2014 brought a Hurricane to the US Pole Scene: Cleo The Hurricane, that is! Over the last two years, we’ve watched as Cleo launched her incredible DVD series, expanded her clothing line, and made the leap from Australia to LA. With so many exciting things happening in the World of Cleo, I was eager to get the chance to sit down with the pole rock star herself and hear more about where she’s been and where she’s headed next!
Poleitical Diaries: How were you first introduced to pole?
Cleo The Hurricane: When I was 27, my best friend took me along to a Breast Cancer benefit at her Pole Studio. I was blown away by the instructors’ performances and signed up for lessons right away. After 2 weeks of learning, I got asked to teach just from my momentum turn – haha – and the rest is history.
PD:When did you first realize you could build a business from your pole career?
Cleo: I knew from the beginning that I wanted to make a career out of pole dancing. Originally (as you would expect) the goal was to own my own Pole Studio; however, my path changed when I moved to Sydney to teach at Bobbi’s Pole Studio in 2010. That year I was so motivated to compete in Miss Pole Dance Australia and I did the following 2 years. From there, I went on my first big tour to Asia, Canada and the USA, and that’s when I got a few t-shirts printed. I think that’s really when I realized I could build a business for myself. Plus, I was having so much fun with it. I was using my creativity in other ways and starting to explore other opportunities. Originally, building the ‘Cleo The Hurricane’ brand was never planned… it really just evolved. I only got my Cleo logo and website designed for the tour! How it has changed from those early days!
PD: What was your first pole product idea? Did it come to life the way you envisioned?
Cleo: When I competed in 2010 I danced to “Rock You Like A Hurricane” and played the guitar (well, pretended to). The intro to my show was a man’s voice over “The Hottest Rock N Pole show in the world…Cleo!” Kinda like what Kiss do at the beginning of their concerts. The whole Rock N Pole or I Love Rock N Pole slogan also happened by accident because of that show. Even my name Cleo ‘The Hurricane’ came from the show. The first T-shirts I ever had printed said, “I Love Rock N Pole.’ I’ve had many other designs based on the original, and yes it has DEFINITELY come to life. My whole brand is built on Rock N Pole. As far as Rockin’ Legs N Abs (my first DVD), that has FAR beyond exceeded my expectations. I’m pretty sure we’ve nearly achieved ‘GOLD’ sales according to Australian certifications. So yes, everything is awesome!
PD: When did you make the switch from pole as a hobby to pole as your sole job/business?
Cleo: Well, considering I have been teaching my whole ‘Pole Life’ it was always kind of my sole job/business. But, it’s also my hobby: I still put my favorite music on and dance, no cameras and no Instagram…just for me.
PD: What is your philosophy on being a pole entrepreneur and how has your philosophy evolved as your business has grown?
Cleo: Continually staying positive despite struggle; believing in myself and my brand; and reinvesting in my business when I’ve had the profits to do so has always been my philosophy. In fact, it’s the only thing that has stayed the same. Everything else is constantly evolving and so am I.
PD: What are you currently most excited about and/or proud of within the world of Cleo?
Cleo: I have many things to be proud of: currently it’s my new website (well, the re-launch of my new site). This is something I’ve been working on for 2.5 years now, since the first version came out. Originally, I had hired a company in Australia to design/develop the site, and was completely disappointed with how it turned out. So, I started again from scratch with a new design team, and I’m OVER THE MOON! It is so shiny and pretty and glamorous and cool at the same time. It’s been a LONG, LONG time and finally, my vision has come to life. I can’t wait to show the pole world! Not to mention all the awesome new merch I have coming out. 2015 is very exciting for me.
PD: What is on the horizon for you and your empire? What can we expect next? What about long term?
Cleo: Keep building my empire, growing my online studio, and the Cleo The Hurricane brand. I have explored opening a studio in LA, but I am concentrating on my worldwide web students for now. Also, I’m shooting my 3rd DVD – back flexibility based on strength – and am really excited for that one! Long term, I am working on growing this brand to be not necessarily the biggest, but the coolest and best brand in pole dancing! There is always some project I’m working on, so you will always see something new from me!
