The February 2016 Cover on Nature’s Pathways features Aerial Dance. I am so absolutely humbled and grateful for the interest in my little company. To me, however, it means so very much more than just a magazine cover. To me, seeing the Aerial Arts on the cover of a widely distributed, respected magazine means acceptance for the sport I love.
When I started Aerial Dance in September 2010 Pole wasn’t accepted at all in the Fox Valley as a fitness activity. Every time I told someone what I did I was always compared to a stripper and had to listen to inappropriate comments that ranged from ignorant, to leud, to insulting. For the past 5+ years my staff, our students, and I have worked extremely hard to bring knowledge of Pole to the area. And it has not been an easy journey.
My instructors and I attended expos with a stage pole to demonstrate and let people try so they could begin to understand. At a wedding expo, after we were set-up and doing basic fitness stuff for about an hour the organizer came over to us and said “we’re getting complaints about the pole. Can you please not do anything where you spread your legs.” I was shocked. We were doing “choppers” and “twisted overhead Vs” to show the strength of lifting into an inverted move. We were being EXTREMELY fitness to make sure there weren’t problems and we’re getting complaints simple for being there, in a short and a tank top and working out. How can someone complain about that?
We did a Fitness Expo and had mothers grab their children (ages 6-16) and shield their eyes as they walked by our demonstration. Seriously dramatic “don’t look there” moments by parents and I kept wonder why? Again, fully clothed people working out on an apparatus that is a serious challenge and people are acting like we are this horrible corrupting influence that may kill their child. Yes, fitness is super dangerous (eye roll.) But it hurt. It was really hard at those events to smile, be patient and educate. The comments yelled at me and my staff were unbelievable and I seriously hope my girls don’t remember. There were so many times I wondered if I should be taking the stage pole out to the public to educate, if there was enough positivity from the experiences to outweigh all the negatives flung at us.
I knew when I started Aerial Dance that there would be some who didn’t understand or more accurately didn’t want to understand that pole could be part of fitness. But I honestly wasn’t prepared for how much negativity we did encounter. It seemed like the second you put a pole next to someone, no matter what they did with it, the activity was viewed as a vulgar thing. But I was determined to help change that. So we continued to band together and educate. We worked with people who believed in our sport, like Vic Ferrari when they invited to share a stage with us at Jones Park for their finale and then had people call and complain to because it was “inappropriate”. Crazy athletic doubles pole tricks that were olympic calibre with the women wearing tank tops and shorts was worth a complaint phone call? But the guys of Vic stood up for us. Our students that were in the audience stood up for pole. And we kept pushing the Fox Valley to recognize what the Aerial Arts were.
Being in a “new sport” means sometimes feeling the need to hide what you’re doing. Many of our students when they start tell family and friends that they go to the gym, or to group fitness classes, and don’t say what type of activity for fear of being negatively judged. But our girls keep coming because they see the benefits. They keep coming because they are learning and having fun and gaining strength and hanging out with awesome women who empower them. And eventually they get brave enough to tell their family and friends what they are doing and they bring them to the Christmas Show. And slowly over the last 5+ years we’ve made progress and more women feel comfortable trying the sport and talking about it.
So to me, this magazine cover means a hell of a lot. Because it means that the sport we love has reached a level of acceptance in the area. When Barb from Nature’s Pathways asked if we’d be on the cover, my response was “we’d love to be. But to be clear, we’d want a picture of someone on a pole on the cover.” Barb laughed and said absolutely, “that is what they wanted.” And I was shocked. Someone finally got it. For once we didn’t have to hide and could proudly show what we do. I’m beyond grateful to Nature’s Pathways for putting thousands of pictures of our sport around the area to educate and continue the conversation we have been having the past 5 years.