Blog Archives

The Cost of Being a Pole Instructor

So you want to be a pole instructor? Awesome! First, head over to the Alloy Images blog for a fun take on the joys (and occasionally not so fun, but still funny aspects) of being a pole instructor. They do a great job at covering it with glee!

Now, let’s get down to the serious stuff. Being a pole instructor comes with a lot of responsibility (duh), but what may not be obvious is that it can also cost a lot. Not just financially, but physically and emotionally, too. I’ve been thinking about this off and on, discussing it with my friends who teach, and I’ve finally put together a list of costs associated with teaching pole – with some bonus help from members of one of the excellent, private Facebook groups dedicated to teachers and studio owners. (Thanks all!)

FINANCIAL COST

You might think that teaching pole is a means to extra income. Sometimes, that is true! Buuuut, not always. Here are some costs to consider:

Insurance

If you are teaching pole, you must have proper instructor insurance. To not insure yourself as an instructor is to leave yourself open to potential lawsuits should a student be injured in your class. While studios should have their own insurance, that coverage will vary (it may not cover you as an instructor), and you should ALWAYS protect yourself, regardless of the level of insurance at your studio. Do your research into coverage; make sure you choose a plan that covers pole. Personally, I have insurance through Alternative Balance. They offer options for part-time and full-time instructors, plus they specifically cover pole. My yearly rate comes out to just over $200, before adding my studio as an Additionally Insured. Make sure that you add every studio you teach at to your policy – this can cost anywhere from $10 to $25 per studio, on top of your premiums. Other policies are out there, and they can be expensive!

As a pole instructor with a muggle job that provides me with health insurance, I am afforded the privilege of not having to pay for it fully out of pocket. But if you plan to make pole your central means of work, health insurance is something for which you will need to budget – you do NOT want to get injured without coverage. Trust me. Plans will vary, but when I was getting insurance through the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) from 2013 to 2014, I went through Covered California and saw plans that provided bare bones coverage for very little, to “Cadillac” coverage plans that cost a few hundred dollars a month, even after subsidies (at the time, I was making about $24,000/year, so my subsidy offers were decent, and I went with a medium level plan that cost around $125/month).

Certifications

There are a number of Pole Certification companies out there, and none of them are particularly cheap. You’re looking at a minimum of $500, to close to $1000, for any certification course. Now, do you absolutely NEED to be certified? It depends on your studio (some will require it). Personally, I have some mixed feelings on it.

I am certified through Pole Moves. I found my certification helpful for a lot of things that a good teacher will need: warm-up concepts, verbal cues, safe spotting, how to plan and manage a class, etc. Those things are invaluable, and a certification can really help you in these matters. What it cannot do is give you apparatus mastery and the personality that is suited for teaching. Some folks are natural teachers, or can cultivate that skill set to become good teachers. Others…just don’t have it. Even if they’re incredible polers who have apparatus mastery…they might just suck at teaching. It happens. A certification may help that, or it may not. Overall, I feel that certifications are a smart investment, but I do not feel that they will automatically make you a good teacher.

Another type of certification that is important to have (but seems rarer) is CPR/First Aid. A quick search on the Red Cross certification website shows prices ranging from $75 to $120 for a certification class, depending on the type of certification you want. This brings me to the concept of group fitness certifications: in addition to a certification that is pole specific, you may also want to be certified for group fitness through an organization like ACE, AFAA, etc. This takes time and dedication, but also money – anywhere from $300 to $600 register, not including other fees for prep materials, tests, etc. (it varies depending on the organization).

Continuing Education

As a teacher, it’s important to continue to learn. That can cost money. Maybe it’s a new certification, a private with another instructor, a trip to a pole-centric learning event (i.e. a convention or a retreat), additional classes, etc. Trips to large pole events or retreats can cost A LOT – thousands of dollars – and even additional classes can add up. Some studio compensation packages include free classes for instructors, but others do not, which brings me to…

Compensation

Being a pole instructor can mean some extra income! Yay! But…not always. Before coming on board with a studio, make sure you know their policies:

What is their class rate?

Some studios pay a flat fee per class; others pay a flat fee plus additional compensation for good class numbers; some only pay in trade (free classes/rehearsal time). Make sure you know what your compensation will be before you agree to teach at any facility. This includes fees for privates! Most studios take a cut of earnings from privates, as much as 50%.

