Recently, I had my first experience being a judge for a pole competition. The experience was awesome and educational in more than one way – I’ve written two blog posts about it for Bad Kitty and Pole Sport Organization, but I wanted to write a third, from a more personal place.
Having been a competitor in the past, as well as a performer who has received feedback from professionals, I have some experience with judging notes. On the whole, I would say that most of the ones I have received have been…lacking.
I think most judges mean well. But, what I have found that I crave – and this is true of most of the competitors I have spoken to – is not only flattery (duh), but constructive criticism/feedback. Yes, we as performers and competitors want to know what we did well! But, we also want to know what to work on, and if possible, to have a clear explanation of it.
These types of notes give us workable goals to think of for our next competitions or performance, but also for our overall growth. As such, my goal as a judge was to give strong, positive, constructive feedback to each competitor. My advice for any person who is going to be judging a competition or feedback showcase would be:
Remember to be kind
This is especially important for competitions that include amateurs, but I also personally believe it’s important for the pros, too. Everyone wants to be told they did well and to be recognized. Even if their routine needs a lot of help, picking out one or two small details or moments and celebrating those in your notes can make all the difference in encouraging the recipient. Remember that people thrive best in pole when they feel validated for their hard work. We all love getting the stuff that we couldn’t get the week or month before, and this is similar – and, that sometimes, competitors don’t know they did something cool. They may just be focused on some mistake they made. Let them know that they are seen and recognized for doing something well!
Even when I watched someone who clearly struggled, I tried very hard to find something positive to say. People often know when they struggled. And, this doesn’t mean you have to overlook that, but…try to find something positive. An example for you: I watched a competitor who truly had a rough time with their routine and connecting to the audience, but they had a couple of small moments that shone through – a spinning climb on static, and the joy on their face on their spinning pole pass. So, I took a moment to mention those at the start of my notes. It’s a small, kind gesture that can encourage someone to keep going with their pole journey.
Be constructive in your criticism
Based the feedback I heard from my friends regarding their judging notes, the ones they appreciated the most were the ones that gave them clear ideas of what to work on. I tried to do this with every competitor, even the ones that were awesome. Constructive criticism can be anything from “remember to point your toes” to things like audience connection, costume effectiveness, pacing and energy, an increase in difficulty of tricks, and any host of other suggestions to improve the strength of a routine. Always try to find eloquent ways to express these criticisms. Some of my favorites were, “For next time, I would like to see you do [insert constructive note]” and “For the future, I would like you to work on [constructive note] to strengthen your performance.” Framing it as “something to work on for the future” can help a competitor really see it as a workable goal, instead of just a critique. If you do need to make a deduction, check to make sure you have it correct (at PAAC, I was personally deducted for something that was NOT correct, but the judge either did not listen, or was not informed). Ask the panel assistant, or your fellow judges, if you aren’t sure.
Also, remember that many competitors will suspect what they need to work on, but still want to hear it from someone else. When I did my PAAC routine, I knew I didn’t get enough momentum in my spin, and that I did not have a high difficulty level to my tricks, so it wasn’t a shock to me when those notes came up. It just reinforced that I needed to work on those things!
Take your time
Yes, you generally have a time limit within which you must finish your notes and scoring, but…don’t rush it just to beat the clock. Say what you want to say, and take that extra 30 to 60 seconds to let the competitor know your thoughts. Providing fuller notes only enriches the experience of the competitor, but also, it gives YOU more experience. I don’t think I got any notes done in under 2 minutes, and I would say that I was under 3 minutes maybe 50% of the time (maaaybe), and nobody cared. It doesn’t take all that long to say something of value.
Sometimes, people do need the truth put to them. I will admit to having given a few notes that were terser than others, particularly in moments when I felt the competitor was sandbagging (a pet peeve of mine), or when they had potential and did something that I felt took away from the performance. An example would be a competitor I watched who started out super funny, but who – in my opinion – did nothing to sustain it. Without the dynamics and hard work that I saw from other competitors, their routine felt boring, as if they were relying on one gimmick to get them through, instead of having put in hard work to create a full routine. Keep in mind, that is MY personal opinion of what I saw, and my notes reflected it. I know another judge on the same panel absolutely disagreed with me!
Which brings me to this…
Judging is very subjective. Just because your neighbor loved something, doesn’t mean you have to. One thing that is interesting to me is the issue of handling deductions. During my pole panels, we generally didn’t chat much amongst ourselves about the performances, save for when there were some obvious deductions. But, in the lyra panels, there was A LOT of talking amongst the judges about the deductions – everyone consulted each other, and in general, the judges were a little more critical about what they saw. Again, if you ever aren’t sure about a deduction, ASK! 🙂 On a side note: There were definitely some issues this past PPC with judges not being informed of when competitors had gotten moves cleared ahead of time, so they were adding deductions for things that had been okayed by PSO, which upset me – I do hope they fix that issue soon.
