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The UniCORNER: And Another Song Bites The Dust

“I hate you.  A lot.”


My computer continued to sit there with its cheerfully bright screen and did not deign to answer me.


I gave it one of my infamous Level 10 death glares.  I really hate being ignored by my electronics.  If my laptop wasn’t, you know, an expensive piece of equipment that I need to write this quirky blog and my (hopefully) award winning novels, I would chuck it at the fuc—, um, flippin’ wall.


Why is it so hard to find THE song?  Something not overdone and boring?  Something that speaks to me and whispers in a sexy accent, “Choose me, and we will go far!”  Or even a little-known variation of a more popular song?


Humanity has been creating music since they discovered beating two rocks together sounded nice, yet I still can’t find something in the thousands of songs available at my first-world-technology fingertips.


I mean, I’m not asking for much.  All I want is a song that when it starts playing the world stops, birds go quiet, crickets stop cricket-ing and someone decides to give me a million bucks because my performance was awesome.   Okay, that may be asking a lot (although if someone wants to give me a million bucks, I’m not going to turn it down.  FYI.  I’m ready and waiting.  I’ll even let the person call me their Dancing Princess.)


Instead of this yet-to-be-found perfect melody, I have the country song “Riding With Private Malone” stuck in my head.


During the song selection process, it’s easy to get numerous songs stuck in your head while trying to solidify your song choice. Photo from YouTube.


On repeat.


For days.




This, if anyone is curious, is not a song I want to dance to, but it sure is catchy.   (Did I mention DAYS????)


Confused?  Let’s go back in time several weeks before I found myself hip deep in YouTube-land and songs about soldiers, ghosts, and corvettes.


xxxxxx funky going-back-in-time musical montage xxxxxxx


“Wait,” I asked my inner Diva in sheer disbelief as I stared at the Triangle Pole Competition website. “I thought you were joking when you said you were thinking about it.  You want us to actually COMPETE?  Like … on stage?  In our KNICKERS?  In front of PEOPLE whose job it is to judge us?  Diva, you are batshit crazy.”


Pole Sport Organization is the world’s largest Professional-Amateur competition. They host numerous regional competitions throughout the year. Logo courtesy of Pole Sport Organization.


“Don’t be boring, Khara.  It’s an experience!  A Bucket List Adventure!” my inner Diva replied on a sugar-high.  (She is responsible for a lot of the more questionable life choices I have made in my life.  Trying to fly as a child, multiple times, being one of them.  I can’t hold flying as an adult against her since, technically, I will have wings strapped to my back a lá hang gliding.)


“Bat. Shit. Crazy.”


“Janine and Xenia said it’s fun …” my inner Diva sulked.


I snorted, deeply unimpressed with that logic.  “JANINE can bend herself into pretzel shapes.  JANINE has long legs and the ability to levitate up a pole using only a single eyelash and the tip of a pinkie finger.  XENIA has some sort of personal multi-phase-dimensional twerk-on-a-pole ability mere mortals do not possess.  WE still have issues with sliding down the pole like a greased noodle during the summer months.”


After a few minutes of angsty pouting, I finally relent to at least look at the competition rules and guidelines.


Then … something happened.  I may have been possessed by a Dancing Demon or influenced by an alien mind-control device because suddenly I found myself actually going to do this.


My inner Diva was amazingly smug while I just shook my head, completely baffled by the turn of events.


“Now,” she chirped happily, “we just have to find a song.  The perfect song!”


Have I mentioned yet the hell of having “Riding With Private Malone” stuck in your head?  For DAYS?




Okay, so you signed up for your first pole dancing competition.  Or maybe it’s your second, your third, or your seventy-eighth.  No matter which it is, you got up the nerve to go on stage and do your thing.


Good job!  Congratulations!  I fist bump you in (nervously on my part) celebration!


Now comes the fun, especially since the only time I was ever on stage performing as a kid I think I might have been a tree in a school play.   I now have to actually create a performance using moves I feel like I most likely won’t screw up while under the bright lights of the stage.  Let the nail biting begin!


Why is it that putting together a 2+ minute performance is more intimidating and stressful than cooking an entire Thanksgiving meal, or being the lead strategy planner behind what I like to call ‘The Christmas Cake War’ at work?


Janine’s info session was informative, and Theresa The Designer Extraordinaire from Booty Candy Polewear showed some interesting and fun ways to gussy up items in your own closet to better match your routine.  They were things that anyone could do, no sewing, mad fabric skills, or lottery winning amounts of money required.