PD: We love that you’ve begun adding guest instructors – what do you look for in those you invite?
Cleo: There are so many instructors that have perfect technique, but I’m looking for personality. From sassy, to strong, to a little quirky or crazy, everyone brings something different. (I’m the crazy one, by the way.)
PD: What brought you to move to LA?
Cleo: I have always loved LA. Plus, I fell in love with a California boy. I told him, if I’m making the move, it had to be LA. However, it hasn’t been easy getting used to living here…and it’s taken THIS long to be happy with the move.
PD: Was it fun for you to participate in and sponsor this year’s California Pole Dance Championships? Were there any moments from the show that stood out to you?
Cleo: Of course it was fun! Nothing really stands out though.
PD: Who inspires you in the pole world? (Doesn’t have to be anyone famous) Outside the pole world?
Cleo: I get my inspiration from my community. I am only doing what I do because I feel rewarded helping women feel sexy, or achieving their goals, getting their splits or even having a good laugh from my videos. Outside the Pole world, I’d have to say Joan Jett, because I love strong females who do what they wanna do, despite what people tell them. That’s Rock N Roll, and that’s the whole attitude I’ve brought to my brand.
PD: Do you see any differences between the pole community in Australia and the community here in the US?
Cleo: I guess the big difference is the 38mm brass poles compared to the 45mm chrome. That also relates to tricks, because there are tricks that are easier on a 38 and some that are easier on a 45. Also, Aussies love wearing heels -in comps, in class, training etc. Over here the percentage is significantly lower. In the USA girls say ‘NIIIICE’ to their pole friends doing a trick. In Australia, we say, “AWESOME!” or “UNREAL!” There are also a lot of differences in how studios are run, so it will be interesting to see if the Aussie style adapts over here!
PD: Where did you first teach? What do you love about teaching? Can you say a bit about touring?
Cleo: [I first taught at] Pole Princess in Melbourne. I love the students. I’m a real people person for sure! Touring is really fun, especially when I meet members of my community. I feel like I know them already. Physically it can get very exhausting, because my workshops are very challenging.
PD: How did you get started with your clothing line? Who comes up with the designs?
Cleo: My friend Richard, who I used to work with, is a great designer and designed the Cleo logo. I used to work with him at a publishing company that did music/street/fashion mags.
I have about 4 designers that do work for me. One in Canada, two in the USA and one in Australia. I’m lucky because my background before pole was advertising, marketing, design, video production, and production management, so I have some great contacts…not to mention the experience!
PD: How did you get your nickname Cleo the Hurricane? And how did you develop your own pole signature style?
Cleo: I was having lunch with Chilli Rox in Sydney, and she told me I looked like Cleopatra…so that’s where Cleo came from! The Hurricane was because of my show in 2010 to “Rock You like a Hurricane” I had to change my name on Facebook and couldn’t think of anything else!!!! Once again…Cleo the Hurricane was never planned…it just happened!
Thank you to Cleo for taking the time to chat with me! I am sure I am not the only one stoked to see your plans unfold! To find out more about Cleo, including her DVDs, apparel, and more, check her out online at http://www.cleosrocknpole.com/
When I started pole dancing again in 2010, I started at The Pole Garage. It’s been my Pole Home for the last four years. Even when I go play at other studios, as I do quite often, I still always find TPG to be a bit magical.
Having known Drea & David for a while, I thought it might be fun to learn a little more about them and the “behind the scenes” at the studio. They graciously accepted my invitation for an interview with Drea!
Poleitical Diaries: How were you introduced to pole?
Drea Roers: I began Pole Dancing in 2004, when a friend surprised me with my first Pole dancing class! The instant my fingers touched the pole, my life had changed forever…it was magic! My first spins were definitely not ‘pretty’, but I was flying through the air and I felt FREE, ALIVE and BEAUTIFUL! I was instantly addicted and fell madly in love with the artistry of pole dancing. I committed and dedicated myself to my pole dancing training and within a year, became an Instructor.
