! Embrace you for you, enjoy your personal journey, and gravitate to what comes easy for you.  In a similar vein, everyone always seems to be in a rush to nail that next trick. Set goals - yes! But don't be too hard on yourself if your progress looks different than others around you. Slow down and enjoy the moment and the movement you are currently in. With pole, there  will never be finish line. 

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

I love Pole for the community. I've never experienced anything like it in any other avenue. With Pole, I've seen people instantly connect with others and be supportive in the classroom a very genuine way. It doesn't take too much of incredible support and optimism before people actually start connecting outside of class and true friendships are formed.   It's so hard to make new friends as adults and the community that gathers around pole seems to help fill this very real need. 

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

Taking time away from pole and coming back has been challenge for me. The first time I took a long break from pole, I had hip surgery and needed time to recover. Those 12 weeks felt like years!  I was terrified I'd lose everything I'd worked hard to build.  It was a temporary setback, and when I look back at it nearly 2 years later, I see it made me train in new ways that helped unlock new strengths and uncovered a new movement style. 

Now, I'm coming back to pole after having my son and it's infinitely more challenging. More than the physical challenges, I find that this time I'm struggling with the mental challenges. I'm working through this headspace of figuring out who I am, what I want, and how all this relates to Pole.  It's humbling, but is giving me new perspective and a renewed passion for beginners, and a huge appreciation for mothers and all the badass things they do. I'm still working to get back into my former physical condition, but I'm incredibly excited to love on myself through pole and to share in that excitement with new dancers and other new moms. I keep experiencing this over the course of my pole journey, but pole and the intention of movement can evolve and change depending on life circumstances. You might start for one reason, but stay for a completely different one! 

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

My goals for this year are to work with my team and with the input of students to build an amazing community and set of classes and curriculum. I'm also working on finding my "new mom" groove and carving out more time to just enjoy dancing for myself again. 

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

I adore many artists, but will never not watch anything Yvonne Smink creates. Her movement style is so incredibly unique, creative, and provocative in a very different way. You all should watch this video https://vimeo.com/274403640.

Renton Summerfest 2018

 

We appreciate the turn out at Renton's Piazza Park Summerfest 2018! Ascendance Pole & Aerial Arts debuted its class schedule, pricing, and early bird promotions (learn more about pricing HERE). It was fun to show the Renton community what we have to offer and give everyone a chance to play with the pole and lyra outdoors in the sun.  We couldn't have asked for a better weather! We were happy to answer your questions about our classes - like what shape do you have to be in to start? Answer: no requirements - come as you are and we'll teach you what you need to know. We look forward to opening on September 10, and meeting more of you at the studio. Thanks for stopping by!

We'd also like to give a special thanks to the City of Renton and Downtown Renton Partnership for having us again!

Celebrating Pride at Ascendance

At Ascendance, we celebrate diversity and honor the strength that comes from our different backgrounds and from our shared experience.  For Pride this year, three of our instructors who are part of the LGBT+ community sat down for a roundtable discussion.  Their discussion focuses on their experiences as being members of both communities and what Pride means to them. Keep reading below to hear from Ashlee, Maggie, and Sean.  We look forward to hearing about your experiences, too.

When did you know you identified as queer?  How did you handle coming out?

Ashlee: I’ve know that I liked girls since I was about 5.  The first person I wanted to kiss was a girl.  I knew I liked boys too, but I didn’t have a reference point for what bisexuality was. I had no role models for what that looked like, and on the rare occasions it would come up on TV or in social conversations it was labeled as “confused” or “perverse.” Growing up, “gay” was always talked about negatively. It was a slur, a sin, something to be avoided at all costs.

I definitely felt confused when I hit puberty and realized that I still wanted to kiss boys and girls, because I didn’t know that it was okay to like both. In the small town I grew up in, being a gay woman was often equated with hatred of men, not with love for women. There were a few out lesbians that I knew of, but when they weren’t around, people would talk about how they just hated men and that’s the only reason they were with women.

I also struggled a lot with my feelings because I didn’t want to face rejection from my family or friends. I saw kids at school being bullied just for the suspicion of being gay, and I retreated inside myself. The possibility of being rejected and unwanted because of who I wanted to kiss was not something my heart could handle. It wasn’t until I moved to Seattle at age 25 that I really became comfortable embracing all of me.  