(Does anybody want to join me for a bracing margarita to calm your nerves?)


All joking aside, I am really excited about competing.  So, Step 1 in this adventure was figuring out what style I want for my performance.  I laughed like a loon when I looked over the different genres of pole dancing.  Genres?  Sub-types?  Categories?  Whatever you want to call them, some were an immediate no, nope, and ‘oh HELL no’.


Doubles/Groups?  Yeah … not only would I be in danger of somehow causing a rip in the space-time reality barrier by some esoteric correlation between spin speed, obscene amount of grip slathered on my body, and friction but I might accidentally cause my partner to be sucked into said space rip and disappear forever.


Or, ya know, accidentally kick them in the face and create a geyser of blood.   Either way, it would be bad.  I distinctly remember in the rules that anything not attached to your body becomes a ‘prop’ and you have to get it pre-approved.  Geyser blood would then be a prop, right?  In the rules it also states that liquids (along with dildos and lower body genitalia- real or otherwise- are not permitted.  Am I alone in really wishing I could have seen the performances that created those exemptions?) are a no-no, so not only would blood violate the not getting pre-approval rule, but it’s also on the banned list.  Plus, it’s gross.


The Exotic category?  Yeah, that’s also world of NO from me.  I’ve seen the insanely talented Aida at Metal Pole Mayhem and in Krunky K classes.  I have no clue how she does it, but sultry dancing sort of oozes (sultrily, ofc!) out of her as she does her thing.  With my luck, even though we would be in massively different levels, I would somehow accidentally get put on the stage right after her and I would look like that YouTube video where the cat sort of just hops awkwardly up and down around the pole.   Plus, I’m still searching for my ‘exotic pole dancer extraordinaire’ persona and I think she’s out for an extended lunch.  I may have to put her face on a milk carton, soon.    To be honest, if I tried to be sultry right now, I would probably burst out laughing at myself in the middle of the song, and fall off the pole.


There are numerous categories and levels to enter when considering competing. For example, the Exotic category celebrates sensual movement versus technical components. Model Aida June. Photo by Christopher Donald.


Dramatic?  Well, it may surprise everyone, but I AM a wee bit on the dramatic side of life.  However, I doubt my ability to present a ‘serious, emotional artistic interpretation of a piece of music.’   When done well it can be a really beautiful and impressive performance, but at this stage in the game, it’s not for me.   It’s like those really awesome pants that while you can button them, you can’t breathe and sort of muffin top because they don’t really fit.  In another few weeks of hard work, they’ll look great, but you’re not there yet.    So, Dramatic may be a next year sort of deal.


Championship, Floorwork, and Qualifier were equally a no.  As for Showcase/Plus, while it IS cool that they add that category, if I’m getting up in what is basically my underwear in front of people with recording abilities at their disposal, I’m going to go for the full enchilada and get judged while doing it.   It’s a personal choice, and there is no shame in not wanting to be judged.  Getting up on the big stage is an accomplishment all in itself.


So, alas, what is a girl to do?  Luckily, there is one more category that seems like a perfect fit.  Entertainment.   I may have done a happy dance when I saw, ‘interpret a piece of music to provide a comical or upbeat performance.’


Comical?  Upbeat?  Ha!  Is my name ‘Khara?’


In the words of our Mysterious Maestro of Twerking Mayhem Xenia, “Yaaaaaaaaaaas.”


Okay, so my category is figured out, now I just have to decide on the skill Level.  To be honest, this is a hard one as it can be a battle between ego and actually being realistic about my current comfort level.  I would love going in at a high level, but I am completely aware that I would fall flat on my face.  Badly.   I would also freak out for the next few months and I have enough going on in my life that I don’t need to put out the Welcome mat and fancy hors d’oeuvres for more stress.  Plus I don’t want to end up hating this entire process so much that I would never compete again.  Janine made a great point at the meeting about picking the level you can comfortably do now, and that it is possible to change it later.  Less stress about having to perfect something when you’re already trying to figure out a routine that won’t get rotten produce thrown at you from the peanut gallery.


Seriously, though, there is no shame in choosing a Level 1.  I’m starting at a Level 1, and I’m not embarrassed by that.  I could do a semi-weak Level 2 right now, but I hope through hard work to be at a solid Level 2 by competition time and up my rating.  Yet even if I stay at a Level 1, I plan on enjoying myself and putting on a fun and happy performance.  It’s not always about the crazy tricks (although they are cool), but about both yourself and everyone else enjoying themselves.


