Sharing Is Caring

10 Apr

Something about the Pole Community that stands out amongst other Aerial disciplines is the way we share our information. This is evident in the classroom, online and out in the streets. It really is a Pole Community; not only do polers pick each other up after a fall, we let them know how they can prevent their next one. We all want the best for ourselves, including others, and we willingly share any helpful tips without a second thought.

Those Corde Lisse "tutorials" are all performance videos

Those Corde Lisse “tutorials” are all performance videos

Sadly, not all Aerialists share the drive to share information. Maybe there is some hidden online community that I have yet to find, so there’s a chance I will be later contradicting myself, but I have yet to find a single tutorial online for Corde Lisse. Every time I hop on the rope at work I fall deeper in love with its forearm seizing fibers. I’ve been able to try some pole inspired moves, but actual Corde Lisse moves? No tutorials in sight. What do I have to do? Watch YouTube videos over and over and over and over again with intermittent pausing. I could take classes, but I’d have to plan a family vacation around a private lesson at The Toronto School Of Circus Arts (not exactly down the street).

But why no tutorials? Well, for one thing, Circus Arts can be very challenging and very dangerous if done without the guidance of a trained expert. I’ve already been informed by my boss that I’m welcome to flip around the rope off the clock, but if I break my neck while on the job? Well, you get the idea. So, I understand the risk I take every time I invert on the rope, but I never try anything if I’m not 110% sure I’ll be able to do it safely. This means I won’t be attempting any crazy wrapping technique until I get that private lesson.

So, if anyone out there reading this knows of a Studio Veena of the Rope World (I know there’s lots out there for Silks and Lyra) for the love of god, please send me a link!

Why do I love the rope as much as I do?

– There’s no “warming up” the rope. Just grab and go!

– No need for grip aids (save for chalk occasionally)

– It’s more challenging than the pole, which means it’s improving my pole skills.

– It’s fucking badass

– You can bring a rope anywhere.


First Blisters Deserve Toy Story Band-aids

First Blisters Deserve Toy Story Band-aids


Pole Goals

2 Apr

I’ve been having a hard time staying focused during my pole sessions these days. I generally go into my sessions with at least one goal, but it seems like I spend most of my time fluttering around aimlessly, trying a move on a whim and giving up if I don’t get it right away. Sometimes I miss being at an intermediate level, moves were more easily attainable and the scariest thing to learn was the Superman. Accomplishing advanced moves requires dedication, persistence, a bit of craziness and usually some outside help. I’ve decided to narrow in on a handful of moves that I hope to get in the (near?) future. Dedicating an entire practice session to solely one move can cause various repetitive strain disorders, so I plan on dividing up my practice times with moves that require different points of contacts and different ranges of motions.
First up?

The Phoenix:

This move is no joke. I’ve heard of so many girls injuring their shoulder while attempting this spin, and after even five attempts I’m starting to feel it. This is a move where warming up is absolutely essential, you are swinging around the pole with your body weight being supported by your shoulder joint so do some giant arm circles at the very least before attempting. I first tried it back in the summer and was getting nowhere fast. I quickly gave up until my instructor urged me to try it a few weeks ago and I’ve been trying it a few times during each practice session since. I seem to be stuck in the same spot, I can get in the right position for the lift part, but the lift itself never happens.


Now, I don’t know if this is a solution, it just seems to make sense. See, I’ve done the Twisted Grip handspring successfully maybe 5 or 6 times. It is something I’ve always struggled with, and a move that just never seemed right to me. I feel it puts your body in such an unnatural position, one that requires a lot of shoulder flexibility. In the past few months I have actually spent some time on this, and unlike my legs, my shoulders are considerably more flexible now. I’m hoping that now that I’m stronger and more flexible I’ll be able to practice my TG handsprings without fear of twisting my arm out of its socket.

Marion Amber:

Well, it's almost a Marion Amber!

The Marion Butterfly

Ok, you’re going to laugh, but the first time a classmate and I saw this move we both were like, “Oh, it must be just a butterfly variation!” HAHAHAHAHA (it’s not). The Marion Amber is one of the most deceptive moves out there, upon first glance it really does look simple. What is the most difficult part (for the average girl)? The lifting of your bum. For me? It’s the extension of the top leg. See, I have the ass of a twelve year old boy, so lifting it is never an issue for me (like the Caterpillar Climb), but whenever I try to push past and straighten that top leg I crumple into a ball on the floor (I can’t count how many times I’ve fallen out of this move, yet I don’t believe in crash mats?).


Become flexible? For those with heavy bum issues, check out this awesomely hilarious Marion Amber Progression video by Aerial Amy. See? Not easy! She has some great tips so make sure to watch to the very end.

