The Best of 2013 | My Pole Year

 First, they tried to break my body. Then they tried to break my spirit. But I would not stop. I would not stop moving. 

Excerpt from XOXO

 I initially thought my pole year was a big fucking bust. Aside from the awesomeness of the PDBA, I thought my pole year had been my lowest since 2010. I felt like it started on some bullshit and was set to end on some bullshit. So instead of writing a post about me, I went on to write, “The Best of 2013 – The Polers Who Won The Internet.” Then two things happened. One, I realized my pole year has been full of amazing experiencing and I can not even begin to highlight them all in this one post. And two, the best part of my year is also learning from the shitty parts. It’s like “What Not To Do” and sometimes those lessons are just as valuable as the glitter-filled, unicorn, high-heeled, perfect moments of a sexy freestyle.

My year started with me knowing that I had to break business ties with my original pole home studio. I started as a student. Then I sort of became their informal cheerleader on social media which led to a marketing internship with their company. And well, that ended for various reasons so I went back to just being a student. But then I was hired as an independent contractor to do pole videos for students. That was awesome too. For awhile. After reflecting on my values compared to their actions, I knew I had to end my business with this particular studio and since we condone and vote with our money, as much as I loved the teachers, the classes and such…I could not pay my hard earned money knowing it was going to the business and barely to the teachers anyway. So I left and that was very hard. Because while this studio has many business issues that so many whisper about and talk about and admit….their classes are amazing. But after awhile that’s not enough. That’s sort of how my year began and that sucked.

At some point this year, I also stopped attending yet another well know pole studio that boasts itself as being the best or the top or whatever. And perhaps on a scale of shitty to awesome, for the most part they might be more towards awesome. I won’t take back my reviews of their classes and my thoughts on most of their teachers. But I left them too and refused to ever pay for a class again either. I’m serious about where I invest my money and my time. And after a misunderstanding that led to crappy customer service and an even crappier email from management…I left them too. And I felt alone. I felt like I was a gypsy with no home and I wanted a white picket fence. Well, the fence is a metaphor. I wanted a fucking home studio that had awesome classes including freestyle with great customer service and consistent, honorable business values. They don’t have to be perfect but at least transparent, honest, respectful and accountable. Right now, at least in NY that’s a unicorn. (Well, read on…maybe I’ve found the unicorn.)

To round out, “The Great Pole Exodus of 2013”, while I began the year as a member of a freestyle pole dance company, as of two weeks ago, I resigned from that “experience”. I suppose its the same thing. Management and Business Values. While the pole community has passion, awesome teachers and performers, great ideas and new techniques…there is a SEVERE lack when it comes to Management & Leadership as well as Business Values. I say that with respect. Too many of us are saying it to each other anyway behind the leader’s back and in email chains and facebook messages and text messages. We are all acknowledging these problems privately but when will we back our words and experiences with action? How will our community, businesses, studios and groups get better if we keep stroking the wounded egos of people who should be held accountable just for free studio time and fear of rocking the boat or because we feel obligated when really we feel annoyed at being used? (Getting off my soapbox…I’m just tired of this famine but…I’m doing something about it. More on that too.)

So honestly, I thought that was my year. Leaving two well known New York studios and a new Pole Dance company for seemingly the same issues. My name is Sheena and I have no pole home. I’m a lonely siren gypsy just looking for a place to strap on some heels and fucking dance my heart out.

Enough with the fucking violins. Like I said, it turns out my year has been awesome. Let me tell you how!

First Pole for the Soul featured a video project I did on their social media channels, website and company newsletter unbeknownst to me. My original home studio “alerted” me to it. (That’s its own story.) I was so humbled and honored for their mention that I wrote the studio saying thank you. Hours later the studio owner emailed me asking how much would it cost to fly me to Seattle to film the promotional videos for their company. WHAT! So yeah, that was a major highlight. After attending the #WDS2013 conference in Portland, Oregon, I hightailed it to Seattle, Washington on a paid gig to film a pole dance studio. STFU!!!! Those videos will begin to be released in January! I hadn’t planned for this. I made a list of 23 pole goals in The Journey and the Destination. Of which I only “accomplished” 10. That’s okay…because things like Pole For the Soul Happened.