So, Step 1 with figuring out the Category is done.  Step 2: Determine your Level is checked off.  That leaves … *ominous music* … Step 3: Picking out the song and theme.


Ugh.  This song choice is going to drive me batty, and my inner Diva is just merrily humming to herself.


Deciding to compete in a pole dance competition is a huge accomplishment. Competing allows family and friends to see all of your hard work put into action. Cartoon by Leen Isabel of Pole Dancing Adventures.


Wait a second …


Is that …?


Ugh!  Great.  She’s humming ’Riding with Private Malone’ and it’s once more stuck in my head.


Have I mentioned that it’s been in my head for DAYS?


The Triangle Pole Championships will be February 17 in Cary, North Carolina.  The local studio coordinator of the event is Aradia Fitness Cary.  To find out more information about this event or other Pole Sport Organization competitions, please visit the PSO website here.


Article Written by Khara Johnson, Student at Aradia Fitness Cary in Cary, North Carolina.

September 18, 2017

The UniCORNER: R-E-S-P-E-C-T Your Body

Most of us have been, at some point in our lives, on the Injury Bench. One minute you’re the Mistress Of Your Fate and twirling around a pole, hanging from an aerial device, or trying to survive a cardio class and suddenly … BOOM. Congratulations, you have an injury.


Do not pass go, do not collect $200. It’s a complete bummer and can slow your motivation and forward momentum towards a healthier lifestyle. For some, it can derail their entire desire to exercise as they hang up their lycra forever, while for others it can become what some refer to as a “personal growth opportunity.”



There are many different remedies to heal the aches and pains from your workout. Photo by Leen Isabel.



If you’re lucky it’s a strained muscle that a few days off will heal, but sometimes recovery can take weeks and even involve the expertise of Liz, The Most Wonderful Physical Therapist On The Planet. (Hi, Liz! And no, this is not a sponsored ad, she really is amazing at what she does. I think its magical powers, personally.)



Alas, my major BOOM came because I can be really headstrong and stubborn. Those traits can certainly be positive, but in the wrong circumstances they can really bite a gal on her butt. Which they did.






So, yes, this blog post is about R-E-S-P-E-C-T, and what it means to me. (Sorry ((totally not sorry)) but I had to go there).



The great thing about Aradia is how inclusive it is and how we promote respect towards others and ourselves. In fact, I’m pretty sure there would be a team of sword-wielding, ninja-unicorns leaping out of the woodworks if anybody tried that body-shaming crap towards another person.



Aradia Fitness provides a safe and supportive environment for everyone of all fitness levels. Photo by Christopher Donald.


That being said, I found it amazingly difficult to respect my own body, but not in the way you might think. I’m not talking about thinking body-positive thoughts or feeling warm and fuzzy towards my slowly contouring biceps, but in actually respecting my current physical fitness abilities, and that sometimes my body knows more than my brain on what it actually needs.



We all have physical goals we struggle to conquer. Maybe it’s the ability to do a shoulder mount, a perfect plank, or not pass out during Hot Core class. Sometimes those obstacles can be met and overcome through training and further conditioning, sheer grit, or by approaching the problem from a different angle.



But what happens when life throws you a curveball? How do you react? Do you keep going no matter what, ignoring what doesn’t agree with your Life Plan? Do you change your approach to exercising and try for something less “dangerous?”



About 10 months ago I decided to ignore my body’s exhaustion and the warning signs that things were not well, and go do my normal workout anyway. The result of that poor choice was painfully cracked ribs that required 4 complete weeks of downtime from the gym, and 2-3 more weeks of taking a very light load of classes to finally heal.



Injuries can be common when working out. To avoid exhaustion and further injury, one must give their bodies rest and recovery time.


I’m not going to lie, I was really, really, REALLY pissed off about this. I may have thrown an adult tantrum in the quiet and privacy of my own home, even as I struggled to accept the fact that I was not Super Girl. I wanted to fly, and instead I found my wings (temporarily) clipped.



You would think that after I returned to classes I would have learned about listening to my body, right? That I would be more mindful of myself, perhaps? That I would have realized that working-out and training are more than just the ability to flip and twirl around a pole or do a thousand squats? Surely such a firm rap on the metaphorical knuckles would have enlightened me on these facts, yes?



… have I mentioned that I am a stubborn and headstrong idiot?



