We are proud to introduce our new guest blogger Jennifer Michelle from Poleskivvies. We spoke to Jennifer to find out a little bit more about her.....
When did you first start pole dancing and what made you start?
I got into pole dancing at the end of 2007. I'd belly danced for ages, but I was starting to get a little bored. I found out about pole through someone at work who lent me Sheila Kelley's book, S Factor. She spoke about pole the way I had always felt about belly dance and it made me want to find out more. I started watching Youtube videos and checking out the pole forums. Within two weeks, I'd ordered my first pole!
From the first, I loved how much fun everyone seemed to be having. Of course, they all made it look so easy! When my pole first arrived, I was nervous to try it. I had no one to teach me (there still aren't any studios in my state!) and I thought I'd just pick it up from Youtube. That wasn't my forte, though, as it turned out, and all I wound up doing was hurting my forearms. It took awhile for me to find a good instructor, since I had to find someone who could teach me via Skype.
Tell us a bit about your background and how you got started with Pole Skivvies?
At the beginning, when I was trying to learn from Youtube, I liked to video myself doing my latest attempt at a spin and post it for my friends to see. I used to work out in a tank and a pair of boxer-style shorts. Well, one day I was watching a video I had just uploaded and I realized my shorts were bagging so much in the crotch that anyone watching full screen was getting quite a money shot. I freaked and started immediately to hunt for better shorts. I talked to everyone on the forums to find out what they wore to pole - this was in the era when everyone just worked out in their bra and panties because there weren't better options. Whenever I got a recommendation, I went and got the short - except I found they were all horrible. Either they gapped in the crotch, or they sagged once I started to sweat, or they were too long for grip, or they were super slippery, or their seams were uncomfortable.
It was just ridiculous. So, since I'd had previous experience designing and manufacturing a line of lingerie, I thought I would design a pair of shorts that actually addressed the needs of pole dancers. It took me a year to find a pattern maker and facility that could work with me. I looked at a lot of different fabrics, and tried a bunch of different styles. In the end, the Tail Spin short was born - the very first real athletic wear for pole. Since then, the line has grown and we now work with pole dancers and studios all over the world.
One of the first things I did when I started the clothing line was begin a blog on pole. There were almost no blogs on pole at the time, and those that existed tended to be personal - you know, the "I fed my cat and went to pole class" variety. I wanted to create a source of information and shared experience for all pole dancers, so I started interviewing pole dancers, from newbies to champions. I wrote about what to look for in instructors (this was before there were many certification programs, too), and what my own journey on the pole was like. It became very popular and I still blog each week.
At PoleSkivvies, I've tried from the beginning to make a difference with everything we do. You can feel the difference in our clothing, and I also make sure the other services we offer have a positive impact, too.
You also provide marketing assistance for pole studios. How did you get started doing that?
The marketing services were a natural outgrowth of the clothing. I started learning from my wholesale customers that they didn't know how to promote retail items - they were uncomfortable selling things. Since I had been selling PoleSkivvies online, sight-unseen for years - even when absolutely nobody but me thought workout clothing for pole was even necessary - I, obviously, had a lot of experience with what pole dancers were looking for and why they would like our shorts. I started offering coaching to studios carrying our line and realized that they often wanted information on marketing strategies, too.
So, since I was already blogging for PoleSkivvies, it made sense to me to begin blogging on the marketing topics. I created a new site just for pole instructors and studios and started writing about the issues that I knew my studio customers were experiencing. Things like competition and insurance and how to seem professional when you're still teaching out of your home. I now offer a range of downloadable courses on marketing your pole studio, plus one-on-one coaching, too.
What is your favourite pole dancing move?
To me, the best thing about pole dancing isn't a move, it's the dancing. With my background in belly dance, which is a very sensual and expressive dance style, I always focus on the depth of feeling in each move, in each song. I will always be a better belly dancer than pole dancer - wild aerial stunts are beyond me :) - but I have a world of experience in performing that I like to bring to my own dancing.
It's become a bit of a crusade with me, since I think, especially now that so many polers do so many of the super advanced moves, the only real way to distinguish yourself is by having an individual dance style. It's become one of the most popular topics on my blog - I even send out a newsletter each week with tips on the dance side of pole. I just think that the unique personality of each dancer is what makes them fun to watch. Too often, I see pole dancers who are excellent at the moves, but come to a stop between them. Or I see pole dancers despairing of ever being able to dance beautifully just because they can't manage an invert.
I work with a lot of pole dancers on their dance ability, offering workbooks and coaching and video reviews to bring people up to speed on the nuances of performing and making even the smallest gesture look beautiful. It's wonderful, because when you can show a dancer how to get a full range of emotion from a single transition, you instantly multiply their repertoire. It expands their possibilities and they get so much confidence from being able to move more fluidly with the pole.
What changes have you seen to the industry since you started pole dancing
There has been a lot of change - it's really gone from a small sub-culture to a growing fitness industry. People are starting to see that the proper attire helps you focus better on the pole and keeps you more comfortable. They are starting to see that there need to be standards in how people are taught to prevent injury. And, of course, there are more and more events all around the world - which is one of the most fantastic changes we've seen so far!
Do you think public perception of fitness pole dancing has changed that much over the past few years
I think it has in cities and smaller locales where there are pole studios. In areas without pole classes - and I live in such an area - it's all still the same. The nice thing, though, is that when pole finally does reach those areas, there's such a history already in place within the pole community, that I don't think they'll face as many hurdles.
Has running a pole dance school become easier or harder in recent times
I don't know that one can say either way. I think it's easier because there are more resources and less community stereotypes to deal with. On the other hand, there is more competition. Yet competition isn't a bad thing - it means there's interest in what you're doing!
Thank you very much to Pole Dance Community, not only for the opportunity to do this interview, but also for the enormous role you've played in helping the world of pole to develop and thrive.
Dawn, Pole Skivvies model courtesy of Derrick Sheller of http://digitalvino.com/
A big thanks to Jennifer for agreeing to guest write for the Pole Dance Community we look forward to reading her future articles.