Author Archives: Danielle C

Taking Pride

I think it’s fair to say that most pole dancers are hard on themselves. We look at our photos or videos and only see the negatives – the things to work on. I think we strive for perfection a lot of the time, which tends to mean that we miss the little victories. Something isn’t pretty, so it’s not perfect.

I was chatting with a Pole Unbound friend about why we tend to post videos or photos and apologize for them:

  • I was tired.
  • It’s messy.
  • I don’t like this part.
  • This isn’t my best.

Admit it: you’ve probably said something like that in a post online. If you haven’t, that’s AWESOME. Seriously, good for you! But, for the rest of us, I think I’ve figured out a couple of reasons why we behave this way:

  • We’re trying to beat critics to the punch. It’s an admission of, “Hey, I bet you’re going to judge me for not being perfect, so let me tell you up front that I know. I know I wasn’t perfect.”
  • We’re looking to be better and selecting the things we know we need to work on.

I tend to think the first reason is the most common reason, but the second one is also absolutely valid. I know that’s why I do it! I do also make a note of things I want to work on, too, but it tends to be more the former than the latter.

So, I wanted to take a moment to talk about pride. Not stupid, ego-driven, I’m so fucking awesome it hurts pride, but genuine appreciation for the work you’ve done and how far you’ve come.

It’s really hard to watch videos of yourself (for most people). It has been hard for me for a long time, but I’m getting over it. Freestyle exploration as helped me IMMENSELY in this regard. One of the tenets of freestyle exploration is to move away from being self-conscious about your movement (whether it’s pretty or ugly or weird or graceful).

I try hard, nowadays, to look at videos of myself and seek out the good moments. I’m not always successful (I deleted an entire video today without even watching it because I just felt so off during the dance), but it’s a mindset to practice.

In that vein, here are three recent videos of mine that I am proud of:

My Northern California Pole Presentation Performance

This was my first public pole performance since PPC 2012, and I worked hard on it. I chose my song because I loved it (“Nearly Midnight, Honolulu” by Neko Case). I loved the simplicity of it, I loved the story of it, I loved that it moved me. It was not any easy song to “dance” to, but I didn’t really care, because I had a story I wanted to tell.

I am proud that many of my moves are clean. I am proud that I stuck to my story and my movement, even when the audience’s initial reaction wasn’t what I expected it to be. I am proud that I kept going when I had a grip issue (I used too much grip and got stuck). I am proud that my self-made costume looked pretty. I am proud that the emotion I wanted came through in many moments.

My Pacific Aerial Art Championship Performance

This routine came together in less than a month, because the original song I chose just didn’t work for me. I was training for the NCPP routine for the month prior to PAAC, so I didn’t work on my PAAC routine until NCPP was done. I had ideas and a song and a concept, but when I went into the studio for the first time to work on it, I couldn’t get it to work. So, I had to choose a new song and start from scratch. Because I was unsure about what our rigging would allow, I kept my routine safe by using mostly intermediate moves and worked to make those clean and to make my transitions work.

I am proud of my energy in this routine. I am proud that I did something totally different from anything I have done or anything I usually do. I am proud that I took a chance and went with it, despite being scared. I am proud that most of my moves are clean, and more importantly, that most of my transitions are clean – that I was able to dance/move through them smoothly. I am proud that my costume came together and looked awesome – the same is true of my props. I am proud of my story – I really loved it. And, I am proud that my twerk worked werked.

My Finding Your Freestyle Challenge video

I shot this at the end of Pole Unbound, to fulfill a FYF challenge from my friend Tiffany. I used the prompt of “hair” for the dance (a prompt that was given to me by a partner during a freestyle workshop earlier in the PU weekend, which I LOVED).

I am proud of this because I had never heard the song before dancing to it. My friend Jamie, who was also at Pole Unbound, chose it for me. I am proud of my movement. I am proud that I stuck with my prompt and explored it. I am proud that my focus was just my prompt and the movement to explore it, and not that I didn’t know the song or how I might look, etc.

My Handspring Practice video

These clips were shot today. I went to an open pole practice, initially to work on some freestyle and work from Pole Unbound, but ended up feeling really self-conscious about it in the presence of people I didn’t know (and in an unfamiliar studio). So, I started working on tricks, and to my delight, my TG handspring from the floor came back!

I am proud that I tried my handspring again, despite not really thinking I could do it today. I am proud that I kept at it. I am proud that I’ve gotten stronger and can see it – and feel it. I am proud that I have 4 different handspring variations in this video: my TG from the floor, my TG ayesha from caterpillar, my forearm handspring, and my elbow grip ayesha from caterpillar. I am super proud of my elbow grip and how solid it feels. I am proud that I did my elbow grip last and was still able to hold it well.

