Charley of Michigan Pole Dance
How did you get started pole dancing?
I got started when I worked in radio and one of our advertising clients begged me to come into her lingerie store. I saw a pole and was so intrigued by it, I asked if I could actually go upside down on it and she said someone as small as me could. So I bought it and it turned out to be a Peek A Boo Pole. I got to my boyfriend’s house with my early, surprise Christmas present and erected the pole. I had so much fun that night dancing around it and doing what I now know is a fireman spin, that he actually went to the other room and said to come talk to him when I was done! I can’t describe how great it felt and how sexy I felt.
After that I googled pole dancing, looking for videos on how to get upside down, thinking that it would be easy. I was really amazed by the videos I found! Alena Downs, Wendy Traskos, KT Coates – they were all like sexy, crazy, ballerina gymnasts! My whole life I had wanted to be a dancer or figure skater or trapeze artist and what I saw fell in line with those childhood dreams, although I never thought that I would be able to do any of those things.
Shortly after I bought the pole, I and the entire morning show, were fired. I went into this depression and funk, I kind of gravitated towards the pole everyday for something to do … which led to more youtubing and self-teaching. I then found the Vertical Dance Forum which I think really catapulted my interest and abilities. I learned a lot from the women of VD, I saw tricks that seemed unimaginable, I found friendship and for the first time friendships with women! I met my first pole buddy on VD and we planned the first pole jam any of us had been at locally.
How did you make the leap to offering pole dancing classes and/or opening your own studio? What was that like?
I got my start into teaching with Vixen Fitness in Detroit. I had been pole dancing for about a year and really wanted to get more involved and spread the good word of pole. After auditioning – this was the first time I had ever danced in front of anyone – I was hired! I performed at Vixen’s first Grand Opening – which was my first performance ever! I met some amazing women in that studio but after some personal tragedies I left because I couldn’t commit to the studio, I had to do some soul searching.
I finally decided I did want to teach, so after months of research I developed a basic outline which was safe and effective and bought some poles and would rent out space at fitness studios and teach. I did this for about a year and a half when PoleFIT Revolution opened up within walking distance of my house. A friend of mine suggested I check it out but I was wary about it, I loved doing things MY way. I just sent them an email of a youtube video and said “here’s what I can do.” Immediately I got a call back, luckily the studio was so new that I was able to continue my mobile teaching and teach a bit at the studio.
Soon, the co-owner left the studio deciding pole wasn’t for her – enter Charley. The studio was a blank slate and the owner Melanie was very liberal with me, allowing me full creative control of my classes and actually let me tweak up the syllabus she was teaching, too. PoleFIT is really where I came into my own as an instructor and really was able to give and empower in ways I couldn’t with the stress of managing these mobile spaces and pole set up. The freedom to walk in and teach was mentally freeing, giving me the opportunity to focus solely on the body in front of me.
Today, I’m a certified pole instructor through Empowerment Through Exotic Dance and getting ready to begin some pole travels and hopefully being able to teach many, many more people the art of pole.
Photo by SpiltSugar.
What is the first thing you teach students just starting to take pole dancing classes?
Stand at the back of your yoga mat and make nice big giant hip circles. I like to start with slow, basic movement off the pole because the pole can be intimidating. Once we do some basic hip circles and movement, we take it to the pole! I like to get everyone thinking about their hips and curves and loving them! As far as first tricks – that depends on the student – not everyone is ready for a cross leg fireman, I have a lot of “baby spins” I teach.
How do you take care of yourself, given all the pole dancing classes you teach?
I just try to make sure that I am being reasonable with myself – if I’m sore, I rest, stretch and take lots of hot showers. I try to eat well and get enough sleep at night – a good night’s rest can take me through the hardest day.
How would you describe your personal style?
I would say maybe, sensual? I love all types of pole dancing but I think I gravitate towards slower, controlled dancing with fewer tricks.
What is your biggest struggle as a pole dancer?
Being okay with being sensual and taking myself seriously as a pole dancer. I’m extremely hard on myself and my dancing – I am learning to let it go. I think the hardest thing is reconciling my Christian beliefs with the sensual aspect of pole dancing … I don’t want to be doing something wrong. I think I’ve gotten pretty close to working that all out.
Barefoot, sneakers, or platform heels?
Yes, all of the above, and Uggs, and ballet shoes, and every kind of footwear imaginable. I was recently at a workshop at Empowerment Through Exotic Dance and it was suggested to me that perhaps my sensuality was very tied to my shoes, since then I’ve been having a BALL playing with different footwear and seeing how I dance in each new thing.
