The Busy Myth

I’ve always been the kind of person who needs to be busy.  I feel guilty sleeping in on weekends, or taking naps.  If I spend a day relaxing or reading instead of getting a head start on work, I feel useless.  It’s hard for me to justify taking even a few hours of the week for myself.

I know this is an idea many people struggle with.  We push ourselves, spread ourselves too thin, are never satisfied that what we are doing is enough.  We must always be busy, or we are wasting our time.

But a few weeks ago I realized: this is a myth.  We are not made to “go” nonstop.  Life needs to be about more than running around crossing things off our to-do lists.  We need to make time for the things that make us happy.

Can our work make us happy?  Absolutely.  But isn’t it important to have a balanced life?  To do all the things we love?  And isn’t it even more important to make time to take care of ourselves?

When we spread ourselves too thin, when we are stressed, we weaken our bodies, open ourselves up to illness.  Stress can take years off our lives.  Every once in a while, we need to take a time out from the busyness.  De-stress, recharge our batteries, do something good for our bodies—exercise, eat right, stretch.  And most importantly, we need to not feel guilty about it.

Ten Questions for Irmingard, One Fabulous Pole Instructor

At Shockra, each of instructors support and uphold our mission—to help you dance in a fun, unintimidating, tailored-to-your-level environment.  And our instructors’ personalities and passion make up a large part of who we are here.  So why not take a few minutes to get to know them?  We got 10 questions with our pole instructor Irmingard to find out what she loves about pole and get some advice for beginners!  Be sure to check out www.shockrastudio.com to find a schedule of Irmingard’s classes, and don’t forget to follow her on Twitter at @IrmingardMayer!

 

 1.     How did you get your start dancing?  Do you practice any other types of dance?

I have taken countless dance classes ever since I was a little girl—everything from ballet to jazz to baton twirling. I never truly felt comfortable in any of my classes, though. I always felt a little awkward or clumsy. I didn’t think I was meant to be a dancer. But I enjoyed expressing myself through movement so much.

 2.     How did you get involved in pole dancing?

I first became interested in pole dancing when I saw it at a live event. I thought the women doing it just looked so athletic, free and graceful. I had to try it for myself. I wanted to feel that way.

 3.     What is your favorite thing about pole dancing?

I love so much about pole dancing. First and foremost, that it is a complete body workout, being cardiovascular, resistance training and flexibility strengthening. Second, it is fun, so you don’t feel like you are getting a workout! Third, it opens women (and men) up to being comfortable with their sexuality. You learn to accept your body. Pole dancing is a creative outlet, so whatever emotion you’re feeling can be expressed in your movement. I also love the community it builds. Especially in women, there can be resentment when it comes to being open about our sexuality. More often than not, girls in class will cheer their classmates on when they nail a new move. Seeing women not only accept but celebrate other women is a beautiful thing.
4. Why do you enjoy teaching at Shockra?

More than any other dance studio in NYC, Shockra is welcoming to all levels. There is no judgment in class. Everyone is supportive of one another. It makes class so much more fun when the environment is friendly and non-intimidating.
5. What are your favorite songs to dance to right now?

My song preferences always change based on my mood. I love dancing to Radiohead when I’m feeling dark and emotional. Their music builds in a dramatic way that is perfect for pole. I love Rihanna or Beyonce when I feel like bringing out my inner vixen. I also like hardcore rock like the Deftones when I need to unleash some pent up energy!
6. Do you have any advice for beginning dancers, or experienced dancers who are new to pole?

My most important piece of advice would be to enjoy your journey and transformation. Don’t get discouraged watching other dancers move in a way your body can’t or just isn’t ready to. Everyone progresses at different paces. It’s important to respect when your body tells you to stop or slow down. Don’t jump ahead to tricks you aren’t ready for. Also take some time to freestyle on your own. Feel the music without pressuring yourself to do fancy tricks. Try to release your thought process about what to do next and just move how you feel. It can be very therapeutic.

7. How do recommend someone new to pole dancing come out to their family and friends about their new hobby?
This is a common question I hear from students. I understand some people work in industries where pole dancing may be misjudged. If you want to keep pole dancing private from your professional life that is completely up to you. Many students find though, that once they become more involved with pole dancing, they don’t have anything to hide. If it makes you happy, and you understand what it’s about, who cares what anyone else thinks? I was weary at first to be open about it with my family, but once they realized the positive impact it was making on my life they understood. Judgments on pole dancing have more to do with negative connotations people project in their own minds than what it really is. Trust your gut.
8. Where can we find you when you’re not at Shockra?

