Today marks the 5 year anniversary from when Leah signed on the dotted line and changed her pole journey from that of student to that of instructor. I celebrate her anniversary on the day she started her training, instead of when she taught her first class, because becoming an instructor is extremely difficult, time consuming, and many don’t make it. And I can’t help but think it is crazy that my little company has been around long enough to have an employee work here for 5 years. Crazy how far we have come. Crazy how much has changed; when Leah started we had ~30 students a week now we have that in a night! Crazy that after moving 90 minutes away Leah still chooses to be here.

When students first encounter Leah they see her as a magical creature with the most gorgeous fluid lines, strength for days, and no apparent pain response. They think that she was born this way and don’t recognize how hard Leah has worked. When Leah walked into Premiere Fitness and the hideous electric blue studio we started in she was weak (sorry Leah!) and had recently lost 50+ pounds. She still had the “fluffy” look about her with a very different body shape then the lean Leah you see today. Her first fireman didn’t last long, she slide to the ground with her bottom hand way too high, like all first fireman do. But she did have a natural grace about her. Leah took her natural grace and spent a lot of time and effort training for flexibility and strength.

Leah - 1Leah - 3The picture on the left is the first cocoon picture I have of Leah, taken in 2013. Notice that her back flexibility is limited so the pole stays at her side. Her top leg is at a 90-ish degree angle and  her grabbed leg has a large bend in it.

The picture on the right is her cocoon a year-ish later. Her back flexibility has increased so the pole is now at her chest and her top leg is holding a much strong knee pit grip. Her grabbed leg has less of a bend.

If you saw her cocoon today, it has improved and is even more impressive. Leah excels at pole because she works at it. Yes, she has a lot of natural ability and picks things up quickly, but she also has put in the time to excel. I’m so grateful that she is a gifted athlete that also wants to train hard!

Becoming an instructor is an extremely large time commitment that never ends. If I had kept track, Leah and I have trained well over 1000 hours together. She has spent time learning about anatomy and different styles of dance in addition to all the aerial arts. Being an instructor didn’t come naturally to Leah, when she was first learning to spot she stood 3 feet away from me not wanting to touch the person she was spotting or “be in their way”. Like a good teacher, I “fell” so she could see how fast it happened. She learned and adjusted her own personal space needs to get comfortable being on top of the people she’s spotting. She has saved countless lives/injuries with her skills and continues to work on them. Her work ethic has made her a huge asset to Aerial Dance.

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Her first Christmas Show was in 2011. It was the first Show in our current location; the hardest tricks were leg hangs. Leah did a routine that was clever and cute but on the day of the Christmas Show last year I have to shake my head in awe at what she is now capable of. Her choreography is amazing and her tricks are truly breath taking. I’m already excited to see what she’ll come up with for her 6th Christmas Show performance this year!

One of her greatest attributes is her humor. Leah is insanely funny. She has such a smart sharp wit about her. And I’m eternally grateful that she uses it to help me in the rough times. She is so good at defusing a hard situation or making me laugh at myself. Being in a small business that is in an emerging field has given Leah lots of opportunities to use her humor to support us. The things that fall out of her mouth are truly gems!

There was a time when I was a “better” pole dancer than Leah. I know! Right! (As all our students reading this gasp in shock because those days are LONG past.) It was hard for me when Leah’s skills started to eclipse mine, I was nervous that I’d be jealous or resentful or no longer relevant. But Leah is such a humble person that she made it easy for me, she still consults me on new moves she’s working on and values my knowledge. She also has shown me incredible patience as I rehab from the injury du jour and she has to “re-teach” me moves that I once taught her. She’ll spot me, give me tips and then when I’ve succeeded truly celebrate my trip back even though we both know I could do it once upon a time. Then when it’s her turn to be spotted and she does some crazy flip thing she is so unassuming and modest that you can’t help but love seeing her accomplish and celebrating her amazing skills.

But the main reason I credit Leah’s still being her 5 years later is her adaptability. Leah isn’t phased by changed, she embraces it. And as a growing company there has been a LOT of change. Her role has changed, she now teaches 4 apparatus, not one. There are now a ton more chores to do and students to email. Leah has always supported the change. The attitude she shares with me has always been “let’s try it and see.” I cannot begin to tell you how grateful I am for Leah’s relaxed personality. Yes, it drives me CRAZY when it’s the week of the Christmas Show and she hasn’t picked out a song yet; but I’ve learned that my obsessive nature is complimented by her chilled approached and we meet very successfully in the middle. She has brought so many fantastic ideas to Aerial Dance that has helped us grow. Leah has truly helped mold the company into what it is today by always having my back when I’ve wanted to do something and putting in a lot of effort to help us succeed.

So on this day, her 5th year with Aerial Dance I just wanted to take some time to share how grateful I am to Leah. Thank you for helping our students realize their potential. Thank you for giving Aerial Dance your creativity. Thank you for believing in me when I questioned myself. Thank you for pushing me to be a better manager and aerialist. Thank you for being an incredible woman that I’m so lucky to know and even luckier to have as an instructor. Thank you Leah!