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Monday, April 26, 2010

Day Fourteen: Las Vegas and the Miracle Mile

More girls arriving!  More classes!  Girls exchanging stories on the deals they got at their hotels, which shows they've been to see overnight... Girls swapping business cards and singlet tops (ummm, in the US, apparently singlets (Bonds style) are called "wifebeaters"? yikes, I feel politically incorrect just writing that!)... The week was well and truly "in the swing" and so were we!

Again, I was meeting women who had flown in from locations all over the US; plenty of instructors and studio owners also came by to play and learn (because there's always more to learn, and that's half the fun!).  I'm so full at the moment, so happy first of all to have the opportunity to meet these women, and to connect with them, but also to share what I can.  A double bonus is messages coming through to me afterwards letting me know what a brilliant time they had and how much they came away with!  I really don't believe in holding back in class.  Within a student's range of ability, I love to share whatever I can to get them to the next level, and I'm finding more and more that that's a lot about body awareness.  That is, knowing what's going on both physically and mentally within oneself, and thus being able to make better choices.  After all, pole dancing is highly acrobatic (especially these days) and a thoughtless dismount can mean weeks of pain.  Unconscious dancing gets you nowhere, and usually leads to injury.  And I know that after each one of my workshops, my students were smiling (tired, but happy) because they came away with little gems to lead them to the next level.

After class, I felt inspired to do some Vegas-style shopping... so Miracle Mile it was!  The Miracle Mile is located inside the Planet Hollywood casino and it does feel like a whole mile of shops!  I circled the whole thing, but of course made a beeline for my favourite: The Bettie Page store, where I spent ages trying on dresses and skirts before allowing myself to choose just one thing (my luggage was already stretched!).  What was it?  Hmmm, perhaps a photo soon!

The Betsey Johnson Store

There she is!  The Bettie Page Store!

Day Thirteen: O! Las Vegas!

Group classes resumed Wednesday afternoon - more fun, and a little more spinning too!

Driving to the studio along the freeway, The Strip to the right, mountains in the distance

Then as the evening set in... Fawnia and I set off for the Bellagio, for a show I've wanted to see for a long time: O.  In permanent residence in Las Vegas since its premiere in 1998, O is "inspired by the concept of infinity and the elegance of water's pure form" - as per the Cirque site.  Most of the (enormous) stage is an incredible invention in which the floor lowers, becoming the base of a pool, covering most of the stage area.  All characters spend some time in the water, whether they are diving off their aerial apparatus at the end of their act, performing synchronised swimming, or floating on one of many props.  The show in its entirety is a true feast, a dynamic tableau, multi-dimensional and magnificent.  As Fawnia said afterwards, "They make me want to stretch!".  Me too!

Sculptures by Richard MacDonald for Cirque, on display at the entrance to O's Theatre

The Bellagio

Day Twelve: Las Vegas: Group Classes!

Spinning Pole Class!  Today was the first time we'd officially run one of these - most non-Australians seemed to have little or no experience in spinning technique and were thus nervous about coping with the momentum and the Dreaded Dizziness. So I was thrilled to be able to help out with both of these issues, starting with a gentle introduction and moving on to some quite advanced moves.  By the end, I had a class full of students relieved to have started the journey towards not only conquering their fear of spinning, but ready to start having some fun with it.  YAY!

Next class was intermediate/advanced and it never fails to impress me, the range of moves under that title.  These classes can contain anything from students who are still preparing to invert on their own, to girls who are just about ready to fly!  All in all, the class kept me on my toes in the best possible way, finding variations and transitions to suit everybody.

It was only early in the week but already girls were arriving from far away states to take class with me - hmmm let me try to remember some of them - Atlanta, Georgia; Tucson, Arizona; Iowa; Florida; oh and yes, one friend from Alberta, Canada.  All coming together in the middle of the Mojave in the name of Pole!

Day Eleven: Las Vegas: Class Begins!

Monday: my first day of teaching in Las Vegas!  Having been here several times before, I wasn't so disoriented; we have our morning routine of coffee and eggs, with the addition this time around of Playtime with Leo - a simple case of throw the toy, Leo brings it back; then throw the toy, and Leo brings it back... and so on.  Having had over a week of teaching and traveling constantly, I wondered if Leo would loan me even a smidgen of his energy.

On arrival at Pole Fitness Studio, I finally got to see the new space that Fawnia has taken over and made into her new second studio (in the same location): a huge pole room (complete with 17 poles, a mix of static 38mm and static/spinning 50mm brass poles) with an extra yoga/ stretch/ ballet room... plus reception and office. Great size, and great use of the space. 


It was gooood to be back on the poles, and later that evening, to just go home and relax, ready for the busier days that lay ahead.

Oh, and of course, no day is complete without some Leo love!

Day Ten: Las Vegas and LEO!

Las Vegas, finally!  A year without seeing Fawnia is a year too long.  This was my first pole-free day in over a week, which actually felt strange and empty!!!  But I'm sure my body appreciated the break.  First of all I had to introduce myself to Fawnia's ADORABLE Teacup Yorkshire Terrier, Leo...

