Elevated Art: Boom.

It’s been a little more than a week since the greatest pole show I’ve ever seen.  The honor and excitement of being able to participate still hasn’t completely worn off.  Just performing on the same stage as these incredibly hard-working and talented women has given me a high that I’ve never felt before (and likely will never be able to match)!  Please click this link to watch it for yourself: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-S_J3C_LO8k

Elevated Art Desiree Caterpillar on the floor

I rode down to the Oriental Theater with Mel (thank goodness) for the company, so Ron and Joe could come up later, and so I wouldn’t have to navigate directions and traffic in my already heightened state of anxiety.  It was comforting to ride with Mel, who has performed in even higher pressure situations (i.e.: the Colorado Pole Championship, in which she won the Masters title).  She seemed pretty relaxed, at least compared to me.

When we got there, my anxiety shot through the roof as I watched some of the other performers warm up.  They incorporated tricks into their warm-ups that I’ve never even tried.  At that point, the only thing keeping me away from the copious amounts of comforting gin and beer at the bar was the fact that being drunk would have seriously hampered my performance.  To distract myself from what was happening on the stage, I walked around talking to friends, patrons, and strangers.  Anything to distract me, really.  I met some awesome people, such as Leesi, THE fab pole artist in Colorado.  She and Mel are friends, so I basically inserted myself directly into their conversation, hoping my knowing Mel would cancel out the social awkwardness.  It seemed to: Leesi turned out to be one of the coolest people I’ve met so far through Pole!  I felt supported and buoyed in the short amount of time we conversed, and was reminded — yet again — of why I love the Pole community so much.

The obligatory "porn star" shot.

The obligatory “porn star” shot.

After the doors opened, I obsessively watched the audience members stroll through the inner doors to the theater; I knew I had a lot of friends and family coming, and I knew that talking to each of them would be helpful in way-laying the fear that had crept back in.  Corey was the first one through the door, and so was greeted with a strangulation-level hug as my adrenaline levels vastly increased my strength.  It helped greatly to chat with him while I waited for others (especially Ron) to arrive.  Once Ron made it, I was able to relax a little bit, and when the show started, I tried to really watch the performances (and not compare myself), in order to distract myself further.

There were two intermissions, and I was set to perform in the middle of the second set.  Once that first intermission came, panic moved aside, and a cold determination washed over me; it was time to get serious.  I went backstage, changed into my costume, and started to warm up.

Leesi opened up the second set, so I didn’t get to watch her, which was a bit disappointing, as her work with Fab Pole (fabric and pole) is really, really nifty.  I will definitely watch her video once it’s posted.  She rushed backstage and changed, hurriedly telling me that she wanted to get back out there so she could watch me!  Gulp.

Getting ready to fall into Remi Layback.

Getting ready to fall into Remi Layback.

When the emcee announced me, I suddenly became more focused than I think I’ve ever been in my life.  I walked onstage, crouched down, and waited for “The Beautiful People” by Marilyn Manson to start.

My performance is both crystal clear, and a complete blur in my memory.  I’m so thankful I thought to ask someone to record it for me; I truly don’t know what my impression would have been otherwise.  All I know is it felt good.  There were a couple of moments that stand out.  During the first minute, a strap on my left shoe broke!  Luckily, the second strap was still solidly attached, so I was able to keep it on throughout the performance with a little bit of effort.  Second, I had a moment closely following the one from the picture above when I thought I was going to vomit onstage!  I had just performed a fast climb to flag to a drop into my Remi Layback, during which I ripped my shirt off and threw it across the stage.  After that, I turned my back to the audience and twerked for a 4-count.  As I was coming around the pole to prepare for my first inversion, I think all the adrenaline, fear, nerves, and crazy excitement over the last two months washed over me at once.  It was nearly too much for my body to handle.  I am so happy I’ve been onstage before, because I was able to (literally…gross) swallow it back, keep smiling, and continue dancing.  I felt better within seconds.

This is right after I ripped my shirt off and threw it away. Soon after, I nearly threw up. What a great moment, caught by Desiree!

This is right after I ripped my shirt off and threw it away. Soon after, I nearly threw up. What a great moment, caught by Desiree!

Vertical Fusion Fort Collins ladies filled the front row and they fueled me throughout my performance with hooting.  I know the rest of the audience yelled, but having them so close was wonderful, as I could feel their love and support carrying me from one move to the next.  I know I gave it all I had, because when I walked offstage to the sound of cheering, I had to collapse onto a chair for a moment to let my brain catch up with my body.  I’d finished.  I had finally completed the damn, nearly impossible piece that had been riding on my back for so long.  And I did it well; I performed something of which I could be proud.

