Dancing: a way to grow

I have learned a lot of things during my adult life.  I’ve learned (the hard way) that life isn’t always fair.  I’ve learned that the very best policy is honest, open-hearted communication (even if it’s not always easy).  I’ve learned that most people are not just good, but wonderful, and thankfully the less-than-good people don’t spoil the whole bunch.

I’ve also learned how very important it is to be an individual and to let my inner self be free.  Life is far simpler when I can be around people who know me well enough to understand that I’m a little bit different, and a lot bit silly.  I am happy that Pole and the pole community accept me for who I am, and love me no matter what faults might rise to the surface.  There are times when I understand the value of this life and the people in it so clearly that it brings tears to my eyes.

Thank you to all of you, for letting me be me.

Blog Selfie July 2014

Eat the d%#n yolk! (It’s time to go DIET-free)

I am straying off of my beaten path for a moment here.  While this post is not directly about pole dancing or the foam-weapon slinging sport Dagorhir, it is indirectly related in many ways.Fried Eggs Bacon and Sausages on a Plate

Food is a powerful force in every culture.  Food defines aspects of who — and what — the human race is capable of, how it interacts, and how it communicates.  In its most basic form, food is a celebration of achievement in growing, raising, or gathering items from nature, from the backyard, or from the beings raised nearby that provide.

Diet — in its most basic form — is simply “what goes in”.  Diet is the food and ingredients that make up the meals and snacks consumed each day.  So, at this level, diet is simply the food constructed to be consumed in one way or another.

But DIET means something entirely different.  DIET is the practice — and in some cases the nearly religious commitment — of restriction.  In a Chicago Tribune article from June 27th, Registered Dietitian Eve Pearson of Nutriworks put DIET into the most succinct of terms: “[P]eople try to cut something out.  They look for the word ‘free.’ They look for something to be sugar-free or soy-free or dairy-free or gluten-free. That means a lot to people these days, and it makes me want to pull my hair out.”

DIET is different from necessity; there are some cases in which restriction is necessary for survival.  For the 1 in 133 people with Celiac disease, avoiding gluten (the protein found in wheat, barley, and rye) is required to avoid severe digestive issues in the immediate sense, and the risk of chronic disease such as intestinal or pancreatic cancers in the long-term sense.  For the 8% of the population with severe food allergies (severe meaning consumption of the food allergen will lead to respiratory distress, systemic shock, and possible death), avoiding that particular allergen is the key to survival.

So, where does DIET come in?  DIET can be many things, including: a method of control for an individual over his or her life; a subtle symptom of disordered eating; a need to prove one’s worth by eliminating a certain food, foods, or food groups; a reaction to pseudo-science, non peer-reviewed research, or worse: outright lies perpetuated by heavy social media coverage; or simply the need to do “something” to improve one’s health.  When an individual on a DIET states unequivocally “now I have so much energy!”, “now I sleep so much better!”, “now I feel amazing!”, or “when I eat [the offensive food of the week], I feel horrible!”, he or she is likely reacting to an overall change in diet quality.  Cutting out gluten or dairy or soy isn’t what solved the problem.  Instead, eliminating or cutting back on the processed food items that used to make up the diet as a whole is what has improved this individual’s sense of well being.  By going back to the concept of diet as ingredients, this individual will begin to feel better.

But now, this individual is on a DIET.  A DIET can have serious implications for future overall health.  High quality, peer-reviewed scientific research has shown again and again that “consuming a balanced variety of nutrient-rich foods and beverages in moderation” is the key to healthy eating (this is from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics at http://www.eatright.org).  Balance is the key word here; balance means that an individual eats a variety of foods from all food groups to make up a nourishing, healthful diet. All of the food groups play an important role in this goal; macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats, and proteins) and micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, and other beneficial compounds) are distributed throughout the food groups.  Only by eating a sampling of foods from all of the food groups can an individual truly achieve a healthful balanced diet.  As great as a DIET might make an individual feel in the short-term, severe restriction will eventually lead to imbalances in the nutritional make-up of the body.