The Fullmoon:

I already know that this is going to be my new go-to move. Move over Shoulder Mount! Doesn’t it look fun? Doesn’t it look easy? (Pat: “I know after two tries I’ll be able to get this move.” *eyeroll*) Don’t you love his accent? Ok, so two out of those three statements are true. Even attempting this move gives you a rush and I must have tried this about 30 times on Saturday. Yes, I could flip my body around the pole, but I never got the proper height.


I think my biggest problem is lifting my chest towards the ceiling and getting the height I need. The problem with this move is that while in it, you have no idea what you look like. I’d recommend filming each and every attempt and compare the footage to a proper video online. Are you sure you’re using the right grip? Are you leading with the right leg? Really study and nitpick the shit out of your body positioning. Or better yet, get an honest pole friend to critique as well.

The Starfish:

UGH WHY DO I HATE MYSELF? I know this move is probably the most painful one out there, and I’m familiar with the pain as I already did a Toe Hang on a set of wall bars (which still gives me nightmares) but it looks so cool that I plan on looking past that minor detail. I mean, I love the Cupid, and this seems like a Cupid on steroids.


I have seen many people try this with a shoe or boot on their top foot. I have a pair of spiked pleather boots that I plan on using the next time I give this a try (along with a shot of whiskey). And a crash mat. No wait, a mattress. No wait! Two mattresses.

Cross Training

26 Mar

The Plateau. A term that’s thrown around a lot in the fitness world, it indicates the slowing down of muscle growth in a fitness routine. How do you break out of it? Change your intensity or change your routine by using your muscles in a different way.

Used up half the tube yesterday after p90x. There's a flower on it so that means it's healthy

Used up half the tube yesterday after p90x. There’s a flower on it so that means it’s healthy

I didn’t set out to do other activities for that reason, I tried new activities because I made new friends who invited me to tag along while they went rock climbing last week. While pole obviously helped me, it took a while to get used to. For starters, your hands aren’t gripping a smooth, perfectly cylindrical pole. Your finger tips are digging into sandpaper coated rocks of varying diameter. Then there was just simple maneuvering. I started off with a super death grip and kept my body close to the wall for fear of falling. I have a tendency to make things much harder than they need to be, and I later learned to simply lean away from the wall which provided a rest position. “Ohhhhh……”
But man….I was a wreck the next day. I could barely put on my shirt and turning the steering wheel proved to be the most challenging task of my morning. I spent a good half hour on my “foam” roller, took an Epsom salt bath and tried to keep moving as I had class that night. Once I actually got going on the pole I felt fine, and thanks to chugging an espresso right before class I was practically bouncing off the walls. My excitement was also due in part to the fact that my instructor and I both showed up in hot pink Lululemon shorts, black and white striped Lululemon sports bras and black tank tops. Yes, that in and of itself is awesome, but, I was mainly excited because a couple hours before class I texted her asking to try a doubles move. So how perfect was that?

Doubles Destiny

Doubles Destiny

But back on topic.
The post workout hangover was something I actually missed. I know the pain I felt was my muscles simply tearing and repairing, and I plan on adding new, fun activities to help make me a better pole dancer. So, here are my new goals:

Rock Climbing:

How can this not help? It requires extreme grip and upper body strength, creativity and fearlessness. Done.

Gymnastics Training:

Accidental Toe Hang. I do not recommend.

Accidental Toe Hang. I do not recommend.

This is another DUH. During my downtime at work I work on my rope climbing, pirouette on balance beams (not with any grace yet), practice handstands and work out on the wall bars. I’ve been showing up at 7:30am, an hour before the gym even opens,  joining my coworkers in various workouts. They’ve been showing me gymnastics moves and I’ve been training them on the rope. Win-win! I am so grateful for this job, I actually did a lot of research trying to find a place around town that offered adult gymnastics classes and found nothing (because after puberty you can no longer be a champion?). Now I’m getting paid to learn.

Spartan Race:

I haven’t 100% committed to this idea yet but my coworkers are putting together a team and asked me to join. The Spartan Race does sound challenging and fun (a giant obstacle course involving lots of mud), however I’m unable to make it to their training sessions. I may try to train on my own, so we’ll see how that goes. Now, being strong doesn’t automatically make you fit; I’m going to need to start running in order to be in the shape I need to be in to complete the race. I’ve got just over three months. As soon as Spring decides to finally show up in Ottawa (I swear to god if we get one more snow storm…) I will be lacing up.


Another giant maybe on this one. My partner has been talking about wanting to do this for over a year now but his chronic elbow injury has been holding him back. I would love to give this a try as it seems to be extremely challenging. While I’m not a fan of lifting weights, Cross-Fit seems to make it interesting. This isn’t something I’d want to try alone so I’ll be patiently waiting until Pat feels better.