Elevated Art Nina pole slide

Here’s the kicker.  I went backstage to change as quickly as possible (Mel was coming up soon!), and to pull myself together a little bit more.  Natasha Wang was sitting on a couch, looking at her computer.  I’m assuming she was watching the show streaming, because as I was changing, she looked up at me and said, “You did a really good job out there.  I can tell how much you enjoy being onstage.”  My knees went weak.  If I hadn’t been so happy with the last 10 minutes, I’m fairly certain I would have burst into tears.



As Elevated Art draws near, a dance unfolds

I am covered in bruises.  I am covered in scabs.  I am sore.  I am tired.  But I am so, so close.  I feel like Elevated Art is the biggest show of my life up to this point.  Big audience, big names onstage and in the crowd, big deal.

Ron has been working tirelessly on a big remodeling project for our house.  We now have an almost completely re-done living room with laminate floors, freshly painted walls and doors, and my brand new 45 mm pole right in the middle of it!  He surprised me by putting it up before I got home from teaching Art of Sensual Movement last week.  It’s been wonderful to rehearse at home; I like that I can imagine a move and then immediately test to see if it works.

But, back to EA.  I have been working on this routine so, so hard, but I feel like I’m hitting a wall.  Choreography has just not been coming together or falling smoothly into place like it normally does.  I thought that by now I’d just be polishing it all up, but I’m still revising and changing things.

I was rehearsing at the studio Monday night when Christine came in to prepare for her St. Patrick’s Day class.  Her cute green socks and headband put me in a cheerier mood than I’d been in previously.  As I worked the routine, I watched her run around the room, climb the poles, and attach little green bags full of chocolate coins to the ceiling tiles so that her students could earn a sweet treat for climbing to the top.

Here's the adorable Leprechaun right before her class.  She happens to be a genius.

Here’s the adorable Leprechaun right before her class. She happens to be a genius.  I stalked her on Facebook.

As I watched, I started to lighten up a little bit.  I didn’t hit all my tricks in my final run-through, but I did ask Christine’s opinion on a trick to replace.  She made some suggestions, and it sort of opened up my eyes to all of the blank spots in my choreography.  The rest of the puzzle fell into place, and before I knew it, I had the entire song choreographed.  Have I run it all the way through yet?  Naturally…no.  But I’m finally to the place where I feel it’s going to happen, that it’s realistic, and that it’s…gulp…good.  I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

So, thank you Christine.  I have always found choreography to be best as a solitary affair, but I’ve now realized that sometimes the opinion of a friend can make all the difference in the world.

A fun shot from "Simply Irresistible" and Nina Reed Photography

A fun shot from “Simply Irresistible” and Nina Reed Photography


I am very excited about Elevated Art.  Very excited.  I’m also honored to get to be a part of the show.  But I’m starting to feel like I don’t measure up.  This is an internal feeling; no one is telling me this, or saying it to me.  In fact, I have received so much encouragement from friends, family, and the Pole community, that if I could go onstage with their love and belief in me alone, I would do fine.

But there’s a perfectionist in me that isn’t always kind.  Sure, she motivates me to achieve things in my life and to go as far as I possibly can.  But she expects an awful lot in return.  When I watch film of myself dancing, I don’t always see the pretty floorwork, tricks, or transitions.  My entire performance is instead concentrated down to those moments during which not everything went as planned.  My inner thoughts and dialog wait for those imperfect moments.  And I’m always surprised when others don’t remember, see, or notice them.

That perfectionist inside is already psyching me out for my EA performance.  I don’t have everything nailed down yet for my piece; there are still some transitions that need tinkering, and — frankly — some downright “blank” spots where nothing I’ve tried seems to work.  I was panicking last week, but now I’m just scared.

If I could fast forward to immediately following my performance, I know it will be good.  I think I’ll be happy with it, and I’m sure others will tell me it was fun to watch.  This is the logical part of my brain at work.

That illogical perfectionist keeps looking at the other performers’ bios and the guest list on Facebook, and she keeps FREAKING THE FUCK OUT.  Here’s that internal dialogue as I scrolled through the guest list this morning:

“Shit.  Everyone from VF is coming.  Lots of pressure there.  Well, I can count on them for cheers, so that’s good.  Oh yeah…Natasha Wang is guest performing.  I really don’t want to flash any boob with Natasha Wang watching.  I’d better test my costume out some more.  Kerry Twirl Girl is coming.  If I could dance like anybody, it would be her….jesus, I don’t want her to watch me!  What if I bastardize her style?!?!  Oh crap…Holly Honey Miley is coming.  She’s a goddess.  Oh my god, I am going to SUCK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

No matter what I'm doing or achieving on the Pole, lately this is how I picture myself.  All the time.

No matter what I’m doing or achieving on the Pole, lately this is how I picture myself. All the time.

So far, this perfectionist, negative thinking has not won out, so rest assured: this isn’t a whining, pittiful, feel sorry for me post.  But I’ve never been in a show like this.  I’ve never performed next to the likes of Natasha Wang.  It’s all very new, and it’s all very scary.  I have absolutely NO frame of reference as to what is “prepared enough”, so I’ll always feel under-prepared.