Terrier by name, and absolutely heartbreakingly cute Terrier by nature!  A miniature power(doll)house of energy who zooms around the house for 90% of the time I see him awake.  Pow!  Zoom!  A never-tiring bundle of playfulness.  Leo was the second dog I've had the fortune to meet along the way; the first was Ckeanna's (slightly larger) terrier.  I'm loving these cool little characters with all their idiosyncrasies and antics!  Most of all for their unwavering affection and loyalty.  
The afternoon wore on with the essentials: laundry, and catching up with this blog, FB, emails, and the like.  All things that can be incredibly hard to keep up with on the road.

Sunday evening we headed out to see a show I've seen before and would see again too: LOVE!  Playing at the Mirage, this show was created as an homage to the Beatles and all of their music (which is best appreciated I think like this, in stereo surround, Theatre-In-The-Round, with world-class performers bringing the music to life before our eyes!).  One of the latest Cirque Du Soleil creations, the show manages to tell story upon story about the world of the Famous Four without losing out on any of the the mind-blowing imagination-sparking acrobatics that we come to see.  In fact, in this production, the acrobatics are all the more spectacular.  I particularly loved the female aerialists on straps and aerial corde lisse contortionist.  You can see more about the amazing LOVE acts here.

And so my time in Vegas began in the best way possible: with the lovely Fawnia, and being inspired yet again by the artistry of Cirque... Mmmmmm!

This post comes to you live and thousands of feet in the air via Virgin on-board wi-fi!

Day Nine: Philadelphia, Part Two! -> LV!

Day Nine... Yawn, stretch, make coffee in cute hotel coffeemaker (not a single kettle in any hotels I've stayed in - no tea for me!), pack everything all over again, and out the door (grabbing a famous Philadelphia Pretzel from the tray in the foyer on the way).  Thoughtful Heather had a coffee ready and waiting for me (thankyou Heather!) and once we got to the gym, we were off and running into another day of pole!

Girls came from as far away as upstate New York (5 hours drive away!) - an effort that never fails to impress and to touch me... that these women are so passionate about pole dancing, so inspired by myself and other instructors who now tour, that they will drive or fly for half a day to get to class.  It really makes my day.  I love being a part of this fledgling industry!  There's so much excitement, so much growth, so much creativity to be found!  And moreover, the more I travel, the more women I meet with a certain generosity of spirit, with a willingness to share the joy and to connect as a community.  The days of withholding and control are long gone, girls.  What brings us forward is the opposite: working together and sharing what we have.  

Heather and I!

After a huge day in the studio, and many photos later (hey Philly girls! please tag me on FB in any photos you have there so that I can find them!), Heather drove me to the airport for my next flight.  First, however, a photo or two with the family:

and then, would you believe it, the airport was all but empty!  No long lines to check in, no queue at security... it was just my luck to be there late in the evening.  The only downer (apart from the sadness to be leaving new friends)?  NO Starbucks in the entire terminal!  And I know - I walked the entire place, dragging my heavy laptop bag over my shoulder the whole way!

How quaint!  Rocking chairs in the Philadelphia Airport Terminal!

Five hours later, out of the pitch black darkness of the Mojave desert, rose a monstrosity of lights... Las Vegas!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Day Eight: Philadelphia!

Day Eight began with a fond farewell to Ckeanna and New York.  I set off on the Long Island Rail towards Penn Station, grabbed myself an extra large coffee there, and found the Amtrak train that I needed.

My next host, Heather Slawek from Awakenings Pole Fitness, had recommended that I "train" it instead of flying.  She was right and I'm so glad she told me!  First of all because of the time spent just getting through airports... check in, security...sitting squished in an economy seat, breathing bad air... there were plenty of roomy seats available on the train, and traveling that way I saw my journey at ground level - leaving New York City (strange kind of sentimental sadness washed over me!)...

...through New Jersey...

and on to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania...

home to the Philadelphia Eagles, the Museum of Art (remember that scene in Rocky where he runs up the steps?!)...

...and SO MUCH HISTORY!!!  Heather and I found each other at the famous 30th Street Station (remember Witness with Harrison Ford?)...

 And on the way to the hotel, we drove through the greenest areas I've yet seen on my tour!  Plus so many really, really old homes, and other buildings obviously from much older periods (well, "much older" in US history terms!).  There's not only history here, but very well kept and maintained history.  A very pretty area!

Boathouse Row, famous home to Philadelphia's rowing community


So - check in to my hotel, unpack only what I need for the next 24 hours, find the wifi, answer as many emails as I can... and out the door again to my first classes at Awakenings!

The view from my hotel room!

Awakenings is situated within the Fairmont Athletic Club in King of Prussia.  Heather has managed to weave pole (fitness) classes into what is really quite a conservative venue, an achievement not to be sniffed at!  Although of course I was a little worn from constant touring, by this day I was well into the swing of things.  There's something about girls walking in and class starting up where my focus switches on to high intensity no matter what.  I choose to be there for my students, and I just am.  I love it!  I guess it's a learned discipline, part of being an instructor dedicated to sharing the art.

