Tuesday, 27 December 2011

A Perfect Xmas.

I hope that you have had a wonderful Xmas this year. I was lucky enough to eat out this year dining on a 6 course meal at the Mussel Inn. I haven't been to the Mussel Inn since it was taken over in April and was a little worried about what it would be like, but I needn't have worried as the food and service were outstanding.

I had left it late to book but luckily Kim from the Mussel Inn called me to say that they did have 1 table of 4 left so my husband, Mum and Nan were booked; The Xmas meal was fabulous, we started with a petit four of salmon crostini followed by some starters, I went for the haddock and quails egg rissotto, my husband opted for the pork terrine and my Mum and Nan went for the celeriac and watercress soup with a goats cheese twist - none of us were disappointed with our choice :)

For the main we all went for the 3 bird roast whilst my Nan opted for the Fillet Steak, thankfully my Nan does not have a big appetite so we got to share the piece of perfectly cooked steak which is probably one of the best cuts of meat I have ever tasted. All the meat was locally sourced from award winning Moonstone meats in Wembury.

Before our dessert we had a fabulous vodka and lemon sorbet to clear the palette, it was gorgeous! My husband, Mum and Nan then tucked into a Xmas pudding with brandy sauce and I had a cheeseboard (by then I was stuffed so sneaked the cheeses into a napkin to take home for supper).

picture courtesy of the Mussel Inn.

I want to say a huge thank you to all the staff at the Mussel Inn for making our meal so perfect, at no stage were we rushed, the decor was warm and inviting, the service was just right and the food was gorgeous - what more could one ask for.

The Xmas day continued in a similar vein with an evening of good TV (Doctor Who and Eastenders!), some real ale, port and Stilton.

Despite recent financial challenges I felt very lucky to be able to enjoy such an indulgent day but my thoughts go out to those who have not had such a great Xmas either through illness, loneliness or bereavement and I hope that 2012 brings peace and goodwill to all of us.

Stay Healthy

Sam x

Friday, 23 December 2011

Occupy Plymouth?

I am really quite shocked at the venom being aimed at the Occupy movement in Plymouth but then after the international press crusade against the Occupy movement perhaps it is hardly surprising.  I personally admire the majority of protestors (there will always be a minority who are not actually fighting the true occupy cause) for getting off their backsides and trying to force change.

There isn't a day that passes without me hearing someone moan about the economic climate we live in, we are all aware of rising food, petrol and fuel prices, we can all witness the cuts being made to front-line services yet we can also witness the continued greed of those at the top e.g. South West Water have record profits yet bills continue to rise? Plymouth City Council leaders refusing to take pay cuts whilst cutting the pay for lower paid workers.

I think what the Occupy Plymouth facebook page shows is that the protesters aren't some kind of anarchists, they aren't all 'tree huggers and hippies' (Nothing wrong with tree huggers and hippies of course) as labelled by some, thy are simply people, like you and me, who are tired of living hand to mouth whilst watching those at the higher end of the pay scale cream of the rewards of our hard work.  

Perhaps there is a misconception that the Occupy movement is a waste of time, well check out the amazing results of Occupy Iceland. Check out this video too:

Focusing back on the Occupy Plymouth movement I have to mention the Kinterbury house building which the Occupy Plymouth movement was temporarily based in before the removal by bailiffs today; Kinterbury House has been derelict since 2008, the reason for its empty state was the greed of the owners who doubled the rent in 2008 forcing the then occupants out, one such occupant was the Plymouth Family Support Services - check out the blog I wrote about them at the time.

Anyway, the main point of this blog is to say a big thank you to all those representing the Occupy Movement for making a firm stand on behalf of people like myself who are sick of being ripped off by the wealthy. I do not describe myself as anti-capitalist and I have no problems with those at the top earning more money than me but I do want a fairer divide between those at the top and those at the bottom. In Plymouth we see a chief executive (Barry Keel) on over £200,000 per year (figures from taxpayers alliance) whilst one council worker I spoke to who already struggles to live on a wage of £12,000 is having his wages cut, hours increased and pension cut, he for one would surely agree with the Occupy Movement and it's beliefs?

Stay Healthy,

Sam x

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Incinerator is wrong and so is Plymouth City Council!

 image courtesy of thisisplymouth.

On December 22nd Plymouth City Council will decided whether or not to give the go ahead for the controversial Incinerator at Barne Barton. For many the idea of having an incinerator in the middle of a built up residential area is completely insane and I haven't spoken to one person who seems to think the incinerator is a good idea.

I understand that the issue of waste must be addressed but have to question why we are buying outdated German technology to deal with the issue (another council backhander perhaps?). I think the 'Incinerator is wrong' group sum it up perfectly with their tag-line "The wrong solution in the wrong place". Aside from the concerns about air pollutants one of the big concerns is the huge number of lorries that will need access to the site, these lorries will have to drive past local schools and houses.

I also have to question why the plans for the incinerator have changed so much during the planning application going from an almost attractive building, in the early stages, to an industrial monstrosity (see picture top). My other main question is that if the pollutants are so harmless then why do we need a 95 metre high chimney?

It seems Paul Winterton may have the answers with his anaerobic digestion plant at Langage Farm in Plymouth; Paul claims to have one of the best plants in the UK when it comes to waste to energy and he reckons he might be able to win some of the contracts from the proposed Barne Barton site. Whilst Paul offers a much greener alternative to  MVV Umwelt he also offers a solution to the traffic problems associated with the Barne Barton site; Langage sits on the edge of the city next to the A38, heavy vehciles and machinery can access the Langage Site with minimal disruption to local residents. Check out the Langage farm blog and the Wrap site which works towards a world without waste.

In my opinion it seems as if certain members of Plymouth City Council already see this as a done deal showing the usual arrogance and contempt they have for the people they are meant to be serving.  I am of course referring to some of our senior council members and executives, those that have refused to take a pay cut despite being advised to do so by the home secretary, those that put their own agenda before the people who pay their wages, those that can impose severe cuts to lower level front line public sector jobs hitting the people who can least afford it.