As a competitor, you must be prepared that some judges will love you, and others…not so much. Case in point, in my PPC 2012 routine, one judge gave me the highest score on the board – a good 20 to 30 points higher than most of the others. I still don’t know WHY, though. I got very few actual notes back. Just try to not take it personally!
Remember that part of your job as a judge – as I see it – is to help these competitors be better! Providing excellent notes helps – it really does. So, if you’re thinking about judging soon, or you plan to in the future, keep these tips in mind. It might make all the difference to someone you watch. 🙂
So, I wrote this post about a recent bullying incident in the pole world. You might have seen it.
Here’s how it went down: I read the thread, talked about things online with some other bloggers, wrote my post, then went about trying to battle the cold I’ve had for a couple of days. I glued some rhinestones on a leotard. Watched some Six Feet Under. Took more cold meds. Talked about the blog post with my boyfriend, and about potentially making some edits to it. Went to bed.
Next day, I woke up, and Felix Cane had shared it. People I didn’t know were friend requesting me on Facebook, commenting on my blog, sending me messages of support. Friends were texting me about where they had seen it pop up. By the end of the day, it had racked up over 800 shares on Facebook and over 6,000 views on the blog. In other words, it went viral.
So, thanks for that!
I did not want to amend my previous post, now that it’s been read so widely, so this post is to elaborate on some of what I brought up.
First, to clarify: I don’t think the issue of bullying in the pole world begins and ends with the behavior exhibited by KT, or by any other famous pole person who gets called out. My choice to mention her by name was less to single her out, and more to use her as the most recent example in a widespread problem. The only “side” I am taking is the side of the pole community as a whole.
Regarding the points I made? I’d like to elaborate on those a little bit.
Maybe it’s because I live in Hollywood, and I worked in the industry, so I know a little more about how the sausage is made, so to speak, but PR is a thing you need to understand if you want to be a representative of a company, community, or movement. It’s one of the ways you legitimize the thing you want to legitimize. Knowing what to say – and what not to say – helps you craft your message in the way that best serves you and your cause. If this isn’t something that comes naturally to you, do some research. Learn about how public relations work. If you can afford to, hire someone to help you – and make it someone who knows what they are doing! This is not just about advertising, although that is part of it. This is about crafting a public persona and staying consistent in your messaging/branding. Beyond that, it’s about creating a positive impression (if that’s your goal) and sticking to it. And, if you do fuck up…it’s about proper damage control.
I feel like I see a lot of room for growth with PR in the pole industry, at all levels. From how studios market themselves, to how pole stars interact with people online, to how pole businesses try to connect to the community….a lot of work could be done. Even my own business suffers from a lack of proper PR (mostly due to money – good product photos cost money!) – but, we do what we can. And, I think a lot of places do what they can – they try – but others? Not so much.
I don’t have a grand plan or suggestion on how to improve this in our community, but I do like putting it on the table as something to consider.
Too Much Bullying
Seriously, stop it. I’ve seen it at all levels, but it’s the most exposed when it’s online, between famous people in our community. And, that seems to be the only time it’s discussed, but people usually only go as far as taking sides or discussing that particular incident. So, let me be clear: bullying happens at every level, and at every level, it is damaging, toxic, and unnecessary.
Bullying can look like trashing individuals online; but it doesn’t have to be that. It could be not greeting the new student at your studio or including them in the group. It could be excluding someone at your studio because of a beef somebody else has with them (real or not). It could be a studio owner taking advantage of their teachers or guest workshop instructors by not paying them monies owed. It can be vicious, or it can be subtle, but it is happening, and it is happening too often.
Why? I wish I knew. I think pole can build wonderful, strong, passionate people. But, I think that the flip side of this is that it can also attract people who seek that, but aren’t ready for it yet. So…they get mired in petty bullshit out of fear. Or, they were never taught that true empowerment has nothing to do with making anyone else “less than” – empowered people don’t need to shit on others to prove that they or their way of thinking are great. They prove it through leading by example.
So, I ask you: what example do you want to set for our community? What example do you want to set for those already in it, but also for those who are going to join it? I’m not talking about sexy vs. fitness. That argument is moot to me. We’re ALL under this umbrella, together. We are ALL part of the pole community. Leading by example is the responsibility of all of us, at every level: from hometown studio to international superstar.
