Fawnia, Pioneer of Pole Dancing

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I had the honor of interviewing Fawnia Dietrich, a true pioneer and trailblazer for our pole dancing industry. She shares her story with us as well as her upcoming events, goals and projects.

How did you first get introduced to pole dance? What about it intrigued you?

I first saw pole dancing when I was 18 years old by peeking my head inside a strip club. There were three women on stage performing a choreographed dance to ‘In the Navy’.

They were wearing sexy white sailor costumes, white knee high boots and the crowed (of men) were cheering. I knew when I saw these women that I would one day be on that exact stage.

Six months later there I was, performing as an exotic dancer and loving it. I enjoyed the creativity, the adrenalin, and I lost 38 pounds. Performing in Canada is very different then in the USA. We had theme costumes, and we performed for 18 full minutes so an actual performance was well rewarded and most of the time, respected. I was proud of my career choice and had no hesitations about letting my friends know where I worked; they could react how they wanted.

However I was hesitate to tell my parents, but within two weeks they somehow heard the news, and once they saw me perform, and understood that I wasn’t drinking alcohol, doing drugs, and prostituting, they did their best to accept it. I was comfortable with it and was really happy. Whether someone else didn’t approve or not, didn’t make a difference to me as I knew I was on the right path for my life.

I understand that you were into bodybuilding and fitness training before you became known for your pole dancing.

Is there anything you can tell the rest of us that are so focused on just pole dancing - should we be rounding out our training with weight lifting/running/any other type of sport/training regimen?

Our bodies love variety and I think to prevent over training physically and emotionally it’s important to cross train. My activities include pole fitness, running/elliptical, yoga, stretching, weight training, handstands and TRX. This year I will be adding cross fit to my ‘hobbies.’

I suggest that we all drop-in to a variety of classes and see what clicks, but keep in mind that taking just one yoga class doesn’t mean you have thoroughly tried yoga. Visit at least three different studios, and sample different styles with different instructors.

We may have all heard of someone trying a pole dancing class, and them saying, “I tried it, and didn’t like it. It was too hard.” My response is, “but that was just one class. There are many different styles of teaching and some instructors are harder than others. Try two more classes, either with different instructors or visit a different studio.”

Your amazing physique: do you attribute that more to weight lifting/body building or to pole dance now? 

Thank you! I started pole dancing and weight training within the same year. (1994/95) Through pole dancing as an exotic dancer I was performing six, 18 minute shows a day, six days a week, and within four months I lost 38 pounds. Then I joined a gym to give my potentially gifted frame more shape, and get stronger.

I also started stretching to earn my splits, 1 – 3 hours a day, and in 9 months I had my splits. My physique really comes from eating clean 80% of the time, and enduring 11 physique competitions, and 5 swimwear competitions between 1997 – 2009.

Yes weight training with the goal of sculpting my body has been instrumental in creating my physique. When you are consistently eating clean and dedicated to your training your body will listen and have to adapt do to the workload you place upon it. 80% of how we look is due to diet, 10% training, 10% genetics.

 Here is a look at my competition history (below).

Fawnia's Competition History

  • Winner 2011 Spy on Vegas Hot100 - Bikini
  • 2nd Place 2009 Fitness America – Figure Short
  • 2nd Place 2009 Canadian Fitness and Figure Nationals - Figure Medium
  • 3rd Place 2008 Canadian Fitness and Figure Nationals - Figure Medium
  • 1st Place 2007 Canadian Fitness and Figure Nationals - Figure Medium
  • 1st Place 2006 Best Legs Las Vegas, Rainbow Bar & Grill
  • 5th Place 2006 Emerald Cup Figure 5’3”- 5’4”
  • 1st Place 2005 BC Championships – Figure Short
  • 2005 NPC Pittsburgh Amateur & Pro Show – up to 5’4”
  • 3rd Place 2005 Emerald Cup Figure 5’3” - 5’4”
  • 9th place 2004 Canadian Nationals – Figure Medium
  • 5th place 2003 Sophie’s Swimwear Pageant
  • 2nd place 2003 BC Championships Figure – Figure Short
  • 1st place 1999 Muscle & Fitness Mania Women's Lightweight Bodybuilding
  • 1st place Miss Nude Internet 1999
  • 3rd Miss Hawaiian Topic - British Columbia, Canada 97 and 99
  • 1st Miss Nude B.C. 95/96 (Dancing)
  • 1st Miss Nude Western Canada 95/96 (Dancing)
  • 1st North American Exotic Dance Champion (Dancing)
  • 1st Canada's Rookie of the Year 95/96 (Dancing)
  • 1st Canada's Western Champion 95/96 (Dancing)
  • 1st Canada's Edmonton Champion 95/96 (Dancing)
  • 1st Miss Nude Amateur World 95/96 (Dancing)
  • 4th BC Championships Freestyle Wrestling 1994

Fawnia's Thoughts on Journal Keeping

I think recording our lives is so important, especially for future generations. In your biography on your website you mention that you have always kept a diary...do you still journal? What keeps you sticking to it?