Does anyone out there have tips as to how I can snap out of it?  Not looking for compliments, here…I’m looking for ideas like the old favorite, “picture them all in their underwear”!  How do I get my confidence back?!

Forced out of my 90s music

So, I admit: it’s not that I don’t LIKE new music.  It’s just that I’m rarely exposed to it.  I guess that when I say “new”, I really mean “popular”, because I do listen to the radio, and some of my absolute favorite stuff to listen to has come out in the last 5 years or so.

So, I admit: it’s not that I don’t LIKE popular music.  It’s that I don’t know where to go to find it.  This has only very recently become an issue.  Before, when I was just listening to music to motivate me while working out or cleaning my house — as well as teaching only Fit 4 Pole — Green Day, Mumford and Sons, Gin Wigmore, Dubstep, the Offspring, Tori Amos,  and Florence and the Machine were fine.  JUST FINE!

And I can say I’ve come a really long way from when I was teaching community fitness classes at the recreation center.  Those playlists consisted mostly of music I’d ripped off of all the CDs I bought back in the 90s.  I’ve struggled to let the 90s go, truly, but that’s another story.  Anyhoo…

They go on forever and ever and ever.

Oh my god, so do these!

Then I started teaching the Art of Sensual Movement.  I have some sexy/sensual music, but I’m starting to think that what I find sexy isn’t really how most people would classify, say, Type-O-Negative, ZZ Ward, Puscifer, and Alt-J.

The problem continues; I’ve been listening to Pandora for about 5 years now.  It’s been fantastic for discovering new artists that are similar to the artists I already like!  It’s how I found A Fine Frenzy, Adele, Bar 9, Gemini, and Nero.  But once again: similar to what I already liked.

So, how do I find things completely outside of my own realm of existence?  I was lamenting this problem to Shay, and she suggested Spotify.  For the first time, I can listen to pre-made playlists of types of music and try to see what fits into the style I actually want.  I’ve already found a lot of new songs that will elevate my AoSM playlist.  It’s been nice to step away from the familiar music I tend to get stuck with to try — and listen to — new things.

Elevated Art Preparation: screw the elliptical!

Here’s how I work out a piece: I usually hear a song that I’ve loved for a long time, and suddenly I’m like, “Oh, this would be fun to Pole to”.  Once in a long while I’ll hear a new song and be suddenly inspired, but not usually.

Then I put the song on my Shuffle and listen to it at the gym.  Preferably while on the treadmill, but lately (thanks to my still-injured left ankle), the horrendously dull elliptical.  I listen and wait for parts in the music that speak to me; I’ll identify a move that just makes sense.  Then I start to build those moments together.  Once I actually start dancing to the music, I can easily fill in any blank spots with transitional floor or dance work.

She’s faking her enjoyment.  The elliptical sucks.

And sometimes, I have to force it.  Time is usually what causes this; there’s never quite enough, and it’s really tough getting to the studio to rehearse some weeks.  Sometimes, I have to rely on the visual in my mind to carry my choreography.

I worked a little bit on the piece in the studio last weekend.  About 10 minutes in, I realized I was forcing it.  Then I realized I was trying to work backwards from my usual method; here I was, trying to dance it out and choreograph it that way, rather than visualizing it.  Clearly, this does not work for me.  I ended up working on back rollovers for 20 minutes and tweaking something in my left shoulder blade.  So lame.  But, rather than get discouraged, I jotted notes on what A) HAD been successful, and B) what I had in my mind already.

The next evening, Ron and I went to dinner with Mel and Joe; I lamented that I had the equivalent of “writer’s block” apparently reserved for choreography.  So, choreographer’s block, I guess; that one sounds a little lumpy in the mouth.  Mel sympathized and reassured me that it would come.  Then Joe reminded me I had “plenty of time”.  Apparently, he has a lot of faith in we Pole dancers; a month for a HUGE show is cutting it a little close for my taste.

And then on Thursday, while on the treadmill (because, yes; the ankle is feeling a little better!), I put on my song for the last mile and a half.  Repeat after repeat.  And the block dissolved; suddenly, I could see the movements.  I started getting good ideas for the little treats I like to put into my performances to surprise and excite the audience.  It all came together!

The moral of the story is this: if your best choreography ideas come while you’re on the treadmill, don’t hurt your ankle.  Because choreography does not work on an elliptical.

The treadmill might also be inherently boring….but it’s proved to be my best choreography tool!  Regular running works too, but I’m afraid of turning my ankle in a hole outside.

Simply Irresistible and Elevated Art

I promised I’d be back!  Enjoy two posts two days in a row.  Because it’ll probably never happen again.  I admire my peers who can do such things.  I’m not one of them.  Vivienne, on the other hand, is:

This lovely, fancy brat updates her entertaining blog almost daily.  SOMEONE knows how to prioritize.