Sean: My story is really different. I went to very Catholic schools growing up, and sex was demonized. I didn’t even know what “gay” was. When I was 13, my grandpa gave me a totally gender-neutral sex talk. He explained all about protection and safety but never said anything about the gender of “the person you’re with”. This was well before I even knew I was gay!  

It was my mom that saw my search history and confronted me. She could tell that I was heading towards a life of being in the closet, and she just yanked me right out of it.  She explained to me that “most boys don’t search for what you search for, they want to look at other things.”  She explained that if those are the things I was interested in then I might be what people call “gay.”   She said that there was nothing wrong with that, but that a lot of people don’t understand it. She was so accepting and matter-of-fact. I had it really good, but still it wasn’t perfect. My dad freaked out, was in denial, and I clung to my mama bear as she defended me.

Being in gymnastics, male gymnastics is hyper-masculine.  Any sort of femininity was ridiculed and marked as weak. “Boys don’t put their hands on their hips.” “Boys don’t talk like that.” “Boys don’t hug.”  I labeled myself as awkward and delicate because I didn’t know any better.  It wasn’t until much more recently I realized I’m not awkward or delicate, I’m just kind of gay! I guess my life shows what a transitionary period we’re in. I had it so easy compared to those before me, but we still have a long way to push for those that come after us.

Maggie: For me it really wasn’t a big thing coming out as bi, because my older sister is a lesbian, and when she came out it was not really a big deal in my family.  I wasn’t really worried about how my family would react after that.  I also have a younger brother who’s bi; out of four kids there’s only one straight one. 

It was weird for me coming to terms with bisexuality because it was always presented as “oh, those people are confused,” or “you’re just doing it to get attention from guys,” that sort of thing.  Because of that I didn’t really think of myself as bisexual for a long time, mostly because I didn’t really think bisexuality was real. 

I also think that, going back to childhood, girls are allowed to have much more intimate relationships with each other.  It’s totally normal to have girl crushes and spend all of your time with another girl, you can play with each other’s hair and hold hands and snuggle and no one thinks anything queer is going on.  It’s a totally different standard for men and women.  On the other side of that, because that sort of behavior is so normalized for women, it took me a really long time to figure out that I wanted more than what was “normal.”  

Even nowadays, our culture really overlooks lesbian relationships.  You’ll see in celebrity news that so-and-so was spotted with her “gal-pal” and they’re obviously a couple, but no one acknowledges that, they’re just “really close friends.”  I didn’t really know anything was different about me until I started going out with my friends to gay bars and I realized that I was interested in women and wanted to explore that, but away from the public eye.  It wasn’t a performance for someone else, it was just me. 

Let’s talk about pole dance.  How did you find pole, and what does pole give you that keeps you coming back?

Ashlee: I discovered pole because I saw a friend stripping in Portland. She was strong, confident, fit, naked, in control of the whole room and she was scraping up tons of money off the stage after her set. I wanted to know what it felt like to be her: confident, powerful, comfortable in my own skin.  I thought she was a total badass. She is bi and out and she didn’t seem to care what people thought of her. I wanted to know what all of that felt like. Pole seemed like a really big part of what gave her that power, so I enrolled in a beginner pole series. And I was bad, I was so bad! But I desperately wanted to be good, so I kept coming to class.  I couldn’t do anything. I stubbed my toe in a fireman spin, I couldn’t do a pirouette. I would leave class and cry at home because of how uncomfortable I felt in my body. I always had this idea of myself as really girly and feminine, and this was supposed to be the ultimate in femininity and I felt like I was failing so hard at it. That shook my self-image at first, but the community at the studio was supportive nurturing and refused to let me stew in my own self-loathing.

Maggie: I remember when you started.  You weren’t that bad

Ashlee: I was so bad!  Mostly because I was so unhappy in my own skin. I wasn’t fully committing to the movement. As I started to feel better about myself, I learned how to relax and explore being present in my body instead of comparing myself to other dancers. I also realized as I started to feel better about myself and had that beautiful community supporting my heart, that the person I was with became increasingly unhappy and that I needed to walk away from that relationship.

Sean: I started pole because I was going through a really bad rejection.  

Ashlee: You were my pole baby!

Sean: You remember that?  

Ashlee: Of course!  You were such a good student! You listened well and encouraged those around you.

Sean: At the time, I felt undesired and not sexy enough to have gotten what I wanted.  I felt like pole would make me sexier and more desirable and make me feel sexy and desirable.  And it did that!  But actually, I found a performance art form that I fell in love with.  I feel like I no longer need pole to feel sexy, I have much more self-confidence.  Now I love pole as my performance medium of choice.  I can do it in a sexual way or I can do it in a non-sexual way, I just want to get really good at it. 

