Pole Dancing, Craft Beer, Good Times in Boise, Idaho

I am going to crave those scones from the little coffee shop in Ellensburg. They were the most delicious scones I’ve ever eaten in my entire life. Then again, most coffee and baked goods would be comforting after hauling across a snow-covered pass with all-season tires for almost an hour, hoping 18-wheelers don’t bash into you coming down the other side. No, actually, the scones really were that good.

It was difficult to choose, but the cinnamon peach ones were calling to me, and I grabbed a whole grain apple scone for good measure as well. They were good company as I drove through a thick haze up another pass and down into the Yakima valley, where a good portion of our local fruits and vegetables are farmed. Not too much more will be growing in this frost.

I was hoping to get my car to Utah before snow fell, but I can’t complain!

Once day broke and I entered the Snoqualmie area, less than 40 minutes into my drive, most of my view for the rest of the day was white, either in the form of snow-dusted foliage or dense fog.

After several more snowy mountain passes, and miles of pure white road, I emerged into the farming valleys of Idaho and rolled into Boise.

Downtown Boise and the Capitol Building. The brand new Whole Foods, the first in Idaho, opens the day after I leave, of course.

I passed through a few blocks of downtown, saw the capitol building in the distance, and met up with my couch surfing host, Andrew, in a neighborhood nearby. I told him how much I loved Boise already. Nothing is really that far, and everything in the greater downtown area is easily bikable. After one more pass through downtown I would come to realize it’s about the size of Reno with the feel of Portland.

After a stress-free ten minute drive I was clear on the other side of the city (compared to the one hour or more it would take to do that in Seattle) and at Ophidia Studio. Aerial Yoga, Poi (fire dancing), and Belly Dance are just a few classes that compliment pole training at Ophidia. I met the owner, Allison Holley, at the Pole Convention in LA this past summer, and decided to stop by for a visit.

The main room features hanging aerial yoga silks and a wooden floor, a classic fitness or yoga studio look. The back room is where all the pole magic happens! A small raised stage surrounded by mirrors features a pole in the middle. Another six or seven spinning poles adorn the rest of the room. Each pole can be set to spin or static and reaches, honestly, much higher than I have been used to climbing in the last few months!

Our first class at 6pm focused on a few spins, holds, and tricks. At 7pm we donned our high heals (she has a few pairs of loaner shoes for students) and learned a simple but sexy routine. At the end of each class Allison dims the lights and lets us rock out for a song or two. No matter how hard you work on new moves or gracefulness, pole is meant to be fun!

Ophidia Studio’s Sexy Pole Room!


I joined Julie, my other couch surfing host, for a post-pole recovery meal of beer and poutine at Bitter Creek. I’m in Idaho. I have to eat the potatoes. Julie told me about a nearby burger and fries joint that features several different kinds of potatoes and yams, that you can have cut into any shape.

“You can get purple curly fries if you want,” she told me. I may have to do just that, after a bit of sleep.

Pole Fitness Northwest

There are always a few poles moves you’ve attempted and thought to yourself that it would be a physical impossibility to actually accomplish them, let alone make them look graceful. You see them flawlessly executed by professionals in competition, as well as the student right next to you in the studio, but how did they get there? Can I do that one day?

This is the challenge and excitement of pole, whether it is for fitness or artistic expression. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, be they muscle strength, flexibility, or elegance in our performance. To me, the true art of pole dance comes from each dancer’s unique style, from the repertoire of moves, their combos and choreography, to the choice of music, costumes, makeup and theatrical presentation.

I’ve made it a hobby, and perhaps at some point a profession, to travel to different studios to learn from different instructors. No two studios are the same. Pole fitness is not sterile and standardized like cardio and resistance machines at a gym. Pole fitness is more stylistic. The ambiance of a pole studio creates the experience, much like a yoga studio. Sure, you can do yoga in the exercise room at the gym, with generic flow and a simple series of moves, or you can practice in a studio with dim lights, incense, and soothing pan flute music coming from speakers hidden behind an intricately carved statue. The same is true of pole fitness… well, perhaps a little different.

Golds Gym, eat your heart out. Tina’s studio, Pole Fitness Northwest, is where women go to get fit. Pink fitness balls, free weights and hand towels compliment a room full of static brass poles. Pink and black foam tiles decorate the studio floor, providing comfort and safety. The first thing we learn in pole fitness is to not only trust the apparatus but our capabilities as women athletes as well.

Tina is self-taught and has an intuitive feel for the pole. She’s developed a signature series of warm ups and spins to open each class session. Emphasis is on fitness, and several core and upper body strengthening moves are practiced before pole training, especially in beginner classes.