Pole dance move that made you proudest to learn:
I know it was the scorpio – it was the first invert I really thought was gorgeous! Besides that I recently started being able to do the iron X and the twisted grip aerial lift – those are two things I just NEVER thought I’d be strong enough to do.
Pole dance pet peeves:
Platforms on carpet – it’s just too hard to dance seamlessly. My biggest pet peeve though has to be not perfecting tricks and rushing through all the advanced tricks, and working on tricks that the body isn’t ready for yet, simply because someone else on youtube can do it and it looks cool. Also, pole dancers being mean and critical to other pole dancers … there’s no right or wrong here, just safe and unsafe.
Favorite music to pole dance to:
I usually like rock, anything rock – the slower the better. Lot’s of 90’s grunge! My dream song to pull off is Why Can’t This Be Love by Van Halen – I love that song but so far I haven’t been pleased with any dances I’ve done to it.
Photo by SpiltSugar.
Weirdest place you’ve ever poled:
The Detroit Science Center, my banister, the carousel at the mall.
Compulsive Tite Grip applications!
Who would you most like to have in the audience when you pole dance?
My boyfriend, my dad, Johnny Depp, Chris Cornell, Jewel – yes the folk singer, Shadow, Mary Ellyn Weissman and “Pink Cadbury Xanax” (because they’ll tell me how I did and be honest.)
Who is your hero or role model?
My dad is definitely my hero. I am a total Daddy’s Girl. We are very close and he’s always been so supportive of every wild, crazy thing I’ve ever wanted to do. Even though he doesn’t totally get pole dancing, he’s always happy to listen and give feedback and thoughts. He’s always been the dad who will eat cheesecake with you and watch Pretty Woman when you’ve had a bad day. I admire his strength, integrity, and work ethic and I like to think he gave a little bit of that to me.
Pole wise – Wendy Traskos. I’ve always admired her ability to be sexy but not overtly sexual and so strong! She was the first person I ever saw do the handspring and I was so amazed. I also admire her as a business woman and a community leader. She’s an extremely intelligent woman who knows what she wants and holds her cards, when she finally unveils what she’s got we’re all impressed. She is someone who works hard and I get the impression she is very hands on in her projects.
As a matter of fact, the USPDF, was part of the inspiration for the Metro Detroit Pole Showcases that I produce. I wanted a venue for dancers to find themselves as a performer without the stress of competition – ultimately most pole dancers want to compete with the elite organization and the best way to present yourself as a competitor is to find yourself as a performer. I like to think of the Showcases as a precursor, a learning ground for those that would someday like to get into competitive pole dancing, while giving non-competitive pole dancers a venue to express themselves and share.
Photo by SpiltSugar.
What are your favorite words of encouragement?
“Look how far you’ve come!” “You’re a rockstar!” “Yeah!!!! That’s it! AWESOME!!!!” “That (move) looks sooo gorgeous on you!”
I also love high fives and hugs. We tend to do a lot of screaming and clapping in my classes.
Favorite pizza toppings:
Generally just cheese, sometimes I like to go with hamburger, olive, and onion.
Cupcakes or ice cream?
BOTH! I do absolutely love me some Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream though!
Strangest pole dancing question/comment you’ve ever received:
“You don’t look like someone who would pole dance.”
What do you like to do when you’re not pole dancing?
Watch pole dancing, talk to Mary Ellyn Weissman about pole dancing, get on pole dancing forums, lol!
I also love being with my boyfriend, chatting with my dad, wine, crafting, shopping, and aerial arts (when I have time).
Anything else you’d like to share:
Can I plug my show? I’m going to plug my show here! I produce the Metro Detroit Pole showcase Series, which we’ve had three thus far featuring USPDF Miss Sexy 2010 Karol Helms, Pantera, David Owen, Studio Veena and IPDFA 2009 Pole Fit Champ Shadow.
The show is open to all pole dancers of levels of abilities. We’ve had very beginners with just 11 lessons, one of my students, share the stage with pro, champion pole dancers. It’s an amazing show that brings out dancers from all over the Midwest and Southern Ontario, Canada. We’ve even been lucky enough to have X-pole sponsor one of our events to help us raise money for Susan G. Komen with an X-pert raffle!
Our next event is July 16/17 and I am hoping to get the word out! We’ll have 20-25 performers performing on X-stages. A big thank you to Shadow who has supplied us twice now with her X-stage and the July Showcase will feature the brand new X-stage Lite that just came out on the market. This show is so dear to me, the hard work is always worth it when the music starts and the first dancer graces us with her/his gorgeous dance. We’re looking for sponsors and headliners for the July Showcase dubbed the “Second Annual Showcase.” I’m working on having just one really big showcase a year with smaller themed showcases throughout the year. Check it out at Michigan Pole Dance! (Now I have to go update the website!).