Wednesday, 26 December 2012

More Prejudice against Pole dancing.

For those of you who have not read my previous posts I have finally got round to responding to my exclusion from the Plymouth Dance website.  I was deeply insulted by the suggestion that my classes are in direct conflict with Plymouth Dance's child protection policy and I needed to address my concerns. Today I sent this to Clare Crannock, chair of Plymouth Dance:
Dear Clare,

Apologies for the time it has taken me to respond to your e-mail sent on 12th November 2012. I would now like to respond to some of the points you raised.

"Our ethical decision to exclude promotion of these classes is to protect children and that decision is fully at our discretion."

I am still unsure as to how you can call your extreme prejudice towards my art ethical and I will go on to detail why I do not accept that either my website or my classes conflict with your child protection policy?

"I am afraid that I find it difficult to argue that pole dancing is not linked to dance in a sexual sense at all, when I have a knowledge of the history and background of this dance form. I also note in the history section of your website there is a direct web link to the Windmill Club, we do not feel it is appropriate to promote a link to this venue, that children and young people may have access to. I have additional concerns that your website also promotes the hire of striptease acts (which I am sure are very discrete and tasteful), however these pages are also accessible to children and young people and demonstrate the close relationship between pole dancing and other forms of professional striptease acts."

I have never stated that pole dancing does not have links to the lap dancing industry, and I am sure you are fully aware that most dance forms have a sexual origin yet you seem happy to promote them, you regularly promote belly dancing, morris dancing and salsa which have clear historic links to sex and fertility so I fail to understand what makes my dance genre so different.  It is also clear on my website that our burlesque and chair dancing classes are strictly for over 18's.

Yes, I agree there is one link to a strip club on my website which clearly states it is a historical link and nothing more. Any child logging onto the internet and accessing my website is unlikely to be coaxed into the adult entertainment industry and I am sure most children access for more extreme content on a daily basis by merely watching TV and music videos.

If you feel so strongly that you want to protect children then why have you considered the following activities to be appropriate to promote and endorse:

On the 30th November 2012 you sent a bulk e-mail to promote Purestar Promotions whom according to the flyer teach 8 year old's how to dance like the stars of MTV, Purestar claim to have worked with Madonna, J-Lo and Kylie. Surely most parents would not want to encourage their 8 year old's to dance like any of the artists promoted on MTV and I would argue that this sort of mainstream activity is far more damaging to today's children than any class I have ever offered.

Also if you want to exclude the promotion of any group with has adult content or links then I suggest you stop promoting anything to do with the Theatre Royal; On the day you decided to exclude me from your website the Theatre Royal had the following content displayed within its pages "Peccadillo Circus - Directed by Leisa Rea Drum Theatre -

Revealing the fetishes and naughtiest secrets of real people in their own words, acclaimed character comedian and actress Lizzie Roper delves into the nation’s views on sex. Characters as varied as an adulterous accountant and an internet sex addict inhabit the stage in this brilliant one-woman show, which wowed audiences and critics alike at the Edinburgh festival, and enjoyed a sell-out run in the West End earlier this year.

I still believe that your vague arguments merely highlight your own personal prejudice and I find it extremely insulting that a company that  seeks to, and I quote direct from your website, "facilitate and co-ordinate the delivery of an innovative and dynamic programme of dance......joins up the existing dots to celebrate the variety of dance in the city"" would feel it appropriate to distance itself from, in my opinion, one of the most exciting and athletic new dance forms of our time.

Of course you are not the first person to show extreme prejudice and ignorance towards fitness pole dancing and the following article is just one example of the problems that myself and other pole dancing instructors face on a daily basis.

In response to your comments about my 'inappropriate logo' which is barely visible to the naked eye again I return to your promotion of Purestar entertainments, if it is OK for kids to dance like Madonna or Kylie then they will probably want to dress like Madonna or Kylie? If you had researched my classes you would understand that the minimum outfit required for my fitness pole dancing is shorts and a crop top and the kids classes I carried out last year involved children wearing tracksuits (or similar attire).