PD: What inspired you to start your studio?
DR: My dream was to open my own Pole Dance studio and to share the world of pole dancing with other women! I hoped that if I could change ONE life the way my life had been changed, that I would be able to share my love and passion for pole dancing with other women! In 2009, my dream came true. My husband, David Roers and I opened The Pole Garage in Santa Monica, CA! I left twelve years of a Trading/Brokerage career and never looked back! It was solely and entirely David Roers and the wonderful women from within the pole dancing community that were my absolute inspiration toward opening The Pole Garage!
PD: Tell us about your studio:
DR: The Pole Garage is a Boutique Pole Dance studio located in Santa Monica, CA. The Pole Garage is dedicated exclusively to the art of Pole Dancing. Our studio has five ‘Stationary’ and ‘Spinning’ 45mm poles by Platinum Stages and X Pole.
PD: How did you come to create the class structure for TPG?
DR: We offer a myriad of pole dancing classes at The Pole Garage, with an emphasis on progressive “Session Classes”. I created The Pole Garage Curriculum for women to journey together, at the same pace and ‘level’ progressively, in order to properly and safely strengthen, condition and learn pole dance technique. Our Session classes include Beginner, Intermediate I, Intermediate II, Advanced I, into Advanced level. At “Advanced” level, we offer “Unlimited” Advanced Specialty Focus Classes (ex: Adv. Spinning Pole, Adv. Aerial & Twisted Hand Grip, Adv. Shoulder Mount & Combos, Adv. Transitions & Dance, Adv. Drop Tricks & Thread Thru etc). We also offer Mixed Level pole classes (Pole Power Hour and Pole Play & Dance classes), Pole Parties, Privates, Workshops, Pole Choreography, Competition/Performance Training, Intro Pole Teasers and specialty classes. The Pole Garage is a fabulous place to meet a new community of adventurous women, to get toned & sculpted, to let loose, or to someday perform, compete, instruct OR JUST DANCE! :-)
PD: What do you feel sets The Pole Garage apart from other studios?
DR: I believe every studio has its own beautiful and unique style. The Pole Garage provides a warm, welcoming and positive energetic space to explore the artistry of pole dancing. We wanted to give women a supportive environment to be creative, innovative and to be free to challenge oneself without judgment. We are very unique, as ALL of our amazing Instructors are hired internally from within The Pole Garage and have completed our Progressive Curriculum Training program, as well as complete our “Instructor Training” Certification program.
PD: What are you most proud of in regards to the studio?
DR: I am so proud that my Husband & Co-Owner of The Pole Garage, David and I fought to open The Pole Garage, a small Business, during the midst of a Recession and economic turmoil in 2009.
PD: How did you decide to make it a “family business” TPG
DR: David and I shared a vision of starting a small business together and we took a leap of faith and opened The Pole Garage! It has been the most rewarding experience imaginable for us to see how our studio has become such an integral part of the community and changed women’s lives!
PD: What are some of your favorite studio-related memories over the years?
DR: My all time favorite studio-related memories are from the endless amounts of laughter and cheering that fill the studio daily as we fly, spin, flip and dance together. I also cherish the life-long friendships formed from The Pole Garage and from within the pole community that I hold so near and dear to my heart. I believe the bond we share is beyond a friendship, it is truly a “SISTERHOOD” or as we say at The Pole Garage, our “POLE SISTERS”.
PD: What’s on the Horizon for The Pole Garage
DR: On the horizon for The Pole Garage is to continue to support and bring awareness to the pole dance industry one pole dancer at a time.
PD: What are your favorite classes to teach?