This lovely, fancy brat updates her entertaining blog almost daily. SOMEONE knows how to prioritize.

Please visit my friend’s hilarious blog, “Vivienne’s Process of Elimination” for a good hearty look into her daily life, and to get a few laughs.  I like it because she cusses a lot.  And because I don’t have to wait a month and a half for new content:  http://vivblogs.com/

Now, onward to Elevated Art.  As I said, I completed my submission video, hurting my calf in the process.  Two days later, I sprained my opposite ankle.  By that point I was kind of like, “Fuck it.  If I don’t get into Elevated Art, I’ll freakin’ live.”  Then I got this message in my email:

You have been selected as one of the performers for Elevated Art: A Rocky Mountain Pole Show!
HA!  Apparently being all negative about something and not holding onto those good positive thoughts sometimes — SOMETIMES — gets results.  You can look forward to seeing me on the stage of the Oriental Theater in Denver on March 22nd.  I’m not sure I’m allowed to broadcast my song pick, but I assure you: it’s gonna be pretty awesome, and crazy fun.  Five and a half inch heels, Flying Cupid, Marley, and all.  And I’ll definitely be incorporating some fancy moves I’ve been picking up teaching the Art of Sensual Movement class.  And you can fully expect to see some twerking; I live by the philosophy that you should always do what you’re good at.
These heels.

These heels.

Even cooler: I’m one of SIX Vertical Fusion instructors to be accepted!  Which is both amazing and absolutely terrifying.  Let’s just say I’ll be sharing the stage with some serious talent (including the Masters and Champion winners of the Colorado Pole Championship).  My fancy tricks will pale in comparison to theirs, so I’m going to lean on my strengths, which are stage presence and musicality.  Let’s hope it’s enough!
Now onto Simply Irresistible.  Last Saturday, VF held its first all-burlesque show at the Dicken’s!  I LOVE burlesque.  As far as being good at something, I definitely excel at burlesque where I lack in pole.  I can put on a good show, fancy tricks or not.  I am tremendously pleased with my performance.  I had to do a last minute costume switcharoo because of my stupid ankle.  Originally, I was going to perform in spiked heels.  See yesterday’s list of complaints about why that would have been a bad idea.  I was able to find some great boots instead, though.  They supported my ankle much better than regular ol’ heels, and fit with my costume and song (thank goodness).
The show was a hit, even with higher ticket prices and sitting room only.  The crowd got into the performances, and by the end of the night, was expert at hooting, hollering, and cheering in all the right places.  I love being a part of something where celebrating sexiness, originality, and realism is valued.  What a great way to make everyone feel like a bombshell.

2014’s Start

Oh, I’ve been in technology darkness for much longer than I either calculated or intended.  Many apologies.  Part of the reason for my utter blog neglect has been changes in my Pole world, as well as preparation for events taking more time than usual.  Additionally, my birthday and my brother’s birthday both fall in January, which means more family time; family time is not conducive to blog updates.  Finally, I hurt myself.  Twice.  In one week.  Cripplingly so (albeit, temporarily).

Birthdays and family time are important. Enjoy this old picture of me on the left, Mom, my little brother Austin, Aunt Janine, Uncle Doug, cousin John. Circa, oh, probably 1991.

Birthdays and family time are important. Enjoy this old picture of me on the left, Mom, my little brother Austin, Aunt Janine, Uncle Doug, cousin John. Circa, oh, probably 1991.  By the way: that is NON-alcoholic beer my brother is drinking. He liked it better than soda when we were growing up.

I’d been working hard on my submission to Nina’s show, Elevated Art, at the Oriental Theater.  The show is on March 22nd.  Twenty five performers would be accepted, and everyone had to submit a video of their rough-draft performance.  I choreographed in my head and in the studio, worked on costuming, and got prepared to film.  Ron and I arrived at the Longmont VF on Martin Luther King Day.  I ran through my full routine twice.  The routine included a fall into Flying Cupid, then into Marley on spin pole.  During one of the run-throughs, I felt a little tug and pop near the back of my right knee, but didn’t think much of it.  We filmed my submission 3 different times, trying to get the perfect angle.  I did all of my tricks for every run through (5 in all, including the first practice runs), not sure which of the videos would end up being submitted.  On top of that, I did this all in 5 1/2 inch heels.  We got a run through of which I was proud, and for which the angle was appropriate.  I thought I could wash my hands of the whole business and put Elevated Art on hold in my mind until submissions were actually due and we all heard whether we’d be asked to perform or not.

And then I woke up the next morning.  I could barely walk!  The pain behind my knee (which I later pinpointed to the top part of my right calf, on the outside part of my leg) was in absolute agony!  I limped through my house, trying to work out the knots.  Finally, I was able to walk relatively normally, but I still couldn’t squat down or sit on my knees without heavy pain shooting down my leg.  Note to self: do fall into Flying Cupid twice MAX in a day, and be more careful with it!  Now a month later, that injury is almost back to normal.  I can squat again, and sit on my knees gently (Child’s Pose in yoga no longer makes me want to cry), so that’s great news.