Apologies if this e-mail comes across as rude but I consider it to be an appropriate response to your original, crudely argued e-mail which has not only caused myself, my team of instructors and my students great insult but has also reinforced my belief that you are merely prejudiced towards a specific art from to which you have no real knowledge.

I do not wish to change my website as I do not feel that will alter your perception and you will merely find another way to dismiss the hard work that I do. I am one of the few dance genres in Plymouth that does not receive any form of funding (this is due to the fact that I have received the same prejudice from Companies house, South Asian Society, Plymouth Soroptomists and Plymouth City Council to name but a few). I work with many individuals (men, women and children) to promote physical and mental well-being and I can quote many success stories from students who have gained the confidence to positively improve their lives as a direct result of my classes.

I will be forwarding my concerns to the Arts Council who fund you as you are clearly not fulfilling your objectives and are blatantly excluding a minority group.

Sam Remmer

I will let you know what response I get!

Stay Healthy,

Sam x

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Pole Class Etiquette

I have been inspired by the recent blog by Claire Griffin-Sterret entitled 'Respect for pole dance class please' in which Claire questions why students do not always have the same respect for pole dance classes as they may hold for other fitness classes. I am lucky that the majority of my students are extremely respectful and an absolute pleasure to teach but for the tiny minority who don't show respect for their pole teachers I wanted to remind you all of some basic pole etiquette.

General Class Etiquette:

Would you talk through the warm up of your Yoga or Aerobics class, or would you use your phone or carry on doing your own thing whilst an instructor demonstrates a technique? By doing this you not only show a lack of respect for the instructor but you then endanger your own  safety as you may execute a pole move without having listened to the essential advice given.

Please listen to your instructors they say things for a reason e.g. "We are going to start with some 2 handed back hook spins"  OK so most of my students can do one handed Back Hook Spins but I am asking you to do two handed for a reason, not because I want to stall your progress but because you have just finished warming up and the poles may still feel cold and I want to ease you into practice and ensure your shoulders are fully warmed up and mobilised before you try more challenging spins.

When does a class start and when does it finish?

My classes are always structured with a warm up, pole element and cool down to try to ensure a safe, balanced workout so please do not use the poles either before we have warmed up or after we have cooled down. I have seen too many injuries from those who want to show offf their latest move by leaping onto the pole into an extreme position when their body is not ready to do so.

Keeping the right temperature:

It is essential that the studio is kept at a nice temperature for training and I would much rather the studio is to hot rather than too cold. Training in the heat may seem much harder and much more painful on the skin but it is far safer than a cold room, the poles and your skin are grippier when warm and your muscles are better for stretching and moving. So there is a reason why I may decline your request to open the windows during a class, remember that we not only need to keep the temperature right for your class but also for other classes. To the students who take it upon themselves to ignore a request to leave the windows shut  and who open the windows anyway releasing all the heat in the room please be prepared to stay on for the following class to apologise to the later students for the freezing cold room.

One of my students has found an interesting way to get round the issue of opening the windows, she secretly turned off the radiators so not only did it go cold for the next session but the studio was then so cold when students arrived the following day that we had to cancel the classes, I can't believe someone could feel it is OK to act in such a selfish way.
Pole Class Costs:

We all know that professional pole classes are not necessarily cheap but that is not because pole instructors are rolling in money, quite the opposite. Compare your pole class to other classes. At The Art of Dance we take only 12 people maximum per class and many
classes have less than 12 people in them.  We aim to give all students a little bit of one to one time during class so you will never be 'hidden' as is some large aerobics classes. Our insurance is higher than many other fitness forms and you are paying for years of experience as well, we don't take on instructors who have walked off the street, all our instructors have at least 3 years experience and at least 6 months teacher training, this all costs but I think that our prices are actually incredibly good value at £10 drop-in, £8 members, £7 students, £6 beginners and £3-£5 for practice sessions).
So why do people feel so comfortable asking me to knock money off the price of classes? Please be assured that at The Art of Dance we give you the cheapest prices we can possibly afford and we could not lower those prices with going bankrupt which would be a huge loss for all our students.

