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A Little Rant About a Certain Pole Meme…

Earlier this week, I started seeing a meme pop up online that really upset me. It features a photo of a rotisserie chicken on a spit, next to a photo of a plus size pole dancer in an inverted tuck, with the words “Nailed It” at the top.

Buckle up, because I’m about to go on a rant.

This meme is offensive. It’s rude. This is my opinion, and people are entitled to theirs, but I don’t understand people within this community who do find it funny. I could get why someone who is outside might think it was a laugh [spoiler: it’s not], because they’re ignorant as to what we do and how hard it is, but inside? I don’t get it.

Here’s the thing: What we do is HARD. It takes tremendous courage to walk into your first class, no matter what your size, but it’s even harder for those who aren’t tiny, or aren’t young, or aren’t what someone might assume a traditional “pole dancer” would be. Additionally, when you are plus size, everything is harder. If you had a hard time inverting as a beginner, and you’re a size 2, imagine how much harder it is if you were 20lbs heavier…or 50lbs…or 100. A successful invert is reason for celebration, no matter what your size, but even more so when you’re fluffier. The dancer in that photo deserves respect and acknowledgement for her hard work, not ridicule by strangers…or by members of her own community.

Another thing? This dancer is a person. Who has feelings. Can you imagine seeing your image taken and used in this way, all over the internet? Can you imagine seeing it spread by the very people in the community that you’re a part of? Dare I say, the community that you love? To me, this is a violation. It’s bullying and cruel.

So, if you see this image, speak up. Say that it sucks and it’s mean. And, if you don’t think it is mean, at least have the respect for your fellow pole dancers to refrain from sharing it. This community is sorely in need of some reform in the area of bullying, and we can all make it better by striving to DO better and BE better.

Studio Spotlight: The Pole Garage

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!

Drea Roers of The Pole Garage

Drea Roers of The Pole Garage

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.  

TPG logo

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.

The Pole Garage

The Pole Garage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some things I am considering:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Something to consider before applying:

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

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

Pole Unbound 2015 - Toronto

Pole Unbound 2015 – Toronto

PSO National Championships on Chirpstory

Did you all get a chance to watch the live stream of PSO‘s National Championships? I was so bummed to not be there in person, but it was nice that UPA had the stream for everyone!

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:

http://chirpstory.com/li/111639

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!

Live Tweet of PSO National Championships on ChirpStory

Live Tweet of PSO National Championships on Chirpstory

 

The Aussie Invasion

On Sunday, June 2nd, I was lucky enough to nab a ticket to Girl Next Door Show – A Pole Dance Soiree: The Australian Edition, featuring six of Australia’s best pole dancers! It was an epic show, filled with incredible and incredibly diverse performances from the Aussies and some of the American GND cast.

I have had the pleasure of seeing four of these dancers before, at last year’s International Master’s Cup and Pole Con 2012, but it was so special and inspiring to see them again.

Image

(photo from the GND Facebook page)

Bailey Hart

I had seen Bailey perform at Master’s Cup and at Pole Con, and let me tell you – she’s spellbinding. When I was watching her at Master’s, I was also volunteering to run the video camera for the event, and I could not watch her through the lens – I *had* to look up and see her “live”…she brings so much emotion to what she does, and she chooses what I think are unconventional moves that combine strength, grace, and emotion in a beautiful way. I ended up falling in love with her performance at Masters and Pole Con – it was my favorite of the night (no shade to anyone else), and her performance at Girl Next Door was also beautiful, with a gorgeous sensuality to it. Here is a link to her performance on Facebook – if I can find a YouTube link to embed, I will update the post:

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10151483866836028&set=vb.205514531347&type=2&theater

Gracie Buntine

Prior to GND, I wasn’t too familiar with Gracie, other than hearing her name now and then. I can say, without hesitation, that she made a fan of me that night! Her style is gorgeous – she floats, combining power and grace with a beautiful ease of movement. Our entire group fell in love with her performance. Check out her Australian Pole Championships performance.

UPDATE: Gracie’s GND performance is now online! See it on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10151500112546028

Michelle Shimmy

I think Shimmy is familiar to most pole dancers, and I know I have watched a number of her videos – tutorials, performances, freestyles, you name it, she’s got it online! I had seen her before at Master’s Cup, where her choice of music really stood out to me – it was like she was dancing for my 15 year old self. 🙂 Anyway, if you know Shimmy, you know she is power and sass and beautiful form. Her lines are always gorgeous, and she knows damn well how to work a crowd! Her performance was cheeky and filled with ballsy strength and beauty. Shimmy put her performance on YouTube, so you can watch it in the post!

Carlie Hunter

I love Carlie‘s strength – every time I watch her, I’m struck at how powerful she is, and how much she COMMITS to her character of choice. There’s a true fearlessness to what she does, and it’s awesome. I saw her perform at Master’s Cup, and then a day or two later, saw her at Pole Con, and the performances were so different in content, but equally impressive. Carlie chose to do her famous (and award winning!) Grandma Clementine routine for GND, and if you haven’t seen it, you have missed out! Here’s the link to the Facebook video – I am hoping it goes up on YouTube, so I can embed it!

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10151477549736028

Kristy Sellars

Kristy opened the show, and she’s just the cutest thing ever! She really dances and commits not only to character, but also in the way she connects to the audience. She doesn’t just dance, she really PERFORMS, and it’s SO MUCH FUN! I loved her routine – her costume was a gorgeous Kelly Maglia creation, and she had adorable styling to go along with it. Everything fit her music perfectly. Unfortunately, her performance doesn’t appear to be online yet, but in the meantime, do yourself the incredible favor of watching her KILLER winning performance from Miss Pole Dance Victoria. She does an amazing job of using her props to further her character and story! Her costume is amazing, and she sells that character 100% – her spirit is infectious, and on a personal note, as a pole dancer with curves, I love that she’s got some curves, too – she’s totally hot!

Maddie Sparkle

After Maddie‘s performance, I think our entire group of girls wanted to BE her. She’s just got this energy that is absolutely compelling – she’s got power, flexibility, sass, sexiness, and there’s that smile…you fall in love with her when she’s on stage. I remember her from Master’s Cup, too, and it was the same thing – I just instantly LIKED her, and I think she’s incredible. Maddie’s GND routine is on YouTube, so here you go!

Overall, the night was amazing – the ladies of The Pole Garage made it an event (I really don’t even know how many of us were there), and it felt like 90% of the pole dancers in LA were in attendance. I recognized people all over the place! It was like the Pole Oscars or something. 🙂 Keep an eye out for the videos for all of these ladies – I’ll post them if I find them!

Happy Poling!

xoxo