I hope that the people of Plymouth remember these facts when it comes to the local elections in 2012, think about which members of the cabinet felt it necessary to pay for an all expenses trip to the South African World Cup, which members backed the white elephant that is the Life Centre, those who felt it more important to save a football club than the city's airport, I could go on but I think the majority of Plymothians already know.

Roll on May 2012!

Stay Healthy,

Sam x

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Assised Dying

I had the pleasure last month of attending a talk with Humanist Celebrant Jo Hawes on assisted dying. I have always been a believer in assisted dying but am aware of the complications that surround the subject and I understand that there is never a clear black and white answer, there will always be grey areas.

My blog today will attempt to share some of the information provided by Jo's talk as well as giving you my view on assisted dying and the issues that accompany it.

I would like to use several examples, the first is my Mum's friend Jean who died of Cancer last year (Jo was the celebrant at Jean's funeral). Jean's last few days were described as horrendous and no-one could possibly have wanted to have inflicted such pain on anyone but all the staff could do was administer painkillers to help ease the pain. Could this have been an example of a situation where it was in the patients best interests to be helped to dye rather than suffering an additional last few days of hell?

One argument I tend to use is that we are kinder to animals than humans, I could never watch an animal of mine suffer if I knew there was no way it could get better and I would have no hesitation in making a vets appointment to prevent any prolonged suffering, in one case I had to break the neck of one of my cockatiels as it lay dying, shaking and screeching in pain, although it was not an easy thing to do I felt I had no option. I could counter this arguement with another ill bird who I was about to 'put to sleep' as he had been attacked by chickens but on this occasion I chose not to and the bird went on to live for another 2 years, enjoying his life thoroughly.Was I right in the first instance or should I have let nature take its course?

Jo talked about the Liverpool care pathway and how it is currently used to determine the treatment of dying patients, we talked about how it could be used to help decide when medical professionals could assist a patient to die more quickly if their diagnosis was already terminal and it was believed that the patients last few days or hours would be unbearable. Surely we can get a sensible approach to assess how much quality of life a person has, when someone gets to the point that they can't breathe for themselves, swallow, feed, drink, when they are incontinent and can't voluntarily move their own bodies, when someone reaches this point and they have no hope of getting better then I believe we should be able to assist them with their death.

Some of you may have seen the recent Terry Pratchett documentary on his visit to Dignitas or you may simply have read the media backlash after the documentary was aired:

For me it was sad that a man (Peter Smedley - pictured below) had to travel abroad to kill himself before he was ready to die rather than stay in this country and wait for his condition to worsen. Even more fascinating are the figures that many of those using the Dignitas service have nothing wrong with them, they are simply tired of living. An 84 year old, Nan Maitland used Dignitas to take her own life after saying she wanted avoid the prolonged dwindling of old age, she was not terminally ill but knew that her body was starting to fail and arthritis was worsening.

Picture above of Peter Smedley as he takes his own life in front of his wife in the Dignitas clinic.

Another controversial dignitas patient was ex England youth rugby player
Daniel James who chose to die at Dignitas after becoming paralysed and saying he wasn't prepared for a second class life. Whilst many victims of paralysis go on to have great lives for Daniel 'felt his body had become a prison' and his 'fear and loathing of life was increasing with each day'

So let's get a few facts straight, suicide is not illegal in the UK (it was pre-1960's), anyone can take their own life, although culturally in Britain suicide tends to be frowned upon, in other cultures this can be the opposite e.g. Kamikaze pilots in WW2.  There are also moves within the UK legal system to prevent anyone getting prosecuted if they do help someone to die in circumstances where the patient is terminally ill, Daniel James parents were not prosecuted for taking him to Dignitas.

Do we have a right to die, if you are a Christian you may think not as you are likely to believe that God will decide when it is your time to go and that no-one has the right to take a life. The Christian ethos is also very anti-suicide. As a humanist I do believe that we should have a right to death.

Here is another argument that was presented by Jo during her talk, she used the example of a young child in hospital, their prognosis was not good, they were described as being in constant pain, they had no bladder yet parents and medics fought to keep the child alive eventually creating an artificial bladder that would be of benefit to medical science and would later be of benefit to many individuals; Did this medical breakthrough warrant the child's suffering and poor quality of life?

Perhaps some people fear that by supporting assisted suicide we are making way for greedy families to take the lives of their elderly relatives for financial gain? I think these cases would be and are a minority and we already have existing laws to deal with such offenders.

I do not aim to bring any conclusions to this argument as the answers will vary for different people of different cultures and religion but I do want to the right to die with as much dignity as possible. I would hate to think that time and money would be wasted on keeping me alive if I had no prospect of getting better and if my life was miserable for both me and those around me.

Stay Healthy 

Sam x

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Being Kimberley

I have blogged before about art of dance student Kimberley Liane and her battle with cystic fibrosis. Rather than blog further I thought you would prefer to hear Kimberley's story direct from her. Please read her moving blog.

Big hugs to a very brave bunny :)

Sam x

Saturday, 12 November 2011

UK Road Trip 2011

Over the last week I have seen more than my fair share of motorways and A-roads and travelling on these concrete nightmares seemed less favourable after the horrific crash on 5th November on the M5. However, My husband, Brian and I set off for London on 6th November travelling in the glorious Autumn sunshine via the A303 and Stonehenge.

The trip, which was part of our syllabus filming for the Pole Dance Community,  took us through the centre of London and seemed like a mini capital tour as we drove past many of London's big attractions. We arrived at our destination; Pole Dancing School owned by World Champion Elena Gibson (pictured above left). We were joined by Helen Partridge (pictured above right)  from Pole Control in Essex and we set up our mini studio ready to commence filming. After nearly 3 hours of filming we were ready to hit the road again.

Next stop was London to Northampton to collect a front end for my husbands motorbike and then we continued to Bradford to stop overnight and spend some time with my husband's Mum. On arrival a buffet fit for a king awaited us and we were delighted to know that the first leg of travel was over as well as having the chance to spend some quality family time together.

To make the most of our Bradford stay we decided to take Brian on his first ever Bradford curry experience and where better to go than the Zouk. The Zouk offers a marvellous menu, it is an authentic curry experience with a modern Asian twist.