DR: I LOVE teaching every class from Beginner to Advanced. It’s so exciting to teach a Beginner their first ever pole spin! And if I had to choose one Advanced class, I would say Advanced ‘Aerial Pole’, as it’s such a blast to dance Aerial in the air! Instructing is such a dream come true to be able to share what I love so very much w/ others. :-)
Thanks, Drea & David! If you’d like to check out classes at The Pole Garage, you can find their website at www.thepolegarage.com.
For the last year or so, I have been regularly taking lyra classes at an Aerial & Pole Studio in North Hollywood, CA, called Aeriform Arts. Over that time, I have struck up a friendship with the owners, Lea & Allelon, who sponsored me for Pacific Aerial 2014. They’re great folks, and I adore my class – I feel quite lucky to have found it!
The vibe of the studio is unlike a lot of others in LA. Everyone is welcome, and there’s no clique-ish-ness. I see people of all shapes, sizes, ages, looks, and backgrounds whenever I go. I got curious about how the studio came to be, so I asked Lea if she’d be willing to sit down to answer some questions about it!
Poleitical Diaries: How were you introduced to aerial arts?
Lea Walker: I have a fast paced career in TV, and I started having serious health issues that forced me to slow down a bit. I ended up bedridden for weeks and realized that the surgery had not only stripped me of my physical strength, but also my sense of body confidence and power. My scars became a symbol of how my body had failed me. I came to the conclusion that maybe I needed to finally slow down and do something for me. After I healed, I started taking pole lessons and then branched out to aerial yoga, which I found really helped improve some back disc issues I was having as well. At that point I was hooked!
LW: Aeriform Arts offers multi level, co-ed classes in Aerial Yoga, Hammock, Silks, Pole, Lyra, Trapeze & Aerial Cirque Conditioning (with stretch & dance workshops as well). We really pride ourselves with having an easygoing yet knowledgeable staff that works hard towards helping our clients explore and achieve their maximum potential. We like to have fun and encourage or clients to as well!
PD: What do you feel sets Aeriform Arts apart from other studios?
LW: I truly believe we are a studio that embraces all levels, ages, sizes & sexes. We really try to make it a fun learning experience for everyone, where everyone is part of the cool kids club. We do not allow any cliquishness and want everyone to feel important and cared for.
PD: What are you most proud of in regards to the studio?
LW: I love the fact that we are co-ed across the board and that we embrace both sexy and strong aspects of pole/aerial in the studio. Two great tastes that taste great together!
PD: What are some of your favorite studio-related memories over the years?
LW: Wow – there are so many. All of the friendships we have made, being ecstatic when we hit our 1 year & 2 year anniversaries (our 3 year is coming up in Nov), our last student showcase was amazing – I was so proud of everyone. Every time there is a full pole class and all I hear are squeals of giggling, any feelings I have about the energy that it takes to run a studio melt away. But I think the best memory I have is when this one woman crawled out of an Aerial Cirque class, literally crawled – in the middle of class I might add! She was a disheveled, sweaty mess, pooled on the front lobby floor and I leaned over the desk and asked “Um are you okay?” she looked up at me and said “NOOO that shit is HARD” then she tossed her credit card to me and said, “Can I get a 10 pack, and can you sign me up for the next 5 weeks? I love this shit – thanks!” Then she smiled and crawled back into class.
PD: Is there a class you wish you could add?
LW: Vertical Wall Dance or Bungee Assisted Dance – I am dying to learn it!!!! I would love to offer it but would need the height & instructors to even begin to think about it. Seriously though, I am looking to make a trip to England to take a workshop or two with Wired Aerial Theatre want to go?
PD: What’s on the horizon for Aeriform?
We have some new class offerings in the works! We just added in a Trapeze class, and Candice Cane [is slated] to be joining the studio in January teaching pole, and we’ll be adding a bunch of new workshops, starting in January 2015.
You can find more about Aeriform Arts and their classes at www.aeriformarts.com. They have some excellent aerial offerings, from silks, hammock, and lyra, to pole and aerial yoga, as well as special classes like aerial cirque. Thank you to Lea for taking the time to chat with me!