Aerial Silks / Lyra:

Hoop Dreams Come True

Hoop Dreams Come True

I’ve done it once and fell in love. As soon as my back is back to normal (oh god, forgive me it’s 5:30am) I will be rewarding myself with some Aerial classes. Out of everything I have mentioned so far today, this is what makes me most excited. It will be interesting to see if my flexibility has improved since November, hopefully all this time making “Pizza Legs” at work will pay off for a nice wide straddle. Pizza legs? Oh, sorry, you’re not three years old. We open our legs and make our pizza! Roll out the dough! What’s that, you want Gummy Bears on your pizza? Fucking genius.

Poling On The Cheap

18 Mar

This is one for the Blog Hop. I’ve only contributed a couple posts to the Hop so far, but I promise I am back for good.

This month’s topic is Favourite Pole Products. There have been some great posts so far (that can be found HERE), and while repeating products will be a given, I hope to offer some alternatives.

Now, I’d like to start by saying that I love shopping. A lot. I can’t seem to leave the house and not spend money, and with limited funds I have come to find some tricks and tips to make the most of my dollars. The problem is, I value a quality product. I have spent hundreds of dollars on Payless shoes that I never wear, tank tops from Walmart that lose their shape after one wash and worst of all, pole shorts that both ride up your vagina and let the world know you forgot to shave thanks to a crotch panel that doesn’t know how to stay put.

Favourite Pole Shorts: Lululemon

Bad Kitty's Brazil Shorts make me wish I had a Brazilian while doing a Hello Boys

Bad Kitty’s Brazil Shorts make me wish I had a Brazilian while doing a Hello Boys

I have a love/hate relationship with this company. I refused to buy in to the fad until I started pole fitness. Before I was all, “Pffft, I don’t need to spend $100 to make my ass look awesome, thankyouverymuch.”, but then I finished level 1 at my studio and needed a short that gave me enough contact for a Gemini and enough confidence for a Hello Boys. I went online and read reviews, forums and inspected photos for seam placement and started my inventory of pole attire. I would initially fall in love with every single pair that landed in my mailbox, but after enough sessions on the pole I would find little things that slowly drove me nuts. Pole Skivvies are like the sweatpants of pole shorts (I’m not kidding, they are SO COMFY) but, at least for me, the length of the inseam was too long. They caused me to slip during Superman attempts so I shoved them to the back of my sock drawer. Mika Yoga Wear’s Mikaela Shorts are adorable and made my butt look amazing but I grew tired of picking the vagina wedgie they ultimately gave me thanks to the centre seam of their design. Bad Kitty’s Brazil Shorts are cute, very cheap (cheapest pole short that I’ve found so far) but their XS wasn’t small enough. The separate crotch panel provided comfort but would slide around and flap in the breeze while inverted. And then I caved. It was no secret that Lululemon was the choice of the elite. Every single instructor wore them to every single class at my studio and I knew there was probably a reason. Shocked by the $50 price tag, I managed to find a pair of Hot Yoga shorts on eBay for $20 (I’ll talk more about eBay in a bit) and once I put them on the Lulu Koolaid took effect. I was converted and singing their praises to whomever would listen. Their secret is their gusset (crotch panel). It’s a triangular shaped gusset that prevents camel toe, and if you try to copy their design expect to be squished by a large corporate foot wielding a lawsuit. Yep, Lululemon has their gusset patented.

Where to find it for less:
Believe it or not, you can find quality Lululemon second hand. I have found some things at Value Village and Salvation Army but they were usually worn and stretched out. I’d recommend scouting out the consignment shops in that part of town where the number of yoga studios is only rivaled by the number of organic tea shops (there are two neighbourhoods like this in my city, I’m sure your town has at least one). Most consignment shops have a high standard for clothes that they accept and normally turn things away that don’t meet those standards. Don’t give up if you go and don’t see anything in your style, finding that perfect item takes patience and persistence. Go about once a week and get to know the owners. Let them know what you’re looking for, if they like you they may even put something aside for you as they know you’ll be in.
What about eBay? The problem with Lululemon and eBay is that everything Lululemon makes is “Limited Edition!” and “***RARE!!***” as it’s only available for purchase from their stores for a set period of time. eBay sellers milk this fact and charge even more than what Lululemon originally charged and they get away with it because people still buy it!!! Lesson here? People are crazy. (Ok, sometimes you can find quality used items for cheap on eBay, however, expect a fierce bidding war)

Favourite Grip Aids: All Of Them

You Want It? I Got It.

You Want It? I Got It.