Unexpected was also two features by Flexines. First AdAstra featured me as her Weekend Crush writing, “Unafraid to be sexy , unique, or to have her voice be heard, Sheena is a pole activist and more. She describes her two sirens and reminds us to be ourselves in a society that tells us to be everyone else.” Just recently when writing out her Best of 2013 list, she included me. What? I’m part of someone’s Best Moment of 2013?

"Boudoir Photography by Sheena LaShay" - sheenalashay.com

Speeding ahead, my pole year also included some non-pole work by polers. For instance, I did film projects for Bernadette Pleasant and Jennifer Sterling. I did a photography project for Nadia Munla. And I did a personal project yet to be published with Stella Fink. They are all polers but the projects were non pole related and I got me some checks! And by way of client relationships I got to film yet another project with Iman Cosmetics.

 I had more awesome pole experiences such as dancing, filming and photographing TWO “High Heeled Hottie Nights“.  (Video 2 is still to come and we have a third night scheduled. If you’re local to NY and want to join in, email me. The rules are simple we dance sexy just for fun and I film and photography it just for fun.)  I also had a few “Pure Dance” nights with some of my closest pole friends which is usually followed by Thai dinner and wine and sensual talks about wanting to be on fire and our issues with defensiveness and withdrawal and our latest business ventures. It’s awesome girl time! I also danced for my lover twice. Once, in a privatly guided session at a studio which ended in a romantic night at one of my favorite NYC hotels and once at home. I do have a pole in my bedroom. I usually don’t blend dating and pole dance but he’s special. Bernadette also had more pole parties/moving meditations. (I still have a series of videos to publish on these but I did jump the gun and publish my “Love You Down Free Style” from the party.”


Oh, you know what? There were other awesome projects like helping Valentina facilitate a photoshoot with Espressione Pura and being invited to be a part of Jessica Lark’s “The Reliquarian” because of my dance background and love of all things sensual. I also filmed more private pole dance videos for a few clients too!

Other highlights…getting to try the latest Dew Point product. My review is pending but go buy now! And getting to try Bodybinds for High Heeled Hottie Night and a separate videoshoot. For christmas, I also go a Bodybinds gift. I don’t even celebrate christmas but I do celebrate Bodybinds! For the first time this year, I taught 3 sensual movement workshops. 2 at my yearly C.R.E.A.T.E. retreat and 1 at my Wild Magical Woman: The Creative Spirit workshop.

This year I stage managed  a Flight Club showcase, was “The Mistress of the Pole” and informal photographer at Matt’s Circus Party and was a pole cleaner for one of the Siren Series by the Pulse Project. Speaking of which, after being a pole cleaner, I was invited back to perform for their Behind Closed Doors  event. Video highlight reel below.

And speaking of performance, I also danced in two Schtick A Pole In It videos. Mostly notably, I was a zombie. You must go see the pictures NOW! I did my own make up. And I began an interview series with the producer of Schtick It, Joanna Ross. Part one is up! There are a gazillion more parts to come. (And if you want to see it, the  May Schtick It video is also up. I have an epic butt jiggle in there.) Less of a performance and more of something else there was also  Pole for the 1 in 6: The First Offense.

What I also realized was that in 2013, along with writing lifestyle post on pole dancing and reviews, mainly due to the PDBA blog hop, I started writing other kinds of post. Helpful, tip-like and editorial posts on pole dancing such as:

  1. Pole Dancing & Energy Play = Band Jam Session
  2. So You Want to Produce a Pole Show
  3. How to Choreograph a Dance for Performance
  4. Twitter 101 for Pole Dancers
  5. Crowdsourcing Campaigns: Why No One Is Donating
  6. The Problem with Sanitization in the Pole Industry

And not to be forgotten are posts like my Q & A video, A Pole Dance Vlog or A Glimpse of My Pole Dance Life where I talk about what it means to be a pole dance student, performer, company member, blogger, editor & leader, photographer & filmmaker, stage manager & volunteer and enthusiast. They all require different parts of me. I also made a stripper cry and I’m most grateful for The Blond Asian Princess.