So. Now, I challenge you to watch your own videos and find the moments you are proud of. It doesn’t have to be much. It could be a few seconds. But look for the things to celebrate. The little victories are a big, big deal. Trust me. :-)

Learning to Teach: What I have learned from my first teaching opportunities

Until recently, I had never taught pole or lyra in an official capacity. I had always been a friend who shows people new stuff I have learned in class or in pole jams, and I’ve given private lyra lessons to friends, but I had never been contracted to teach my own class. I had never had a chance to create curriculum.

Over the weekend of 10/10-10/12, I had the amazing opportunity to participate in Pole Unbound. The Pole Unbound Retreat was conceived and organized by Aerial Amy. The central conceit was that everyone has something of value to contribute to the pole world. Therefore, Pole Unbound was established as a community pole retreat and jam, meaning that the instruction would be crowd sourced. As part of the retreat, each of the chosen attendees had to submit two possible options for workshops they could teach to the other attendees. At first, this was a little daunting, as I wasn’t quite sure what I had to offer, but I boiled it down to: what do I like to do and what am I good enough at that others may not be able to offer? The answers were freestyle exploration and lyra (since not all polers do lyra). So, I set about crafting two descriptions and basic curriculum, then sent my pitches off to Amy.

As a group, we voted on the workshops anonymously (it was double blind voting), and the top vote earners were selected as the overall curriculum for the weekend. My freestyle exploration workshop was chosen! It was such an awesome and validating feeling! And, also, a bit overwhelming, because it meant I really had to be detailed in my curriculum and come up with something I felt good about teaching.

I set about writing down ideas for possible prompts and sections, taking into account my own experiences in other classes, as well as my training in acting. What I wanted to create was something that melded freestyle exploration and my acting training, so I created a curriculum that was largely partner based.

Being me, I decided that I wanted a test run of the workshop, so I arranged to run it for some friends the weekend before Pole Unbound. I wanted to see if there were any timing issues or other problems that came up with the curriculum. The test went really well, though! I had to do some squashing of elements for time’s sake, but I was prepared for that. It was such fun to see everyone participate!

For me, it was a little unnerving to have to be the leader, especially in a group that contained a few girls that are teachers in classes that I attend. Running a warm up is an interesting art that I am not sure I have fully mastered, but I felt like the other sections went well!

Teaching the workshop at Pole Unbound was different. The class size was doubled, and the circumstances going into it were different: my workshop ran at the end of a very long day, and everyone was exhausted. It was hard for me. I knew people were tired, which made them distracted and less interested in participating. I struggled to find my footing early on, and then struggled to keep some students engaged due to the content of the workshop. Not everyone likes freestyle exploration. It’s very challenging for some people, and between that and the exhaustion of the group, I ended up losing about 1/3 of the participants by the end of the hour and a half.

I’m not going to lie. I was hurt. It felt really disrespectful to me, especially since I had stayed in the room for all of the other workshops, even when I wasn’t able to do the content being taught (i.e. I can’t do a back bend, so doing walkovers isn’t something I can participate in). Once I had processed everything, what stuck with me was not being pissed about how people left (valid reasons or not), but instead, being really overjoyed at the results from the people who DID stay. They were incredible. They gave so much to the work, and each person had such gorgeous, unique movement. I was blown away by what I was lucky enough to witness from the participants. It was such an honor.

Not long after I got back from Pole Unbound, I was asked to sub a lyra class at an area studio. I said yes, excited to get the experience, and it was interesting. Being a sub of someone else’s class is different than hosting your own, I think. Much like subs in high school, I think subs in pole classes are met with some amount of skepticism. I had actually been in class with some of the gals I was teaching in the subbed class, but nobody seemed to be that bothered by a fellow student moving into the teacher role (thankfully). What proved to be a challenge for me was teaching in a different way than the usual teacher.

I chose to run the class a little more like my usual class that I attend, which meant that the curriculum was based on learning elements of a routine. With 8+ students, it was a large class to control, and tough for me to bounce between two hoops to make sure everyone was spotted correctly and shown how to break things down properly. With only an hour of class time, i did a super short warm up, then launched into teaching. I also chose to ignore the trapeze, because I barely know any moves on it, so I didn’t feel comfortable teaching anything. I did allow students to use it if they had experience on it, but I offered no actual instruction (which I had told them would be the case beforehand).

Some of the challenges of this class included the fact that a number of the students were teenagers. The teens pick up stuff pretty well, but keeping their attention can be tough. I ended up teaching the first 8 or 9 moves of my Pacific Aerial Art routine (which includes the same moves I usually teach to friends who are new to lyra), and everyone seemed to pick them up pretty well – the last move was one they really seemed to like. I also showed them one advanced move, which everyone was able to try.

Overall, I think it went okay, but I did feel like it was disorganized. I wasn’t sure if that was my fault, or just that there were so many students. I don’t know if the students liked the class, but I hope some of them took something good away from it.

Coming up in November, I’ll be taking an intermediate/advanced pole instructor training course. I’m interested to see what the content will be and how it will work. I genuinely don’t know what will be covered. I was planning to take a beginner/intermediate, but the company doesn’t have one until next year, so the owner suggested I do the int/adv because my personal skill level is suitable for that level of instruction.