I’m telling you, I use everything depending on the day. To start, I apply either Dew Point or Embrace to my inner thighs, backs of knees, shins, tops of my feet, elbow pit and mid section (not surprisingly, my sample bottle of Dew Point ran out rather quickly). Then I’ll wash my hands with concentrated dish detergent (without any added moisturizers), dry them, and then apply a couple drops of Dry Hands. If my hands are still sliding on the pole, I’ll add some Mighty Grip. And if I plan to work on just the Iron X I’ll cake my pole in iTac. As you can see, I don’t have a favourite as I find all grip aids offer a different solution for a different problem. I love you all equally!

Where to find it for less:
A lot of companies offer promotions or discount codes. In fact, Dew Point just offered a one-day-only 50% off sale. Keep your eyes open for future deals and buy in bulk! Or, if shipping costs are freaking you out (Canadians: amirite??!?!?) go in with a few friends to split shipping charges.

Favourite Miscellaneous Item: Foam Roller

It’s like having a personal masseuse at your beck and call after every workout. I use this bad boy for everything: sore back, knots in shoulders, knots in biceps, stretching my hamstrings, stretching my hips. With a bit of creativity, you can angle it to target any sore muscle or prepare that muscle for a stretching session.

Where to find it for less:

Better Than Any Masseuse

Better Than Any Masseuse

Yep, foam rollers are expensive. I bought one for $40 and after a few months the foam became less dense and rather…squishy. One day my partner, who works at a fitness store, brought home a tube. A super thick, dense, hard-as-a-rock cardboard tube with a diameter slightly less than that of my foam roller that was originally used in packaging high quality fitness equipment. I tested it out, and while it hurt like hell, I knew the pain was a good pain. A very good pain. I bring my tube to every class, and every time someone sees it for the first time they ask about it. Once they try it out I’m asked to bring another one in for them. Future business? hmmm….

Back At It

12 Mar

What’s that? A new post one week following my previous one?

Yes, I am back in the pole game which means that break time is over for writing consistently as well. I realized my last several posts felt almost like essays what with the constant editing and fretting, and while I enjoyed putting a lot of effort into my writing I know it’s unlikely I’ll have the time to keep that up on a weekly basis.

But today may be another long one as I have many, many overdue updates. I’ll get to the most obvious and exciting one first:

Update #1: My Recovery

I was a good girl and stuck to doctor’s orders, taking it easy and not lifting anything heavier than 10lbs (save for Ellie, obviously) and twiddled my thumbs as the six week deadline (slowly) approached. Now, normally if I have a health concern I check in with Dr. Google day and night. Being raised by someone who treats The Merck Manual as the bible probably contributed to this but I gotta say, my mind didn’t even go there this time. I didn’t go looking for outside advice, however outside advice found me. In droves. I was contacted by several polers and fitness folks from around the world with their own tales of abdominal injuries, diastasis and hernias and it started scaring the bejeezus out of me. DOOM! DOOM!!!

I went to my assessment with a physiotherapist who specializes in Diastasis Recti and I was expecting to hear the worst. I told her what happened, what my symptoms were and she nodded sympathetically. I lied down on the examining table, lifted my shirt and let her feel the gap for herself.
“Oh this isn’t so bad! It’s not large enough to cause any problems but I’ll give you some exercises to help strengthen your transverse abdominal muscles.”
Starting with both knees bent, she had me lift one knee towards my chest before lowering it. Frowning, she then had me slide that leg down and asked me to raise it off the table and hold it. I did so without any effort at all, all while yammering on about pole fitness. Her eyes bugged out of her head.
“Wow, ok. This is supposed to be very tiring, hmmm. Yeah, you’re fine! Besides, Diastasis Recti and hernias don’t cause pain, you must have had a really bad abdominal strain. Just ease back slowly and don’t do anything that causes you pain. But I’ll be seeing you next week for your back.”

My Last Bridge For A While

My Last Bridge For A While

Yeah….about that. I’m almost too embarrassed to admit it, but I did something super DUPER stupid. While at my new job my coworkers started showing off their bridges (I’ll get to that, hold on a sec) and not wanting to feel left out I jumped right in and whipped one out. In a cold gym, without so much as doing a couple twists or forward bends beforehand. Yeah, my coworkers were fine, but they’re almost 10 years younger than me. The second I extended my back I realized what I just did. Oh god! From that point on I couldn’t arch my back even slightly, sit for prolonged periods of time, stand for prolonged periods of time, get up from sitting, reach for something in the fridge or roll over onto my stomach without feeling like I did when I had sciatica pain while pregnant (oh, memories!). This was the first time a foam roller didn’t magically erase my pain. Is this what it’s like to get old? I don’t know if I like it.
I had my first physio appointment and it was determined I strained a joint in my lower back which caused my muscles to wrap around the joint, preventing me from arching my back at all. To fix this she had me lie down on my stomach and bend my foot back towards my butt, making sure my hip stayed down. At first I could only lift my foot a couple inches and with excruciating pain but each time got easier and less painful. I couldn’t believe it! After three days of doing this exercise I was able to extend my foot all the way back without pain. In fact, I’m no longer in constant pain! But, I’m not in the clear yet. It still hurts to attempt a bridge and last week while prepping for handsprings at work (hold on!) I did my first handstand pop (go into a handstand and immediately shrug your shoulders and spring back to your feet without bending your arms) and I wanted to DIE! My lower back felt like a nickel rattling in a tin can. Ok, no handsprings for now.

