I wanted to share Lisa aka Chastity of Vertical Fitness Australia's pole story here. I've been collecting stories of the women who have been pioneers in our industry - those that didn't have any studio to go to, no sisterhood forged over sweaty, bruising pole classes or even any DVDs or YouTube videos to learn from.
And these women have paved the way for pole dance to become mainstream and we have the luxury of having more and more products and venues to learn and enjoy pole dance today! Thank you Lisa aka Chastity and all other pole dance pioneers!
Lisa aka Chastity, I understand you have been a pioneer in bringing pole dance into the mainstream in Australia. What did you do to accomplish this?
After several years in the Exotic industry and witnessing the fitness benefits of pole first hand, my partner, Ro and I discussed the idea of opening a Pole Studio. In 2004 Vertical Fitness Australia was created, we were one of the first Pole Studio’s in Australia and the only one to focus on Pole Fitness primarily.
How long have you been poling and how did you first get started?
I have now been poling for 16 years! I stared in the Exotic industry in 1998 whilst at University, where my love of performing and particularly pole developed. As my skills grew, I started to teach other dancers when I realised my passion was for teaching.
Wow, I wonder what I could accomplish in pole in 16 years...! How did you learn? Did you have any studios/resources available to you?
I am totally self taught and unfortunately when I was learning we did not have the luxury of Pole Studios where you can learn in a comfortable, fun environment, from someone with experience. At this stage of Pole evolution, even in the industry, very few of the girls used the pole to do more than dance around and spin.
After teaching myself a few basic moves, the addiction began. I am lucky to have a very supportive partner, Ro, who built and installed me a pole at home and my skills began to develop.
Lisa aka Chastity, I see that you are the Event Organizer of the Australian Pole Championships...did you found this? Have you started any events/contests/etc?
Myself and partner, Ro founded the Australian Pole Fitness Championships 3 years ago, to showcase the skill and talents of those who have become Elite aerial athletes and created a championship where the focus was on a more acrobatic and sporting angle, than the pre-existing pole competitions.
The APFC was the first competition in Australia to have a specific men’s division and to showcase Chinese Pole and Acrobatic Hoop on a competitive level. Our APFC 2015, has been included in the prestigious Arnold Classic Australia Sporting Festival next year, which is a huge step forward for our sport and art form. Here we will be introducing Australia’s first Open Junior Division for 10-17 year olds.
I have also run the Vertical Fitness Championships, an amateur in-house Pole Championships which has been running for 8 years.
The Arnold Classic is going to be great! What is the biggest thing that you feel you have brought to the world of pole dance?
I believe I have helped influence the shift from Pole Dance to Pole Fitness in Australia and around the world, and hopefully changed some of the perceptions of those who only associate Pole with strip clubs. Both our studio and Championships come from a fitness angle and offer poler’s the opportunity to participate in a more acrobatic, strength based pole avenue. We offer women, men and kids classes giving everyone the ability to enjoy our sport.
What a well-rounded studio. I watched your YouTube video "Pole Dreams Showcase 2012" ..you are incredibly strong in your moves! Wow. Have you done more performances or have you also competed?
Thank you :) I have also been a guest performer at the West Australian Pole Performer Showcase in both 2012 & 2013, where I was instructing a WA Pole Camp and have done many in house and corporate functions over the years. As a competition organiser, I have always felt it a conflict of interest to compete, I believe to remain professional you need to make a choice as to where to focus your energy.
I have never competed or performed...How do you prepare for a competition or a showcase like that?
Practise, practise, practise! You need to ensure for either a competition or showcase that you build up your stamina in the lead up to the event. This means going through your routine, until you can’t make a mistake.
With performances I usually like to chose my music and then create my pole combinations first, coming back to fill in the choreography.
Sounds like you would need to be able to do the whole routine in your sleep! What would you say has been the most instrumental thing that has helped you to become the athletic dancer you are?
Having a great support network and focus and self discipline. I love all the strength based moves and the increased popularity of Men in Pole, has created an awesome challenge for women to become stronger and more dynamic on the pole. I enjoy the challenge of strength based moves.
So, how often do you train during a normal week?
I think it is very important for any instructor to keep up their skills level and to not be complacent in their own learning. I will usually train 5 days a week, for 2-3 hours, as well as take my normal classes at the studio.
Do you have a studio, products, programs or any certifications that you have developed for pole students?