Opinions & Phrasing
We all have opinions. That’s good. We should. And, we have every right to have them, as well as to express them. But, in the public realm, it becomes tricky, because phrasing is hugely important. How you express that opinion, and what you choose to say – or NOT say – is vital. Think twice before you post something that could be inflammatory. Consider phrasing from the points of view of other people. Be thoughtful, particularly in your reactions to someone else.
Bullying the Bully
Where is the line between standing up for yourself and bullying the bully? I believe it is when personal attacks come into play.
You can be honest about your experiences and your feelings about them without crossing that line. I’ll give you an example, from a real situation: a few months back, Oona Kivela posted something inflammatory about the sexy side of pole dancing on her Instagram page. Many people called her out on it, most famously Michelle Shimmy. I think calling her out is fine – to be clear, calling someone out on bad behavior is not bullying in and of itself. But, I saw multiple comments that flat out attacked Oona on various points, including comments trashing her movement in the video. A few of these were incredibly harsh. I think it’s good to challenge people to stimulate thoughtful discussions, but the line was crossed in that situation. Telling Oona she sucks at sexy movement is not any better than Oona trashing it herself.
Be better. Sinking to the level of the bully doesn’t accomplish what you want it to accomplish. So, what do you do? Stand up, say in very clear terms, “This is what happened to me, and this is why I did not appreciate it.” Tell your side, without taking personal swipes at the offending individual. Behaving like the balanced person will highlight how off-balance the bully is behaving.
For those of you who are all, “Ugh, pole drama, shut up you guys!”…you need to care about this, whether you want to or not. This is your community. If you sit on the side lines and don’t say, “Hey, we want this to be better!” and then follow it up with your actions, things will never get better.
That about wraps up what I wanted to say. I hope that the bright side from this incident is that people will start to acknowledge that bullying is a real issue we need to solve, and that we’re now on a positive track.
Best to all of you, whether you love the Spatchcock or not. 🙂
If you’re in the pole community, and you’ve been on Facebook this week, you’ve probably seen an influx of Spatchcock photos. For anyone who doesn’t already know, this is a reaction to an incident in which the head of IPSF – KT Coates – posted the following status update:
Later in the same thread, KT doubled down and made a poorly veiled dig at the originator of the move, Felix Cane. The results? Felix defended herself, other people defended her and the move, and calls were made to post Spatchcock photos. Thus, the influx.
I don’t really take issue with anyone expressing a dislike for a particular move – hell, I’ve been fairly vocal about how much I dislike Fonjis – but I do take issue with bullying. KT has a rep as a bully. She had an incident a while back with complaining publicly about Emma Haslam, the plus-size poledancer who made a splash on Britain’s Got Talent (and who, incidentally, deserves every bit of praise that comes her way – she’s incredible).
Incidentally, that video has nearly 25.5 million views. MILLION. Wow.
Anyway, Facebook exploded with the spatchcock support photos, and Alex Shchukin responded to the incident by posting a blog about his own experience with KT. It’s a mess.
I have some scattered thoughts on this:
One, KT needs PR help. If you are the head of a movement that is trying to legitimize our community to the world, you need to watch your mouth. Hire professionals to help you with your public image, if you can’t keep it together on your own. This extends beyond KT’s issues – I see a lot of poor marketing and behavior in the public realm of pole, from various businesses and “professionals” around the globe. It’s wildly dumb.
Two, there’s far too much bullying going on, in public and behind the scenes. It’s not just the shit that gets blasted online – it’s the stuff that happens at studios. It’s much more subtle: lack of encouragement, exclusivity, things like that. I wrote a piece about it for Bad Kitty a while back. As my good friend (and editor at BK) Claire stated, it’s just mean girl shit. And, it is – all of it. I’ve seen it from world class, internationally famous pole dancers, to owners of pole dance supply shops, to local studio owners. It’s at all levels, and it’s bullshit.
Three, we all have a right to our opinions, but how we choose to share them is important. Phrasing is vital, especially in a close knit community.
Four, bullying the bully isn’t the answer.
This last point is why I wanted to write this post. While I think it’s absolutely important to stand up to bullying, and to be honest about ones experiences, I don’t think it’s a good idea to go after the bully with personal attacks. And, I have seen those popping up. Did KT behave like an ass? Yes. Should she be called out on it? Yes. Should people be personally attacking her? No. Why? Because it’s no better than her behavior towards Felix, or Emma, or Alex, or whomever. Picking on her doesn’t solve the larger issue, and while it may shut her up for now, it isn’t likely to change her behavior. This is true in every case. I have seen these issues come up before, with other polers, and there’s always a backlash that involves personal attacks.