So there I was, taking classes and cheerfully ignoring the fact that something was still wrong. I was having fun, I was getting stronger, and I figured it would go away with enough Icy Hot and Tylenol. I was a tough and independent lady with goals and a certain timetable of events, and I would be damned before I let some wussy boo-boo slow me down. I was the Beast Mode, and the Beast Mode was me!



Seriously, I remember thinking, what could go wrong?



Yeah, I know, never say that. Whenever that phrase is used I can literally hear Fate snickering and turning towards his pal, Life Plans, and saying, “Hold my beer, eh?”



So I bet you can guess what happened next.



This time I managed to very badly pull a good number of my abdominal muscles so that even standing or twisting was a new and exciting challenge. This sparked yet ANOTHER few weeks off from the gym, and I constantly fretted that I was going to lose all the strength that I had gained. In the very back of my mind I even started to wonder if maybe I was cursed. Some of my non-gym friends even questioned why I continued when I seemingly kept hurting myself. I think my best friend even suggested perhaps shuffleboard would be more my speed, lol.



It’s always important to truly listen to your body when working out. Overworked muscles can lead to lasting and painful injuries.


After a few weeks I returned even though things still felt a bit wonky, but the difference was that THIS time I listened. THIS time I respected my body’s warnings that not all was right in abdominal paradise. This time I did not bang my head against a wall with my fingers in my ears, demanding reality bend to my whims even as my body crumpled under the weight of my (then currently) unrealistic expectations.



So I called The Bestest Physical Therapist On The Planet, and made an appointment. (*waves* hi, Liz!)



I don’t consider myself a particularly naive person, but at the same time I hadn’t realized how much damage I had done by ignoring my own body and what it had been trying to politely tell me for months leading up to The Original Rib Incident. Instead of listening and learning specific exercises to strengthen my weak areas, focusing on gaining better technical abilities, or even just taking a few days off, I only felt resentment at what I considered an unwanted attitude my body was throwing me.



If I wanted to continue with pole dancing, or even just regular exercise in general (and no, I was not interested in shuffleboard), I needed to fix what I had rather callously busted and abused. Slowly, very slowly, my body healed and grew stronger. I unlearned bad habits, and learned some better ones.



During this “character building” time of my life, I developed a little bit more patience. Real respect for all the crap I put my body through on a daily basis. Determination. The key importance of core strength in everything we do. I finally realized that I needed to listen and hear what my body told me, even though it sometimes meant having to sit on the sidelines. I learned to not be embarrassed that I was currently unable to do what everyone else could, and that comparing my progress to others was a really good way to make me miserable and more pissed off at myself.



All of this happened because I was too stubborn to listen and respect my body when it told me that something was wrong. That I was muscling my way through moves when I should have focused more on correct form. I experienced months of irritation, frustration, impatience, and pain because I was so focused on what I wanted to be doing, that I didn’t keep my mind focused on the now.



Working out is not easy, and everyone will occasionally experience strained muscles or bad bruises. Some soreness is normal, and some injuries can be worked around and do not need bench time. Others require you to do that hateful thing called “adulting” and actually respect the fact that you need a break. That our bodies are more than just luxury high-end vehicles for our brains to ride around in. The instructors at the gym are awesome with giving plenty of alternative exercises, and people are understanding if you have to sit certain activities out, but it is the individual student’s responsibility to set their own pace and goals.



Listen to your body. Set goals. You can achieve your goals, especially with the help of supportive pole friends and instructors. Photo by Leen Isabel.



We all want to exercise and get physically fitter and stronger. To be able to pull off amazing pole tricks or gorgeous aerial displays. Part of the process is realizing we are not made of titanium, and that we all need to have (or gain) enough daily body awareness to know when something is wrong. Respecting our bodies is not just respecting how they look, but also respecting how hard they work to do all that we ask them to do. Showing them a little love and consideration in return can really save a lot of time, pain and irritation down the road.



As for me? I’m finally back to doing all the classes I want to do and as many times a week as I feel up to doing them. I still see Liz The Most Amazingly Magical PT On The Planet (hi, Liz!) a few times a month and I like to think my abs are now made of almost-titanium alloy. I am more mindful of what is going on in my body, and I try and pay attention and not run myself into the ground. Overall, exercising and pole dancing is going fantastic, so what could go wrong?



…. oops …



(Just kidding!)


Aradia Fitness Cary offers classes for all fitness levels.  For a description of classes, along with prerequisite requirements for attendance and levels, please visit our website here.


Article Written by Khara Johnson, Student at Aradia Fitness Cary in Cary, North Carolina.