I have performed at The Box on the Lower East Side in the past and have a few gigs there lined up for the end of July. It’s a late night variety show with some pretty eccentric and entertaining acts. I’ve also performed pole dancing in several movies and television shows, most notably in I Don’t Know How She Does It starring Sarah Jessica Parker.

9. That’s right, you were recently on the set of a movie with Method Man.  Can you tell us a little bit about your experience on the set?

Working on the set of a professional film is always exciting, especially when you get the opportunity to work directly with the principal actors and directors. Pole dancing is considered a “special ability” on movie sets. It is very different from pole dancing anywhere else. Since there are several takes required, you must do the same moves at the same time on every take. You also must be ready when the director yells “action,” and there is not much recovery time. My pole dancing was more atmospheric and not directly relating to the scene so I had to adjust myself accordingly. Method Man was amazing on set. He was friendly to everyone and had such an upbeat personality. He commended my pole dancing skills several times which was nice to hear! The whole crew was complimentary, giving me high fives and fist bumps when I was done. Many had never seen pole as an athletic art form before and were impressed. I felt grateful to have exposed a new audience to this form of pole dancing. I feel confident that they will portray it differently than they may have initially had in mind. The script originally called for “dancers grinding on poles.” But once the director saw what I could do, he encouraged me to “go crazy” with tricks. It will be exciting to see the final product!

Irmingard on the set of Lucky N#mber

10. Tell us something unique about you that is not related to dance.

My father is originally from Germany. When I was younger my family would spend summers in Bavaria so I’ve lived roughly two years of my life there.

pOlympics Part 3: The Argument Against

Image

And here, we have our final installment of our pOlympics series!  There are two sides to every story, and in this last post, we will be examining the argument against including pole in the Olympics—but from pole dancers, not from the viewpoint of closed-minded people who still think pole dancing should stay in strip clubs. 

So, why would an athlete not want their sport to be recognized in the Olympic games?  The main argument from polers on the “con” side is a direct answer to #3 in our last post: legitimization.  Many dancers feel that getting pole fitness into a mainstream event like the Olympics will “sanitize” the sport.  In an article for Tonic.com Anne Driscoll writes, “perhaps what’s equally baffling is that pole dancers themselves aren’t uniformly behind the efforts to swing the Olympic committee around to the idea of pole dancing in the Olympics. Apparently, some pole dancers fear that Olympic status will sanitize the sensuality of the dance, especially if there’s a limit on stiletto height or the imposition of an unsexy dress code.”

Some polers feel that sensuality is at the core of what makes pole dance unique—an expression of sexuality.  The gymnastics and even rhythm required are sensual.  Some fear that if pole is included in the Olympics, this fundamental aspect of the sport will be excluded, therefore altering the spirit of the sport.

Other polers may get a kick out of practicing a sport that is still seen as “naughty,” and the fact that it isn’t mainstream is a big pull toward the pole.  Once pole fitness gets Olympics legitimization, this taboo factor will disappear, and with it, perhaps the allure.

But these are just a couple of arguments for and against—this is an issue about which everyone has their own feelings.  So tell us!  What are you in favor of?

pOlympics Part 2: The Support

In the second part of our pOlympic series, we’re taking a look at the arguments for including pole in the Olympic Games.  In our last post, we saw what exactly it takes for a sport to become an Olympic Game.  It’s a long process, but one that many in the pole community view as being 100% worth it.  Here are just a few reasons why:

1. Stigmatization. As much as we might hate it, there is a stigma that comes with declaring yourself a pole dancer.  Many people still associate pole fitness with stripping, and seedy nightclubs.  But the art of pole is so much more than that.  “Naysayers, who aren’t polers themselves, get stuck on the apparatus and the ‘negative’ connotations affiliated with it,” says Keisha Franklin, one of our pole instructors here at Shockra.  Many in the pole community feel that including pole sports in the Olympics will help combat these stigmas.  In an article for ESPN Playbook, Miss Pole Dance World 2010, Felix Cane, wrote, “Whether the world is ready for pole dancing to be in the Olympics in 2016, I am ever hopeful that the public will learn to shake the stigma that pole is fundamentally wrong and dirty.”

2. Recognition.  If you’re a poler, or even just taken one class, you know how difficult pole fitness is.  The bruises, the core strength, the rhythm—it truly is an art!  “It can easily be likened to various aspects of gymnastics,” says Franklin.  “I think few, who have witnessed a pole competition firsthand, would question the level of skill, strength, dedication, and overall athleticism required in order to be the best.”  Our instructor Ajia Maximillan agrees.  “It would be wonderful to have pole sport in the Olympics, which in my opinion is in a different category than pole dance/pole performance,” she says.  The push towards including pole in the Olympics is aimed at recognizing the work that polers do.