Update #2: New Job

Little Superstar

Little Superstar

I took Ellie to her first drop-in playtime at a gymnastics club this summer and I had never seen her so excited about anything. Christmas morning does not even compare to jumping on giant trampolines and diving head first into a foam pit. I signed her up for classes in December and felt the place had a really fun (non-competitive) environment. During our first class I started talking to the instructor about pole fitness and she mentioned that her and a friend were already looking into it! I steered her in the right direction (*cough* OPF! *cough*) and she signed up for level 1 that night! The owner and manager (the owner being a life long gymnast) heard wind of this and were immediately intrigued by pole fitness, asking me lots of questions. Finally I had found a group of people who needed no persuading in regarding the pole as any other gymnastics apparatus. I talked to some of the staff and learned that not all of them had gymnastics backgrounds. Sure, some did, but most did not. Interesting.
I approached the manager with my resume and he practically hired me on the spot. After a practical interview where I helped teach a class of adorable four year-olds it was done. I was now a gymnastics coach!
I get to spend my mornings singing silly songs, stretching and walking on balance beams. And if it’s not busy I try things like this.

One day out of the blue, the owner asked me point blank if I was interested in teaching pole fitness to the staff and if there were any stand alone poles available for purchase. Once the shock wore off, I told them YES! X-POLE STAGE POLE! CHROME! 45mm!! EEEE!!!
They most likely will not be offering classes to kids. The Little Spinners Scandal is still fairly fresh in the public’s memory but I can still dream.

Update #3: Happy 1 Year!

We watched Iron Will twice, so we should be good.

We watched Iron Will twice, so we should be good.

February 15th was my one year anniversary of my journey in pole fitness. Knowing now is not the time for the pole jam of my dreams, we decided now was as good a time as ever to go on our first real family vacation (driving half way across the country twice with an 8 month old does not count as a vacation) and settled on a resort in the Quebec wilderness. Three days of lounging by a stone fireplace, dog sled rides and sleeping in a bed I know I will never be able to afford. The day we packed up and went home (only an hour away this time) was my pole-versary. That afternoon we had some visitors from back home (Dartmouth!) and one of my friends went straight to the pole.
“I signed up for classes!!!” she squealed. “But I’ll be missing my first one, can you show me a couple things?”
So, technically I cheated a little bit, but I didn’t go upside down or hold myself up longer than a few seconds at a time. I felt like I was cheating on a diet, “But it’s my special dayyyyy”
Guilt aside, I showed her a basic pole turn, the fireman spin and a chair spin and it was so rewarding watching her face light up as she spun around the pole (with a surprising amount of control for a first timer). She left smiling and massaging her arms. Success.

Update #4: Back On The Pole

Got it after some helpful tips

Got it after some helpful tips

Last Monday as I was browsing some You Tube videos I came across a move I had never seen before (I can’t even find a picture of it anywhere), a No Hands Shoulder Mount. It’s not the prettiest move in the world, but it looked crazy and involved a shoulder mount which means I NEED TO LEARN IT NOW. I pulled out the last remaining pair of Lulu shorts my dog has yet to devour, cranked up the heat and started warming up. Thanks to muscle memory it felt like I had never been away, but there was no denying my stamina was effected. I tried the No Hands SM for a while but I was only left with a sore shoulder and lots of sliding, and slightly frustrated I decided to move on to other things before I lost my strength completely. I managed to get my SG Ayesha and my Cupid came back as well (disappeared completely when I switched to a 45mm). It wasn’t long before all that spinning and inverting unleashed the flood of good vibes and I soon washed upon the shore of happiness.

National Capital Pole Fitness Competition: A Review

3 Mar
The Meeting

The Meeting

“Oh shit. It’s today.”

That seemed to be the general sentiment amongst all eleven competitors of this year’s National Capital Pole Fitness Competition upon waking that cold Saturday morning. Calling in scared sick and pulling the blankets back over their heads was a tempting idea, however all eleven got out of bed and walked out the door armed with glitter, sequins and attitude. No one looked back.