In intermediate class, students focus on tricks, inverts, climbing and more advanced spins. Tina has a few tricks and tips to get you into those moves you’ve been trying for months, and will personally spot and assist each one of us as we try moves for the first time. We work on a variety of spins and tricks each class so we don’t overuse certain body parts and get injured. Each class we progress and one day we will just spring up into that one move we thought we could never achieve.

Yup, that’s me hanging sideways from the pole with an ayisha grip. (My legs are not touching!) Thanks to Tina, I managed a knee hold for the first time, a position I thought my body was clearly not capable of balancing in, just by getting into it from a move I already had mastered. After a quick explanation about how my arms should create forces on the pole, I popped right up into a regular grip handspring as if I had been doing it for years. Who knows what I will be able to accomplish in a few months from now. Perhaps the move in the photo will become an iron x, one of the toughest positions to hold on the pole. I’m excited.

PoleCon 2012

The first major stop on World Tour 2012 is the International Pole Convention in Los Angeles, California!

While I don’t have any photos of my own to post, I invite you to see some of the performances on YouTube (though online streaming never does a true performance justice) to see some incredible talent! I would like to congratulate both Ravan and Charlee, both of whom I trained with in Salt Lake City, for winning first place in the mens and womens divisions of the Masters Cup held at Circus Disco in Hollywood, California on Thursday June 21st.

During winter 2011-2012 I was privileged to perform at Studio Soiree’s winter recital and train for four months at Onyx (the studio formerly known as Pearl). The convention was a fantastic opportunity to see my friends and instructors from Utah, as well as meet new people from all around the world.

My main focus at the convention is to meet people at different studios and see what they are up to. The creativity of the performances far exceeded my expectations, especially the costumes, props and choreography of the group performances. During Roz’s performance I decided I definitely need to make a trip to her studio in Brooklyn, New York!

Many of the convention attendees came all the way from Australia, or have Australian roots. I was greatly amused by the costumes and showmanship of the Japanese performers and was happy to see a good showing from one of my favorite countries. A small percentage represented South America, and I believe someone in the audience said they were from South Africa. There were probably a decent number of Canadians, but it was difficult to tell since they tend to blend in with Americans until they finish their sentences, or ask what all the fuss is aboot. ❤

I managed to collect a few business cards from pole studios in Boston, Connecticut, Boise, Tokyo, Calgary, and a few other scattered locations. I want to put them on a huge map and connect the dots during my travels!

Although I wasn’t in the market to make any big purchases, I perused the clothing selection. I was impressed by the craftsmanship of Pole Skivvies and fell in love with Zoraya Judd’s style of clothing and accessories (think Renn fair meets pole dancing). I did purchase 2oz of Dry Hands, and copies of two magazines, Pole Dance International, and Vertical Art and Fitness, in the hopes of one day submitting my writing to the pole community. Being paid to report on competitions or pole communities in other countries doesn’t sound like a bad career objective at all!

Pole Con 2012 was a huge success and a great kick off to my travels!

But wait! There’s more!

There’s more of my life I need to share with you. I am still not settled back into Park City – I’m couchsurfing in my own home town (not unlike last year – thank you, Lacey). Therefore, I can still consider this part of my trip in my travel blog. Besides, my adventures never end.

I told Emily just now that ‘this is was an Anna day.’ I slept well, woke up to a cup of chai tea, did my stretches, and then both of us went to the middle school to swim laps. It felt amazing. I didn’t feel like my muscles were getting worn out, but I was certainly breathing harder, a sensation I didn’t feel at all in San Diego or New Zealand. I miss exercising at high elevations, and I’m happy to be back to swimming! I am excited about the Masters Swim coaching on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday mornings from 6:30am-7:30am and look forward to getting my first swim lesson in 20 years!

After our swim session the weather cleared up. The light snow ceased to fall and the sun shone transparently through the thin cloud layer. I prepared for the Studio Soiree Christmas Recital at Trails by choosing my music and outfit, then headed to Salt Lake City during twilight.

The recital went extremely well – I am so excited to see the ladies from the studio and meet some instructors from Pearl, another pole studio in Salt Lake City. To be honest, I planned my return to Utah around the December recital since I enjoyed the Rookie Night in August so much. I am going to continue my training, but will be careful not to injure myself again. I will focus on core strengthening and conditioning, and my goal is to prepare some choreographed pieces.

Oh, and my day finished up with one of my absolutely deeeeeelicious spinach salads!