Maggie: I feel like my story is like intensely uninspiring compared to everyone else’s.  I hear so many stories about how pole saved someone or saved their lives, and I’m just not that interesting.  I had this friend who wanted to get into shape and she asked if I’d take a yoga class with her.  I really didn’t want to take more yoga classes, so I told her “yeah, no.  Let’s take a pole dancing class instead.”  The day of the class she cancelled on me at the last minute and I turned to my roommate and said something like “Hey, I signed up for two people, I don’t think they care who shows up, do you want to go?”  And she was like “Yeah I do!”  So, we went.  And then we went the next week and the week after that, and we just kept going.  It was fun. 

I feel like pole is really meditative, especially when you’re freestyling.  You’re in the moment, you’re feeling the music and you are just inhabiting the present.  You’re really present.  That’s what I love about teaching, too. I could be having the worst day- and this has happened- but the minute I walk into the studio, I’m there for my students.  Whatever you’re going through, you leave it outside.  Lord knows it’ll still be waiting for you!  But when you’re there, you’re there for them, and you’re present and you don’t think about all of that other stuff.  That’s what pole is for me: being present for myself and for others and shaking off all of the bad stuff, even if it’s just for an hour or two. 

Describe your experience being out in the pole community.  How do those worlds intersect for you?

Ashlee: I truly started to embrace my sexuality through pole because I was given a safe space to explore and express my sexuality outside of the male gaze. I never had this opportunity before. I started with ‘pole fitness’ and quickly migrated to exotic style and sensual movement, where I still feel most free and empowered. My whole life, self-care and expressing sexuality was treated as performative for men. But here, I could finally be sexy for me, or for anyone I chose, which my community not only accepted, but boisterously encouraged!

Sean: To me, pole is not intersecting very much with my gayness.  Aside from the fact that it’s very unexpected seeing a guy pole dancing- and I enjoy breaking that barrier- in my day-to-day I don’t think it really comes up.  I think that pole is very welcoming, but I don’t think it’s really a subject that comes up much.  Pole is a great sport.  Also, I am gay.  That’s how they interact.  

Maggie: I think that’s great, though, that’s sort of the mark of true acceptance.  So many times, there can be this kind of tokenism of like “he’s the gay one,” or “that’s my gay,” and not just in pole, but you sort of become the mascot.  To be able to walk into a space and be the only guy- and be the only gay guy- and not have it be a conversation is great.  Like, being gay is a part of who you are, but it’s not all you are or all you have to contribute to the world.

Sean: Right.  It’s been really great to be welcomed and accepted without being expected to be like super feminine or sassy.

Maggie: Like performative gayness.

Sean: Yeah, like all the time.  Like, I don’t have to wear heels or prance around, I can just be myself the same as everyone else.  Like a straight guy could come into the studio and do all of the same stuff as I do and be treated the same way.  I’m not any different. 

Maggie: I feel the same way.  It’s not like I’m in the closet to my students or anything, it just doesn’t come up very much.  And when it has come up, it’s just not a big deal.  No one is shocked or worried that I’m going to start hitting on them or something, which is something that I’ve had happen outside of pole.  And that’s frustrating because you don’t want to hurt their feelings, but most of the time you are in no way interested in them like that.  At all. 

Sean: Yeah, I’ve had the same thing with straight guys.  

Maggie: So it’s really nice that it’s just not a big deal.  I’ve had students who are lesbians, bi, gay, trans, and I hope that I am helping them to feel comfortable and welcome in class, but honestly, I don’t think I can take much credit.  The whole community is really awesome and supportive no matter where you’re coming from. 

Seattle celebrates Gay Pride this week.  What does Pride mean to you?

Sean: I had it really great growing up, and Pride for me is an opportunity to celebrate that and be thankful for all of the people who worked so hard to make it so I could have it so good.  We still have a long way to go,

Ashlee: Yeah, I didn’t really have the struggle of coming out as a teenager. The door to my closet was broken. Embracing ‘bi’ was hard because of the lack of representation and visibility. I often didn’t feel queer enough for queer spaces, nor was I totally comfortable in straight spaces. It’s definitely been a journey. Everyone has an opinion on how you should present yourself, right?