In the meantime, I’ve got teaching on my mind: how to improve, how to work with different types of students, how to create curriculum for new workshops. I really want to have more opportunities to teach freestyle exploration workshops.

Some things I am considering:

Confidence – Through observation and experience, it can be tough to remain confident, both in your own abilities, but also your curriculum. One of the things that was great about Pole Unbound was that we got the chance to see that everyone can contribute. We all have value. It’s just a matter of owning what it is that is ours to do. One of the things I want to work on is feeling confident that I am worthy of being a teacher of others and being confident in my choice of curriculum.

Teflon – Realizing that some people may not like you, may not like your teaching style, or may not like what you teach, but that you don’t have to take it personally. I don’t mean ignoring solid, constructive criticism, because I think it’s valuable to self-assess and reflect, but taking things personally when they aren’t meant to be personal – when they are more about the other person than they are about you – is damaging.

Flexibility – While getting off topic can be really easy (“hey, can you show me this?” can bring you pretty far from your lesson plan if you aren’t careful), it’s also important to be flexible about the structure of class, especially when you have a student having difficulty.

Compassion/Empathy – With difficult students, sometimes it is hard to remain calm. Some people are toxic. It’s a fact. But, instead of being reactive, I think it’s valuable to take a step back and see if there is an empathetic approach possible. There won’t always be, but sometimes, you can find a way to create an encouraging, safe space for people to explore and move through their fear. And, if you can’t, it’s okay to wish them well and let them go. Just try to not carry that with you and let it impact your other students. This is a great lesson that I am working on for myself.

No Nonsense – On the flip side of empathy, I want to learn how to effectively shut down nonsense. Not being a bitch about it, but just silently demanding the respect that is deserved when instructing others.

On a final note, about Pole Unbound: the next retreat has been planned for May 2015, in Toronto. If you are interested in joining, use this form to add your name to the list of potential attendees!

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1VEX9zMg3ZfgyNKy0kq28ipGHFK116yRvUQZsCLwV3vI/viewform

Something to consider before applying:

What can you teach? Pole Unbound is founded on the idea that everyone has something to offer. This is not a “pay money to be taught by pole celebrities” retreat – it’s an “everyone teaches each other” retreat. With that in mind, consider your strengths as a poler and what you can teach to others in a workshop setting, because you will be asked for what you might be able to bring to the table in a workshop setting.

Everyone has something that makes them unique as a poler. Find yours!
Note: this sign up page is not binding, and the registration application process closes November 15th.

Pole Unbound 2015 - Toronto

Pole Unbound 2015 – Toronto

Aura Heels: Your New Favorite Shoes (Part 2)

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to interview the creators of Aura Heels – please check out what co-owner Melanie had to say about her experiences with pole dance and being a pole entrepreneur:

http://poleitical.com/2014/08/07/aura-heels-your-new-favorite-shoes-part-1/

Aura Heels was kind enough to send me a pair of their incredible shoes to test out, and I wanted to share my experience with all of you!

My particular pair arrived carefully packaged in their original Pleaser box, with helpful instructions on how to use the light controls, as well as a plug to recharge the shoes. I spent approximately 47 minutes squeeing, tottering around on our carpeted floors, and forcing my boyfriend to take video of me doing legwork on our couch, before I finally put them away and planned my next outing to a studio.

Aura Heels Package

Aura Heels Package, including instructions & power plug for shoes (please ignore my messy bed)

The Basics: Size, Height, and Style

My pair were constructed from a clear, lucite Pleaser platform, with a heel height of 7.5 inches. They feature clear toe and ankle straps, and like most Pleasers of this fashion, you can probably size down a half or even full size if you want them to fit a little tighter. I am a size 8, and my test shoes are also an 8, and they’re probably a tiny bit too big for me, so keep sizing down in mind when placing your order. The weight is approximately 4 to 4.5lbs total for the shoes – I very scientifically tested this by getting on my scale wearing them and also in bare feet.

Aura Heels does offer different styles, including some cool options with platforms that have clear windows in otherwise blacked out plastic, and they will do custom built options for other heel heights, if the 7.5 inch heel is not for you!

The Light

Aura Heels also offers a variety of light modes, including Rainbow, ColorBomb, SwapFlow, TiltFlow (my favorite), ShortPulse, Waterfall, Full Spectrum, Starburst, and SoundPower. I’ve put together a YouTube Playlist of their sample videos, so you can get an idea of what each mode looks like: http://youtu.be/pe6vX8-c6Tc?list=PLTSEkwQRjm00r0Py-eZA7bq4fUhD5jSG3

As for the color: it is SO bright! It’s super vivid, and absolutely eye-catching – the shoes make a huge impression, and people will stop to watch you! I brought them to two different studios, in classes with different women, and they made a big splash every time. I had girls asking to try them on, to take photos in them, and to just take photos of the shoes on me! (I’ve also had a few people ask to borrow them for photo shoots!)