Yes I have a dairy where I note what I do each day. Here I am having recorded every day of my life since January when I was 13 years old (1988). I have a massive water proof bin full of one and five year diaries.

I used to journal as well and write down deeper thoughts, but it’s been almost 10 years, back when I still lived in Canada, that I journaled. Much of what I’ve written in my diary’s up until I was in my late 20s isn’t really for future generations eyes but it was my life, and all my crazy experiences.

I know one day someone will read them. They better be 18+, sitting down, and a glass of wine wouldn’t hurt either. These days, I filter what I write.

Fawnia's Pole Fitness Studio in Las Vegas

You have a studio in Las Vegas...can anyone drop in and take a class with you?

Yes I have a studio just two minutes west of the Las Vegas strip. Anyone can drop in anytime. We have 170 classes a month, 48 of which are co-ed. I am also available for privates as well.

You also offer a certification. How do you feel your certification program compare with the other newer ones that have opened up? 

Yes, I wrote the Pole Dance Instructors Certification (PDIC) course in 2006 which now consists of six levels. I will soon have the 7th level written and ready to teach, finally! Thank you for your patience Jen Kees and everyone else who has been waiting. To be very honest I have not taken any of the other certification programs so I can’t compare mine to theirs.

Do you think we will ever have standardization in this industry?

Yes, I do, but we are still many years and miles away and have many industry twists and turns before we reach this important destination.

I see that you are the IPDFA Industry Leader of the Year for 2014 and Las Vegas Top 100 Women of Influence for 2014. How did you win those titles?

The IPDFA Industry Leader of the Year for 2014 was awarded by Ania Przeplasko and her colleges from the International Pole Dance Fitness Association. I believe that my efforts in the pole fitness community with Pole Expo helped me earn this title.

The Las Vegas Top 100 Women of Influence for 2014 was awarded by My Vegas magazine for my contribution to the Las Vegas community through what we offer at Pole Fitness Studio.

You definitely have been extremely influential in the pole dance industry. Do you have any new projects or ideas in the works?

There are several other industry related projects I have in mind that may take shape in 2015 but at the moment my focus is making Pole Expo the most exciting, must experience event of the year.

I am also expanding my studio with additional space and height, and will be starting youth pole fitness classes for age 8 – 17.  

Fawnia brought us the Pole Expo!

How did you get the popular Pole Expo started? What can pole dancers get out of this event?

I started Pole Expo by writing my idea’s down on paper, and two years later coincidentally connecting with one my students Kerri Friedman who is very experienced with event production, such a cirque and recently EDC. The first Pole Expo took 18 months to plan; I wanted to be as flawless and exciting as possible.

At Pole Expo, pole dancers will unite with their global pole family and enjoy free workshops, seminars, and performances. Plus each morning they will fuel up on a complimentary breakfast before their free yoga class, or embark on their quest for merchandise from our 44 vendors or take their favorite workshops by 75 of our industries best instructors.

Fawnia, founder of Pole Expo

Pole Expo 2014 is opening with a bang, as we take over The Pearl Theater inside the Palms with the Pole Classic Competition & Pole Star Showcase. Everyone should arrive into Vegas by Wednesday September 3rd so they can enjoy the registration process, and Welcome Reception on Thursday, immediately before the competition and showcase begins.

Pole dancers will leave Vegas re-charged and exhausted at the same time. They will be 200% motivated, and ready to take on the world. We are Planet Pole!

What would you like to see change in this industry (if anything)?

Well I am looking forward to all pole dancers speaking the same language when it comes to our names for pole tricks.  I am also looking forward to the day we are accepted into the Olympics as an official sport. Could be in six years, could be in 22+ years, but when ever that day comes, I really hope I am here to witness this pivotal time. These changes are currently taking place, but I am looking forward to the end destination too.

This year Pole Fitness was accepted into the Arnold Schwarzenegger Sports Festival as an official sport! This is huge, and really brings pole fitness to the next level of acceptance.

I am extremely proud to have been at the Arnold Sports Festival, emceeing the inaugural Pole Championship Series by X-Pole. It was a dream come true to be able to thank Arnold directly for his belief in our sport. I know he went through a similar journey to get bodybuilding recognized also as sport 35+ years ago when he started his festival.  

You have achieved so much in your career. Do you have any new personal goals? 

My personal goals are to have a child of my own, though I do have an amazing step daughter, who will already be 22 year this year.  “Kayla, come to Pole Expo this year!” I will be continuing my handstand and flexibility training, and possibly learn Spanish.

Oh, and start training on the spinning pole! How ridiculous that I don’t but these last 20 years have flown by so fast. Take advantage of your goals now people. The “Now” is all we have.

Do you think the stigma that pole dancing has in our culture (with stripping, erotic dance, ect related to it) will ever change?