Will you be an independent contractor or an employee?

As an employee, your taxes will automatically come out of your paycheck. As an independent contractor, you will be paid up front, but have to pay out taxes at the end of the year, once your studio issues you a 1099. This means that you’ll need to budget enough money throughout the year to cover your year-end tax bill. Being an independent contractor may also cost you in other ways, like possible fees for music licensing and additional fees for tax processing (if you freelance at multiple studios).

What are their studio cancellation policies?

How many students are required for a class to run? For our studio, it’s a minimum of 2 students. If your class is not performing well, you may not end up teaching as often as you think.

Will you actually get paid?

Beyond the established pay rate of the studio, you need to know: will they pay you? This is a serious issue within the pole community. I’ve heard many an anecdote about instructors being stiffed by studio owners, both for traveling workshops and regular classes. If you can, do some research and talk to the other instructors at the studio – make sure that the owners can pay you, and that they can pay you on time. You don’t want to work for someone who is not on top of paying their instructors.

Tools and Supplies

While most studios will have the basics of what you’ll need to teach your classes (i.e. poles, yoga mats, yoga blocks, etc.), you may end up needing to purchase other supplies, like stretching/resistance bands, massage balls, grip aid, knee pads, shoes, pole clothing, etc. Even things like music purchases or music subscription service fees (i.e. Spotify), class planning supplies (including advertising, i.e. if you pay for online design templates to create posters for your classes/workshops) can add up. I have the added issue of supplying props for my movement class, like chiffon. There are also other things to consider, like gas to and from various studios (if you’re teaching at multiple places), portable mood lighting or music devices (iPods, speakers, etc. – not all studios have speakers), and professional pole photos to help market your classes/workshops.

The nice thing about being an instructor is that you can write off most of your supplies at tax time; but you still have to pay for them, so it’s still money out the door.

Recovery – Part I

Being an instructor can take a serious toll on your body. Doing something 18 times, in slow motion, while talking, is exhausting, and the wear & tear can be all too real. As an instructor, it’s important to take care of yourself, and that often means spending money on things like massage, acupuncture, trigger point therapy, chiropractic adjustments, and more. As an example, at one point earlier this year, I saw an acupuncturist for needles and cupping ($90), a trigger point therapist for release work massages ($195 cash), and a chiropractor ($60 + tip for masseuse), all in the span of less than a month – with multiple visits to the trigger point therapist. That’s A LOT of money spent to keep my body functional.

This doesn’t even account for things like proper diet (good food costs money) or supplements, or self-work tools like foam rollers, massage balls/tools, or in my case, the help of a nutritionist. My point is: this shit adds up. And that, in and of itself, can be stressful.

Alloy Images

Photo by Alloy Images. Shot at The Brass Ring, featuring Iris Smoot & Manda Ritz.

EMOTIONAL COST

Teaching can be a ton of fun, and it be incredibly rewarding. Any time I see a student nail something they’ve been working hard to get, or find themselves breaking through to a new level, it is THE BEST feeling. I get so happy and so proud. I think about how far students have come, how much I love seeing them work and try and succeed, and it makes my day.

That being said: teaching can also be exhausting.

Time

If you are teaching a lot, you may not have time for yourself. You may be giving up time to do basic things, like errands, or you may be giving up time with your friends and loved ones. If you end up with classes on the weekends, guess who is not going to get to hang out with their friends who have muggle jobs? Yep.

Even if you are like me – muggle job, teaches once a week, with the occasional subbing gig – it’s still hard to make time. On nights where I teach a couple of classes in a row, I am doing it after 8 hours at my day job. I get an average of about 30 minutes of “me” time between driving home (30-45 minutes) and driving to the studio (30 minutes). I usually nap, then shove some healthy snacks into my face on the drive in. When I get home, I usually eat something, plus I still have house stuff to do, and I want to spend time with my husband, and the next thing you know, it’s midnight, and I have to be up in 6 hours. I’m usually quite tired the day after!

Beyond just time to do things and hang with your friends and family, you may also not have time to train. “But, I am teaching all the time! Of course I will train!” Eh, not always. Many instructors I know are so busy instructing others that they rarely get to take classes and be a student themselves. Nor do they always get to go to the studio and work on their own stuff.