3. Legitimization.  Perhaps because of the stigma still attached, pole is not a “mainstream” sport.  It is not as widely practiced as hiphop, and there aren’t as many studios or performances or troupes dedicated to pole as there are to ballet.  When you say you practice pole fitness, many times you receive a slight widening of the eyes and a ponderous, “huh.”  Getting pole in the Olympics would help take the sport mainstream and perhaps even make it more easily accessible.  In their mission statement, the International Pole Sports Federation says, “[Our] aim is to make pole sports more prominent in the sports community and to get pole sports competitions in major global sporting events.”

So there you have it!  Three important arguments for getting pole into the Olympics.  Not everyone in the pole community agrees with these points, though, and in our next post, we’ll find out why.  Stay tuned!

pOlympics: Should Pole be Included in the Olympic Games?

Over one hundred medals.  New world records.  The most-decorated athlete in Olympic history.  It’s safe to say that the USA brought it in the 2012 summer Olympics.  It was a thrilling two weeks, no doubt about it, and we are looking forward to the next summer Olympics—especially with the idea that pole dance might be on it’s way to gaining Olympic status. You may have heard whisperings about the movement to include pole sports in the next Summer Olympic games.  In this three-part blog series, we’ll be exploring this movement—the facts, the pros and the cons.

First, we’ll explore the attempt being made.  There are many documentaries and realty shows about what it takes to be an Olympic athlete.  But what does it take to be an Olympic sport?  In order to become a recognized Olympic event, a sport must have an International Federation.  The IF is responsible for regulating competition and standards throughout the world, so that every country “plays by the same rules,” essentially.  They are also responsible for overseeing the training of athletes participating in the sport.  According to the International Olympic Committee website, “While conserving their independence and autonomy in the administration of their sports, International Sports Federations seeking IOC recognition must ensure that their statutes, practice and activities conform with the Olympic Charter.” For pole sports, this governing body is the International Pole Sports Federation, which has been leading the push towards the Olympics.

Olympics Sports must have standardized rules and must also be practiced by both men and women.  The IOC must deem that the sport is widely practiced throughout the world.  The competitions in the sport must lend themselves to awarding medals.

The biggest challenge preventing the IPSF’s success is the stigma attached to pole dancing.  It is not yet a mainstream sport, and there is not widespread understanding of what pole athletes do.  Pole dancing still conjures images of seedy strip clubs for many people—an idea which, they believe, has no place in an international competition.  The negative stigma of pole dancing will be a significant hurdle to overcome, but getting pole into the Olympics will go a long way towards achieving mainstream acceptance.  But the road is long.  Before the IOC will approve a sport, it must be demonstrated.  To this end, the World Pole Sports Championship was held in London on July 19th and 20th as the first Olympics-style pole competition, and medals were awarded in Men’s Singles, Women’s Singles and Doubles..  Currently, the goal is to have pole sports included in the 2020 Summer Olympic Games.

Many people in the pole community, though, do not want mainstream acceptance, and are not pushing for pole’s inclusion in the Olympics.  In our next two posts, we will examine both sides of the story, and the arguments to be made for each.

Further Reading:

IPSF’s Facebook Page

International Sports Federations

List of Olympic Sports

Ten Questions for Minila, Bollywood Instructor

If you’ve been to the studio on Thursday nights, you’ve probably heard cool Bollywood beats pouring from behind the curtain, courtesy of Minila, our hip-hop and Bollywood instructor.  Check out our 10 questions for Minila, then head over to ShockraStudio.com to sign up for a class and get some face time with this lovely and spirited instructor!

1.       How did you get your start dancing?  What types of dance do you practice?

I pretty much started dancing when I started walking! But I began my training in dance at the very tender age of 6.  It was my mom’s dream to train in dance and she wasn’t able to in her childhood so she was determined to fulfill her dream through me, her only daughter.  She enrolled me Bharatanatyam, which is a classical dance style that has its origins in Southern India. The dance form is known for its grace, purity, tenderness, and sculpturesque poses.  My primary training is in Bharatnatam but over the years I branched out and trained in other dance forms as well.  I’ve studied ballet and flamenco as well as other Indian dance styles including Kathak, Bhangra and Gujarati folk dance as well as less structured dance styles like hip-hop and Bollywood.