Saturday morning this time last year was a different story.

Last Year’s Winners! (Photo by Ben Ripley)

“Almost half dropped out over night. They dropped like flies!” explained Li Hewitt, owner of Ottawa Pole Fitness Studios. Her husband, co-owner Michael Hewitt recalled how they suddenly went from 38 to 18 competitors which resulted in phone calls letting girls know their performance time had been bumped from 2pm to 10am, so wakey-wakey!

The cancellations seemed to foretell the day’s events as they were met with one technological glitch after another which lead to a stressful day (and admittedly made worse by nursing a hangover). Not to say the day wasn’t a success; they managed a sold out show with many impressive performances ranging from amateur to professional level. Prizes awarded for each division included memberships (free classes!), trophies and medals, gift bags and many girls won titles such as Miss Sexy and Miss Trickster.

U of O Pole Dance Society. Awesome.

Now with one competition under their belt, Li and Michael had bigger dreams for their second time around. As official sponsor of the University of Ottawa’s Pole Dance Society, Ottawa Pole Fitness was offered use of one of the University’s auditoriums, free of charge. Hoping the success of last year’s competition created buzz and interest, they booked the 300 seat venue and broke the news that the competitors would be performing on (gasp!) two stage poles. The call for submissions, which included a mandatory submission video, was sent out mid October and by December 1st they had yet to receive a single application. A month remained before the deadline.

Why the lack of interest?
Does the idea of designing a routine around a stage pole really turn someone off from competing completely?
Or does the thought of dancing on a giant stage with blinding lights suddenly make you second guess yourself?
Or did people just not want to put in the work needed to make a submission video?

Hoping the latter to be true, Michael and Li let the students know they no longer needed to create a submission video. Lo and behold, the applications started pouring trickling in. As of December 31st, 2012, the National Capital Pole Fitness Championship had 17 competitors. Going from 38 competitors to 17 was not what they had in mind.

“I think we just have different students this year.” mused Li. “Not everyone has that competitive edge, it requires a certain personality.”

Despite the decline in applicants, the owners of OPF powered through the planning process but it wasn’t long before Michael and Li encountered their first hiccup. The free auditorium? Not so free after all. That, and the fear of potential empty seats in the 300 seat venue due to the slowly declining number of competitors led Li and Michael to make an obvious decision: Hold the competition where everyone calls home, OPF’s Studio B. No stage poles required! (The collective sigh of relief could be heard from space).

Settling on a location was checked off however many issues needed to be addressed, namely, how do you fairly judge 17 competitors who range in skill? Easy. Substitute “Amateur”, “Semi-Pro” and “Pro” with, “The Entertainer”, “The Trickster” and “The Performer” with equal cash prizes of $250 awarded to each title.

Meet The Judges

Meet The Judges

“We want everyone to have an equal chance.You can still entertain a crowd without doing the most advanced moves.” explained Li. Another way of being fair is the omission of strength as a deciding factor due to two of the competitors being male (last year saw an all female competition). Scoring would fall under five categories: degree of difficulty, technicality, artistry, costume and music with deductions and bonus points awarded to tally scores. All four judges shared the same belief: A winning performance doesn’t require the most advanced tricks or the flattest splits, it requires someone who is comfortable on stage with a creative edge. Grace and flow seemed to be a top priority as well.

A week before the competition they were down to 11 competitors. Those that dropped out did so due to either work/personal conflicts, injury (not just me) and possibly nerves. Li and Michael expected there to be drop-outs as it’s par for the course.

“Even if we’re left with five competitors the show will still go on!”

369As a welcome surprise, all 11 showed up to the studio early Saturday morning, most of them setting up shop immediately in front of the large glass mirrors wielding eyelash curlers and magenta lipstick. The day started with a meeting, beginning with a slightly heated debate over whether tack could be applied to the poles (Verdict? No.) and ending with staff and volunteers buzzing around completing freshly assigned tasks. Seeming calm, cool and completely collected (re: not hungover), Michael went about his duties at a relaxed pace and always with a smile on his face. Not wanting a repeat of last year’s technical fiasco Michael was adamant about being one step ahead at all times. Songs were double checked, wires were double checked and a Skype feed was set up to allow the competitors to view the show from upstairs in Studio A.

Live Reaction

Reaction To The Live Feed

Not everyone shared Michael and Li’s calm demeanor. While there were no full-blown freakouts, the nervous energy was palpable. Some chose to tune the world out via headphones, choosing either the song for their routine (like Rebecca, an OPF instructor who started the show with a jaw-dropping hoop routine) or perfect pump-up songs (like Abbey, who chose to listen to “Nigerian Party Music”). Others worked on their combos and some chose to apply layer upon layer upon layer of tack to their hands (“I call it a ‘Tack Bath'” said Tambra, the first competitor to hit the stage). The most (outwardly) nervous of the group, Amanda, drove up from Montreal with fellow friend and competitor, Cameron.