You also have to set aside time for the administrative side of things: planning/practicing your lessons, creating/practicing/breaking down choreography, promoting your classes online with video or posters, hustling for new opportunities, etc.

Boundaries

It’s natural for students to become attached to their teachers – and vice versa! – but boundaries are important. Some students will need more attention and time, but if these requests are coming outside of class, and taking up a lot of time, there may be a need for a boundary.

Boundaries can also come into play when your friends take your class. Teaching your friends can be super fun, but if they aren’t respecting you as the instructor – goofing off, talking over you, doing moves not at the class level or part of the lesson – it can be stressful. In that case, boundaries are a must.

Last, but not least: for whom will you be working? What is the personality of the studio owner? How do they run their business? Are you okay with any of their idiosyncrasies? Or will they end up driving you insane? This is an important thing to consider – ask other instructors how they like working for the studio, and of course, use your own judgement. Nobody wants to work for a crazy, flaky person, and if you end up in that situation, boundaries will be important if you want to continue to work for them.

Giving vs. Receiving

As instructors, we give in order to allow students to flourish. Sometimes (often), one small win for a student makes it all worth it. But to put so much of ourselves into something can be draining. You have to make time to feed your own creativity and soul, in order to be of any use to others. This is important to your emotional well-being, and – surprise! – it requires time and boundaries.

Nancy helps me out as I finish a complicated tumble. She's an awesome spotter!

Nancy spotting me at The Vertitude. Photo is my own.

PHYSICAL COST

While we all make jokes about how our bodies change through pole, being an instructor means putting your body through different rigors. Repeating moves over and over again, spotting people properly, hours of movement, even talking through moves as you do them…it requires a lot of your body.

Recovery – Part II

I mentioned the financial cost of recovery above, but beyond that: you must take time to recover. Whether this means time off between classes to let your body rest a day or so, to taking time to roll out your muscles and stretch after class, to sit in Epsom salt baths after a hard class, or to even stopping to eat a proper meal and hydrate, it’s imperative you do it. Your body will crap out on you, if you don’t, and then you’ll be forced to take time off.

Maintenance

I’ve mentioned this twice, but diet is an important part of keeping your body in good shape. I don’t mean weight loss. At all. I mean eating the proper fuel to allow your body to function and recover at the best of its ability. This means taking the time to prep your food, and eat your food, and not rush around all the time. It means reminding yourself to keep hydrated. It’s time, and it’s money, but it’s necessary to remain in your best physical condition.

If you’re like me, and you have chronic health issues, this self-care is vital. I have to eat well, and remember my supplements, and make myself drink lots of water. And I have to get good sleep, and do all of the other recovery things I’ve already listed, just to maintain some semblance of functionality. I also have to work regularly with my Nutritionist, and see my doctors…which hey, costs more money!

IN SUMMARY

Teaching requires a lot. Despite aaaaaall of this, I truly love teaching (even when I’m tired and over it, which does happen from time to time). I had to stop teaching pole work classes for about 6 to 8 months earlier this year, due to my health issues, and I missed it. I felt so left out of the progress of my students, and I missed the community a ton. Now that I am slowly coming back to teaching regularly, and being able to pole on my own, I don’t think I realized just how much it means to me. I recently took a day off of my muggle job, just to attend an instructor jam at our studio, and spent 4 hours in the company of a handful of other polers, playing and exploring new stuff. I left SO HAPPY.

My point in putting together this exhaustive list of things to consider is simple: if you want to teach, you should be informed about every aspect of it, not just the fun and amazing things. Knowledge is power, y’all!

Note: I’ll be updating this post if any new suggestions on “cost” come to me, so check back periodically to see if anything has been added!

Advertisements

Dealing with Disappointment in the Pole Community

I’ve been mulling over a post about disappointment for a while, but it took me a bit to put it together. I feel like I see disappointment from pole almost every day, from my friends’ posts on social media to my own personal experiences, and it got me thinking about why it seems so common, as well as what to do about it.