I cycled through all of the modes offered with my pair, but I kept coming back to the TiltFlow, because it’s such a brilliant option. I love the way the colors shift as the shoes move, and they remain illuminated throughout the movement. The lighting in the room does make a difference in terms of how well the shoes show up on film: darker is better, and the faster your movement, the less the camera will pick up the different shifts, but you can TOTALLY see them in person.

Durability/Functionality

The sole of the shoes do heat up a little from the light, which threw me off at first, but it never gets more than a little warm. The colors stayed true throughout a six minute, floor work heavy test dance that I did, and they performed just like any other shoe during my on-the-pole test. I’ve used them off an on for the better part of a week, and have not yet had to recharge them.

If you’re a heel-clacker, I’m not sure these would be for you, as I don’t know that the electronics could survive that kind of battering – most shoes that get clacked often seem to have a short shelf life, so I wouldn’t recommend it in these heels. I did one small clack, and they held up fine, but repeated wear & tear would probably take its toll like on any other shoe. Given that these heels can’t really be repaired if you clack them out of existence, it’s probably worth it to save your clacks for a less expensive heel.

Price

The heels are pricey, but that makes sense to me, given the work that goes into their construction and programming. There is nothing else like them. The low end begins in the high $100’s, around $175, which is on par with some of the higher-end rhinestoned Pleaser options. Much of their range is in the mid $200’s, and the line tops out around $400 for their highest tier offering, the Limited Edition Galaxy Platform. Choosing your option has everything to do with which light mode you prefer: you can save money by choosing an option with just one light mode, instead of trying to go for one with multiple offerings.

Eat Your Heart Out, Cinderella! (Aura Heels - photo by Poleitical Diaries)

Eat Your Heart Out, Cinderella! (Aura Heels – photo by Poleitical Diaries)

Overall, I loooooooooooooooove these heels, and I am so stoked to have gotten the chance to play with them! They’re just the coolest thing I’ve seen in ages, and I am so excited to see Aura Heels getting more recognition from our community! They were recently at The Great Midwest Pole Convention, and received news coverage from local Chicagoland papers/tv outlets, and their web presence has been steadily growing these last few weeks! To shop their line, head to their Etsy Shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/AuraHeels – find them on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/AuraHeels – stalk them on Instagram at: http://instagram.com/auraheels (@auraheels) – and watch their full line of videos on YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCa0fzz7HRvsJTGBqzPc_xcQ

Aura Heels: Your New Favorite Shoes! Part 1

Have you seen these shoes?!?! No, really…HAVE YOU SEEN THESE SHOES??

OMG GIMME - Photo credit Aura Heels

OMG GIMME – Photo credit Aura Heels

I stumbled upon Aura Heels via Facebook, and like any pole dancer would, fell immediately in love. Brilliant, light up heels that smoothly change color?

Seriously.

Seriously.

Not only was I enamored with the product, but as a fellow pole entrepreneur, I was interested in how the company was created. Cut to a few emails later, and I have a special treat for you: a 2 part series on Aura Heels! First up is an interview with the owners of Aura Heels, and soon to come, a review of their shoes!

Melanie, the co-founder of Aura Heels, was kind enough to answer some of my questions about herself and the company:

Poleitical Diaries: Who is a part of Aura Heels and where are you based?

Aura Heels: Aura Heels is a two person team, myself and my husband, Alan. We are based in Cary, NC.

PD: How did you begin your pole dance journey?

AH: My story is the typical one. Two friends and I took a teaser class. They never took another and I kept going back for more. I took my very first class at Aradia Fitness in Cary NC. Hi Dakota!

PD: How does dancing in shoes change your pole movement?

AH: For me dancing in shoes makes me more aware of my lines. You have to learn to step and turn gracefully in 7″ stilletos.

PD: What inspires you in the pole community?

AH: Just how incredibly encouraging most people are. I have never been apart of community that is so caring of one another. We are usually the loudest cheering for a friend or even someone you don’t know. It doesn’t matter what your shape, background or anything is. You will usually be met with open arms and encouraging words.

Galaxy Platforms - Photo by Aura Heels

Galaxy Platforms – Photo by Aura Heels

PD: Who are your pole icons?

AH: I have many pole icons. Alethea Austin. Her slow, purposeful movements are just beautiful to watch, hard to replicate. Karol Helms, who was one of the first pole dancers I ever saw on YouTube. She is not only an amazing dancer, she is an excellent teacher and genuinely a funny, intelligent, nice woman. Other icons are all the women I see come into the studio. They are all amazing and it makes me incredibly glad to be apart of pole.

PD: What is your signature pole dance style?

AH: Is there a particular pole movement with which you most identify? I don’t know if I have a signature style per say.  I love slow, dancey movement. Floorwork is a favorite, too.  I also love to just be silly and let it be just fun with no true direction, just whatever happens. I guess I’d call it eclectic sexy.

PD: What are your favorite moves and your nemesis moves?

AH: I love spins and cross ankle release. My nemesis is the extended butterfly.