But most importantly, the biggest part of my year has been the Pole Dancing Blogger’s Association. My title is a mix between Co-President, Editor-In-Chief, Board Member, Account Manager & Sales Rep, Secretary and Receptionist, sometimes Graphic Designer and more. I wrote a lot about this in Ego. Dissent. Transparency | Thoughts of Leadership. If there is one thing you NEED to read from all my links, read THAT POST. And if you have read it, read it again!

Why? Remember my first few paragraphs where I talk about “The Great Pole Exodus of 2013” where I left two of the most well known pole studios and a new freestyle pole dance company mainly due to management and business values….this post on leadership highlights many of the issues our community is plagued with….ego, fear of dissent, a need to control, a lack of personal responsibility, a lack in compassion, transparency and honesty and more. The Pole Dancing Bloggers Association is not perfect. In fact we drop a lot of fuck bombs in our board meetings but what we are doing is raising the stake and changing the pole game up.

I thought maybe my pole career would lead to me being a performer, competitor, teacher, photographer, stage manager or videographer within the pole community…and while none of those are my focus, I still love to do many of those things. Moreso, what all of this has culminated to is my role in the PDBA where using the power of our network, influence, personal voices and professional expertise, we are going to push pass a lot of bullshit and ultimately make pole and the world a better place. Just watch us!

Oh also…regarding that unicorn…..so, as mentioned I found my “business” place within the pole community with the PDBA and I believe I found my new home with Fly Fitness NYC . Amy’s teaching there. Caitlin’s teaching there. Irm is teaching there. Even Joanna, the producer of Schtick  It is teaching there. Lara is teaching there too. And new instructors I know nothing about. And based on conversations from the instructors regarding the direction and values of their studio…I finally found my fucking pole unicorn!

 

 “There is no going back.

I only dance forward.”

Excerpt from XOXO

*This post is my second entry in the December PDBA Blog Hop.  The Pole Dancing Bloggers Association [PDBA] is the first global network of independent lifestyle, pole, aerial, and fitness bloggers who curate and produce inspirational, personal and editorial content representing over 20 worldwide countries. The PDBA is also a creative agency that offers content creation, editing, consulting and social media services that promote fitness, health, dance, adventure, empowerment and action.

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Showing 6 comments
  • Nina Reed
    Reply

    Wow, you really have had one hell of a year! I’m also really excited about Fly Fitness opening, and can’t wait to check it out when I make my way back East next year.

    And as for everything you’re saying about bad leadership, and people putting up with it to avoid hurting anyone’s feelings, and businesses going under because no one wants to make those tough decisions: YES. Just yes. Because I see so much of it, and there’s so much I want to do to help, to change, to improve, and I can’t even begin to scratch the surface, and it’s driving me crazy at times. Here’s to a better 2014, where more people dare to disagree, and cuss, and call each other out on bad ideas, and use that power to do something productive!

    • Sheena LaShay
      Reply

      @Nina, its why I appreciate the PDBA Board so much. We are honest with each other, critique one another and encourage one another in a way the elevates us. I really really like it!

  • krissykiki
    Reply

    I think it is wonderful how open you are in finding a studio that represents what you want in the pole world. i’m also very jealous that you live in a place where you have studios to choose from so! Your new studio sounds fab and I look forward to hearing about your experiences there!

    • Sheena LaShay
      Reply

      @Krissykiki, the new studio….oh my goodness. Those 18 foot poles are ridiculous. Part of our warm up was just to climb up and down twice and I was OUT OF BREATH!

  • Jillian
    Reply

    Such a good post. It is great to see that you were able to find all the gems in what might have felt like a less than stellar pole year. Also I hadn’t seen the 1 in 6 post before, but thank you so much for dancing and writing about the issue.

    • Sheena LaShay
      Reply

      @Jillian, I’m so glad you found the 1 in 6 video and I’m also glad that upon really reflecting my year was actually incredible!

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