There's Marley.  After falling into Flying Cupid.  Do it five times in a night, hear a pop, and magically you won't be able to walk the next day!

There’s Marley. After falling into Flying Cupid. Do it five times in a night, hear a pop, and magically you won’t be able to walk the next day!

Two days after the calf injury, I taught the Art of Sensual Movement.  More big news there; I got another class that I absolutely ADORE teaching!  It’s all of the sexy and fun aspects of floor, chair, and pole dance that I love, and I get to teach other people how to do it all.  I’m completely hooked.  Anyway, I taught my class, and then stayed for Kris’ Mixed Levels afterwards.  I was the only one in the class, so I asked her if we could focus hard on my Extended Butterfly, as it’s a trick that has been eluding me forever.  I know I have the strength and the ability, but I just couldn’t get myself into the position quite right.  Here’s Jenyne Butterfly performing said move:

I put down the crash mat to feel as safe as possible (anxiety is usually what holds me back, not my ability), and we went to work.  Kris gave me AMAZING help to get this trick; she watched me botch it and struggle a few times before she realized the cues I needed to get me into the trick once I was upside down.

As a side note: once I go upside down, I have no idea where any of my body parts are.  It’s so bad that, if I’m on the ground and someone is explaining to me, “OK, once you’re up there, you’ll want to take your right leg and…”, I will slap my right leg hard so that it stings.  Then, when I’m trying to get into the move, I don’t need to think about right or left.  I only need to move the leg that now hurts because I slapped it. Kris figured out my disorientation and gave me this cue: “Smell the armpit of the arm you can see when you’re upside down.”  That was all I needed.  I know it’s more than ridiculous, but it worked.  I FINALLY achieved Extended Butterfly, which is pretty damn exciting.

I should have left it at that and been happy that I got it.  But no…I wanted a picture.  I asked Kris to film/photograph me as I went into EB one last time.  I didn’t move the crash mat.  I didn’t move that stupid, gigantic crash mat.  And when I came down from not quite hitting EB again, my long legs extended past the edge of the mat and I rolled my left ankle at a nasty angle to the floor.

Here’s an anatomy lesson, thanks to healthcentral.com.

I haven’t sprained an ankle since I was a kid, and I’m fairly certain I’ve never sprained one quite this badly.  Welcome to the disgusting, dark irony of pole dance injuries: try to be safe, hurt yourself worse.  It’s been 3 1/2 weeks, and it’s still messed up.  Granted, it’s improving, though not nearly at the speed I would prefer.  Having a sprained ankle complicates a lot of things, all of which I’m going to list, because sometimes bitching about a problem is therapeutic:

1) Art of Sensual Movement is a heels-wearing class.  It’s all about being sexy, and heels make that happen.  I’m not silly enough to try and dance in heels with a sprained ankle.  That’s a piss-poor idea, and simply a way to mess it up even worse.  So, being that AoSM is a co-ed sensual dance class, I am now surrounded by beautiful women wearing heels.  I am also surrounded by men wearing heels and clacking them on the floor, and I have to miss out.

2) Not only am I a dancer, I am also a runner and a weight lifter.  Running on a sprained ankle is also unwise.  This has banished me to the elliptical.  I’m going to put this out there right now: THE ELLIPTICAL CAN SUCK MY ASS.  Never have I been so bored so consistently with my workouts.

3) Getting outside for a therapeutic walk (or run) is now more complicated.  For those of you who don’t live in Colorado, let me give you the lowdown on our weather situation here.  Week 1: a foot of snow and negative 10 temperatures.  Week 2: 6 inches of ice and 10 degree temperatures.  Week 3: a consistent layer of slippery slush and 50 degree temperatures.  If I didn’t already HAVE a weak ankle, I’d still be in danger of earning one.

  Not good for protecting messed up ankles.

I guess three things is enough.  There are plenty of other small, nagging issues with having a sprained ankle, but I think this post is already getting pretty long.  So I’ll save you the despair.  I’m going to cut it short, but tomorrow, I will share the good news!  Come back and read about Simply Irresistible and the Elevated Art results!

My Top 10 of 2013

Beautiful shot from Nina of my mixed showcase performance last Friday.

Beautiful shot from Nina of my mixed showcase performance last Friday.

I heard someone complaining about retrospective best and worst lists the other day.  I smiled and nodded, but didn’t mean it, because frankly: I love them.  I don’t necessarily need the end of a year to look back and pick out the good, the bad, and the ugly moments, but it’s as good a time as any.  That’s probably why I started collecting good moments in a box at the start of the year.  When something particularly awesome happened, I jotted it down on a scrap of paper with the date and put it in the box.  Ron doesn’t know this yet, but we’re going to read through them on New Year’s Eve.  Good thing I started spacing out that I’d begun this project by the time June rolled around; it will save us from some reading.