Sharing a pole:

A common winge is when students have to share a pole, OK so we would all rather have a pole to ourselves but how many of you use the pole constantly when you do have a pole to yourself? It is usually the case in quieter classes when students do have their own pole that I have to constantly encourage them to use their poles and to stop resting. For those of you who are adamant that they want their own pole and do not want to share that is no problem, you simply pay for 2 spaces and I will guarantee you your very own pole! Alternatively you could find a cheaper pole school and enjoy 5 plus people per pole (yes some schools do not limit numbers per pole!)

Arriving on time:

We all have those days when we end up running late and generally I have no problems with people turning up late on the odd occasion but I get really wound up by the students who seem to think it is OK to turn up late every week. By repeatedly turning up late you ruin the warm up for the students who have managed to get their on time. So if you do arrive late please kindly wait outside until we have finished the warm up and do not think it is OK to ring the doorbell repeatedly until someone lets you in.

Respecting our booking policy:

Every school has their own booking procedure and I know that sometimes our booking policy can be a bit of a nightmare, but, we have a 24 hour cancellation policy for a reason and without it the business would not survive financially. If you do cancel with less than 24 hours notice please do not think it is OK to ask for an exception to the rule and have your payment moved to next week. If I can book you in for another class in the same week I will but this is not always possible, If I change the rule for you I have to change the rule for everyone.

There is a reason why we don't take bookings without pre-payment, It is extremely unfair to those who have pre-paid if they cancel with less than 24 hours notice and lose their
money and then you cancel with less than 24 hours notice and lose nothing. I get annoyed at how many people ask for their money back and wonder if those same people would, for example, buy theatre tickets, miss the show and then ask for a refund?

Also the chances are that the people who do persuade me to book then in without paying will then text me on the day with an excuse as to why they can't make it. This is a particular problem if I have just a couple of people booked into class and then a few say they will show but don't, the class then runs at a loss and long term this could lead to the closure of the business and the loss of a great facility.

Damn right rude:

OK so some of the behaviour mentioned in this blog can be forgiven but in the last 8 years I have seen a few examples that have made my blood boil and they include leaving chewing gum on the walls, Leaving rubbish on the floor just inches from a bin,  leaving a banana skin hanging in one of the studio plant pots and my least favourite case of a student sticking a used panty liner stuck on the side of the toilet bin.

So winging aside, I have said my piece and I will reiterate that 99% of students are the best students in the world ever, they make my life special and they give me a buzz during every single class. A huge thank you to those wonderful 99%.

More blogs to follow on pole dancing prejudice so in the meantime you may enjoy this article by Kelly Dunning on the Pole Dance Community website.

Stay Healthy,

Sam x

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Please think twice.

 Cockatiel Levi, pictured above, enjoying a cuddle.

You may have noticed that I am blogging far less frequently than in previous years, this is due to an increase in workload and less desire to write. However today I find myself with a bit of spare time as well as the motivation to pen a few lines so here goes.

Today's blog is about keeping and breeding animals. We seem to have a myth that those in the western world are kind to animals but I am not sure this is the case. You only have to pick up the Herald and look in the classified to see tons of unwanted animals and copious amounts of breeders selling off their 'goods' at overinflated prices.  To add to the problem we seem to go through spates of designers dogs with chiuahahas and French bulldogs being the fashion of the moment, for many owners their dogs will quickly go out of fashion and will soon become unwanted.  Often owners do not stop to think about the time involved in caring for animals or the cost.