PD: Is there any pole product you just can’t live without?

AH: Not one particular product. I love my  Aura Heels, BadKitty fold over shorts, Vaseline Intensive skin lotion and electrical tape to cover raw spot and burns. Electrical tape will stick more to itself than your skin or a band-aide and it’s grippy. Dry Hands for hot humid NC weather.

Waterfall Platforms - Photo by Aura Heels

PD: Is there any advice you have for budding pole entrepreneurs and budding pole dancers?

AH: For budding entrepreneurs; be prepared to be unprepared. There are a hundred tiny details that you just won’t think about and they pop up often. Mostly though have fun, enjoy chasing the dream. It is worth it. For budding pole dancers; Take it slow and build up. The tricks will come. It’s no fun to pull a muscle or tendon pushing to hard or to fast. Enjoy the learning all the amazing things your body can do.

PD: How did you come up with the idea for Aura Heels?  

AH: It was mostly by accident. I had just bought a pair of 7in clear Pleasers to alter. I’m always looking for ways to make  my pole shoes fun. My husband, Alan, saw them and was certain he could figure out a way to put lights in them. He got an old pair from me and started to dismantle them to see how they were made, and what he could fit in them. We have come a long way since then. The first pair were charged by 8 double A batteries and weighed a good 5lbs each.They were not the most successful thing ever. He did learn a lot from that first experience though.

PD: How long does it take to make the shoes? Can you tell us about the craftsmanship that goes into each pair?  

AH: The time it takes to create a pair of shoes depends on whether they are sound or tilt reactive, how many modes they have and also the size of the shoe comes into play. It usually takes about a week, roughly speaking. Starting with a new pair of unmodified shoes, there are about five steps/ stages of our process. We first dismantle them, removing all the old glue. We then mark off all the dimensions for the LEDs, touch sensors and charging ports, then use power tools to grind and drill the channels for all the components. We then build the bulk of the electronics, laying the LEDs along the underside of the foot bed, wiring them together, and build the control and battery packs that will live in the shoe. Then we begin the painting process, this is can very finicky. If the paint isn’t right it shows pretty strongly, since we are shining so much light through the shoe. This can take a day or so by itself, just to let it cure and build the layers up the get the right amount of light diffusion. Last is the final fitting to make sure that lights are laying in the channels properly and all the connections work. Once that’s done, we then glue and clamp everything in to place and leave that to cure over night. After that the shoes are ready for boxing and shipping to their new home.

PD: What do you love about being a pole entrepreneur?

AH: It’s very exciting. The pole community is so full of possibility and opportunity. We love that we are bringing a unique product to such a unique community. It also fun to tell people you are a Cobbler of Light.

PD: Have you created other shoe or clothing lines in the past?

AH: Not yet. I do have several ideas bouncing around in my head.

PD: What do you feel your line offers to the community that sets it apart from other lines?

AH: Aura Heels are unlike anything else out there. There isn’t another shoe line that offers rechargeable features and the opportunity to truly customize.

PD: How has the community reacted to your new line? Where do you hope to take it? 

AH: So far we have had nothing but great feed back. Everyone has been very, very positive and eager to try them out. We don’t have any huge plans for the future yet. We are still in the early stages of our company and we are just enjoying the whole process.

PD: How long did it take for you to go from initial idea to selling your line?

AH: It’s been about 3 years from that first pair , we only been selling them since May. It’s been a learning experience, an amazing, stressful, and sometimes baffling learning experience. Needless to say we are having a lot of fun bringing Aura Heels to the pole community.

PD: Do you offer international sales? Where can your shoes be purchased?

AH: We do offer international sales, as well as domestic. You can order a pair from our Etsy store. Auraheels.com  Oh, one more thing. We will have a vendor table at The Great Midwest Pole Convention, August 15th-17th. Be sure and come by and see our shoes in person. Also, don’t forget to enter the raffle to win a pair of Galaxy Aura Heels!

Thank you for taking the time to chat with me, Melanie!

I’ll have a review of Aura Heels coming up soon, in Part 2 of this series! Look for it soon! In the meantime, you can check Aura Heels out for yourself on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Etsy!

Aura Heels Logo

Aura Heels Logo

Ink-N-Iron 2014: Pole Performer Showcase and PCS Queen Mary Championship

This weekend, we spent a couple of days as vendors at Ink-N-Iron, a massive culture festival in Long Beach, CA. The festival has everything from tattoos, piercings, hot rod shows, and live performances, to burlesque, pin-up, and yes, POLE!

The event played host to the inaugural PCS Queen Mary Pole Championship, with Amateurs competing on Friday evening, followed by the Pros on Saturday afternoon. After each day of competition, there were also Pole Performer Showcases of some incredible polers, too!