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
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. :-)
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:
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
Have you seen these shoes?!?! No, really…HAVE YOU SEEN THESE SHOES??
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?
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.
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.
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!
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.
Soma System very graciously provided me with their Full Body Complete Soma System Package, and I have really enjoyed testing each of their items!! I think that we, as pole dancers (and aerialists) are pretty used to being sore: whether it is the latest bruise or burn, or our knotted shoulders and tight hamstrings, we are almost all in some state of physical disrepair. And that totally impacts your ability to perform at your best level!
You can read a little more about Soma System’s philosophy here: http://somasystem.com/our-philosophy/ The great thing about Soma System’s tools are that they allow you to work on your body at home. Through using their products, with their guidelines, you can begin to work out the knots that are robbing you of your full strength and ability. I would LOVE to get the chance to take a workshop in person, but Soma has some really helpful videos on YouTube, as well as great written tutorials on their website. Below is a breakdown of each of their tools and how they can work for pole dancers!
The Roller Squad:
The Roller Squad is this mitt-like tool that is used for massaging tension out of areas like your pecs, quads, soles of the feet, trapezoids, calves, and more! The tool fits well across the palm of your hand – the silver balls face outward and are used as the massage points. They roll as you move the tool around!
I used this on the tops of my shoulders to help work out the super stubborn knots that I have in that in my trapezoids, and I have also used it on my forearms to loosen them when they start to feel locked up. It’s a nice feeling to rub it in long strokes, like down your arm, and if you put pressure behind it, you can really feel it in your knots! The plastic holders for the metal balls can be a bit scratchy on the skin sometimes, so I would recommend either not pressing too hard as you make your strokes, or wearing clothing that covers the area when you do the massage.
You can find some excellent exercises for this tool here:
Oh, my. I LOVE the Double-Track Roller This bad boy is soft on the outside, firm on the inside, and makes a great tool to work on the muscles on either side of your spine! My boyfriend and I have used it to help massage each other when we’re both feeling achy, and it’s his favorite! This is a great one to use on your own, too – you can lay on the tool and move around to manipulate it into the right areas. I love it to help release my entire back.
Soma System has some great exercises in their written tutorial section, with options for your neck, back, forearms, and even legs! You can view those here:
You can also check out their helpful video, too, which shows some exercises being done through a glass surface – it allows you to see how the tool works on the specific areas:
(note: the tool in the video may be an older version – the one that I have is entirely coated in the orange foam)
The Big Orange is an ideal transition tool between softer massage options and firmer options. It’s inflated, so it has some give to it, and it’s larger than the other items. You can use it on hips, feet, shoulders, pecs, etc. I find it easier to use on my own, i.e. trapping it between the floor and my body, than to use with a partner, but that’s me.
Here’s a quick little video on one of the uses – the technique shown can be applied to other areas of the body, too:
And, here’s another video, which has a series of exercises (featuring some assistance from a yoga block – or maybe it’s a brick, I can’t tell): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j04GooBG-ik
This is one of those tools that can hit some of the most neglected areas for pole dancers: hips and hip flexors! Sure, we work to strengthen them, but how the heck do you STRETCH them?? There are some great examples of exercises on the Soma System website:
Myofascial Five Pack:
Oooooh these make me squeal! The Myofascial Five Pack is made up of five plastic balls in different sizes, which allow you to really pinpoint areas of need. Holy crap, do they work! I use them to work out stubborn knots, and while they generally elicit terrible noises from me, they do help! My boyfriend has used them on me, when I ask for his help on working out knots, and it’s sweet, sweet torture. You can also use these on your own, obviously.
The largest ball has more give to it, but the smaller ones are all harder and provide more focused pressure. They’re amazing for addressing deep tension in a variety of areas. There are some diverse exercises on Soma System’s website, including a rotator cuff massage!! You know that’s perfect for pole and aerial!