Of course, and it has changed so much already! In 1994 I was teaching only strippers. Then in 1998 when I produced the video “Pole Work” women from all over the world were buying a copy and soon after poles for at home use by “Lil Mynx” were produced. Female and male non-dancers were discovering they could workout on a vertical pole, and have fun!

In fact, many people agreed pole fitness was far more interesting, challenging and motivating then conventional resistance training such as weight lifting.

Today with pole fitness studio’s opening in countries all over the world, Arnold Schwarzenegger accepting Pole Fitness as a sport in his annual sports festival, and “America’s Got Talent” audiences witnessing amazing pole athletes, we have shook the stigma in many people eyes. 

The modern Pole Fitness sport can’t change it’s past and not everyone needs to accept where it’s derived from, and that’s ok. It will always be a combination Chinese Pole, Mallakhamb Pole, and the Exotic Dance influences and I think the combination of all three is great. What matters is that during a class the information taught is suitable for that audience.

What do you say to someone who wants to pole dance 'just for fitness'? Do you think the sensual or sexy aspect can ever really be taken out of it?

I will always welcome everyone to our classes and realize that there are many people in the same room taking the same class for different reasons. Some instructors may offer a more tricks based class, while other focus on choreography with tricks and possibly floor work with emphasis on transitions, seamlessly linking the moves together. Both class styles are great and are important to any studios curriculum.

What I have learned is that some people take classes to improve their self esteem, and learn to love their bodies again, but then discover what an incredible workout pole fitness is, and enjoy seeing their strength, cardio and flexibility improve.

The same goes for those coming for the fitness benefits. They can’t deny their boost of self esteem and they way their body looks when they point their toes or walk from one pole to the next. Pole fitness is a beautiful infinite circle where the physical, emotional and sensual bodies meet and become one. 

I read an article about pole dancing classes in England that were banned from a university because they felt that pole fitness could not be separated from pole dancing and that pole dancing represented the world of exotic dance.

What would be your response to something like this?

Well of course to those uneducated about our sport, both may seem exactly the same and I don’t blame them but it’s important that they learn what pole fitness truly is. Here we go:

1.       Pole Dancing/Exotic Dance—this is what most people think of when they think of pole dancing. Exotic dancers are more involved in the ‘entertainment’ side of pole and are not necessarily trained. However if someone is ‘pole dancing’ this doesn’t necessarily mean they were removing clothing; they could simple be dancing with a pole.

2.       Pole Fitness—this is the category that most women and men are involved in. Pole is used as a way to get fit and feel good. Classes are taken in a private studio or gym and the instructors are highly skilled and trained.

3.      Pole Sport—this is the competitive side of pole. The women and men involved in this category compete around the world and are involved with the Olympic pursuit. They display incredible amounts of athleticism, strength, flexibility, and control in their routines.

In 2004 Tammy Morris of Tantra Fitness started teaching at the University of British Columbia’s AMS Minischool and still today continues to offer classes there each semester. In 2010 I started teaching pole fitness workshops at the University of Las Vegas, and later in 2011 I have been speaking to each Dance 103 class each semester about the history of pole dancing and its future.

The point of view from the university in England to where pole fitness classes were banned from is over a decade old. We are so far removed from that ‘big bang theory’ point in time.

Fawnia's Advice to Pole Dancers

What advice would you give a beginner, someone totally new to pole dancing?

I would suggest they always warm up and learn at a slow and steady pace that suits their skill and fitness level. Many people train too often, and don’t give their body rest, then they find their shoulders, elbows and wrists are aching. Moderation is key and it’s really helpful to cross train with weights, yoga, and enjoy a time out with an Epsom salt bath.

What advice would you give to someone who is overweight, maybe doesn't have any dance background but wants to find their 'sexy self' through poling?

I would suggest starting with Level 1 Pole Dancing classes and enjoy the learning process, taking something from each lesson, from each instructor. Finding your sexy is a journey that takes time and not one journey is the same. Some people are on the path to sensual enlightenment when they thought they just wanted to lose weight for a specific event.

Every day is a new day, and with it will come gifts. The secret is to be open to the messages, and lessons that each pole fitness instructors brings to each class. Feeling sexy is not always about bodyweight. Sexy is feeling comfortable with yourself and your body, with self acceptance. When one accepts themselves, then they can discover their inner sexy self. Working towards a physical fitness goal is wonderful as we are never static, or still. Our physical conditioning is either improving, or it’s not. It’s up to the student to find what moves and motivates them, and enjoy the process of change, knowing that not one class will be the same.

What advice would you give the advanced pole tricksters?

Respect your body and its physical limitations and continue to cross train to avoid over-training and injury. Rest is an important part of all training programs. It’s you who are paving the way towards the Olympics with your innovated tricks, transitions and impressive flexibility.

Last but not least, what are your thoughts about pole dancing being a positive influence in the cultures of all of  the areas we pole dancers come from: USA, England, Italy, China, India...

Dancing with a pole is empowering and very healing. I believe all women and men should love who they are, and regardless of what country they are from, can learn how to love themselves and how to love again through pole dancing.

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