Thursday, May 29, 2014

My Second Pole Solo!

Its incredible to think that pole dance was not even on my radar one year ago and here I am, having successfully choreographed and preformed my second solo piece. This 8 week class session presented several challenges for me, both self-imposed and ones out of my control. With this most recent showcase behind me, I have been reflecting on the past several weeks and overall, I feel really satisfied with the way it all turned out.

I gave myself the challenge of performing in two group routines as well as doing a solo routine. This is the most I have done in one showcase and it just simply required a bit more time and energy. I also wanted to explore using the pole on spinning mode in my solo. When you put that bad boy on spinner mode, it really is a game changer. Its incredibly fun to spin around and round like that but it also requires a lot more physical control because you are fighting that centrifugal force as you move in and out of poses. Then there is the wicked dizziness to contend with!

The one challenging factor that I did not sign up for or anticipate was my emotional state over the past class session. About a week into classes, I found myself plunging head first into an ugly depression. I've struggled with depression and anxiety for the majority of my life and there were several things going on during that time that created the perfect storm for a depressive episode - unfortunately, it was pretty bad one. It was the kind where its a serious struggle to get out of bed or leave the house. And just to make things even more fun, my eating disorder was working overtime as well. The other unfortunate thing is that my body is very reactive to stress and I find that my immune system becomes very weak. I tend to get sick a lot during times of stress and it felt like I was catching every little cold or bug around me which is uber frustrating when you already feel low. I was also frustrated with the amount of class I missed and the little motivation I had for practice. 

One thing I found was that when I did go to class or muster up the gumption to practice, I felt significantly better afterwards. I felt more emotionally and physically balanced and it was an incredible respite from the depression hovering over me the rest of the time. Going to class was really my life-line to feeling good. It was the ray of light to reach for and bask in. This little picture sums it up quite well:

Another positive thing is that I know what to do to take care of myself during episodes of depression. I faithfully tried to do those things and little by little I began to feel more alive again; more like myself. By the last week of this session and just in time for the showcase, I was feeling nearly 100% out of the fog.

I know that had I been feeling like my normal self, I would have put so much more into my solo routine and for that I feel a little sad. However, I really did put everything I had to give into it at the time and for that I am proud of myself. I feel like I over came some really difficult hurdles on my way to completing this solo routine. Instead of picking apart what I could have done better, I am choosing to focus on how well it truly came together in the end for a successful showcase performance. 

I got the idea for this solo when I was listening my jazzy play list on my ipod. I thought it would be fun to try to recreate the 1950s pinup style both in look and feel of the routine. My last solo (click HERE to check it out) was on the serious side and I wanted to try something a little more fun and playful this time. As I mentioned before, I also wanted to try out using the spinner pole. Because I had basically no experience with the spinner pole, I didn't want to get too wild and crazy with tricks. This actually worked out well because I wanted to also focus on dance and transition elements to strengthen those weaker areas for me. As a result, this is a pretty light routine in the trick department but I feel like the spins and dance balance it it well enough to make it feel well rounded. AND most importantly, I had a lot of fun and was able to be in the moment. Those are the two MOST important things to me when ever I dance!

I am feeling that stir of inspiration and ideas inside me already for solo number three. I love feeling the excitement of all the trick and spin possibilities rushing through my brain! I've got a song all picked out and the only thing I am going to say is that "winter is coming" for the next showcase this summer ;)

OK! Here is my second solo routine done to the song "Heartbroken" by Meghan Smith:

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Swimsuit Solidarity

Cellulite, stretchmarks, saggy skin and fat. I am kinda shocked that these things have not been officially added to the list of Deadly Sins. The message our culture gives us regarding these things could not be more clear: "HIDE THAT SHIT!!" Apparently, these are the most physically shameful qualities a person can possess. Oddly, 99.9% of the world's population has a body with at least one or more of these things. So, what is the result? An entire world of people desperately trying to hide the same imperfections from each other. Its complete nonsense! We spend so much time, money and energy trying to hide ourselves from each other - attempting to conceal what is deemed "unacceptable." Ironically, my stretchmarks look very similar to yours. My cellulite dimples very much in the same way as my neighbor's - OH, and my skin sags too.

The more I live, the more I have come to realize that there is no such thing as the "perfect body." Besides, who gets to determine the standard of "perfect" anyway? With summer right around the corner, I am acutely aware that swimsuit season comes right along with it. I can feel that awkward pinching and need to tug on the fabric of my swimwear just thinking about it. Its like my body involuntarily starts to suck in my stomach and find the most flattering ways to position itself. Ugh. I am so sick of it! I am tired of those icky feelings and I am seriously over the whole thing. 

I was recently shopping online for swimsuits and saw the cutest Wonder Woman bikini. My first thought was, "Gosh, I really wish I could wear that." Then I paused for a second and thought, "Well, why the hell can't I?" So, I took the leap, bought the damn thing and you can bet your ass I am going to wear it. I really don't care that my stomach isn't flat, my stretchmarks show and that my cellulite is visible. Everyone wearing a swimsuit at the pool or beach will undoubtedly share these things with me, so who really cares? I am choosing not to any more. And as my own personal way of making a stand on this issue, I have decided to post a picture of myself in my new Wonder Woman swimsuit for all to see. 