Soma Foam Support:
The Soma Foam Support is a small foam roller, about a foot long and 4 inches in diameter. It’s used as support while working with other tools, but you can use it as a traditional foam roller, too. It’s just not as large as most rollers (but, hey, that’s great for travel!!). Like all foam rollers, it can help you to stretch and increase mobility, which is WONDERFUL for pole dancers and aerialists! Foam rollers can open up your quads like nothing else, for example! I love it for that.
Here are a handful of exercises for the Soma Foam Support (of the foam roller variety):
The Focus Roller is a nifty tool that helps to pinpoint areas in need of release. I found it easiest to use with my boyfriend – he would use it to apply focused pressure along my back and neck, but they recommend using it on the chest, too! Unfortunately, there are no videos or tutorials yet for this tool.
The Spiky Life Mat:
Okay, so this one is unusual and intense! The Spiky Life Mat is pretty much what it sounds like: a mat covered in tiny, spiky points (over 6,000 of them!) – I wasn’t sure what to think of this, especially when it came to how to use it – there aren’t any clear tutorials available online, but the Soma System store explains that it’s to help release tension in the areas where your body is in contact with the mat. You can lay on it in different positions and allow the points to work their magic. In my tests, I wasn’t quite sure how it was working for me, but it seems to increase blood flow to the areas in contact with the spikes – or maybe it’s simply increasing energy flow in the area! Here are a couple more sample photos, as examples of positions you can take with it:
Spiky Life Belt:
This is a smaller version of the mat above. The Spiky Life Belt is used like the mat, but on smaller areas of the body. You can also use it in conjunction with other Soma tools, like the Soma Foam Support. Again, for me, it seemed to increase a flow of something to the areas it touched – whether it was blood or energy, I am not sure, but the spikes can be a bit startling at first – you just have to go with it.
While there are no written tutorials on this tool, there IS a video!
You can pair this with the Soma Foam Support for a number of exercises, including a great one for your lower back!
In addition to selling tools individually, Soma System also offers kits and packages, if you prefer to purchase more than one item! Here’s a breakdown of each option:
Roll & Go:
Roll & Go is Soma’s smallest kit, with just two items. According to their website, it was originally designed for tennis players – and you know that’ll translate well to pole dancers, with all of those sore forearms! It pairs the Roller Squad and the larger, squashier ball from the Myofascial Five Pack, into a combination that can help you restore circulation and release your tight areas (respectively). There is no exact tutorial on how to use the kit together, but by checking out the earlier, individual tutorials, you can work some stuff out! And, the website lists some info on the shopping page for the kit!
The Basic Soma System Package:
This is an excellent option for people who want to invest, but may not be able to afford the full package! The Basic Soma System Package includes the Big Orange, the Roller Squad, the Soma Foam Support, the Myofascial Five Pack, and TWO of the Double-Track rollers. It’s recommended for all levels, and specifically for athletes (or anyone stuck in an office).
Full Body Complete Soma System Package:
The Full Body Complete Soma System Package is the comprehensive package of ALL of Soma’s tools! If you’re super into the system and have the cash, it’s totally worth it! It contains 10 of their tools: the Spiky Life Mat, the Spiky Life Belt, the Focus Roller, the Big Orange, the Roller Squad, the Soma Foam Support, the Myofascial Five Pack, and TWO of the Double-Track rollers. Mine came packaged in a cute little orange duffle bag, too! Makes for very easy transportation of everything!
Office Worker Sequence Tutorials
In addition to the tutorials on the Soma System website (which I liked in the relevant tool breakdowns), they also recently posted this great set of exercises specifically for office workers! It gives 11 tutorials, utilizing different tools, with office workers in mind, but you could easily use them at home, too!