Ink-N-Iron Pole Performer Showcase & PCS Queen Mary Pole Championship posters

Ink-N-Iron Pole Performer Showcase & PCS Queen Mary Pole Championship posters

The festivities were held inside the Queen Mary, on the M deck, which was kind of hidden away from the rest of the festival: you had to go up 3 floors, then inside the ship, then up another floor, then walk the length of the ship, where you’d then find the mid-sized Brittania Salon/Ballroom, home of the poles! The room filled up quite a bit for each round of competition, with the Pro comp being a bit more packed.

For the Amateur round, we saw 8 competitors take the stage, many of them performing in their first competition. The gals went out and did themselves proud. The routines included some impressive tricks, but as a pack, the gals were at a reasonable level for an Amateur Comp – no crazy fonji antics, just some great dancers performing mostly clean routines with strong tricks! Judges Jennifer Kim, Rachele Ribera, and Katherine Voorhees had a tough job! First place went to Sandra Guadiama with an emotional piece set to a remix of “Mad World”, Second was Nadine Young playing up the wild side with a routine to “Paradise City”, and Third went to Rea Kowalski, with another more-emotive piece and some impressive strength tricks.

In the Pro Division, we saw 11 competitors, all of whom were so strong and amazing, but each very different in what they presented and the stories they told! The crowd really enjoyed a lot of the performances, but in the end, judges Karol Helms, Sarah Jade, and Alethea Austin selected Sasj Lee as the PCS Champ (making this her third straight victory in a row). Her first runner up was Amber Wolf, with a sexy and playful routine that was both beautiful and strong. Second runner up went to Tiffany Rose Mockler, who also took the Audience Award, and Kerri Friedman rounded out the pack.*

PCS Queen Mary Championship Pro Division placeholders with hostess Tara Phillips

PCS Queen Mary Championship Pro Division placeholders with hostess Tara Phillips

As far as the International Pole Performers Showcase goes, each night was all about the sexiness! Katherine Voohrees opened the shows, displaying her signature style of sexy, bendy beauty, which the crowd loved. Her fellow performers included Jennifer Kim, who combined grace and sex appeal with an incredible connection to the crowd; Sarah Jade, whose bendiness and sexiness are intoxicating; Rachele Ribera, who impressed with powerhouse moves and sexy flair; Nadia Sharif, whose “Roxanne” themed routine was a phenomenal showstopper; Jamilla Deville, who seduced every last person with her showgirl moves and incredible grace; Karol Helms, who lived up to her Miss Sexy title; and Alethea Austin, who closed the show with drama, sex, darkness, and some special sidekicks.

The event was sponsored by X Pole, Bad Kitty (who provided the Pole Pixie costumes), and Glitter Heels, who also had a vendor booth. My company, Poleitical Clothing, was on site as vendors, debuting new items and selling some old favorites! There were some last minute changes to the rigging, with the poles moving from 40mm and 10 feet tall, to 45mm and 12 feet tall, but the performers and competitors took it in stride. The festivities began relatively on time and ran fairly smoothly, with only some minor hiccups along the way, like a shoe malfunction with one performer, and a brief lighting issue when an audience member leaned against some switches for the house lights. While there was no private dressing area for the dancers, the girls all seemed to be in great moods and take everything in stride!  All of the pole events were hosted by Tara Phillips, who is always cheerful, fun, professional, and eloquent when she hosts and event – she works hard and does her research on each dancer and company present, and it really shows when she gets on stage.

Poleitical Clothing vendor table at Ink-N-Iron 2014

Poleitical Clothing vendor table at Ink-N-Iron 2014

As a pole dancer, it was interesting to see the reaction of the crowd to each of the performers. This crowd was not stacked with polers, but rather, stacked with people looking to watch women dance. The pole dancers present were there to support friends, but mostly from the Long Beach and Orange County areas – much the SoCal posse is from LA studios, and we saw very few familiar faces from LA studios, beyond those competing. The crowd’s lack of familiarity with pole beyond strip clubs was obvious at times, from the reactions of some of the drunker attendees, but on the whole, most of the audience appreciated the performers and stayed relatively respectful (save for one or two incidents). While the usual tricks that get mad applause at all-pole events did not get the same response with this crowd, they did scream for crazy flexibility and super sexiness, which was fun to see.

While we did not spend a ton of time at the rest of the festival, it did look like fun, especially if you’re into pin-ups, burlesque, and tattoos – some of the pin-up vendors had some to-die-for items available, and the tattoo room was incredible to behold: three floors of artists working on all manner of tattoos, from small pieces to full back art. The event organization left something to be desired, especially for vendors – for example, we faced arguments with parking attendants and having to pay through the nose for parking because we never received a vendor packet from the Ink-N-Iron office, which was disappointing and frustrating. The event itself is expensive (tickets, parking, and food alone will cost you a bundle), but there is a TON to do once you are there – you could probably attend all three days and still not see everything!!

The Ink-N-Iron pole performers and Queen Mary Pole Championship competitors held their own in terms of the entertainment available, and who knows, maybe they converted a few souls in the audience into thinking that pole is more than stripping and sexiness – and, maybe…just maybe…they inspired some folks to go take their first class!