I think one of the magical things that keeps people coming back to pole is the sense of validation they get from their achievements. The feeling of nailing your first spin or trick, of working hard on something for weeks and finally getting it, the feeling of marked growth that can be had…all of it is an addictive validation. Couple that with the sense of community – the support one can find from friends and classmates, the sense of tackling a problem as a team or group – and pole can be a pretty powerful experience!

As is normal with things that you get invested in or come to love, expectations can run high. I think it’s natural to get excited and maybe set your expectations a little high. The thing about expectations, though…they’re often a set up for disappointment.

I once had an ex who was all about no expectations, because he felt that expectations always bring disappointment, and he never wanted to be a disappointment to anyone. This is pretty extreme, and in a way, a means of never having to commit to anything to the full degree required for success. Expectations are a natural part of any relationship, whether it be with a person, or with a hobby, a passion, etc. Perhaps, with a passion like pole, the expectations are a little more like expecting things from yourself, or the community, or your friends. You want to do well, and you expect to get that new trick, combo, etc. You expect your community to support you, your friends to celebrate you. And, it can be pretty disappointing when something you expected, or even hoped for, doesn’t work out the way you thought it would.

So, how do we cope with disappointment? In my personal experience, there’s a lot of hurt. A lot. Like, butt-hurt level hurt. Sometimes, that can lead to complaining, lashing out, needing to verbally talk through everything. Sometimes, it means taking a break – from a class, from your friend(s), from the community, from pole itself. Distance can be a pretty powerful salve, if you are inclined to need some time away to clear your head and get perspective.

Another solution that I like is creativity. I find that when I am most disappointed with pole or the pole community, when I’m at the point of wanting to throw in the towel and walk away, hurt and sad…the thing that pulls me back from retreating fully into myself is the act of creation. This could be working to develop your own curriculum; reaching out to teach somewhere new; jamming in a studio on new tricks; freestyling your heart out; even doing crafts, or focusing on something creative outside of pole. For me, there is also writing.

The act of creation gives you a chance to have direct input into an artistic endeavor that is not subject to anyone else’s expectations or whims. It’s also a distraction, to be frank. Something positive you can use to move through the negative.

If you’re suffering from disappointment of the physical kind – i.e. not being able to get a trick everyone else has, or not progressing as quickly as your friends – take a step back and try to find the thing that is yours to do. Maybe it’s not rocking that janeiro, but it could be your low on the pole flow, or floorwork, or freestyle. Try to invest in what is yours to do and let go of the expectations of being “as good” as everyone else. The trick may come, or it may not. All you can do is feed the healthy, positive things, and continue to try to put your best foot forward with the hard stuff. Feeding the good is the best way to set yourself up for success with the endeavors you find difficult.

Dance it out. Photo by Alloy Images.

Dance it out. Photo by Alloy Images.

If the disappointment you feel is a result of emotional reactions within the pole community – maybe a rift between friends, or a disagreement at your studio, as examples – remember that space and time can help heal the rawness. Taking a break from the environment or people that are causing the upset can give you some space to get your head around what is actually happening, how you feel about it and why, and what you can do to make a positive impact for yourself. Also, take a moment to remember that many of our personal thoughts can be distorted, causing us to interpret things in a manner in which they were not meant (look up Cognitive Therapy for more on this). It is with these emotional disappointments that I find creative activities to be the most helpful. Sometimes, your feelings really do need a creative outlet to be expressed. So, go with it, and find your creative niche. Create something wonderful for yourself.

On a closing note, I wanted to add this: Pole can’t and shouldn’t be the only thing in a person’s life. When I was still acting, there was always this adage that actors need to live full lives – not only to help their creative work (i.e. understanding characters), but also to have more to talk about than acting. I feel like this applies to pole, too. I think pole can be wonderfully restorative to dancers going through a tough time, and I think it can be a joy for those looking to have fun, blow off steam, be creative, etc. I also think incredible bonds can be forged amongst those in the community, based on their mutual love of the activity. But relying on pole for too much brings in higher expectations, and therefore, the chance for very deep disappointment. Cultivating passions beyond pole can help lighten the load and improve the fun you do have with it. Plus, you’ll be a richer person for it. J

Do you have any tried-and-true methods for coping with disappointment from pole? I’d love to hear them!

West Coast Hurricane: Cleo Makes Landfall in LA

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!

Cleo - photo courtesy of her Facebook page

Cleo – photo courtesy of her Facebook page

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.