I have to chuckle slightly at the current trend for cross breed pedigrees such as labradoodles and cockapoos, if you want a good strong dog then choose a lovely mongrel from a local rescue centre rather than funding greedy breeders.  You may wonder why I am so passionate about this subject and for those of you who don't know I am someone who rescues animals from local charity Woodside Sanctuary in Plympton; Woodside, like most rescue centres, is full to the brim with animals that need homes and the centres have limited funds to look after these animals leaving much of the job to volunteers such
as myself.
To date I have 34 cockatiels, 2 Kakarikis, 2 Golden Mantel Rosellas, 2 Coturnix Quail, 1 Hahns Macaw and 1 cat most of which have come direct from Woodside. If I had more room I would take more rescues but at the moment the inn is full and I have to be realistic about funding these creatures, a 20kg bag of cockatiel food has risen from £13.00 to £21.75 in just a couple of years. 

A male coturnix quail pictured left inspecting the house I made for him.

Yesterday I was reminded of the issue of animal welfare when I visited Porfell Animal Park near Looe, the owners have just rescued 2 De Brazzo monkeys just days before they were due to be put to sleep, these beautiful monkeys now have a new home but many will not be so lucky.

In the last few months my husband and I have spent time visiting many of the local rescue centres and sanctuaries all of which tell the same tale, they are all struggling financially, they all rely heavily on volunteers and they are still being inundated with animals that need rehoming.

So please do one or both of the following:

1.Think twice before getting any sort of animal.

Too many people see rescue centres as an easy place to dump animals rather than them being a last resort for those with genuine change in circumstances. I have no problems picking up a cockatiel from someone who has been diagnosed with cancer and can't look after the animal anymore, those individuals are heartbroken to see their animals leave and I am honoured to be able to assure that individual that their pets will be well loved.

Cockatiel's Charles and Camilla, pictured right, enjoying some peppermint.

I have less sympathy with those who, for example, have bought a parrot from a large, commercial pet centre, had the bird for a couple of years, neglected it and then decide they don't want it anymore because it bites and screeches. To add insult to injury these people are usually the ones who not only want me to re-home the animal but would also like me to reimburse them for the cost of the animal.

Think not about what an animal can bring to you but what you can bring to the animal, if you start with a less selfish approach perhaps you will have more success with the animal.

Cockatiel Quagmire, pictured below, untying my shoelaces.
2. Support your local rescue centres

There are lots of ways you can support local sanctuaries and rescue centres. You can give money as most are registered as charities. You may have time to volunteer e.g. at Woodside they are always on the lookout for dog walkers. You may be able to donate goods, some businesses have waste products such as spare building materials that they may be able to donate or your business might be able to sponsor an animal.

Here are some local centres that I highly recommend you visit. Remember that by doing so you are supporting the local economy as well as having a great day out :)

Tamar Valley Donkey Park.
Porfell Animal Park.
Notter Bridge Animal Park.
Monkey Sanctuary.
Dartmoor Zoo Park*.

*Dartmoor Zoo is currently enjoying a more comfortable financial ride but is still a must see at some point.

Stay Healthy,

Sam x

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Save Plymouth

So rather than actually trying to save Plymouth Airport, Plymouth City Council leader Tudor Evans suggests that the people of Plymouth need to write to the current Prime Minister to ask him to save the airport instead. So here is my letter:

Dear David Cameron,

I request your help to save Plymouth from a series of consecutive, failing council leaders and their accompanying parties. It seems that for too long Plymouth has been let down by either the Tory led council of former leader Vivien Pengelly or the current Labour led council run by Tudor Evans.

We have endured the same set of faces for many years each promising to inject new life into Plymouth if elected and then once elected forgetting their pledges (this must sound familiar to you David).

It seems that what the people of Plymouth want they certainly don't get. We never asked for an incinerator but we are still getting one, we never asked for the football club to be saved yet tons of money was poured into our failing club, we asked for help to save our airport but instead we see a lucrative housing deal overshadow the important issue of improving Plymouth's infrastructure.