Weekend of the Semi Finals

Last night in Auckland the French team beat Wales 9-8 and tonight the All Blacks face Australia, a long-time rival. Both kiwis and aussies are fired up for the match, which starts at 9pm tonight. Right now I am enjoying a green tea in the lobby of the hotel where the All Blacks are having dinner and are about to head to Eden Park.

The sun is shining and the city is a surge of excitement. Along Queen St and the Wharf it seems to be a competition of who can make the most noise today! The energy this weekend has been building since Friday. Yesterday just after noon I joined the team from Dance Pro Studios for their flash mob by the viaduct.

On Friday Brian and I took a trip to Waiheke Island for some wine tasting and some of the Wallabies were on our morning ferry. As we exited the dock a group of them asked me to take some photos with their friends. If I had been a bit faster on the ball I should have asked them if they needed a photographer for the day! Life is never boring here!

Tissu? I Hardly Know You

Tonight I went to my first Tissu class at the Pole Revolutionz studio in the Pakuranga suburb of Auckland. For those of you who are unfamiliar with tissu – think Cirque du Soleil moves on long colored silks hanging from the ceiling! It’s an intense arm workout, even more so than pole dancing! I’m definitely hooked (no pun intended) and want to keep learning more! Today I learned how to climb the tissu, use two methods to wrap my feet to hang on it, and a few simple hangs and inversions – super fun! The studio is lit in red lights and has a lounge area with comfy sofas to create a relaxing yet mysterious ambiance. The high ceiling allows for long tissu and tall poles, which switch between static and spinning. Tonight I mastered my butterfly-jasmine transition and can finally do an inside leg hang (they call that a gemini here) without assistance. I also worked on an inverted elbow hold for the first time – new bruises!!!

Catching Up in Queenstown

I spent a few days in Queenstown catching up with friends and doing what I love best – dancing!

Reavers Lodge, Hamilton Rd, Queenstown

A huge thank-you to Paula and Graham who welcomed me back to Queenstown. I enjoyed the company of their lovely family and a yummy pumpkin lasagna! They also referred me to the Reavers Lodge, where I stayed for three nights.

A lovely Dorm Room with Ensuite

Reavers Lodge is a newly renovated hostel on the North end of Queenstown just up Hamilton Rd. Todd, the owner, set me up with a beautiful 4-bed dorm with ensuite and fridge.

The hostel has a hot tub in the courtyard, a clean kitchen and common area, and views of the town. It’s also a quick 10 minute walk (or 5 minute jog if I’m running late!) to the Pole Studio, Fresh Choice (the supermarket open til midnight) and Mediterranean Market, a gourmet supermarket. The lodge is also only 10 minutes from Shotover St in the other direction.

View of Queenstown Hill

Back of The Remarkables Ski Field in the Distance

I was delighted to get in a refreshing lap swim on Wednesday morning, and dance classes on Wednesday night, Thursday morning, and Friday night. Queenstown is a place where I can’t walk around for very long without seeing a friend! I serendipitously found Gretchen and Nate at Dux de Lux on Wednesday night, and Sam and Ruth at the ANZ bank of all places!

Wish I Were Up in the Sky...

I met up with Sandy and her new Queenstown friends for drinks and dancing all night at Tardis and Debajo and enjoyed an afternoon of sun bathing by the lake! Queenstown welcomed me back with 20C afternoons and bright sunny skies!

I looked into mountain bike trails, and am keen to buy a used bike when I return at the end of October!

Ann, Claudia and Sarah (and Al of course) were the only co-workers left up at Good Group when I went to the office to visit! When I walked past the bars I didn’t even recognize anyone! Yikes! Time to make new friends when I spend the month of November!

Well-deserved Ferg Burger after Dancing at Debajo until 4am!

Two new additions to town are Gasoline Alley, a bar by the wharf which features pole dance performances by students from the studio on Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights, and the Ferg Bakery, for your late night pie fix! The venison and portabello is quite tasty – yum yum yum!

Tofu burger with Avocado, Chipotle Chili sauce and Lemon Yogurt - Yum!

I decided to try the Holier Than Thou (Tofu) burger with the toppings from the Bun Laden (Falafel) Fergburger, after a night of dancing to drum and bass and house music! I haven’t had the chance to dance to music like this since… last time I was in Queenstown. I love it here!

I also managed to catch the Australia vs USA game at the Cowboy Bar, a bar which had opened just weeks before I left Queenstown last year. Can’t beat $3 draft beer, a saddle for a bar stool, and a bunch of rowdy Americans and Aussies!

I’m excited to return for the month of November! See you then, Queenstown!