I had the pleasure of interviewing instructor Gabrielle Gumbs, owner of Aphrodite Pole Dance Fitness Studio in West Hollywood, California.
How long have you been pole dancing? How did you first start? How did you learn? How did you start your studio?
I started Pole Dancing back in 2002 when in my last year at the acting conservatory I attended. My acting teacher sent us to take a pole dancing class as an experiment. She believed learning this sensual movement would rid her female students of any and all inhibitions. She not only wanted to challenge her student's comfort zone, she also wanted to prepare us to handle any role we auditioned for.
It was Laura's (acting teacher) desire to make sure no matter what type of script we were handed, from sexy siren to victim, we wouldn't allow our hang-ups from low self esteem, body issues or sexuality keep us from being completely open to any roles. By the end of the first session, I was hooked! I not only loved the workout, I felt free,empowered and it was all very therapeutic for me emotionally.
From that day on, Pole dancing became my passion. With my college degree in Kinesiology, the study of movement with an emphasis in Athletic Therapy(sports medicine), I was able to break down each trick to its detailed biomechanics. I studied & trained daily & then taught at the studio where I trained and eventually, after creating my own style, opened Aphrodite in 2004.
My vision for Aphrodite was to create a place of comfort for women. One where they can hang out, learn & dance through their emotions with no judgments & no apologies. I was recently recognized by Pole Spin Magazine as the first woman of color in the world to open a pole studio.
Give us your thoughts on pole dancing still being associated with 'stripping' and exotic dance' styles. Some people seem to be offended that pole dancing gets categorized with stripping or lap dancing.
Historically, pole dancing started in travelling circuses/fairs where dancers would dance sensually up on stage in a circus tent. Eventually the pole used to hold that tent up got incorporated into the dances. So there's no denying the history & frankly, there's nothing to be offended about.
In my opinion, to be offended by it being associated with exotic dance is to be ashamed of the power of the female form & its ability to mesmerize. My style is all about embracing our curves & our sensuality & celebrating being a powerful/strong woman in body & mind.
There are many styles in the Pole Dance community & I think that's great. It allows people to find a school that meets what they're looking for. If you're looking for a studio where you'll get an amazing workout, gain confidence and feel feminine & sensual, then Aphrodite is where you want to be!
And yes! I teach Lap Dancing. If I had a dollar for each boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/etc that thanked me for their significant others new moves, I'd be an extremely wealthy woman.
Have you ever competed?
Nope! I do a yearly recital with my girls from the master class and I always do a solo during the show. I like performing, but I have no desire to compete.
What advice to do you give women who are beginning pole dancing?
I tell them to listen! Let the music envelope them completely & slow their roll. And most importantly, to just say "F it" & go for it because really,it's not that serious.
What are your thoughts about pole dancing being included in the Olympics as a sport?
I think Pole Sport should be included, not Pole Dancing. With Pole Sport, it's more about the acrobatics, the gymnastics, the athleticism and they stay on the pole the entire time. That takes some serious skill & should def be recognized on the Olympic level.
What type of classes do you offer?
1. 6- Week Pole Dance Session - This is where you begin your vixen training journey! You'll learn the Aphrodite staple floor moves, the strut & the predator crawl along with a full routine. You will learn pole tricks on the stationary pole & be instructed on how to use physics & gravity to your advantage for the utmost grace & fluidity.
2. Hypnotic - The Sensual Vixen Movement Class. This 1 hour class is perfect for those that really want to dig in & unearth the true sensualist inside of themselves. You'll learn how to tease with your body, torture your victim, be the snake charmer & writhe around in the pleasure that is YOU. This is a drop in class & each week will have a new theme. It could be a floor work routine, chair routine, lap dance routine etc.
3. Cardio Pole Burn - A 50min cardio class designed to get your heart rate up, increase your strength, burn calories, shed pounds & unwanted body fat,all while using the pole as your assistant.
4. Lap Dance Workshops
5. Burlesque Pole Workshops
6. Private Training
7. Private Party Celebrations (Birthday, Bachelorette, Girls Nite Out etc.)
You can access more information about Gabrielle's studio here.
Here is the link to instructor Gabrielle Gumbs website where you can read more about her classes and view some of her videos: www.aphroditestripnpole.com