2013 was a mixed bag.  There was a lot of fear, a lot of tragedy, and the day that I now recognize as the worst day of my life.  But I’ve noticed — looking back — that many of those terrible moments spawned wonderful things.  Some of the bad turned into something so good, that it inspired this top 10 list.

This year I grew tremendously as a dancer.  My work, rehearsals, classes, and choreography culminated in the performance I gave at the mixed studio showcase on December 20th at Vertical Fusion FoCo.  My dance was a mix of choreography and freestyle, and I dedicated it to Ron.  Follow this link to see it; I’m truly proud of this piece: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9vf_rKa8ZHw&feature=youtu.be

So, without further ado, I give you: Baast’s Top 10 Pole and Dagorhir moments of 2013!


At War Ghoul this summer, my friend Squk (character name) tried Pole.  I have been trying to get this guy on a pole for years, because — as you can see from this picture — he’s totally built for it.

Dagorhir Squk shot for blog 12 2013

We were all partying during the last night of the event, and I was encouraging people to get on the pole in the Stagger Inn.  Partially because I was tired, but mostly because it’s fun to help people learn and to try something new.  I figured Squk here was a lost cause.  That is, until he put down his drink, climbed hand-over-hand to the top of the 12-foot pole (his legs NEVER touched the pole during this combo, by the way), flipped into a handspring, to split grip Ayesha, then into full flag.  He did not realize that there were names to assign to the tricks he’d just performed, mind you.  He just fucking did it.  That was awesome.


At the mixed studio showcase last week, a little plan of Nina’s that had been brewing for a while came to fruition.  Nina had started collecting funds from VFers to send Melanie to a “Traincation” at Body and Pole in New York.  She collected more than enough to get Melanie unlimited training for a full week.

You see, we at Vertical Fusion feed off of Melanie’s tears; the more she cries, the more essence we can get from her.  That sounded creepy, and it was on purpose.  But I’m totally not kidding about “getting Mel to cry!” being a goal at, oh, every gathering, performance, and showcase ever.  I think part of the reason is it’s not hard.  But full-on lose-her-mind weeping is a little harder to achieve.  Way to go Nina!  We got there.

VF Mel and Nina Dec 2013

Also a Nina pic (though I suspect it was Justin behind the camera this time!) Also: check out Mel’s AMAZING hamstrings!!

In all seriousness, we love Melanie so much, and she gives her entire heart and soul to Vertical Fusion.  If it weren’t for her, none of us would know each other, and people whom I genuinely consider my family would be out floating in the ether.  She deserves this gift more than anyone in the world.


In October, Da Juhr Gah held its annual bonding event, “Kill, Grill, and Chill, Part 2”.  This event is held at Thompson Park in Longmont; we all bring food, and alternate eating a bunch of crap with beating the piss out of each other with our foam weapons.  Dagorhir is a really important part of my life, and Da Juhr Gah are the people in Dag whom I see most often.  Luckily, I really, really like all of them!  We’re very proud of our tiny little group, so we like to celebrate it every once in a while.  At this event, the fighting was particularly awesome.  I love the days where everyone is on, and fighting like champs.

It was — by far — my best fighting performance ever.  During a game called Kill your Killer, in which everyone fights in a free-for-all, and when you are killed, you are out until someone else kills the person who killed you, I noticed that my opponents were thinning out.  There were probably 9 or 10 people on the field in total.  After killing Victor, Wasad, and Doug (our best fighters), I looked around the field and saw everyone standing around with their weapons over their heads, signifying their deaths.  Everyone, or SO I THOUGHT.  In absolute disbelief and celebration, I threw my shield up in the air and hooted.  The shield then blocked an arrow speeding across the field from the lone survivor: an archer named Aspergagus.  The arrow flew off course, and I was able to chase him down and finish him off, thereby starting a real celebration of killing all of my friends on the field of battle.Da Juhr Ga practice 7 2012 011


Before Thanksgiving this year, I was talking to Melanie about how much I love doing a crazy hard exercise class on Thanksgiving morning so that I can work up a beastly appetite for the afternoon feasting.  She mentioned that Kris had already started a discussion on Facebook about doing Thanksgiving morning classes in order to glean the level of interest.  I promptly told Mel that I’d be more than happy to teach a Fit 4 Pole preceding Kris’ class, and that I would do it for free.  That started our morning of pole to show thanks for all of our wonderful Vertical Fusion clients.

I was amazed at the number of people who showed up, eager to work their asses off.  I was so inspired by them, that I proceeded to teach one of the harder fitness classes of my career!  I got quite the workout during the process.