Between classes some of us went for dinner together - one thing about US restaurants, as far as I've been to anyway; service is spot on and food is mostly excellent.  I've been enjoying the best ever salads and the ones I've had in Philly are definitely the best!

That night, after my final class, I came back to my hotel thinking that I would get an early night.  But between sorting out my latest photos and connecting with my businesses in Australia, it was actually not at all early when I finally got to sleep.  Not at all!

Day Seven: New York!

The one-week anniversary of my US tour had not yet dawned when we landed at JFK airport.  This end of the country, after all, was a full three hours ahead of where I had come from, the west coast.  Feeling a little worn at the seams and time-disoriented, I searched along the terminal for a Starbucks (sometimes the only cafe you can rely on to do a decent soy latte) but none was to be found. So onward I went, to collect my baggage... I was so tired and stiff after the cross-country flight with unsettled sleep, I didn't see Ckeanna first, and she'd grabbed me before I realised what was going on!  It was so good to see her again - we'd met twice before when she'd come all the way across to Fawnia's for my workshops.  Ckeanna, owner of Diva Fit Pole Studio in Massapequa, Long Island, had always stood out before as a huge supporter of pole dancing and a very warm and outgoing personality, and I knew already that I was in good hands here in New York.

On our way out of the terminal, we stopped at the only cafe there: Dunkin' Doughnuts.  No soy milk.  And, I'm sure, no espresso.  No thanks, said I, and we continued on to the car and homewards.  Well, I guess that was my first indication that I was no longer on the west coast.

Driving through Long Island just before dawn...
There's something very confusing about coffee here in the US.  Seems most people drink filter coffee, so that's what's most readily available.  Then there's espresso (as we know it in Australia, ie made as shots, usually with some kind of milk added), and then there's a third choice here: Americano, which I believe is espresso with hot water added.  The latter has me stumped: why would you water down your coffee?!  On the same topic, I have to mention that for the most part my trip here has been "sponsored" by Starbucks, and although in Australia (where somehow we have turned into a nation of coffee gourmands) we mostly turn our noses up at Starbucks in favour of the smaller businesses that produce much higher quality coffee, I have to say that I have been incredibly grateful for the Tall Soy Lattes (of course - in the US, Tall is the smallest!) that have given me the little kicks I needed to get on to the next thing/ class/ journey/ entry.  Thanks for being there, Starbucks.

Long Island as dawn breaks...

As a traveller, and one moving around so very much and with so much to do on the way, I've also come to appreciate the hospitality I've received, from rides to and from airports and train stations, to hotels arranged for me to have my downtime in, to home-cooked food and home-brewed coffee - the latter being รก la Ckeanna!  Mmm, that first NY meal, oatmeal cooked in half water-half soy, with raisins and cinnamon added.  Followed by home-brewed coffee that was more welcomed than even a Starbucks! The day was originally intended to be a rest day, a recovery from my fierce schedule and long travel overnight.  But we discussed the possibility of taking a ride into New York City for a few hours, and my instinct said Go For It!  So, after a one hour power nap and a shower, we set off.

I can barely describe how thrilled I was to be having this unexpected adventure in this world-famous city.  It's incredibly cheesy but Alicia Keys's Empire State of Mind kept rolling through my head... from a place that I and thousands (millions?) of Australians have only seen on screen from childhood to now, to a reality stretching before my eyes for miles... My fatigue was irrelevant.  I was in New York!  

Empire State Building

Grand Central Station

Clock, Grand Central Station


Ckeanna and I

From Penn Station we walked our way up to Times Square, and lo and behold, there was the (in)famous Naked Cowboy doing his Naked Cowboy thing!  For those who don't know, he wears a hat, boots, and jocks; he carries a guitar and does sing, but rarely has the opportunity to get through more than a bar or two before being accosted by (mostly) women wanting their photo with him.  He's more than happy to oblige and, as he's a robust over-six-feet-tall, said women are often swept up into his arms for the first of several shots.  Here's me in my inevitable pose with him...

So, having taken our Cowboy shots, Times Square was Done for us.  We headed on to the East Village via the subway, but soon fatigue caught up with us and we didn't have it in us to argue.  Plus I had a class that night... So, satisfied with what we'd managed in such a short space of time, we headed back, and a few hours later I was in front of a room full of students ready to roll all over again! 

"Threatening" to pole dance on the subway... "Let's take a walk around the pole..."

Oh, yes, have to add - not before discovering "that" Amityville house...

Class that night in Ckeanna's fabulous studio, Diva Fit Pole in Massapequa, flew by.  It was a sell out and I worked hard to make sure that everyone had their time with me.  And at the end the smiles on our faces in our photos were most definitely for real!  I've loved all the way along this tour that we have Facebook now - so all tour photos have been posted and tagged and are easily found again by whomever was in them.

It was sad going to bed that night though, knowing that first thing in the morning I'd be off on my way again, leaving behind New York, and a lady who is now most definitely a friend.