Beautiful Ball of Nerves (5 Minutes Before Showtime)

Beautiful Ball of Nerves (5 Minutes Before Showtime)

“She’s so good!!” he explained as we watched her (winning) performance from the comfort of Studio A. “She’s always saying she’s not any good but really, she’s amazing. She’s so hard on herself.”
Between warming up, stretching and applying her carefully orchestrated grip routine (iTac on legs at least one hour before -and not allowing that shit anywhere near her hands-, Tite Grip on hands a half hour before followed by Dry Hands 30 seconds before walking on stage) Amanda was a tiny ball of nerves. You’d think having an extensive history in ballet would make her a seasoned veteran in performing in front of audiences, but according to Amanda this was her first time dancing on stage alone. As in, not in a group number.

Just a warm-up Iron X...NBD

Just a warm-up Iron X…NBD

Even while she laughed and partook in conversations around her (amidst nervously hopping on one foot) I could see her routine flashing before her eyes at any given moment. She had this intense quality about her that gave me the feeling she was in it to win it, and watching her whip out effortless Iron X’s and Cocoons during warm-up sealed the deal in my mind that her routine was the one to watch. After a very impressive performance (all done on a spinning pole) she admitted it went well despite rushing. “I realized I was ahead in my routine so I had to walk around the pole a few times for the music to catch up.”

She wasn’t the only one who experienced this. Nearly everyone I spoke with afterward told me tales of having to make up moves on the spot or holding poses for longer in order to fill in time, but these were the only complaints I heard. No one forgot their routine. No one fell on their head. Everyone walked off stage with smiles that read “Holy shit, I did it!”. Some even cried.

366This was Tamara’s second time experiencing the joy of going through with competing, and this time she was prouder than ever. I was able to watch last year’s performances on DVD a few days before the competition and the difference in skill and flow was unbelievable. What a difference a year makes! It wasn’t just the increase in difficulty that stood out in her performance (though she did a killer Knee Hold to Spinning Scorpio Switches, one of many impressive combos that earned her The Trickster award), it was the thoughtfulness put into her routine and her overall comfort level on stage. Picking a song she could connect with helped, and her song of choice was Florence + The Machine’s “Breath Of Life” (Amanda’s song choice was also by Florence, coincidence?).



But what does Tamara really owe her confidence to? Countless hours perfecting combos. Every time I spoke with Tamara in the months before the competition she seemed exhausted and walking off stage she almost collapsed from both shock and relief. This is only the beginning for Tamara as she has plans on seizing every opportunity she has to compete or perform. She has tasted the high and is already planning for future competitions.

Where Alexis Could Be Found All Morning

Where Alexis Could Be Found All Morning

While Tamara has the drive to compete, Alexis simply has the desire to perform. Any man who takes Pole Fitness will garner attention in a predominantly female environment, but Alexis stands out as The Fairest Of Them All. You can’t help but be fascinated by Alexis, he’s a photographer’s dream; having a sixth sense of when a camera sets its sight, he arches his brows, lengthens his neck and either pouts or feigns mock surprise by the time my finger has found the shutter button (er, iPhone button). With a long time passion for dress-up (cosplay) he was first introduced to cross dressing during his two year stay in Tokyo working on his PhD in Cultural Practices and Identity in It was through his new group of friends that he was introduced to Pole Fitness but it wasn’t until returning to University of Ottawa and seeing U of O’s Pole Dance Society doing demonstrations that he decided to join and pick up the sport (although he refuses to treat it as such). He felt welcomed immediately and was encouraged by the owners of OPF to unleash his inner alter ego and dress in drag (many costumes being home made) while at the studio. Although it seemed he was playing a character on stage, Alexis insists that in performance he puts forward a very real self, one that is defined by many outside influences. Still, embodying that persona takes intense focus and he had no hesitation about relaying that fact. “You’re going to have to go away now.” he said flatly, momentarily pulling the earbuds out of his ears before closing his eyes and turning his back to me in the dimly lit hallway outside of Studio B, two minutes before showtime. I scurried away feeling like a dickhead, but I didn’t take it personally. I know what it’s like to need your personal bubble before performing.



There’s no denying how much work each of the competitors put into their routines, or how many bruises earned or hours of sleep were lost in the weeks leading up to the big day. Even if they didn’t get to walk home with a shiny trophy or Felix Cane’s DVD set they still got to walk home with an aura of “Fuck Yeah, I’m Awesome”. All eleven of them proved to strangers, friends, family and themselves that they are capable of conquering their fears and working their ass off. Remember, everyone who competed was prepared to do their routine on a much larger stage with less forgiving poles.