July 20, 2017

Meet Our Unicorns: Featured Instructor Ellie

Ellie has danced for as long as she can remember.  Bored with gym workouts, she tried a pole fitness class in October 2012–and it was love at first spin!  She found that pole dance fitness is challenging and ever changing.

Ellie competed in the Southern Pole Championships in 2015 & 2016, placing first in the Dramatic divisions of her level both years.  She has also performer in local productions, including HAIR (Theatre in the Park) and Metal Pole Mayhem.  When she isn’t spinning around the pole, Ellie teaches Creative Movement and Ballet at a local dance studio.  On occasion, you can find her on stage in those productions as well.

Ellie graduated from Appalachian State University with a B.A. in History and a Minor in Dance.  She is an ACE Certified Group Fitness Instructor and a POUNDFit POUND Pro.  Ellie is excited to be a part of the Aradia Fitness team and to share her love of dance & movement with her classes.

She recently sat down with fellow Aradia Fitness Cary instructor, Emma Reyn, for an up close and personal look into her pole life.  Check out the full video interview here.


Aradia Fitness Cary Instructor, Ellie dances with her ballet-inspired moves and grace. Photo by Scott Chmelar.


What kind of obstacles have you faced in your pole journey?

“I started pole when I was 39, and so I’d say I’m a little risk adverse when it comes to something that may be slightly more head first to the ground.  I’m just hyper aware of my recovery time, that it would be a lot longer.” 



What is your dance background?

“I started with a lot of dance…Since the age of three, my mom put me in dance lessons, so ballet, tap, a little bit of tumbling until about ten, and then all ballet from age twelve.” 



Do you do any training outside of pole?

“I’ll do some of the cardio classes typically, MixxedFit is fun.  I teach Pound, so that’s kind of my other one and I sub some classes for that around the area, and I like to take classes too when I can.” 



Do you prefer to dance in shoes or bare feet?

“I’m a bare foot kind of girl, but I like my heels, it’s kind of fun.” 



Do you use pole grip? What kind?

“I can’t say that I have a lot of tips for sweaty [hands], I don’t have sweaty hands.  I’m, I guess fortunate that way. And I tend to not use grip a whole lot.  I try to kind of avoid it in class because I don’t want to rely on it… [My] go-to is probably Dew Point and I use that more in the summer when my legs are just so dry… I feel like I’m so dry that… my shins just slide, but I usually only use it on my shins.  Competition’s a little different, I’m not afraid of the iTac – in the elbows – I might not even be doing an elbow hold but I’ll put it there just in case.” 



What is your favorite class to teach?

“[Pole] Fluidity, because stringing all the stuff together, I find that I’m more tired after a choreo class than I am after… a level class.  Because sometimes when you start stringing all those things together, you’re going and you’re going and then you do it again and again and you’re just tired – but you’re moving and having fun.” 



What is your favorite pole move?

“Cupid.  Cupid is my jam.  Once I figured it out, I was just like ‘this is so cool’ because you’re basically just holding on by your knee pit, and then you have a foot for a kickstand.  You can just get in the shape and play with your arms too and that makes it kind of cool.  Just breathe, like ‘Here’s my picture! Joe and Iris get my picture!’


What is Aradia Fitness for you?

“It’s like a family. It really is, because everybody here, regardless of whether you personally click with somebody, everybody has the same goal. They’re all here to work out, they’re all here to have fun, and just… you know, be together, so it’s kind of like a nice little family.


What advice do you have for other pole dancers?

“[Pole dance] is very much your own journey but… nobody’s pressuring you like ‘Oh you need to go do this’… Try it, if it doesn’t work that’s okay, because there’s fifty other moves you can work on. Not everything is for every body type. There’s a move that somebody gives you and you’re like “I’m not gonna get this”, come back to it in three months, because in three months you may be stronger, you may be more flexible, you may be a little more balls-y and willing to try it, so if you revisit it it doesn’t mean you have to perfect it, doesn’t mean it has to go in a performance piece, but try it again. You never know, it may work that time. I’ve had stuff like that that didn’t make sense, then six months later it’s like ‘Whoa! Wait a minute, how’d this happen?’ It just clicks and then you’re like ‘What… why was I so confused? I can’t believe I was stumped by that.’ But don’t worry! There’s something else that’s going to stump you!”


For the full video and more of Ellie’s interview with Emma Reyn, please visit here.


Article Written by Emma Reyn, Instructor at Aradia Fitness Cary in Cary, North Carolina.

June 25, 2017

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