As mentioned prior, we own Vertical Fitness Australia studio in Melbourne Australia, we have developed our own progress charts for students learning and offer many other programs to aid in their fitness and learning, including a variety of boot camp classes and personal training sessions.
We do also offer Teacher training programs for budding instructors of those who already teach but want to expand their knowledge.
What advice would you give a beginning student who is struggling with frustration because she can't do a lot of the fancy pole tricks yet?
I always tell my students, that Pole is a journey and everyone has a different one. Our body needs to be conditioned, and learning the basics is the best way to do this, plus it helps avoid injury!
Repetition and perseverance is the key and not all moves are simple, some you may pick up quickly but others take time, if you look at pole as a long term goal it will be a far more rewarding experience.
I love that, "Pole is a journey and everyone has a different one". What advice would you give an advanced student?
Take care of your body! Condition and build your strength and flexibility, pole can be a dangerous and injury prone sport, particularly when you are learning the more advanced moves.
Be patient, in learning at beginner level a lot of moves you will pick up and master easily, do not let the fact an advanced move takes you longer to achieve than before, get you down. Some advanced moves may take months, even years to perfect...if you want it, you can do it, it is only a matter of training and time.
Do you have a favourite grip product?
It really depends on the pole finish, I love Itac for my legs and body, but find both Dryhands and Tight Grip good for hands.
What one thing would you do (if anything), if you could, to change the culture of pole dance today?
I love our little pole world and I think the diversity within it, is what makes it so special.
What are your feelings about stripping and exotic dance still being tied to the current and popular pole dance fitness movement?
I will always pay homage to the exotic industry, as this is where I came from and where a lot of the studios in Australia started from in beginning. I do however think we have made a huge transformation and essentially a revolution in the Pole world to create an industry that is so much more than high heels and dancing sexy.
Pole is now a sport in its own right, an art form and avenue for dancers and athletes to express themselves. I think it is fair to recognise the roots of pole, but I certainly think the ties have weakened, with many of the general public understanding the difference between a stripper and a pole performer.
Well said and I think that is positive that you respect where you were introduced to pole dance. Do you have anyone in your life that has been a support to you in your pole journey?
I am incredibly lucky to have my partner of 18 years Ro support my journey right from the inception. He has been my rock and reality throughout and has supported me every step from being a stripper, to building a business and now being part of the Arnold Classic Australia.An avid poler now himself, he is also my training partner.
I also have my little partner in crime, my daughter Justice Hailey (10 years old), an amazing poler herself.
I think that is so awesome to share pole with our kids and significant others. My girls love it as well. But did you ever hide the fact that you liked and did pole dance?
I have never hid the fact that I love Pole! Although far more eyebrow raising a few years ago, I have always been proud of my skills and find in life if people don’t accept you for whom you are, then they are probably not worth knowing anyway. I constantly got asked after having my daughter, how I got my body back into shape, and I would always proudly say pole.
Have you ever used any DVDs or online lessons that were valuable to you?
I haven’t actually used any myself, however I recently got asked to do tutorials for Pole and Aerial as a guest instructor, which I am waiting for to coming out!
Awesome! I'm going to have to check those out. . I see that you are also a fitness model. How did you get started and how has this helped you in your poling?
I actually was first approached when I was dancing at a club to do fitness modelling for a small local gym’s advertising. I have always enjoyed fitness and looking after myself, but doing photo shoots certainly gives you the added incentive to keep your body trim and in shape, which I believe has definitely helped with my pole strength and body awareness.
I like that. Is pole what you do full time or do you work in any other industry/day job?
Pole is my full time day & evening job! When I am not on the pole, I am in the office at Vertical Fitness and working of the organising of the Australian Pole Fitness Championships.
Lisa aka Chastity, share with us any goals you have for yourself in life or in pole.
My goal is to never stop growing as a person and a poler. As an instructor, we should always still perceive our self as also a student and be constantly learning and improving.
My goal is also to show the world that Pole is not just something strippers do in a club, but is a legitimate sport and art form. I am hoping that the introduction of Pole Fitness and the Australian Pole Fitness Championships 2015 competition being accepted at the Arnold Classic Australia, is our next stepping stone to help make this a reality.
Yes, I'm exited about pole being at the Arnold Classic...I think that's major headway in this industry. Thank you Lisa aka Chastity for all of the years of work you put in and are still putting in so that we can all benefit from it!