I never shut up about Pole.  Seriously: ask all of my co-workers, friends, and family who don’t Pole dance.  But what do I talk about with my Pole family?  (Um…besides Pole?)  Dagorhir, of course!  My other off-the-wall hobby.  Apparently I talked about it enough this year, because I got a Facebook message from Babydoll in July.  Her birthday was coming up, and she would really love to try Dag, but was kind of afraid to do it…unless a huge group of friends tried it, too!  This inspired “Kill, Grill, Chill, and Pole” in the park for Babydoll’s birthday party!  Another VF-er brought a portable pole to the festivities, Da Juhr Gahns brought their spare weapons, and the great Pole/Dag mash-up was born!  It was beyond fun to teach the rules of the game to my Pole friends, most of whom turned out to be really good fighters.  I credit the upper body strength and confidence that Pole imparts!  My Dag friends got to see that Pole dancers aren’t just pretty girls.  They’re strong, funny, sweet, pretty women who HIT HARD.

Nina's pic!  Look at the happy birthday girl with her new, pretty sword!!

Nina’s pic! Look at the happy birthday girl with her new, pretty sword!!


My Colorado friends know that there were a few days in September that didn’t follow our normal late summer weather patterns.  The devastation of the 100-year flood spread far and wide through our part of the state, and many VF-ers were affected by the damage.

For my part, I stayed in my house, knowing it wasn’t safe to go out, but wishing desperately that I could help.  By the third day, I couldn’t stand it anymore.  Ron was at the Emergency Operations Center in Boulder, running communications for emergency response, so I gathered up a group of friends, and we met at a restaurant in north Longmont.  Mostly, I wanted to see their faces, to hug them, and to know that they were OK.  We went around the table and told our stories.  Then we started talking about what we might do to help.

Thanks to Google, we learned that what the flood relief effort really needed was money.  So, we decided to raise some.  We collected donations at our performances through September and part of October, we held donation-based classes at our studios, and we held a silent auction at the FoCo one year anniversary.

I will always remember that lunch in the sun as an island in a sea of concern, fear, and anguish.  I am happy that something wonderful could come from something so terrible.


Ain’t no party like a fancy dress party, ’cause a fancy dress party don’t stop!

Should I explain myself?  I’ll try.  War Ghoul was a time for healing, for kicking back, for meeting new friends, and for a LOT of fun.  The fancy dress event inspired one of the Army of Mordor’s new battle chants: “Wasad in a dress!”  Slightly more popular than the party chant, “Wasad on the Pole!”  Sabriel decided to push Wasad’s limits just a little bit with a cute apron, some mascara, and a lollipop.  Ugli wanted in on the action, so she graciously loaned him a corset, which — tragically — you can’t see in this picture.

I think I laughed harder at this whole business than I have all year long.

Oh Wasad, Ugli, Sabriel, and Mikar...you made my summer something special.

Oh Wasad, Ugli, Sabriel, and Mikar…you made my summer something special.


My Dagorhir friends know that Ragnarok is a big, screaming deal.  Hell, if you read my blog, you know it, too!  Every June, approximately 1600 people pack up and head to Pennsylvania for a week-long event of camping, fighting, drinking, dancing, and partying.

Rag is also a tremendous amount of work, and the overall tone of the event this year was labor-intensive.  This was mostly due to the monsoons we had starting on Tuesday and extending until we finally got to go home.

But the first night was magical.  Da Juhr Gah had spent the entire day traveling to the site and setting up our very elaborate camp.  It had been hours and hours of work, and we were finally at a stopping point.  Dragonhorde came to join us for an impromptu dinner cooked over the campfire and for a little early on partying.  Mog brought two Mason jars of his homemade moonshine (one flavored with peaches, the other with cherries).  I think the combination of the hard work, the desire to kick back, and the general lack of food in our stomachs combined into a scene of drunkenness, the likes of which I have never seen.

And everyone was happy!  You know how sometimes one drunk person kind of loses their mind and sort of ruins all the revelry?  That didn’t happen.  Every idea sounded like a good one, and everyone absolutely adored everyone else that night.

Sometime when you’re with me in person, ask me to tell you about what I found in my tent the next morning…

From left to right: Zagar, Skadi, Asbeorn, Victor, Ulffer, Mikar, myself, and Wasad in our beautiful Da Juhr Ga camp.

From left to right: Zagar, Skadi, Asbeorn, Victor, Ulffer, Mikar, myself, and Wasad in our beautiful Da Juhr Ga camp.


On September 21st, Nina’s own Colorado Pole Championship competition proved to be a wild success.  All of the seats sold out in anticipation of the biggest names in Pole around Colorado and surrounding states performing onstage at the Oriental Theater in Denver.

I was one little audience member who turned up to root for our VF-ers, Melanie, Bob, Ariel, and Waeli.  They all blew my mind, but what blew me away even more was watching Mel win the Masters Division, and Waeli take the Championship.  I still get goosebumps when I think about it.

