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.

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!!!

Bet you didn’t know that I’m a Pole Dancer

Great abs, self-confidence, new friends, and toned arms are only a few of the reasons why I began pole dancing in Queenstown last year. I discovered the Queenstown Pole Studio last August when a group of my friends who work at Coronet Peak got together to have a ladies’ night at the studio.

Anna Ashton does a phenomenal job of making beginners feel welcome at her studio and offers a progressive six-week beginner course every few months. She varies her classes so everyone can work on something at their own level, and gives positive feedback and treats every one of her students like the star that they are! Anna teaches yoga, dance choreography, more advanced dance and aerial classes, and provides open practice time on Saturday mornings.

Pole dance studios foster a great sense of community amongst their students, and the best part of training is that every time you come to class you find you can do something you couldn’t the day or week before. It’s addictive!

Studio Soiree, in the Sugarhouse suburb of Salt Lake City, is where I train back in Utah. The studio is larger than the one in Queenstown in that it has two pole rooms, and a wider range of courses and instructors. On Monday nights I love to shake it in Rebecca’s Belly Dance class, and get new bruises holding crazy aerial poses in Alexa’s Tuesday night Intermediate Fundamentals class.

When I first introduced myself at Studio Soiree they asked me how my training in New Zealand was different from the American style. The names for the spins and holds vary between countries and studios, as well as the thickness of the poles, and the studios’ focus in their classes. Anna’s studio in Queenstown features poles that switch between stationary and spinning with the simple turn of an allen key, and her choreography is about half and half for each technique. Studio Soiree offers a variety of classes centered on cardio fitness and conditioning, and invites men to join the Pole Core classes. The pole is used for exercises that strengthen the core muscles, like a vertical pilates class!

Women of varies sizes, shapes, backgrounds and points in their lives come to try out pole dancing, and most women love it! What’s almost as enjoyable as my own training is seeing the other girls who work so hard on their dance routines and moves, and welcoming new women into the studio. I see women who are nervous and confused transformed into dancers with self-confidence and grace in their movements.

Since joining the Dance Club in University at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute I have made dance an important part of my life. At RPI I would attend an hour and a half jazz class, an hour hip hop class, and then run back to the lab to complete my experiments for the night!

Teaching is one of the most rewarding professions in the world – both of my parents have been pressuring me to become a science teacher for years! – and I am considering completing a level 1 Instructor Certification course and sharing this fun and flirty form of fitness with the gorgeous women of the world!