To take it one step further, I decided to invite others to take their own stand along with me by submitting an unedited picture of themselves proudly sporting their swim attire. I honestly thought that people would be like "Oh hell no! Have fun with that, Stef - you are on your own with this one!" However, a simple request on Facebook provided me with a flood of amazing, brave participants! It was my hope to inspire others with this blog post but in reality, I feel like I am the one who has been inspired. As people sent me their pictures and statements, I became very aware that I am not alone with my feelings about this. The awesome news is that you are not alone either! I feel like we should all start a club of awesomeness and bring swimsuit/body freedom to the world. I think that this blog post is a great start and as promised, here I am - in my full, Wonder Woman bikini glory!

And here are all of the incredible and brave people standing up with me:


My soft belly carried and birthed a beautiful baby girl, my arms carry her now, my tattoos are my memories from times in my life. My thighs touch to keep my vagina warm and my boobs are fabulous and have been since they came in! Wouldn't change a thing! - Molly


"It doesn't matter what I look like in a swimsuit...I will always be the most beautiful woman in his world." -Carrie


"Unfortunately I've spent most of my life hating my body. Ugh, it makes me sad to think I wasted so much time on it. But Last year I decided I wanted to change - to stop hating and learn to love. It's not easy to change my mindset, but gratitude has been very helpful. I am grateful to be healthy and have a strong body that protects me and let's me do amazing things. I'm also extremely grateful to have a mind to that knows beauty is much more than the 'prefect body' or 'pretty face'. For me it's humor, a kind heart and openness. So instead of working on a bikini body, I'm choosing to work on the other things that make me beautiful." - Annette




"23 weeks pregnant with twins - a boy, Connor and girl, Ellie!!" - Shira


"If I had thought, "just lose 5 pounds more and then you can do X" I never would have performed burlesque and may not have loved myself as much as I do now. I'm super happy and confident." -Chris


"The thing I love most about my body is that it grew and birthed beautiful twin girls 1.5 years ago and it fed them for 16 months." -Laura


"I have always struggled with body image as many women do, we need to embrace ourselves and be thankful for the gift if life!!! Almost 43 and 2 kids later, I am almost comfortable in my own skin :)" -Heather


"This picture of me is the first time I didn't worry about being photographed in my bathing suit and just enjoyed the beauty of being on vacation with my love! :) " -Susie


"Our body focus should be feeling grateful for our instrument that authentically takes us through daily life. This isn't easy in our society, but I'm committed to focusing on strength, agility, grace and gratitude. I am so grateful to be in a body...and I've grown to love my unique one!" -Ashlee

"I used to be deeply depressed. I've spent the last two years training with performance arts people and it's changed everything about my mind, everything about my body,
it's healed me. My advice is: get up and do something fun that makes you get sweaty, it doesn't matter if you're good at it or not. Just have fun. Come back every day and keep doing it. Your life will transform too" -Matt


"Be happy, healthy, have fun, don't hide yourself!" -Liz


"After having a baby I thought I'd never wear a swimsuit again. I had stretch marks literally everywhere, top to bottom. Over the next 18 months I focused on eating healthy, enjoying my new family and getting into activities that I loved to do. Pole dancing and yoga! I learned to love what my body can do and that's enough for me. Who cares what it's supposed to look like. It's important about where it takes you and how hard it works for you! And that's pretty damn hard!" -Gen


"These hands are for love, work and art. I am living a fantastic life in this body. I’m a swimmer. I play Disc Golf and I love yoga. My hands paint, write and nurture. I am a big reader, I need bifocals and I can almost never find a situation where I can actually wear sunglasses. Which leaves me feeling rather un-cool at times. I poured many years of education into this beautiful brain. Not only did I get smart, I got so smart I believed in my own perceptions and abilities with such completeness that has allowed me to drop a lot of the fear I had growing up. Sometime our best accomplishments arise when we seek to overcome our perceived short comings and when we succeed it’ll shock the shit out of you. Now that I have confidence about what I really know. I am ready to challenge other mistaken perceptions. Body hate you're on my list!" - Linda


"I bought a bikini once when going on vacation to Mallorca with some Italian friends. They told me no way was I going to Mallorca in a one-piece. That reminded me of earlier conversations (in the 80s), when I found out that my Italian friends thought it was ridiculous that only slender women wore bikinis in the US. Over there, a two-piece is by far the more common suit, no matter the age or the size. Several of my friends commented, "But your skin wants to see the sun!" or "How sad to not let your belly see the sun!" I eventually donated that bikini to a thrift shop -- not the right color for me anyway. I mostly wear swimsuits with skirts now -- it is capitulating to the beauty system somewhat, but I feel more comfortable and free this way. In an imperfect world with an evolving me, this is my current decision." -Liz

I am in absolute awe of these courageous people who have made the decision to share themselves so openly. I deeply believe that all the energy we spend trying to hide ourselves could be much better spent on so many other things. Let's stop pretending that the appearance of our bodies determines our worth as human beings. Let's stop valuing each other less because of the same, so-called "imperfections" we ALL have in common. Instead, I propose we start appreciating our bodies instead of condemning them. Our bodies are very good to us in so many ways! So, why not celebrate the incredible things our bodies can do and all the things it does everyday without us even realizing it. They are the vehicles through which we get to experience LIFE!! They allows to fully experience the world around us and for that, our bodies deserve our sincerest love and highest respect. 

Once again, I want to offer my absolute admiration and appreciation for all the amazing individuals who helped make this blog post possible. As I received photo after photo, I found that I was truly the one who was inspired. Not only have you put yourself out there in such a brave way but you also trusted me to be that platform for it. Its a huge honor and you are all GORGEOUS human beings and you forever have MY love and respect. Now, lets all go to the pool!!