*At the time of the announcement of the placeholders, Lindsey Green had been awarded 3rd Runner Up. She was given the plaque in the awards ceremony and was initially shown to be the 3rd Runner Up in photos online. The results were re-tabulated and placements changed after the event, moving Kerri moved up to 3rd. To my knowledge, there no formal announcement widely shared online, so I found out about it after writing this piece. I have updated this post to reflect the new placements. My apologies to Kerri and Lindsey for not correcting it sooner – I’m sure the situation was uncomfortable for all involved. ~DC 7/16/2014

 

Ink-N-Iron stage

I couldn’t resist playing on the poles after one of the showcase performances!

My New Home Away From Home

I am so excited to share that I am now a member of the blogging team over at the newly re-vamped Bad Kitty Blog!

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My first piece is now up and available to read, along with the posts from the other incredible writers. I took my ideas about how pole can challenge relationships due to a shift in personal empowerment and expanded on them – this will end up being a series, so keep an eye on the BK blog for my future installments!

Here is my first piece – hope you enjoy it!

http://www.badkitty.com/news/the-challenge-of-an-empowered-woman/

I won’t be re-posting the BK content here, but I will continue to blog on this site, with more personal thoughts and experiences. I have a fun possibility in the works for August, and I will know more about it in early May. If it happens, I’ll be throwing myself into choreographing again! I’m already energized and excited about growing!

Evolution

Last night on Facebook, Natasha Wang posted an old video of hers, circa 2009, as part of a Pole Throwback movement. It’s remarkable to see the evolution of her style – the video, which was shot at my pole home, shows a very different style than what she is known for nowadays, and yet, you can see the beginnings of where she was headed, I think. I found it really interesting to watch, being such a fan. Here is the video, and following it, a more recent performance:

One of the things I love about the comparison is that I feel as if I got to watch an artist discover their authentic voice, which is SO COOL. For fun, here is another comparison:

Michelle Stanek

For Michelle, instead of comparing a freestyle and a competition piece, I’m choosing to link to another video she has online, which is more of a performance piece than a competition piece. I think her style is still evident in her performance pieces, though. She’s got incredible elegance in her movement, but is still sexy.

I love this movement. Share your early videos!!! It’s so great to get to see how people evolve as artists and find their authenticity, while still remaining true to their core movement!

Poleitical Clothing Giveaway!

In honor of adding some new items to the Poleitical Clothing line, we’re having our very first Instagram Photo Challenge Giveaway!

Poleitical Clothing's March Giveaway on Instagram

Poleitical Clothing’s March Giveaway on Instagram

One winner will receive one of our NEW SWEATSHIRTS, which will be debuted at the Pole World News Awards on March 21st, in Los Angeles!!!

The Rules:

1) You don’t have to post a photo every day, but you do get only one photo per day as an eligible entry.

2) You may earn 1 bonus entry per photo by wearing your Poleitical Clothing gear in the picture – it must be visible to camera to qualify!

3) This giveaway is open to US and International entries!

4) This giveaway is open to men and woman of all sizes! (The sweatshirts are unisex sizing, so if you are plus size, we have you covered!)

5) Be creative with your choices! Video or photo is allowed.

6) If you cannot perform a trick, i.e. a Jade Split, it is permissible to do a variation as long as that variation is clearly from the same trick.

7) Contest runs March 1st, 2014 through March 31st, 2014.

8) Contest entries must be posted via Instagram. You must follow Poleitical Clothing, and you must tag Poleitical Clothing by their username and with a hashtag, i.e. @poleiticalclothing and #poleiticalclothing, for your entry to count. If you have a private profile, you must approve us as followers for your entries to be counted.

9) Prize value is approximately $50 USD, not including shipping. Sweatshirt will be shipped from Los Angeles, CA (shipping covered by Poleitical Clothing). Please allow up to 4 weeks for delivery – we will let the winner know when it ships. Not redeemable for cash value. Winner will be notified via Instagram and must respond within 1 week of notification with their contact info and size choice via email, or a new winner will be chosen. Chances of winning depend on number of entries.

Good Luck and Have Fun!!!

A Horse of a Different Color

As a kid, my favorite part of The Wizard of Oz was this scene:

I loved that horse. At the time, I suppose I would have said that it was because I liked horses, and look, it’s a rainbow horse, how did they do that?!

As an adult, I recognize something else about the horse: It is one of a kind.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I tend to feel like I don’t always fit in when I am in class. Sometimes, it’s an ability level issue – I’ll go to a class and find that nothing is working for me, and that everyone else seems so far ahead of me – but a lot of the time, it comes down to size.

I’m not what most of the country would probably refer to as a big girl. I’m 5’6″ and probably around 160lbs. That’s dead average for the US. But…in pole? Not so much. At least, not in Los Angeles, where thin is a religion.

In most classes I attend, I am the biggest girl, or one of the larger girls. This isn’t always true – I’m not always the biggest gal, and it’s not something that upsets me most of the time, but…I am always aware of it. No matter how advanced I get, it remains a fact that things are harder for me because I have more ass to get over my head. And that’s really frustrating.

