Upon my return from a full-on weekend of pole events in Manchester, I thought I’d write up a quick “back to the pole world” post to reflect on my experiences as a newbie travelling pole dance instructor in our uncertain pandemic world.
@bloggeronpole #traveldiary: a weekend of pole events in #Manchester, doing #photoshoots and teaching #workshops ♬ Memories – Lux-Inspira
The plan for my Manchester pole weekend
I initially wondered if anyone would care about a post regarding my experience at the past weekend’s pole events in Manchester. But then I remembered that this is my blog, and that people come here to read about my experiences too, and not just about product reviews, or rants about social media governance. I guess I also like to use this blog as a reality check from what you see on social media, a more intimate and in-depth insight into what I feel – so that you can see what goes on in my head even when I seem to be doing really cool stuff.
The plan to go to Manchester for a weekend of pole came up in December 2021, when Kat from Katherine Elizabeth Photography invited me to the launch of her very own, new photography studio in town. Known for her smoke photoshoots and milk bath shoots, Kat is one of my favourite photographers (one you will soon read about here on the blog), meaning I was really keen on going to her launch.
When I accepted, I decided to kill two birds with one stone and to follow up on my goal to bring my classes outside of London. So I was really grateful when my request to organise a workshop at one of the studios I’ve been fangirling about since taking up pole, Manchester’s GFF Damian Dance Studio, was accepted by the lovely GFF team. As if the weekend wasn’t going to be busy enough, Kat offered to shoot me ahead of her launch, so on top of her party and the workshop, I also had a photoshoot on the cards. Exciting right?
What goes on in my head before events
I’m an introvert and fairly socially awkward. Although I do fairly well in public, I find teaching and events very draining and generally need a lot of space after doing something very ‘social’. This is, I guess, a consequence of my ‘previous’ life as a very overwhelmed PR professional, where I was shocked by the amount of phone calls I had to make and events I had to be at.
Before an event or before teaching, I’m usually a mixture of excited and stressed. I want to do the thing, but I often find myself dreading it at the same time, hating my life until I get it done and realising I’m having fun only when I’m in the thick of it. Ahead of my weekend in Manchester, I was feeling the same.
My weekend of pole events in Manchester was going to be the biggest thing since The Pole Weekender I attended in November, when I judged a competition, spoke at a lecture and taught a workshop. Except that, this time, it was all in my hands: everything was, mostly, organised by me. I wasn’t part of a big event where I just had to show up and do my job. I was in charge of studio hire, bookings, teaching and getting my shit together to make my photoshoot look good.
This is nothing new to seasoned pole dance instructors. But as a relatively new instructor that made her name online during the Covid-19 pandemic, I hadn’t taken this much charge of my own events, and this was the first time I was doing that. I had to put on my Big Girl Pants, even though I was very nervous about it because wanted to make sure I made a good impression in one of the UK’s leading studios (cue my very Italian striving for la bella figura).
My plan for the week before the workshop didn’t help either. I had made it back to the United Kingdom after being in Italy for a month just that Monday. The week before the workshop was a blur of university marking, back-to-pole teaching at the studio and through my online 1-1s, postdoc applications and renewed anxiety about Covid exposure after having to go back to city life.
On top of all of this, I knew I was meant to get my period during the weekend, and since I’m not on any contraceptive and lose a lot of strength during that time of the month, I had to plan ahead and ask my doctor to be prescribed Norethisterone as a period delayer. Considering all of this together, it’s fair to say the circumstances made for… an interesting weekend.
My actual pole weekend in Manchester
I arrived to Manchester early on Friday morning, the same day as my photoshoot and a day before the workshop, having finished my academic work for the week on the train. The night before I hadn’t managed to sleep at all. Somehow, I felt very hazy and on edge, excessively so even considering I’m a Very Anxious Person. My head kept throbbing.
After a day out exploring, wandering around record stores, vintage boutiques and the canals in Ancoats, trying out bakeries, coffee shops and the food stalls at Mackie Mayor, I got ready for my photoshoot. Meeting Kat in person after having followed her for years was lovely, and she put me at ease immediately, having created a make-shift photography studio just for me in the space that was going to be set up with hoops and trusses only the day after. I felt very welcome, and very chuffed that Lacey (@laceyfitspo, Kat’s business partner) even made a flower crown for me to use as a prop. I’m very excited to show you the pictures, because from the behind the scenes shot I’ve seen, they’ll certainly look amazing.
Looking back though, I was fairly out of it throughout the shoot. My head was throbbing, my vision felt a bit blurry. I went back to my hotel for a bath and an early night, only to feel paranoid and have palpitations. Once again, I did not sleep – at all. I was full on convinced I had Covid, even though I kept testing negative.
By the morning, I was seriously doubting I could actually teach my workshop, but wasn’t sure how I could cancel without ruining my reputation, disappointing everyone and losing a lot of money. It was only after I spoke to my mother and found myself breathless afterwards that I remember I was on Norethisterone. I looked at the information leaflet and there they were, the side effects: paranoia, insomnia, breathlessness, impaired vision, haziness, nausea, anxiety. The whole package! I was feeling them all – even though the last time I took it I had no side effects – so I immediately binned the medicine.
I didn’t manage to have breakfast because I felt too nauseated, but I went back to bed and dealt with a panic attack with the usual technique: five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, one thing you can taste and so on.
A few hours later, I was feeling a bit more human and I managed to walk and teach my workshop at GFF Damian. Even though I was very nervous I wasn’t going to have the stamina to teach my crazy choreography to Disturbed’s “Down With The Sickness,” or that my instructions were not going to make sense, I made it.
@bloggeronpole Very excited to be teaching this #heavymetal #choreo at @GFFDAMIANDANCESTUDIO in #manchester next Sat! Email to book 💞 #sundayfunday #heavymetalbaby ♬ Down with the Sickness – Disturbed
I initially had a sold-out class, but due to some last-minute cancellations the group was smaller – and it was even better because running through the choreo twice (once for each group) for an hour and a half was already intense enough!
The workshop had a fantastic response. The students gave me great feedback, looked badass and had fun. I even got to meet some fab pole dancing academics I had met via social media in the flesh.
So… even if the weekend didn’t start in the best way possible, it did work out in the end: I did my photoshoot, the workshop went well and I really enjoyed Katherine Elizabeth Photography’s studio launch, with a newly upgraded space (more to come about that in the next few weeks).
How I feel about my pole career
Despite the initial struggles, my awkwardness and my anxiety, making it through this weekend was another step towards realising I can handle myself as a pole instructor.
It may seem odd that a show-off like me is crippled by self-doubt, but since pole is my passion, my hobby, my lifeline, I sometimes struggle with it as a job. Give me a paper to write, a presentation to give, some research to do and I’m fine. But with pole, it feels personal.
Knowing I can earn money from workshops away from my own studio, that I can survive teaching workshops even when I’m feeling weak and overwhelmed and that people enjoy learning from me means I am not light years away from my pole idols.
It feels weird to think people pay me to do the thing I love the most, that they’d want pictures with me after and that they are taking away something from a dance style that has taken me years of (ongoing) trial and error to master. But maybe, just maybe, I got this.
TL; DR: chances are your pole instructors have anxiety and are wrecks. I certainly am! But hey, we’re here to help you shake ass and have fun nonetheless.
Want me to teach a workshop at your studio?
If you want me to teach one of my Heavy Metal Pole choreo workshops at your studio (or tricks, or floorwork, or a seminar about navigating your online pole dancer persona), so that I can also have a series of mindfucks about it but also a lot of fun, drop me an email at email@example.com.