I had the Palak Tikka (Spicy spinach cakes filled with paneer, potato and sauté mushrooms) to start followed by the Red Snapper (Fillet marinated with herbs and spices then grilled until tender) and both dishes were simply gorgeous leaving me more than satisfied and with no room for pudding!

After our time in Bradford it was back on the road to travel to Pole Devils in Glasgow, Scotland, we set off over the Yorkshire Dales enjoying the unexpected warm weather and keeping our eyes peeled for somewhere nice to stop for brunch. Our journey took us near Clapham conservation village so we decided to stop there and check out Croft Cafe. 

Croft Cafe was a fabulous find, nestled within the picturesque village of Clapham and offering a step back in time to a village that has remained untouched by modern chain businesses and corporate greed. We were greeted by a lady who offered us a table and then presented us with a hand-written menu which included the traditional English breakfast we had been desiring. I think the picture left gives you an example of the exemplary service on offer. The white tea set was perfectly laid with a spare jug of hot water, white and brown sugar allowing each person to make their own perfect brew. 

Next time we are in Yorkshire we will have to revisit the place to not only return to Croft Cafe but also to check out the caves and other wonders of this amazing little village.

As we ventured on up the Motorway we reached the Scottish Border and were seduced by the Scottish Mountains that were bathed in sunlight. As motorways go this is something special. The 4 hour 30 minute journey was actually rather pleasant but we were still relieved to arrive at our destination to film with the lovely Rose Wallace, owner of Pole Devils and the lovely Anne Goswell, owner of Goeswell Pole Dancing School

We got loads of filming done and were spoilt with tea and chocolate biscuits too but after 3 hours of filming it was time to hit the road and travel back to Bradford for some much needed sleep.

On Wednesday it was time for the final leg of our tour as we set off for BodyBarre In Manchester. Unfortunatley a lot of people were unable to attend and this actually worked out to be a good thing as Karen Chaundy's beautiful, chandelier bedecked pole dancing studio was actually to dark to film and we had failed to bring any additional lighting with us. This meant we had an unexpected bit of time to sample the Teapot in the Northern Quarter of Manchester.

The Teapot is a cafe with a difference and it made a refreshing change from the dullness of Starbucks and Costa. I opted for a pot of Tippy Earl grey and Sid opted for an Americano and a Flirty Manchester Tart. The Teapot has a delightful, relaxed ambience and the food looked amazing. Brian went to check out the Rainbow cake!

After our unexpected time off we hit the M6 ready to return to Plymouth, the dark M5 was far less appealing than the sunny A303 or M1. It as so nice to get back on Wednesday evening and to know that we didn't have to do to many more miles in the next few days.

It was a fab road trip and it was so nice to catch up with all the pole dancing instructors who made us feel so welcome throughout. The Fitness pole dancing industry has evolved so much over the past few years and the progress is definitely positive.

Although the trip was work-inspired it was also a chance to sneak in some quality time with my husband :)

We have more syllabus filming to do but for me it is time to focus on judging in Bristol tomorrow for the Bristol Pole Championships, good luck to all those entering.

More news to follow.

Stay Healthy,

Sam x

Friday, 28 October 2011

The Art of Dance Loves Life!

The Art of Dance has just signed up to the Herald's Love Life campaign. Check out our article!

More news to follow on pole dance and flexibility training, master-classes with Marlo and assisted dying (not related to my master-class with Marlo!)

Stay Healthy,

Sam x

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Pole Dance Performance Advice

picture above of UKPCC 2011 judges Lucy Misch, Donna Gant, Sam Remmer (me!), Stacey Snedden, Emma Mitchell, Kat Williamson and Elena Gibson.

All pictures courtesy of Claire Winters - Littlebiglegs photography.
After a fabulous night judging at the UK Professional Pole Championships semi finals on Sunday 9th October - the UK's newest pole dance competition (results)- I wanted to share some performance advice from a judges point of view and with my previous performance experience in mind. Firstly I should point out that as a judge I have seen many pole dance performances so I am always on the look out for something new and innovative, if I see a bland performance I am likely to mark it down even if it is technically correct.

Don't copy - be original!

No matter how much you are inspired by a pole dancer don't directly copy their routines or ideas. Having seen the marvellous Elena Gibson's Black Swan inspired performance I have now seen 5 copies of her routine and none of them have quite matched Elena's elegance and grace. 2 of them were great and I would have marked them higher if I had not seen Elena's routine first.

Try to put your own special marks on tricks and transitions, pole dancers such as Becca Butcher, Karen Chaundy, Sarah Scott and Robyn Rooke always stand out for coming up with new and exciting ways to execute their moves and combos. Sarah Scott's 'Floor sweeper' move is a classic example of her innovation. 

Point your toes!

This is the biggest bug bear for me and is something that I will seriously mark down for. Alignment is so important and so often it is the feet/toes that let a move down. When you are executing a move it needs the right lines to make it look perfect and usually flexed feet will kill the move. My students, and those who have been judged by me in the past, will know how much I care about pointed toes!

Wardrobe malfunction/Dress rehearsals:

I have lost track of how many lips and nipples I have seen in the last few months so please check your wardrobe before you enter any competition. Your costume needs to behave itself throughout a routine otherwise you will either provide a free peep show for the audience or spend the entire routine fiddling with your costume. Thumb up the bum is anther no no, Make sure your shorts do not move around too much, although I would rather see you adjusting your shorts rather than flashing I would prefer to see neither!

Male pole dancers have additional concerns to address, if you do happen to be well-endowed please at least double up on your shorts do stop he trouser snake detracting from your routine. In some cases a jockstrap may be a handy addition to your wardrobe.

Sweaty Palms:

Sweaty palms are every pole dancers worst nightmare, you need to make sure you are prepared for the dreaded wet palms before you perform. If you don't get a handle on your slippery mitts your routine could be severely compromised or, worse case scenario, you could fall off. Remember to take into account stage lighting and nerves which could increase the amount you sweat. If you use grip aids or gloves make sure you work with them prior to the competition/performance. There are loads of grip aids and gloves on the market so choose well as different products work for different people. I use mighty grip if teaching advanced lessons or on hot summer days. I use dry hands and/or gloves topped up with mighty grip for performing.

If you do suffer from sweaty palms during a routine try to avoid visibly wiping your hands on your costume throughout your routine as this detracts from your performance.

 picture above of Brian Vervet performing at UKPCC 2011.

Stage Awareness:

When performing be aware of where your audience are, don't perform with your back to them. If you submit a video entry to a competition make sure you perform to the camera. Stage awareness also affects which way you should perform a move  e.g. ideally a Jade should be performed side on to the audience so they can see the long lines created by the upside down horizontal splits.

Stage Presence:

Think about how the audience/judges will perceive your routine, you need to command their attention and give them eye contact where appropriate. Make sure your performance and facial expression link with the music, its no good picking a sad song and then smiling all the way through!

On-line video entry:

If you submit a video entry make sure the video is clear and easy to view, judges want to see your facial expressions and your costume a well as your pole dance moves. Poor quality videos might mean you don't qualify even if you are good enough.

Don't over choreograph:

Whilst choreography is a must, over choreography can kill a routine for the following reasons:
Trick heavy - don't overload your routine with tricks unless they fit with the music and flow effortlessly.
Land on the beat - musicality is an integral part of any good pole dance but as a judge I hate seeing people reaching a point in the song too early and then waiting to execute a big move. If you do reach a point in the song too early don't just sit and wait, try to have some filler moves/transitions on standby to stop the unnecessary pause.

Pick the right competition and the right entry level:

picture above of Kate Johnstone and Varie Anderson - organisers of the PDC approved UKPCC competition.

There are some really good and some really bad competitions so choose carefully. Before you enter a competition ask around for advice to see which competition and which set of rules suits you best.Work out what level you are at an don't try to cheat the competition, if you are advanced don't enter a beginner or intermediate level as it is unfair to other competitors. You can always ask a promoter for advice before you commit to entering.

Rehearsal and rest:
The right balance of rehearsal and rest are essential to a good performance. I have seen so many people practising their big tricks over and over again a few hours before they are due to perform and then being too tired to execute them in their actual performance.  Ideally you want to take at least 3 days rest before your performance so don't leave your practice to the last minute. Also be aware of choreographing your routine months before the show, by the time you get to perform you may hate your routine and your song choice and that may reflect in your act.

I usually spend time practising my strongest moves and combinations and then make a list of them, I then pick a song and listen to the music to find the highs and lows of the song so I can try to match the tricks and combos to the music. I have the list of moves and combos printed out so I can read through it before performing, I also have a couple of back up moves in case I get a mental blank or complete my routine before the end of the song! Of course, what works for me may not work for you so allow enough time to get your act right before the big day!


Make sure you plan your diet and hydration not only when training but also on the big day. A good competition will have told you roughly what time you will be performing so you can plan what time to eat and can stock up on some carbs earlier in the day to fuel your muscles for your performance.

I think I have bombarded you with enough advice for today so will leave you to enjoy the rest of the day. Good luck to anyone who is performing :)

Stay Healthy,

Sam x

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

My Pole Motion interview.

Thanks to Nikki McNeil McWright for interviewing me for the Pole Motion website. 

Stay Healthy,

Sam x

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Why Vivien Pengelly is missing the point.

I am a regular reader of the Herald newspaper and in particular I enjoy the 'Your say' page which has letters discussing all sorts of issues concerning Plymouth. Recently I have enjoyed David Luckham's letters written with a slight tongue in cheek attitude but really addressing some of Plymouth's most pressing problems.

On Wednesday I read Plymouth City Council leader Vivien Pengelly's rather feeble response to David's valid points, I say feeble response as it wasn't really a direct response to any of David's questions about lack of infrastructure, a poor tourism drive and a general failure of the council to spend money on the right priorities. It was merely more of the usual rubbish we are fed by P.C.C to cover up the dissatisfaction of the electorate.

I knew that Vivien would use the Life Centre in her argument, this £65 million pound white elephant has already cost the taxpayer a fortune, most people won't be able to afford to use it, it threatens local businesses and community groups by offering direct competition to their activities and it is a complete eyesore. I know that some, including Vivien, are harping on about the fact that the centre will be used by teams visiting the Olympics but the Olympics are hardly a regular event. While it might be nice for Plymouth Divers to have an Olympic pool they have already achieved gold medals without it and diving in Plymouth is carried out by a very small minority.

My biggest problem with Vivien's response is her attitude that we should be over-grateful for the things we have already paid for even if, like the Life Centre or the World Cup Bid, we didn't ask for. Imagine if plans had gone ahead for a bigger Argyle Stadium, we can't even fill the stadium we have and if things don improve we won't have a football team to play in it either.

Vivien points out that the council is putting more money into roads, well isn't that the council's job anyway? I am fed up with seeing expensive signs on our roads stating 'Congratulations, you've been upgraded'. As taxpayers we have already paid for these works and would prefer a sign with an apology from the council for taking so long to do the job in the first place. I can take one small mercy from the fact that Plymouth has stopped plastering its website and stationary (at great expense) with the word's 'Best achieving council'. Perhaps I should follow suit and give myself a medal each time I manage to turn up for work?

Vivien may see us Plymothians as whingers and cynics but I think we have every reason to be so, I can see why Vivien is so motivated and optimistic as she has a generous salary to give her piece of mind and she has apparently opted to keep her salary, and that of Barry Keel, generous despite advise from home secretary Eric Pickles to take a 20% pay cut. Vivien has repeatedly denied claims that any senior council members have received pay increases but looking at the latest pre-audit figures from the council it now appears that the gravy train is still alive and well.

Don't get me wrong I am very proud of Plymouth just not proud of our council.

Stay Healthy,

Sam x

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Motorway madness and other random stuff

picture above of myself, Pippa Caesar, Deb Riley, Karen Chaundy and Aimee Lawson at the UKPAC 2011. Photograph courtesy of Pole Xposure.

After a 7.5 hour journey from Plymouth to Bradford on Friday 2nd September followed by a 1 hour journey from Bradford to Bolton and a 1 hour return journey from Bolton to Bradford on the Saturday then another hour long Bradford to Bolton run finished with a 5.5 hour Bolton to Plymouth drive on Sunday neither myself nor my husband are missing the motorway. Our trip was not in vain as I was judging at the United Kingdom Pole Artistes Championships organised by JLN Fitness and it was a fabulous night. I will link to the review of the event once it is published.

To kill the monotony of the motorway slug my husband and I have an A-Z game to keep us amused for part of the journey, it started a few years ago in a more simplistic form, one of us picks a subject e.g. colours and then the person who picks the subject picks a colour for the letter 'A' e.g. amber and then the second person picks a colour for 'B' e.g. brown and so on....

As the game has evolved we have covered more interesting subjects having tired of the traditional ones like colours, flowers, girl's names etc. More recent topics have included diseases, things relating to death, crime and body parts (my husband always seems to focus on genitalia). I think I picked the best A-Z game when I chose an A-Z of things you can both see e.g 'A' for Astra if one happens to be in view at the time.

Now the PDC Syllabus has expanded we had to do an A-Z of pole moves, unbelievably I lost the game as I ended on the letter 'Z' and couldn't thing of a move beginning with the letter Z - of you know one please let me know so I can win future games!!

On the subject of pole I had the opportunity to witness some classic pole language at the Pole Jam at JLN on Sunday 4th September, the conversation between several people, some of whom were hanging upside down at the time as you do, went something like this:

"What's it called?"
"I think it is a pendulum or half moon"
"Do you use classic grip or cup grip?"
"Generally cup grip I think although for the other variation I use twisted grip"
"What about the Scorpio walkover?"
"Kind of twisted grip but with the shoulder blade on the pole and the head down"
"Which leg do you kick with?"
"Not sure?" (person then attempts the move to see which leg they kick with)"
"How do you do the toothbrush?"
"The what?"
"Do you mean the side tabletop?"
"No the grip is different I think more like a cradle?"
"You mean a tuck?"

The conversation continued from there but made me chuckle as anyone who doesn't pole would wonder what on earth we were all talking about!

Anyway back to the motorway tales, aside from our A-Z game I have to note the best ice cream van I have ever seen; it was a purple and green vehicle with the name "Ices with Attitude" and in true ice cream van style it had a safety logo on the back to warn drivers about the risk of children running into the road, it read "Don't skid on a Kid!"

The weekend was remarkably lacking someone as Brian was in Paris, you can see more of his Paris antics on his facebook page.

I will keep it brief today as I have another long slog tomorrow to London and back for the on-line judging of the United Kingdom Professional Pole Championships which should be very exciting despite the arduous train journey (Plymouth needs more transport links!!).

I will follow up my Plymouth Pay Protest very soon and have a much needed whinge at Plymouth City Council.

Stay Healthy,

Sam x

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Pole Essentials - Book Review

Here is the book review I have just done for the Pole Dance Community website, thought you might like to read it. More to follow soon on the hypocrisy of Plymouth City Council's leaders, United Kingdom Pole Artistes Championships and motorway driving!!

Pole Essentials Book Review by PDC approved instructor Sam Remmer.

Pole Essentials is a new pole dancing resource written and compiled by PDC approved instructor Goddess Star Monroe. The book is a great A4 style paperback featuring a catalogue of over 70 moves accompanied by beautiful black and white pictures and guidelines for safe execution of each move. There is also space to write notes next to each move to aid your pole dancing progress.

In addition to the moves there are a whole host of resources such as pole dancing websites, quotes from accomplished pole dancers and some inspiring words of wisdom, from GSM herself, to motivate you and inspire you.

The book is described by Goddess as "a reference manual, a pole journal or just as an inspiring reminder that you can achieve anything you deserve"

Pole Essentials is the sort of thing that every pole dancer wants to add to their collection of DVD's, grip aids and other pole dancing must-haves.

My copy of Pole Essentials arrived in the post and I couldn't wait to open it! It has a sleek black cover and is extremely tactile. Although of have my own copy of the PDC Syllabus CD-rom I still wanted the Pole Essentials hand book to add to my plethora of pole dancing items.

The book is ideal for all abilities so you don't have to be a super advanced athlete to benefit from the book. The quotes and notes make the book perfect for a bit of bedtime reading or simply as a coffee table accompaniment. I can also see this book sat on the shelves of many pole dancing studios.

I would recommend the book to all and expect to see this item becoming a pole dancing best seller.

So what made Goddess Star Monroe (pictured right) fall in love with pole dancing and have the desire to write a book?

When did you start pole dancing?

I started pole dancing over 10 years ago, I dragged my girlfriend up to a gentleman's club in London, they were doing taster courses in the evening. I don't think we stopped laughing throughout the whole of the experience. Not sure if I learnt any moves but I remember cavorting around on the stage quite a lot!

What got you into Pole Dancing?

I loved the sensual side of pole dancing, it was a unique way to express and move my body that I had never really experienced before.

Currently what is your favourite pole dancing move?

I am currently working on all the moves, slowing them down and really working on building my strength and technique. So I don't particularly have a favourite move more of a preferred way of pole dancing - very slow and controlled - aka Zoraya Judd.

What is your pole dancing nemesis?

Pantera's knee hold.

Funniest class moment?

Probably me telling one of my students not to uncross her legs when up the pole - except that I was up the pole and uncrossed my legs and fell off!

Favourite type of pole to dance on?

45mm x pole.

Favourite music to dance to?

Slow and moody.

Spinning or Static?


Which pole dancers inspire you?

Zoraya Judd and Caterina Gennaro.

Have you or do you plan to enter any pole dancing competitions?

I did have a wild idea to compete this year but having competed in body-building competitions before I know what kind of commitment is needed and at the moment my energies are focused on writing my 2nd book. Who knows in the future though!

What hobbies do you have aside from pole dancing?

Baking cakes!!! I adore baking and organising events!

What are you pole dreams for the future?

I love what I have achieved through pole dancing in the past 10 years, currently I am happy teaching and inspiring my students but for me the future will be in public speaking and running large scale women's events - my passion is to inspire and empower women to fall in love with being themselves and I want to meet and help as many women as I possibly can. It would be an amazing experience to have pole dancing exploratory sessions at my women's events!!! Now that would be mind-blowing!!

Buy your own copy of Pole Essentials here!

The book retails at £19.99 with UK postage at £2.00 and the rest of the world at £4.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Pole Dancing in the Olympics?

There has been a lot of talk over the last few years about whether Pole Dancing should be considered as an Olympic sport and it is obvious that the new modern fitness take on pole dancing certainly deserves to be recognise alongside similar Olympic disciplines. However, I personally think we are wasting our time trying to get Pole Dancing into the Olympics as at the moment there are already 4 gymnastic disciplines and a strong gymnastic committee who are unlikely to want to get rid of one of their existing genres to replace it with pole dancing.

Video above of the amazing Timber Brown performing a blend of traditional Chinese Pole and Western Pole Dancing.

I also think that at present Pole Dancing still has too many links with lap/exotic dancing and many pole dance schools still focus on the exotic side of our art encouraging the wearing of heels and stripper gear. Whilst I have no issues with this I think that it will prevent any Olympic bid. We also have to be aware that perhaps one of the things that attracts people to pole dancing is the taboo, do we really want pole dancing to be as mainstream and controlled as Aerobics?

In my opinion we would be better to focus on more realistic aims such as promoting our art on platforms that are easily attainable such as charity events, Festivals and alongside other sports that have failed to get Olympic recognition such as Thai Boxing. I know that the lovely
Jess Leanne Norris (see video below) has done pole dancing exhibitions at several Thai Boxing shows enabling the audience to see her display of grace, fluidity and strength enabling her to educate them about our art.

Don't get me wrong, I do admire the efforts of those such as KT Coates who have set up the International Pole Sports Federation and it would be great if I was proved wrong and pole dancing was accepted into the Olympics but I just don't see it happening in the next 20 years. I would hate to see the hard work of those such as KT wasted as they have put so much hard work, determination and passion into their efforts.

Perhaps there are sporting events at national and international that we could focus on instead such as the Red Bull World Series?

There is a growing group of pole dancers who are campaigning against the idea of pole dancing in the Olympics for fear of our art being over-regimented, many of us love the freestyle aspect of pole dancing and the ability to interpret pole dancing in our own way. I have to admit I found the UK Professional Pole Championships to be a breath of fresh air; the UKPPC has no restrictions on moves, no compulsory aspects meaning that each performer has complete artistic license over their routine.

No doubt the Olympic debate will continue and in time we will find out exactly what the future has in store for Pole dancing!

Stay Healthy,

Sam x

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Plymouth City Council Leaders - have they lost the plot?

Perhaps Vivien Pengelly, Barry Keel and other council senior officers have completely lost the plot? I was led to believe that the council were there to serve the people of Plymouth, to lead by example and to spend our council tax wisely. I thought that we paid our taxes so that we could enjoy basic services such as road re-surfacing, mending of pot holes and bin collection but now when the council carry out such a service they seem to want a badge to congratulate them, if they repair a road we see a sign stating 'You've been upgraded', I would rather the council saved money on unnecessary signage and just got on with the job in hand.

The Mayflower steps are a perfect example of the councils sheer ineptitude and an example of a simple repair job that should have taken priority over the big white elephant that is the Plymouth Life Centre (I'll come to that one later!). The Mayflower steps are part of Plymouth's amazing waterfront and world renowned maritime history yet they have been left to decay for years, finally the council manage to secure some funding to repair the steps and we are are expected to congratulate them on doing a job that should and could have been done years ago.

If I were to list the council blunders over the last 10 years I would probably run out of server space or if I published the ridiculous photos of our council leaders in hard hats, hi-vis jackets brandishing spades I would waste an equal amount of web space.

In light of the council's disappointing performance I find it hard to see how they can continue to justify their over-inflated salaries and why they have taken so long to consider a pay cut especially when you bear in mind how eager they have been to cut the salaries and working hours of those offering front line services.

Several months ago I challenged the senior council officers to consider a severe pay cut, I started by re-publishing information printed in both the Herald and on the Taxpayers alliance website. The figures stated that senior council officers had received pay-rises of up to 18%, this is vehemently denied by the council but the taxpayers alliance still stand by the figures. When I re-published the figures I faced a vicious verbal outburst from Vivien Pengelly that could be simply described as bullying, she shouted over me, refused to let me have my say and threatened me with legal action, I have never received an apology from Vivien even though she attacked my personal character in public, not the sort of behaviour one would expect from a senior politician.

Vivien's threats were followed with this e-mail from Richard Longford, representative of the chief executive:

I understand through the media that you are still claiming that the chief executive received a pay increase. The chief executive and senior management salaries are a matter of public record and I can tell you categorically that they have not received pay increase. We will be issuing a media statement confirming this and passing on all materials repeating this claim to our legal team.

The e-mail had no Dear Madam, or To it was merely written as above in bold letters, more examples of the bullying techniques used by our council and displayed again in a statement from Finance chief Ian Bowyer last week threatening major job losses if staff did not agree to pay cuts and negative changes to working conditions.

So why have the council been so reluctant to take up my challenge to drastically reduce their rather cushy pay packets? Well this was my original request followed by the council's response:

The Plymouth Pay Protest was actually campaigning for cuts to senior council officers rather than the many cuts to public/frontline services and the cuts facing those on the lower end of the pay scale. I did attempt to explain this to Vivien Pengelly at our first event but was not given the opportunity as Vivien raised her voice and talked over me. Perhaps you or Vivien would be able to comment on our proposal:

The Plymouth Pay Protest aims to reduce the divide between rich and poor in Plymouth by asking for a £50,000 cap on the salaries of senior civil servants. We feel that £50,000 is a fair, living wage for anyone living in this city and working for a public service.

We challenge those currently in council positions earning over £50,000 (please bear in mind that our chief executive Barry Keel is earning in excess of £170,000) to either accept the pay cut or find an alternative job in the private sector in Plymouth where they can match their current salary/pension.
Whilst our senior officers impose cuts on those at the lower end of the pay scale we feel it is essential that those cuts are matched at the higher end of the pay scale. I do intend to follow up this campaign and look forward to your response to both the Pay Protest and Plymouth City Council's threat of legal action against me.