So now to the diet.  A healthy, balanced diet is the key to overall well-being.  What makes up this diet?  Real food.  Food is what is grown, raised, gathered, or obtained from beings.  Food isn’t torn down and then built back up with a variety of chemicals to make up its matrix.  Food is back to the basics: fruits, vegetables, whole grains (such as 100% whole wheat, oats, quinoa, and millet to name a few), low-fat or fat-free dairy (or its vegan equivalents), and lean protein sources (including lean meats, eggs, or soy- or grain- based vegan equivalents).  With the nutrient profile a diet of variety can provide, an individual will find benefits equal to — and exceeding — what any DIET could ever offer.VEGAS! 2012 040

A balanced diet allows for anyone — even those with Celiac disease or severe allergies — to partake, because nature provides.  If an individual with Celiac cannot eat wheat, that’s not a problem; there are so many gluten-free whole grain options from which to choose.  If an individual has a severe reaction to the proteins in milk or eggs, it’s easy to obtain the same vital nutrients from other sources, such as soy, nuts, or other lean proteins.  If an individual chooses to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet because of ethical reasons, he or she is fortunate that there are so many other foods in nature that can provide the necessary protein, iron, calcium, and B6 necessary for health.iPad pics 007

It’s time to celebrate food again; we are lucky to live in a time and a place that provides abundant choices.  Enjoy whole grains and the vitamins and minerals they provide.  If you choose to eat animal products, enjoy their full nutrition by consuming — for example — the ENTIRE egg, and not just the white!  Savor the options; eat real, whole food from every food group.  Understand that food as it is today has come a long way down an evolutionary and biological path to provide nearly perfect nutrition.  It does not need tampering, and you certainly don’t need to “go ____-free” to enjoy the benefits of a well-balanced diet.

 

Megan Thomas is a Registered Dietitian, Nutritionist with a Master’s degree in human nutrition.

End of Blackout

The beginning of my "Pulp Fiction" performance for Twisted Cinema.

The beginning of my “Pulp Fiction” performance for Twisted Cinema.

Apparently, I was on a self-imposed blackout.  It wasn’t on purpose; I guess I just didn’t much feel like writing.  Which is funny, because I’ve been steadily focused on pole since Elevated Art wrapped up.  I’ve been attending a lot of Mel’s classes and really expanding my repertoire of tricks and combos.  I am more proud of the progress I’ve made in the last three months than what I’ve made in the last year!  But it all kind of becomes a blur in between major events, so I suppose that’s my only excuse.

Most recently, we had our SEVENTH Dicken’s show on Saturday, May 31st.  The theme was “Twisted Cinema”.  Mel held auditions back in April; the expectation was to choose a movie on which to focus for the performance,  and to dance to a song (or songs) from the soundtrack, as well as take on aspects of the plot or characters.  I was thrilled to see what people did with this theme.  There were about 18 fabulous acts in all.  Some that stand out for me are from “Magic Mike”, during which Sara dressed as a male stripper, complete with stuffed booty shorts; “Top Gun”, with Lisa in a flight suit and aviators, doing Fab Pole to “Danger Zone”; “Mr. and Mrs. Smith”, during which Ariel and Dave performed tango, pole, and partner acrobatic moves; “The Little Mermaid”, with Nina on Lyra (what looks like a huge hula hoop suspended vertically from the ceiling); and “Flashdance”, during which Shay climbed a pole and dumped glitter all over Mel!  There were also routines from “The Great Gatsby”, “The Dark Knight”, “Kill Bill”, “Little Miss Sunshine”, “Resident Evil”, and many others.  What fun.

I chose to do mine with a “Pulp Fiction” theme.  On another note, two of my three favorite movies of all time were represented at this show!  “The Little Mermaid” and “Pulp Fiction”.  The only one missing was “The Wizard of Oz”.  I channeled Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman’s character), and Ron helped me edit two different songs together.  I am IN LOVE with how this routine turned out!  I kept a lot of the details from the crucial movie scene (Mia’s overdose) in my performance, and I just decided to have as much fun with it as possible.  I also put Extended Butterfly and Brass Monkey into a performance for the very first time.  Those two tricks combined with a couple of cool combos I’ve learned in Mel’s classes made for a sequence of moves that were mostly new to me.  Watch the performance here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lJKH6k76ZcE&feature=youtu.be

Just as I'm getting into Extended Butterfly!

Just as I’m getting into Extended Butterfly!


It was great to get the rust out and try new things in a performance; I was starting to feel like my work was a bit stale, as I kept returning to the same moves.  Watching the video Ron took on my phone has also shown me that my dance flow has really improved.  I think I can chalk some of that up to teaching the Art of Sensual Movement every Wednesday!

I have been LOVING teaching AoSM as well.  I come up with a new theme each week, and my students and I have a lot of fun figuring out new moves, and re-inventing old moves to fit the themes.  Most popular by far was the Lap Dances class I held last week!  Ron and another fellow, Jon, came to class, along with 6 women!  It was definitely my biggest AoSM as of yet.  It was such a hit, that I’m holding a second one on July 9th.  We’ll build upon moves we already learned and hopefully string more together into complete lap dances.  Pretty sweet!

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.

Rawr.

Rawr.

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

Pressure.

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.