Sean: Yeah, I’ve definitely felt like I wasn’t gay enough for Pride.  I’ve never done Pride before because I didn’t feel gay enough.  My mix is definitely more masculine than feminine. But now as an adult I see that Pride is a celebration of our progress and a reminder of how much work we have to do. I’m excited to participate now.     

Ashlee: For sure.

Sean: Yeah, and that’s why I never had felt gay enough for Pride, because you watch the videos and it’s like really gay.  Like I never really felt like I would be welcome there.

Ashlee: As an adult I can see that Pride is all about self-expression and smashing boundaries.  It has the intention of being welcoming because those gender and sexual norms are silly and ultimately, shouldn’t matter.  But I can see how that would be hard if you were outside of that bubble and didn’t have people educating or including you.  I didn’t have that growing up, either.

Sean: As good as my mom was and as much as she was supportive and saved me from a life of being in the closet, she’s never been a part of the gay community, she doesn’t know anything about being gay, so she couldn’t share those things with me.

Ashlee: Yeah, and it’s not a fault, it’s just the way it is.

Sean: Right.  And she did her absolute best.

Ashlee: It sounds like she did an amazing job.  What about you, Maggie?

Maggie: For me, before I even figured myself out, the gay community in Seattle was so welcoming and open.  I moved here- I lived on Capitol Hill back when it was the 2nd gayest neighborhood in the US- and everyone made me feel right at home.  I quickly made really strong friends for life, and for me Pride is about celebrating those friendships and our milestones along the way.  Even more than my identity as being bi- because I really don’t feel like that defines me- again, it’s something that just doesn’t come up that often.  For me, pride is about being a good ally.  I have a lot of privileges and opportunities being bi and straight-passing that a lot of my friends don’t, and as such it’s my responsibility to use my privilege to advocate for them and their rights.  Pride for me is about celebrating making it another year with my chosen family, and promising to make it the next year, too. 

We hope that you enjoyed hearing the stories from our amazing community members and encourage you to share your own experiences in the comments.  No matter how you identify, we hope you have a safe and happy Pride.  We made it another year, let’s dance!

Check out our PRIDE playlist below!

Welcome to our Blog + Wine Walk recap

Thank you for stopping by our website and welcome to our blog! We're excited to share upcoming news, events, studio progression, stories, and more with you in the upcoming months. We'd like to start our first blog post with a recap of our first event!

On Friday June 8, Ascendance Pole & Aerial Arts had its first coming out party as part of the June Renton Wine Walk. It was our first time promoting the studio to the Renton community at our new space on 724 S 3rd Street. We welcomed friends, family, pets, and met lots of new people who stopped by to learn more. We talked about our future class offerings and showed some willing polers-to-be how to do simple spins, poses, and moves. We were thrilled to have a constant flow of visitors. 

Hear from few of our Board members as well and their reaction to our first event!

 

"I was blown away by the excitement and enthusiasm we received from the City, our new neighbors, and many prospective students. We had lots of curious people stop by and take a spin. I heard more than one person say that Renton was starting to get “a little more hip” and another person commented that Renton was overdue for something this cool. Many people were really receptive to our non-profit’s mission of making Pole and aerial accessible to everyone. Our Open House was a success and many are eagerly anticipating our opening."

-Tara Steed, Treasurer of the Board, Program Director


"The support we received during the Renton Wine Walk was amazing!  We welcomed residents and local business owners throughout the evening, and everyone seemed really excited to have Ascendance in the community.  Many women voiced how excited they were to have something different to do in the area, and everyone felt a strong connection to our non-profit approach and our mission of inclusion.  We heard great suggestions on future class offerings too!  The positive response just further reinforces for all of us that Renton was the right home for Ascendance, and we can't wait to see what the future will bring!"

-Candace Vaivadas, Secretary of the Board

 

"We had such a great time getting to know people at the Renton Wine Walk! The City of Renton has been so welcoming and the community has been supportive and enthusiastic at every turn. We're looking forward to meeting more of the members of our new community at other events, and of course to welcoming them into our studio when we open in September. If you see us at the next event, stop by to say hi and take a spin!"

-Maggie Nation, Vice President of the Board, Executive Director

 

We also officially launched our website last week with more information on our mission, Board, classes, and basic information about pole and aerial arts. We want to thank the Renton Downtown Partnership for spreading the word about Ascendance Pole & Aerial Arts and allowing us to be one of their stops for the Wine Walk. If you missed us last Friday, stay tuned for future events!

Check out more photos from our event below: