I’m ready to share my story. It’s long and still evolving. I don’t know where it will go next but I can see where I’ve been and I can’t mostly see where I am. I think it will be cathartic to share this and hopefully it’ll help others in some way, too. So I’ll start with Phase 1 – the beginning.
In the spring of 2011 a couple of friends (major shoutout to Haven and Christy) told me about a place where women learn pole dancing and described how wonderful it made them feel. The studio, Aerosha, was having an anniversary celebration and open-studio so I went. The website was mysteriously vague so I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know anyone else there, but it wasn’t really bravery to go alone; I had done a little pole dancing in a few clubs in the past (not professionally) and was eager to see what was up.
I drove to a private property just outside the edge of the city. There was a huge tent with a building behind it. It was rainy and cold but there were tons of people. Correction, women. (At this point Aerosha is still all women other than private lessons.) The tent was filled with catered food, flowers, and women of every age and size and attire. It was lovely and welcoming.
The studio – where do I start? I felt as though the studio was designed specifically to make me feel wonderful. I still feel that way, so I’ll continue setting the stage in present tense. It has a very Moroccan feel (you can tell from the website, too). In the lounge, there is bunting covering the ceiling, small soft lighting everywhere, plush benches and chairs and tons of pillows. And artwork. The owner is Rachael Dunville, a world renowned photographer (she actively maintains international art shows in addition to the Aerosha studio), and her art is everywhere in the studio. In the dance studio itself, I don’t even know words to describe how comforting it is. The walls and ceilings are dark and the floor is a dark cork (lovely to dance on!). There are no mirrors – our peers are our mirrors, cheering us on when we move with grace and strength or nail a trick. The lighting is very dim and adjustable, electric candles in corners on the floor and walls. There are 3 poles, one of which stays on spin mode, and a state-of-the-art sounds system.
The restroom has a mirror on the wall that is entirely covered with notes from all the women – encouragement, wisdom, humor.
This open-studio included demos. The two instructors (Rachael and Ami) and several students performed demonstrations that were just mind-blowing. The only pole dancing I had seen up to this point was in clubs where there was an occasional trick but mostly the pole was a prop. Here the pole was a dance partner. These women moved with their souls, whether slow and sensually or powerfully with acrobatics. My heart leapt. Immediately following the demos I signed up for the introductory classes. I knew I had no grace or strength but I wanted to move like that.
I was looking for a way to re-ignite desire within myself by remembering how to feel sexy. I felt I had lost that over the years and perhaps this was a way to capture that feeling again. I was 39 and didn’t understand yet that it’s okay for feelings to change, to find happiness and joy even if life isn’t full of daring adventures. I wanted to regain what I used to feel; I didn’t know yet that I could be learning to feel amazing new things right now. (Sneak preview to future post in this series: through Aerosha and my therapist, I’m getting where I need to be.)
So I started attending classes. My class had a couple of older women in it which didn’t matter except that one of them had a hip problem which made many things difficult for her. Fortunately, Rachael knows her physiology and is excellent at adjusting movements to meet people’s needs. We started with some very basic things (as we must) and I realized that the class isn’t all about what you can do, but how you feel when doing it. There is tremendous focus on self-awareness and I didn’t expect that. It was a little frustrating at first because I didn’t know how to focus on myself without judgement. I’m very logical and want to just execute things as they “should” be done, moving through steps until I reach my goal. It was very hard for me to learn to listen to my body and do what it needs. In fact, I still struggle with that, but I’m getting much better.
The intro class was 8 weeks at the time (I think it’s 4 weeks now). It really did take me that long to learn that not everything has to be a guided routine, that freestyle dancing can be liberating and not fearful. Remember, I needed steps! After that intro series I had new students with me (one remained from the first class) and those ladies are my dear friends still. This brings me to Phase 2 of my story. The transformation begins!