There are also two videos on their YouTube channel, which breakdown the tutorials for the Office Worker sequences – the first is almost 15 minutes, and the second is around 5 minutes:
In summary, I think Soma System is a great set of tools for pole dancers and aerialists dedicated to doing self-body work. With regular practice, you can really work out the knots, increase energy, strength, and circulation to promote healing! I have found their tools to be really helpful, and I think that if I were more disciplined about using them every day (or after every class), I would have remarkable results. At the moment, I’ve been using them when I feel like I need them, but I think my results would improve if I create a regular routine with them (this is something I need to do in a lot of areas, not just with these tools). I also like that the items are mostly pretty easy to transport on their own – makes them great for those of us who travel! I’m excited to see Soma System add more tutorials, especially video lessons, online, too.
As I said at the beginning of my review, I also would REALLY love to take their workshops – I feel like it’d give me a better sense of how to do each exercise and get the most out of them. So, pole studios in SoCal: please bring them in for a workshop! If anyone attends their Pole Expo workshops, please let me know your thoughts!
As much of a pole fan as I am, you’d think I’d have taken a workshop by now, but no! I’ve taken a class from Natasha Wang at a local LA studio, but never an actual workshop taught by a pole star (by the way, Natasha is great, and you should always take classes or workshops from her).
Thanks to the generosity of a pole friend, I was able to attend my very first pole workshop last night…with Marlo Fisken.
Pause for extreme fan-girl reaction.
I was in shock. It was such a nice gesture, and I can’t even think of how to say thank you properly!
In preparation for the big day, I squee’d a lot and made my boyfriend watch multiple Marlo videos, like this one:
Marlo’s workshop was at Smoke and Mirrors Fitness in Orange County, which is about 20-30 minutes from my house depending on traffic. I had never been there, although I know some of the students – it’s a nice place! Super tall poles, very atmospheric. I hope to get to take one of their classes sometime! A few of my pole friends from LA came down for the workshop, too, and it was nice to have friendly faces.
Marlo herself is art in motion. She moves like liquid. Really hot liquid. The workshop was focused on her flow movement, so we worked on the principles of creating seamless motion and continuous movement in transitions. It was tough in different areas, for all of us, but some people got the tricks faster/easier than others. I was not one of those people. :-) I struggled.
Our warm up was movement based, and while it was tough, it wasn’t impossible. I kept up for most of it, and my asthma kept itself in check for most of it, which was excellent. The movement was so foreign to me, so it was like learning choreography while trying to stretch and get warm. It was interesting while being challenging, which I appreciated. Marlo also had us do some conditioning and floor moves that were also interesting – cartwheel presses across the floor were tough, but the floorwork (shoulder stand/roll) was very cool.
She followed up the warm up/conditioning with spin instruction, and wow. She’s so pretty in her technique. She just floats. Her instruction was meant to teach us how to achieve that kind of flow, but I had a really hard time with the timing of the hand switch – I got it once, I think, out of all of the attempts I made. I ended up working on the three segments of the spin separately, in hopes I could tie them all together once I had the basics. It was tough to not get something I felt like was fairly simple, but it definitely spoke to my weakness at pirouettes – a simple transition that has always tripped me up. She taught a cool move out of a spin that landed on the floor, but it was tough for most of us – I hope to work on it some more in my normal classes.
Part of Marlo’s trick instruction was based off of aerial inverts, which are my nemesis. I would rather try a fonji (which I do not have the skills to do) than do an aerial invert. All of my pole friends and instructors tell me I can do one, and I am sure that I can, but I have failed at them for so long that it’s become a mental block. So, when Marlo included it in the instruction, I was immediately put in the position of having to suck it up. Which is good, because I NEED to suck it up, but it was a tough thing to do when I had just felt like rather a failure at the spin instruction.
How did I do? Meh. I ended up just feeling bad about the fact that I was sharing the pole with one of the instructors from Pole Garage, who ended up having to help me quite a bit (I felt like I was infringing on her learning experience, which is really just my brain being mean). She did an incredible job keeping up with Marlo, though – it was so fun to watch her do well.