The Entertainer, The Trickster & The Performer

The Entertainer, The Trickster & The Performer

From free coffee provided by Bridgehead to awesome door prizes (Someone won an Apple TV. For real.), to an M.C. who kept everyone entertained while the poles were dutifully cleaned by volunteers, the 2013 NCPFC has set the bar for future pole competitions in Ottawa. Ottawa Pole Fitness has proven to be one step ahead of the rest and has no plans of slowing down. Li and Michael’s eyes lit up as they spoke of future plans for the studio but I don’t want to ruin any surprises. Let’s just say you should like them on Facebook to be the first to know!

Success! Now Someone Buy This Man A Drink

Success! Now Someone Buy This Man A Drink

Click here for to watch all the performances of the day including Rebecca’s Hoop Routine, Richelle’s crazy advanced routine (inspired? She’s holding a workshop this Sunday!) and my fave, Maria and Catherine’s Super Sexy Doubles routine!

***This is now part of April’s Blog Hop!!!**** Click HERE for more entries from great writers discussing competitions and showcases

B Is For Ballerina

8 Feb
Finally have an excuse to wear my leotards

Finally have an excuse to wear my leotards

It’s hard to believe it’s been almost a month since my abdominal wall threw in the towel. I’ve made it more than half way through my recovery period and it hasn’t been as frustrating as I had originally thought. Now, it wasn’t all sunshine and puppies. There was the issue of adjusting from spending class doing flags, planks and shoulder mounts galore to doing….well…not much of anything. At first it felt weird showing up to class in leggings and a tank top while everyone else changed into cute matching Lulu combos, then it felt even weirder watching everyone practice the Marion Amber as I practiced the Step-Around Pole Turn, and it felt EVEN weirder having a class of level 1’s watch me trip and stumble while doing basic pirouettes. Hi guys, I’m advanced!
At first I thought it was just nerves causing me to lose my balance as at home I can pirouette and turn around the pole with a much higher success rate. It didn’t take long until I remembered that the house I live in is a piece of shit and that my floors are not exactly level. We’re talking having to switch sides after every foosball game due to one side having an extreme advantage as the ball would just roll straight into the net if you paused for even a moment. So, basically I trained my body to balance on an uneven floor.

My teacher quickly found drills and other exercises for me to practice to help improve my balance and the overall gracefulness of my dances. I had looked into adult ballet classes but with my teacher already being a lifelong ballerina I figured why look elsewhere! What other ballet teacher brings you a pair of stripper heels to practice in?

I had asked to learn a basic pirouette off the pole and not surprisingly, even the basic ballet moves require lots of technical prerequisites.
She had me start by simply raising up on one foot (tippy toes, obviously) while bringing the other foot up alongside the knee with arms folded and outstretched in front. The foot is to be snugged alongside the knee like a puzzle piece and faced forward. I guess this is more a jazz version than ballet, as in ballet your foot and leg is pointing to the side instead of forward (see ballet version below, sorta.). At first I was only able to hold the position for half a second but I am now up to a record of four and a half seconds of no wobbling. My success rate varies based on where I am standing in my house (I am really not kidding about this). I can do a half turn at most, hopefully in another few weeks I can do one whole pirouette and then maybe I’ll be as good as a 4 year old in a tutu.

Boozy Ballerina at a Bud's B Themed B-Day

Boozy Ballerina at a Bud’s B Themed B-Day

Also not surprisingly, my pole turns improved after a couple weeks of practicing these drills.

After class the other day a classmate commented how it’s probably a good thing this happened as there’s no way I would have ever dedicated this much time to perfecting the basics and working on my splits. She was right, I don’t get an adrenalin rush from stretching. Spending a class pirouetting doesn’t leave me famished and hungrily stuffing an entire McChicken into my face. But if I never focused on simple moves I would end up with a routine that seemed more sporty than like an actual dance. It may not be physically exhausting but it still requires a lot of focus and honest nitpicking.

Thankfully I can always count on my teacher finding something wrong with what I’m doing at any given moment and for that I’m forever grateful.

…that wasn’t meant to be sarcastic.

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The Ottawa Doggie Club

We have started a facebook group to organize doggie play groups in Ottawa and surrounding areas. The group grew to about 70 member's in less then a week. So us and the members decided why not start trying to raise money for dog rescue organizations and charities. We are waiting for the nice weather to come so we can start our play dates :) Feel free to join our facebook group where we will be posting outings and charity and fundraising events on behalf of some of the rescues :)

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