The reply from Richard Longford - chief exec's office:

Salaries of those leading private businesses of this size tend to be much higher. If local government is to attract and retain the right calibre of people to lead large and complex organisations at times of great change, it needs to pay appropriate salaries.
(N.B.This has been proved to be completely untrue in recent studies, many media sources have reported stories about this inaccuracy - check this article from the Telegraph - see I can use bold text too!!)

The salaries of all Council staff, including senior managers, have been frozen this year. The proposed terms and conditions changes affect senior management more in some areas than other members of staff, including reductions in holiday allowance. The Council's budget plans for the next two years also include substantial savings in its senior management structure. We cannot say any more about this at this stage.

As far as I am aware, no public sector organisations have capped pay in the way you are suggesting. The City Council has no plans to do so at present, though I cannot speak on behalf of elected members or say what they may decide in the future.

It now seems that the council leaders have not decided to lead by example but instead have been ordered to do so by national government.

I sincerely hope that Plymouth City Council leaders step up to the challenge of a serious reduction in wages and a commitment to putting Plymouth and its people first. Unfortunatley my faith in the current electorate is dwindling, their decision to put 65 million pounds of taxpayers money into the Life Centre was surely the worst decision they have made to date, I know they keep telling us how well used it will be by a handful of Olympians but sadly the Olympics are not a regular event for the UK! The Life Centre will not attract tourists (we probably won't have any tourists soon anyway as we will have no airport, no motorway and decaying rail links.. The Life Centre will be too expensive for most local people and the local transport links in Plymouth mean that if lots of local people did decide to use the centre there would be traffic gridlock. RIP the rather badly named Life Centre.

Plymouth City Council (Best achieving council - what a joke!) - Please watch this space or do the right thing. To sum it all up I will leave you with a link to this marvellously apt tune from Dan le Sac entitled 'Stake a Claim' the lyrics are just perfect.

Stay Healthy,

Sam x

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Pole Dance Photography and Health news.

It is now just over 3 months since my knee injury and for the first time since then I feel almost back to full pole fitness, OK so I won't be doing the cupid for a while but most pole moves are back within my reach. Last month I did my first post-injury pole dance photo-shoot which really highlighted that I was not back to my required pole fitness and it has really boosted me to get back into training. Mark Doyle, aka Miso Photography, had an idea for an urban themed pole dancing photo-shoot at Marsh Mills in Plymouth directly under the A38 dual carriageway. The area is a mass of concrete and steel bedecked in fabulous graffiti. I have included a few of the shots from the day on this blog but you can view the rest by going to the Art of dance photo gallery and selecting Mark Doyle Photography from the images menu.

As this is the first time Mark has worked with a pole dancer he has yet to learn that we do not have infinite strength and there are some poses that I simply can't hold for too long especially as I am still regaining strength after my pole absence. Mark still managed to get some great shots and we hope to being working on another exciting photography project very soon. Mark Doyle is available for commercial and private photography so if you need a photographer just give him a shout.

Government guidelines for physical activity.

A few bits of health news that I wanted to share with you; the government have released new guidelines on physical activity and how much we should be exercising. The guidelines start by focusing on those under the age of 5 and recommend 180 minutes of exercise per day, the over 5's are advised to exercise for at least 60 minutes (moderate to vigorous intensity)per day with the government recognising the importance of running, jumping and dancing for bone and muscle development.

For adults the guidelines have changed from the previous guidance of exercising 3 times per week to a more sensible approach advising exercising daily with a minimum of 150 minutes per week which should be easily achievable for even the least active amongst us. These guidelines extend to the older generations but with an emphasis on exercise for improving balance and coordination to reduce the risk of falling and to aid mobility.

Are you meeting the criteria? For more information just visit the Department of Health website or the Change for life website.

A good night's sleep?

Finally a great bit of news from scientists on how much sleep we should be getting, I can finally justify the need to sleep for 10 hours a night as it will seriously benefit my pole dancing practice! The findings come from Stanford Universities Cheri Mah who says "Many athletes testified that a focus on sleep was beneficial to their training and performance. For full details of these marvellous findings visit the BBC News/Health website.

More news to follow on the Sexual Encounter Establishment licensing and how it will be implemented!

Stay Healthy,

Sam x

Thursday, 7 July 2011

To REP's or not to REP's

As I have no staff at the moment due to sickness and holiday so time is very limited and I have no time to write a proper blog instead I will refer you to an article I have contributed to on the Pole Dance Community website. The article discusses how to become a pole dancing instructor and whether REP's (register of exercise professionals) is the best route or not.

The article does not seek to doubt REP's as a good fitness organisation but is does question the process involved in becoming a REP's insured instructor. The article does not mention the financial implications of going down the REP's route either and it certainly is not a cheap option!

Here is the link to the article; To REP's or not to REP's.

More news to follow on the importance of sleep and other health related issues.

Stay Healthy,

Sam x

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Why I love teaching pole dancing

For anyone who owns a professional pole dance school they will know that is not the most lucrative career choice but what you lose in income you make up for in happiness; the reward of seeing your students develop in both fitness and confidence is simply amazing.

I am extremely proud of all my students who work so hard in class and who achieve so much, to see students exceed their own personal expectations gives me such a buzz. I love seeing the inductees on their first lesson, thinking they will never go upside down and then finally after a few weeks of training they start to achieve more complex moves such as Headstands and Inverted Crucifixes.

Recently, at the art of dance, we have had some specific success stories which I would like to share with you. Hanna Silva (pictured above) came to us with a very unusual brief, she wanted to learn to pole dance so she could recite poetry at the London Word Festival. The piece entitled sushi was a spoken word recital accompanied by a confident pole dancing display with the words designed to challenge ideas on empowerment and perceptions of pole dancing. Rather than me try to explain it check out this link to Hanna's review of 'Sushi' and photos from the night. A big thank you to Hanna for the lovely flowers she bought for Rosanna and I and I can't wait to see the 'Sushi' piece which will be performed again at our October Social.