Cleo in her new space in LA, courtesy of her Facebook page

Cleo in her new space in LA, courtesy of her Facebook page

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.

Cleo at CPDC 2014 - photo by Alloy Images

Cleo at CPDC 2014 – photo by Alloy Images

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.

Cleo at Pole Show LA 2014 - photo by Alloy Images

Cleo at Pole Show LA 2014 – photo by Alloy Images

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/

A Rock n Pole Fan - photo credit Brooke Trash

A Rock n Pole Fan – photo credit Brooke Trash

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

Studio Spotlight: Aeriform Arts

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!

Lea Walker of Aeriform Arts. Photo by Poleagraphy.

Lea Walker of Aeriform Arts. Photo by Poleagraphy.

PD: Tell us about your studio. What classes do you offer?
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.

Instructor Tavi. Photo by Poleagraphy.

Instructor Tavi. Photo by Poleagraphy.

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.

Instructor Leigh of Aeriform Arts.

Instructor Leigh of Aeriform Arts.

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!

Taking Pride

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Northern California Pole Presentation Performance

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

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

My Pacific Aerial Art Championship Performance

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

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

My Finding Your Freestyle Challenge video

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

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

My Handspring Practice video

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

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

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

Aura Heels: Your New Favorite Shoes (Part 2)

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

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

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

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

Aura Heels Package

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

The Basics: Size, Height, and Style

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

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

The Light

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

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

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

Durability/Functionality

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

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

Price

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

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

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

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

Aura Heels: Your New Favorite Shoes! Part 1

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

OMG GIMME - Photo credit Aura Heels

OMG GIMME – Photo credit Aura Heels

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

Seriously.

Seriously.

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

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

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

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

PD: How did you begin your pole dance journey?

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

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

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

PD: What inspires you in the pole community?

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

Galaxy Platforms - Photo by Aura Heels

Galaxy Platforms – Photo by Aura Heels

PD: Who are your pole icons?

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

PD: What is your signature pole dance style?

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

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

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

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

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

Waterfall Platforms - Photo by Aura Heels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aura Heels Logo

Aura Heels Logo

Power & Pole: Some Thoughts

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

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

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

Do any of these sound familiar?

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

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

Pole brings Power.

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

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

Why am I talking about this?

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

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

Product Review: Soma System

A little while ago, I posted about the Soma System workshops that would be happening at Pole Expo 2013. I really hope that you’re all going to take advantage of their FREE offerings!!!

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!

Individual Tools

The Roller Squad:

Roller Squad by Soma System

Roller Squad by Soma System

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:

http://store.somasystem.com/image/data/Excercises%20PDFs/Roller%20Squad%20Special%204.pdf

Double-Track Roller:

Double-Track Roller from Soma System

Double-Track Roller from Soma System

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:

http://store.somasystem.com/image/data/Excercises%20PDFs/Double-Track%20Roller%20Special%204.pdf

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)

Big Orange:

Big Orange from Soma System

Big Orange from Soma System

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:

http://store.somasystem.com/image/data/Excercises%20PDFs/Big%20Orange%20Special%204.pdf

Myofascial Five Pack:

Myofascial Five Pack from Soma System

Myofascial Five Pack from Soma System

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!

http://store.somasystem.com/image/data/Excercises%20PDFs/Myofascial%20Five%20Pack%20Special%204.pdf

Soma Foam Support:

Soma Foam Support from Soma System

Soma Foam Support from Soma System

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):

http://store.somasystem.com/image/data/Excercises%20PDFs/Soma%20Foam%20Support%20Special%204.pdf

Focus Roller:

Focus Roller from Soma System

Focus Roller from Soma System

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:

Spiky Life Mat from Soma SystemSpiky Life Mat from Soma System

Spiky Life Mat from Soma System

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 Mat example

Spiky Life Mat example

Spiky Life Mat example - cobra

Spiky Life Mat example – cobra

Spiky Life Belt:

Spiky Life Belt from Soma System

Spiky Life Belt from Soma System

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!

Package Options

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 from Soma System

Roll & Go from Soma System

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:

Basic Soma System Package

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:

Full Body Complete Soma System Package

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!

http://somasystem.com/office-worker-sequence/

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!