Regarding my own work, I will say this: I did a few aerial inverts better than I ever have before. I usually struggle a huge amount, and I did okay – especially since they were on my non-dominant side. So, I consider those to be wins – the fact that I even got into the invert is a big deal. (It may not sound like much, but consider the fact that I was so under-conditioned on my non-dominant side that I couldn’t even invert from the floor a few months ago – and the fact that I can barely aerial invert on my dominant side.) In fact, I was so unaccustomed to aerial inverting, especially on my non-dominant side, that once I had gotten up, I was totally confused on what to do. I couldn’t sit up over it to continue the climb – it was like my brain shut down. It’s entirely possible that I have never climbed up on that side!
To end the class, Marlo gave us the challenge of stringing randomly chosen tricks together, with the aim of having there be the least amount of steps in between. It was really challenging, but in a fun way – we had to really think about it, and some of the success depended on our level of expertise.
Marlo is ridiculous to watch. She’s the most graceful person I have ever seen – she floats in slow motion, but still moves quickly. I don’t know how to explain it, but watching her was incredible. It was like taking an acting class from Meryl Streep. A really sexy, buff Meryl Streep.
I left the workshop and realized very quickly that I was up in my head. I was thinking, a lot, but was not immediately able to pinpoint what it was that had me so introspective, if not upset. I kept thinking that I should have been super elated and excited, but I wasn’t. I did not walk away inspired and energized, and it took me a while to figure out why, until I realized what the overall lesson was that I took away from the night:
My lesson learned was that of commitment. That to be excellent at this thing that I love takes a commitment that I have yet to show. A commitment that I’m not even sure that I have in me. It was a real wake up call. To even be a little better than I am – not even like Marlo or Natasha or any of the greats – but to just invert in a pretty way, to get my aerial invert, to not struggle so much to make things smooth…that all takes commitment. It was really daunting to realize. I was a little despondent to have that reality check, even though it seems SUPER obvious – OF COURSE it takes commitment and hard work! Um, duh? As of late, I had been feeling stronger in my pole work – like I was physically stronger than I had been (and I know it’s true), that I was getting things I hadn’t gotten before, that small things were getting better. So, I think I was just really surprised to feel so far behind, even though I know I’m not some great poler – I’m never the most advanced in any of my classes, by far. The simple feeling of being rewarded by doing a little better than I did a few months ago was kind of squashed when I saw the long road ahead. It seems so far away, to be so good. Or, to even be the kind of good I feel like might be attainable to me.
It didn’t make me want to give up. It just left me distressed. If you haven’t read Sparrowhawk’s wonderful new post about comparing yourself to others, do yourself a favor and read it – it totally applied last night. I left that workshop upset with myself, and while I was able to see the small victories in what I did, I was also afflicted with a heavy dose of “NOT ENOUGH”-itis. And, really, that’s a mindset. It’s an opportunity to recognize it for what it is (a cognitive distortion) and to be forgiving and gentle with myself as I lead my poor, bruised self out of the dark alleyways of my mind.
As for what to do next: I want to work in more classes, to fix the things that are not pretty, to master those things. I would say that I don’t know how, but the HOW is to just do it. How is a road block for most people, myself included. The how is to go to class whenever I can, to work on those little things in between the lessons of class, to work on the conditioning at home. To allow myself to recognize the small wins along the way, and to look at the next step in front of me, not the entire staircase to the penthouse.
I might never be Marlo, but I can be a better version of me.
The performances were so fun – it’s always interesting for me to watch pole dancers of that caliber and see what speaks to me. I love character driven pieces – they stand out for me, always. That’s one of the reasons I was overjoyed when Sergia won! She’s one of my favorites.
While the professional videos from Alloy Images have yet to be published, I am looking forward to reviewing some of the performances – I missed Danielle Romano (who took 2nd place) and Amber Cahill, and missed moments from the first few performances because of technical difficulties with the feed. However, I was live tweeting everything I did see, and I’ve created a Chirpstory of my tweets:
Congrats to Sergia (1st), Danielle (2nd), and Mary (3rd) on their wins, and to ALL of the competitors from last night. It takes a lot of guts to go up and perform in front of so many people, and under such high stakes! You did us all proud!