Another recent success came when our fabulous teaching assistant Emma Thorpe (pictured above) won the South West heats of the intermediate category of the United Kingdom Amateur Pole Performer (UKAPP). Emma joined the art of dance with the University of Plymouth Pole Dancing Club (UPPDC) and quickly caught the pole dancing bug. Emma has worked so hard to improve her pole dancing skills and this really showed at the UKAPP competition. I can't wait to see Emma perform at the UKAPP finals in St Alban's in September.

I want to say a huge thank you to all of my staff and students for making my life so special. I can't wait to get back into the studio to teach again tonight - Bring on the pain and bruising :)

Stay Healthy,

Sam x

Thursday, 16 June 2011

The problem with pole dancing?

I have been trying to get my head around the exact problem with pole dancing; what exactly is wrong with those 2 little words pole+dancing that drives the media into a frenzy and makes people come out with very strange and often inappropriate comments. I have been pole dancing since 2004 and the stereotypical comments I often receive are now starting to wear thin.

When I say I pole dance I don't need someone to ask me which club I work in and I don't need some guy to offer to 'grease my pole'. I consider myself to be a gymnast and a performing artist so why have I received hate mail and death threats from all over the globe when I have demonstrated my art to children?

How can my art exclude me from supposed multicultural events?

Why should I be banned from performing at my local Lord Mayor's Day when belly dancers and street dancers have been allowed to perform?

Why have I been excluded for the last 4 years from the 'inclusive Dance, Dance, Dance event run by the South Asian Society, an event that prides itself on improving community cohesion and tackling prejudice!

How can the Plymouth Soroptomists book me to perform at one of their meetings, call me out to do a risk assessment and then let me down at short notice because they have now decided my performance may not be suitable for them?

Why does local publication the Plymouth Shopper decide that I am an unable to advertise in their magazine as they only do family friendly adverts?

Why was I banned from performing at Marjon's Student Union after doing an extremely successful event there, the answer was apparently that pole dancing might incite violence! This answer came from a senior member of staff at the college.

The above are just a few of the many examples of prejudice and ignorance that I face on a daily basis.

Throughout my years of teaching and learning the wonderful art of pole dancing I have remained thick-skinned but over the last few months my patience has started to wear thin, especially after the most recent comments about my attempts to run pole dancing lessons for children between the ages of 12-15, Both MP Gary Streeter and a Mother's Union came out to attack my proposed activity without them having any real knowledge of what my classes were about. As my husband pointed out you have to question the intelligence of both parties if they feel they can pass comment on something they actually know very little about.

I feel the simple answer to my problems lies in educating the press and the government and getting them to use the correct terminology when referring to different activities, surely a dancer who works in a club is not actually a pole dancer as that is not where her revenue comes from, her revenue comes from lap dancing and stripping, therfore her correct title is a lap dancer or stripper, likewise a 'pole dancing club' is actually relying on income from bar takings and commission from the lap dancers therefore it is a lap dancing club not a pole dancing club. I have no issues with lap dancers or strippers and I respect their chosen career however we must differentiate between the 2 otherwise fitness pole dancer and fitness pole dancing schools will continue to be wrongly labelled.

This is not just about the personal feelings of fitness pole dancing instructors such as myself, if the correct terminology is not used in the correct places then I, and other pole dancers, could suddenly fall victim of the new laws on Sexual Encounter Licensing whereby if I carry out more than 12 public performances of pole dancing I would have to apply for a sexual encounter license. This is neither something I should be required to have nor is it something I can afford.

Here are some examples of the words pole dancing being used in correctly within the media; A recent press article in the Herald used the headline 'Banned from Pole Dancing' when the real headline was 'Lady banned from taking clients to her home'. A recent mail article accused primary school teachers of pole dancing in a club, these women were not pole dancing, they were drunk and gyrating against walls, tables and a column that resembled a pole, the headline and associated article should have been talking about their drunken behaviour and exotic dancing and not titled 'pole dancing'.

In an effort to help encourage people to use the words pole dancing correctly I set up a meeting where I invited local council reps, MP's and press contacts, the invites were sent on Monday 13th June yet 5 days later I have had no response from my local MP Oliver Colville, no response from my councillor Chaz Singh, no response from any of the BBC or ITV contacts and a decline from MP Gary Streeter and the Plymouth Lord Mayor. The only positive response I received was from Bill Martin, editor at the Herald and Jane Atwill from Radio Plymouth.

Of course there is another argument that pole dancing can be sexy which I would agree in some cases but then any form of dance can be sexy, you only have to look at the controversial history of dance to see how, historically, dance has faced many criticisms especially from religious sectors. Check out Barbara's Ehrenrich's book dancing in the streets
. The issue is that I don't teach sexy pole dancing to kids and most of my adult classes are gymnastic based so are far removed from their historical links to exotic and lap dancing.

Within the last 10 years Salsa has emerged from being the 'dance of the devil' to being a mainstream way to keep fit. Kids can watch Salsa and tango dancers writhe in skimpy outfits on prime time TV on the BBC's Strictly come dancing
but if I were to pole dance on TV at the same time there would probably be outrage.

It seems people's attitudes towards pole dancing schools spread beyond personal feeling or current legislation but also effect my business finances; my recent application to turn The Art of Dance into a social enterprise was laughed at by Companies House who sent me a very short letter stating that they could not possibly see how pole dancing could be used as an activity to benefit the community, this was despite my application being accompanied by a 20 page document filled with action plans, testimonials and examples of community projects.

Let's face it, if it's just sexualisation that everyone is worried about then there is plenty of overtly sexual material for kids to watch, just switch on MTV and check out the latest music videos or take a look at the latest kids fashions in high street stores. Let's not blame sexualisation of kids on pole dancing schools please. Take a closer look at female role models such as Jordan before you start to have a go at a fitness pole dancing class.

Perhaps I should change my career and take up something less controversial such as Maypole dancing where young virgins dance around a stick to celebrate their imminent loss of virginity (apologies for the sarcasm).

Well the debate continues and it seems that for most fitness pole dancers there is a long way to go before the ignorant and prejudiced are finally educated. Please feel free to comment and I will publish all intelligent comments - no nasty, malicious trolls please!

Stay Healthy,

Sam x