2.       What are your favorite things about hip-hop and Bollywood?

Both are wonderful, fun and adaptable to any level of dancer.  Whether you are a professional and want to complete or perform, or a beginner who wants to learn the basics, or are somewhere in the middle, I can cater my style and class for you.  The beauty of Bollywood is it pulls from and draws on so many different styles including classical Indian, hip-hop, jazz, Latin dance and belly dance and it really just depends on the song.  And Bollywood is fun; the music is upbeat, energetic and happy.  My students always leave with a smile on their face and enjoy the workout!  The hip-hop class I teach at Shockra is catered to absolute beginners who have never taken a class and that itself is very rewarding.  It’s a very unique class where I get to help people build rhythm and confidence.

3.       How long have you been a teacher at Shockra?

I’ve been teaching for over 15 years and joined Shockra soon after I relocated to New York City. I started teaching at Shockra in February 2011.

4.       Why do you enjoy teaching here?

The atmosphere of the studio is very warm and inviting.  It is not at all intimidating and you can walk in as a dancer at any level and feel comfortable. And for that reason, we attract the right students and dancers.

5.       Where can we find you when you’re not at Shockra (do you compete, perform, etc.)?

I do perform but spend more time teaching private classes as well as working on professional choreography.

6.       What are your favorite songs to dance to right now?

Bollywood: Still loving Sheila Ki Jawani

Hip hop: Rihanna, Beyonce, Nicki Minaj

7.       Do you have any advice for beginning dancers, or experienced dancers who are new to hip hop or Bollywood?

Just give it a try.  If you’ve even given one single thought, it’s worth a try.  You have nothing to lose and with the right instructor, practice and patience, I have seen so many people improve and grow.  It’s more fun than you can imagine and you get the exercise and workout while you’re having fun

8.       What types of things can students do outside of class to improve or help their dancing?

For beginners at my hip-hop class who are building rhythm and confidence, I say the most important thing is to try and dance as much as possible.  Try and implement the things we learn in class. Dance while you get ready, at a club, at a wedding, in your bedroom in front of the mirror, anywhere!  The more you do it, the better and more comfortable you will feel. For those taking Bollywood, practice at home if you get a chance and try going to a Bhangra party in NYC!

9.       What is your favorite thing about New York?

There are too many things!  But I’ll say this, if you make a sincere effort, people in New York will give you a chance.  Everybody who is here has worked hard to get here and is still working hard to “make it.”  And we’ve all been there.  I love that people will take a chance on you.  And all you can do is pay it forward. I also LOVE all the amazing food!!!

10.   Tell us something unique about you that’s not related to dance.

I’ve lived in 4 really cool cities: Toronto, Chicago, London and now New York.  I also spent a semester studying abroad in France.  And I also took 2 6-month trips to India to study dance and yoga.

My Dance Journey: Putting Your Fears Aside

There are a few things I’ve always been good at: baking, reading really fast, and finding plot holes in books and movies.  Not on the list of my talents?  Dancing, exercising regularly and successfully executing a push-up.

So for someone who doesn’t dance (and I mean really dance here, not get a little tipsy at a wedding and pull out running man), working at a dance studio doesn’t really seem to make sense.  But when I started working at Shockra, I promised myself I would try.  Everyone I spoke to had the same attitude: anyone cane dance.  Every instructor who found out I still hadn’t taken a class after six months of working said the same thing.  “You can do it!  You just have to start and work up to it!”

Even with their encouragement, I balked.  I would look like a total goof, I thought.  I had no rhythm, no grace and my arms and legs are so long and awkward I was afraid I’d look like Betty Spaghetti.  Each of the different dances scared me for a different reason: I thought ballet required too much poise and grace (of which I had none, see above), Zumba required constant moving and I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the moves, hip hop required being on-beat, and pole required a bit of sexy attitude—and sexy had never been one of my go-to attitudes.

So what was an awkward, non-rhythmic, non-sexy-feeling woman to do?  Finally, I just decided to go for it (nudged, admittedly, by the prospect of an upcoming vacation and the knowledge that I needed some form of exercise besides climbing to my fourth-floor walk-up).  I dropped in to a Beginner Pole class with Irmingard on a Friday night.

What happened in that pole class is another story, as is each of the classes I’ve taken since.  But let me give you spoiler: I didn’t fall off the pole, I didn’t feel completely inadequate and I didn’t get laughed out of class by the other women.  Some of them had taken classes before and were a bit more advanced than me.  But most others were right there with me: a little unsure, in need of a little encouragement.  Which we all got from Irmingard.  And I walked out with a bit more knowledge of my strengths and weaknesses and a lot more motivation to come back to class.  And I thought: If I can, after one hour, complete something that even closely resembles a fireman spin than truly anyone—anyone—can dance.  You just need a little motivation, a little time and a lot of willingness to put your fears aside.