The best thing we can do? Support those who are bullied. Call out the bullies in clear, direct, and sensible ways. And? Refuse to support those who bully. Don’t participate in their events, visit their studios, shop from their shops. Whatever it may be. Use your dollar – or your energy – elsewhere.
Update: I wrote and posted a second piece on bullying, which dives deeper into the points I made above. Please check it out: A Lot More About Pole Bullies
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/
I love seeing new pole businesses bloom, especially when they have a unique product. When Poleuggs first popped up in my Instagram feed, I was fascinated: How did they work? Do they really stick to the pole? Are they legit and well made, like the original Uggs (we have a lot of cheap knock-offs in the States)?
I’ve been wanting to offer more interviews and product reviews recently, as I think it’s a great way to see another side of our community and hear from voices who may not always have a chance to share. As such, I reached out to Lyndal and Kacie, the founders of Poleugg to chat about their company:
Poleitical Diaries: How did you come up with the idea for Pole Uggs?
PoleUgg: The idea for Pole Uggs came when Lyndal noticed a trend in girls wearing Ugg boots in winter to pole classes, and also at the other local dance studios etc. The concept originally was just to be exciting designs with cool fabrics that were maybe sparkly or girly. When we sat down together to brain storm ideas it became apparent that we could possibly make them to actually stick to the pole, and be able to keep peoples feet warm through the entire pole lesson instead of just wearing them to and from the studio.
PD: How long does it take to make the shoes? Can you tell us about the craftsmanship that goes into each pair?
PU: Turn around to make one pair of boots is quite quick, between 1-3 days, however usually our orders are of a bigger scale so can take up to 2 weeks depending on how busy our manufacturer is with other orders. Our Uggs have a lot more hand cut and sewn pieces than a regular pair of Uggs, so can take a bit longer to make.
PD: What do you love about being a pole entrepreneur?
PU: The most rewarding thing, and the thing that makes us proud to be entrepreneurs, is seeing our product being worn and endorsed by some of the most amazing pole dancers in the world! And also the fact that we are involved in a deeper scale in the industry, other than just owning a pole studio (which we also do together :))
PD: Have you created other shoe or clothing lines in the past?
PU: This is our first venture into clothing/shoe manufacture and design
PD: What do you feel your line offers to the community that sets it apart from other lines?
PU: Our company is the first of its kind to offer something this unique, a very niche product, [for] which we actually have a patent pending.
PD: How has the community reacted to your new line? Where do you hope to take it?
PU: The reaction to Poleuggs has been amazing. The support we have had from local, and international artists has been integral to our growth. In terms of the near future our aim to gain more exposure as we are still relatively new in the market. For the long term, we hope to become a household name for pole dancers everywhere eg. “It’s cold today, I’ll wear my Poleuggs!”
PD: How long did it take for you to go from initial idea to selling your line?
PU: It was approximately 12 months from the initial idea to when we first launched. We went through numerous design stages and testing to make sure the Ugg was of high quality and standard.
PD: How can dancers purchase your product and connect with you online? How long does it typically take for the shoes to arrive?
PU: All purchases can be made through www.poleugg.com. People can connect with us through the website and also on Instagram www.instagram.com/poleugg. Shipping times vary greatly depending on your location in the world. We are based in Sydney Australia, so locally we can have them arrive at your door within the week, internationally can range anywhere between 2-4 weeks.
PD: Who is a part of Pole Uggs and where are you based?
PU: We (Lyndal & Kacie) are the creators and directors of Poleugg, and when you contact our business you will deal directly with us.
PD: What inspires you in the pole community?
We are inspired by lots of things in the pole community, but if we have to narrow it down, it would most likely be the amount of creativity and individuality in the industry. These are the things that we base around our designs and feed off to create our Uggs.
PD: Who are your pole icons? (They don’t have to be famous – they can be any pole dancer you are inspired by)
PU: It is such a hard question to narrow down as there are so many amazing people in this industry but we will give it our best shot! Carlie Hunter, Anastasia, Shimmy and Maddie Schonstein, Sergia, Marlo. But also being teachers, we are inspired by all of our students and the passion that they develop for pole.
PD: Is there any advice you have for budding pole entrepreneurs and budding pole dancers?
PU: Our advice would be mostly, to follow your passion. The rest of the stuff comes easy when you are true to your passion and dreams!!!!
I adore their upbeat spirit and entrepreneurship! Do you own a pair of Poleuggs? Let me know how you like them!! I’d love to hear from you! If you’re looking to purchase a pair, be sure to check out their website. You can also catch them in action on the Instgram videos from stars like Amy Hazel and Sergia Louise Anderson.
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. 🙂
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!
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.
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