As of late, I’ve felt like I am at a pole plateau, where I am struggling to feel like I am moving forward with  my peers. I think that’s a big part of the reason why I have been seeking out other ways to be successful in this world, like taking the free dance exploration class and my lyra classes. That success is important to me. I feel more alive and inspired when I feel successful, and it makes the days where things don’t go right a little easier to release.

A few days ago, I read a great post related to all of this – if you haven’t read Pole Geek’s recent post about being curvy in the pole world, I recommend it. It got me thinking about feeling like the odd man out, as expressed above. And, for some reason, as I was standing in the parking lot of our building, watching my boyfriend park our rental car, the “Horse of a Different Color” song popped into my head.

Somehow, it all relates. Because, here’s the thing: maybe it’s not so much about being the odd man out, but maybe – just maybe – it’s about finding an authentic way to celebrate that which makes you different. It’s about making the choice to say that it’s okay, that it might even make you special.

In this week’s free dance exploration class, we had a partner exercise, where we worked with a partner to interpret and tell stories. After our last round, there were two compliments that stood out about me and my partner. For her, the compliment was about her legs, and how amazing they were (and they are – she’s incredible). For me, it was my gaze as I danced, and that it had an emotional impact on two individuals who were watching. I don’t feel that it’s fair to boil either of us down to just those things – my partner told a story through her dance, and it was gorgeous and emotional, and yes, her body is beautiful. But, it was of interest to me that the things that were highlighted about us were so different in context, and that maybe there was a lesson there about not being disappointed that you aren’t seen in one way, but instead, celebrating the positive ways we are seen. Would I have loved a compliment on my legs? Of course! But, it means much more to me that my expression during my dance was emotionally moving to people, and I think that is its own kind of special.

I’m not saying anything earth-shattering, or even anything new, but what I am trying to do is to coax myself around to making this a practice for myself, instead of saying, “Oh, yes, totally!” and then going back to how I have always done things. I think that shift makes a difference, perhaps not in the quality of what one does, but in the quality of what it brings to their life.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Nadia Shariff, who was kind enough to grant us an interview for our Poleitical Clothing Newsletter that came out around CPDC. In the interview, we asked her, “Is there one trick that still eludes you?”

Her reply? “I’m not one of those pole dancers that is good at everything; I’m good at what I do. ;)

I think this idea is so important to remember, as we get frustrated with our differences, and as we celebrate what makes us, us:

Do what is yours to do.

Dancing at The Pole Garage

Free Style at The Pole Garage

Power & Pole: Some Thoughts

A note about this post: I’m working on a theory about pole that I have not fully fleshed out, but this post is my attempt to get some of it out of my head. I apologize if it is not fully formed, or does not make sense, but I hope to eventually get it all put together in a coherent form.

When someone asks you what you’ve gotten from pole, or how it has changed you, what do you say?

  • It’s fun
  • It makes me happy
  • I have made great friends
  • It’s an awesome work out
  • I’ve lost weight/gotten in shape
  • I have more confidence
  • I feel sexier

Do any of these sound familiar?

I think all of these are common expressions of the types of things that people enjoy from pole. One of the great things about this activity is that it can bring so many great things to so many different people. What I am curious about, though, is how these may fit into a larger picture.

I have a theory that pole brings one thing to the majority of people involved in it, which manifests itself in all of the ways I have listed (and more).

Pole brings Power.

I think that the reason that pole is so challenging for some people to accept – especially in those they love – is that the power that comes with it is scary. When people who were not previously empowered begin to change and grow, it challenges those around them. How their community responds to them is interesting to me.

If you think of a person as part of a whole community, and the idea that the community reacts to them in a certain role, think about how a change in that person can challenge how the others in the community see and know themselves. (It’s related to Gestalt Psychology.) If you are an insecure person when you begin to pole, and pole inspires you to have more confidence in yourself, what happens to those around you who knew you – or even relied on you – to be insecure? This isn’t to say that people be aware enough to know that your insecurity was something they relied on…but…think about it. If the change in you causes a shift in you, and a shift in the balance of your relationship with others…wouldn’t that be considered a threat to them?

Why am I talking about this?

A friend of mine recently spoke with me about the reactions her significant other was having regarding her journey with pole. The reactions range from pouty when she goes to class to demanding (if not borderline controlling) regarding the amount of time she would like to spend with pole. In chatting with her about how she has changed since the inception of their relationship, and particularly since pole came into her life, it made me wonder: was the new insecurity expressed by her partner a result of the shift in her personal power? Or, does it have nothing to do with pole, i.e. the fault lying only in the insecurity of the partner in question.

I would love to hear about the personal journeys of those of you who read my blog, particularly in terms of pole and your own empowerment. How have others responded? What changes have you noticed yourself, and have those changes heralded changes in others in your circle? It’s certainly something to think about.

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