I FB stalked Mel and found this shot from Shannon, so thanks ladies!  Here are Mel and Joe after Melanie won the Masters Division at the Colorado Pole Championship.

I FB stalked Mel and found this shot from Shannon, so thanks ladies! Here are Mel and Joe after Melanie won the Masters Division at the Colorado Pole Championship.

And the #1 moment of 2013:

I was driving in my car sometime in December of last year, listening to music as usual.  Sometimes a song will come on that is so inspiring, I begin choreographing to it in my head immediately.  This can be a brand new song, or one I’ve known and loved for as long as I remember, but for some reason this one time it sparks new inspiration.

The song was “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” by the Proclaimers.  Suddenly the vision in my head was of me and Ron dancing a duet to this song at the Valentine’s Day themed VF show, as yet to be named “Cupid’s Revue.”  I finished my drive home, jumped out of the car, ran into the house, and declared to Ron, “You’re going to dance a duet with me in the February showcase!”  To which he replied, “OK.  Just tell me what to do.”

Ron worked so hard.  He went to the brand new all male Pole series that Mel started up in January.  He practiced at home.  He practiced at the studio.  He learned my choreography.  He came up with many of his own tricks.  He trained so hard that he injured his shoulder!

But the show went on.  As we waited backstage for our music to start, he in his tuxedo t-shirt and workout shorts, I in my inappropriately short “formal” dress, I looked across at him and smiled.  “How lucky am I”, I thought.  And then the first beats of our song started playing, and Ron stepped out from behind the curtain.

This moment, captured by Desiree, is how I would like to remember my entire year.

This moment, captured by Desiree, is how I would like to remember my entire year.

Quiet choreography

On December 20th, VF is partnering with Cupcake Cabaret in Fort Collins for a fun holiday show.  I volunteered to perform, thinking I’d either A) get some major choreography inspiration, or B) freestyle again.  I’m pleased to say it’s A!  It’s not often that I feel such real and sudden inspiration as I have for this performance.  Up until today, I’d only run through the routine in my head (again and again, on repeat on my iPod while at the gym or out walking.)  After Fit 4 Pole today, I decided to see if my imagination was realistic enough for my body.

It came out good.  Really good.  I’m not cementing any of it in, because sometimes in the moment of performing, I’m moved to do something a little different, but just about everything I pictured in my imagination came to fruition, including two tricks I’ve never put in a performance because I’ve historically been sketchy about hitting them.

Speaking of which, I love when I re-visit a trick that used to be a pain in my ass and find that now — Poof! — it’s easy.  And pretty.  And fulfilling.  I should do this more often!

VF reherasal first Feeling Good

Holiday time update

I love when I’m off of work for a week at a time (one of the major perks of working for the school district.)  I got to participate in SO many classes during my week off for Thanksgiving, and I’m already planning what I might do over the winter break.

I tried Mel’s Smolder class on Tuesday night at the Boulder studio.  Oh man: it was even more fun than I expected, and it was a tremendous workout!  I was sweaty and exhausted.  Twerking, chair dancing, and hair tossing in 6-inch heels take a lot of energy. 

On Wednesday, I went to Mel’s mixed levels, which quickly became a Thanksgiving-themed pole affair during which we gobbled like turkeys, and lurched around pretending to be extra full.  The highlights were the mirror game, where two people danced on the front poles, with two others on poles behind them, trying to copy what they were doing.  Having two guys (Kyle and John) in the class, made things even more fun and interesting.  They were definitely expected to pull out the sexy in order to follow the ladies leading the way!  Good thing they’re such great sports.  Then we played charades on the pole.  Mostly, we tried to act out movies while spinning incessantly in spin mode.  Even more mostly, we laughed our asses off.  There was prop use as well, and charades culminated with Mel riding a carpet square like Jasmine from the movie “Aladdin”. 

On Thanksgiving morning, Kris, Jenny, and I donated classes at Fort Collins and Boulder as a way to show how thankful we are for all of the wonderful Vertical Fusion clients.  I held a Fit-4-Pole class that had an amazing turnout: nine participants!  I got an adrenaline rush from teaching so many people at a time; what fun.  I think there were some sore legs, shoulders, and booties the next day.  Kris’ mixed levels class immediately followed F4P, and she had us work on some cool partner spins, moves, and poses.  We also did turkey headstands, and I have shamelessly used Kris’ posted photograph of the experience, which I stole from Facebook.  My favorite part of the morning was when we were doing a song blast of crunches (i.e.: crunches for an entire random song that jumps up on my playlist) during F4P.  The song was “Shake it Out” by Florence + the Machine.  Kris started gobbling during the particularly waily parts of the song, and pretty soon we all joined in, gobbling away the pain in our abs on our quest to a happier, healthier Thanksgiving.

Gobble, gobble!  Thanks Kris!

Gobble, gobble! Thanks Kris!