Without an airport Plymouth is already losing business, investment and tourism. I am a frequent traveller but recently have had to turn down opportunities to represent the UK in both Poland and Croatia as the travel implications are just to difficult to make the business trips financially viable. 

This isn't just a loss for the people of Plymouth but it also means that many tourists, as well as friends and families of Plymothians may not get the chance to visit our amazing city. We have one of the most beautiful harbours in the world and we are surrounded by stunning coastline and beautiful countryside.

It is such a shame that our councils have failed us so badly and have held their own personal interests over the interests of the people they serve (again David I am sure this is all too familiar to you).

My message to you and to Plymouth City Council is to stand up for the people you are meant to be serving, the people who bothered to elect you (you may want to remind yourselves that neither your cabinet or Plymouth City Council were voted in by a majority and you certainly didn't attract record numbers of voters).

So please stop the party politics, stop hiding behind EU legislation and loop holes, stand down and let someone who really cares do the job to serve its people.

Of course I have not sent this letter as it would be merely ignored but I do feel that we need some serious change at both local and national level.

Stay Healthy,

Sam x

Monday, 3 September 2012

Little Spinners. The sexualization of children within the media

I am not going to comment on the documentary I about to share as I would rather allow you to make your own mind up on the subject of children pole dancing for fitness.

Well done to the team from Bournemouth University who made the documentary, were a pleasure to work with and who got great results for their hard work:

"The topical issue of sexualization of children within the media drove this documentary through our 2nd year project studying BA (Hons) Film Production and Cinematography at Bournemouth University. This documentary covers the debate around children's pole dancing classes talking with some of the most referred to individuals regarding the controversy in the press. We heard the voice of the people as well as those with a strong belief in the matter."

Director: Joey Seery
Produced by Cansen Yilmaz
Camera: James Chisholm
Assisted by Rajane Kaur and Sam Dixon

Thank you to Joey, Cansen, James, Rajane and Sam :)

Stay Healthy,

Sam x

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Bringing Sexy back?

At the moment there seems to be a battle going on within the pole world and it doesn't seem to be an argument that is going to be settled any time soon. As an avid fitness pole dancer and a staunch supporter of the fitness pole dancing movement I had mixed views on the current campaign by the United Pole Artists to hold a week of events called 'Bringing Sexy back', could this campaign, and similar campaigns, jeopardise the work that many of us have done to make pole dancing acceptable as a mainstream fitness or is it OK to be sexy?

If you want a good read about the current debate check out Jennifer Michelle's blog on strippers and pole dancing.

Despite my concerns about the UPA campaign I decided to submit my own picture to the 'Bringing sexy back week' project to challenge my own perceptions and feelings. Above is my photo entry - photography courtesy of Global Eye Photography (AKA Chris Trent) - I question what, if anything, is wrong with this picture? Would you be concerned if your children saw this picture? Would this be an inappropriate images to advertise my adult pole classes? For the purposes of this debate please note I am not wearing heels and I am not wearing lingerie. Having viewed some of the other entrants there are some stunning pictures that display the amazing bodies that pole dancers have, these bodies do not come from quick fixes but from hours of training and performing, from eating well, from staying hydrated and from sheer guts and determination. If you haven't ever tried doing a 4 and a half minute pole dance I suggest you make to one of those things you should do before you die although if you are generally unfit or have a medical condition this might be the last thing you do before you die!

In some ways I am sat on the fence in the sense that I fully appreciate that the modern fitness pole dancing trend has evolved directly from the strip clubs and lap dancing clubs although we now teach a blend of exotic dancing, pole fitness, Mallakhamb and Chinese pole. However I do feel we need a way to separate the genres so that individuals can pick the niche that is right for them as an individual and to be able to have equal respect for all genres. Just because I choose the fitness pole dancing route as my main genre it does not mean I have any disrespect for those in the adult industry.The problem I have is that some people whom I teach do not want to called a stripper just as a doctor would not want to be confused with a dentist, we want respect for what we have learned without being wrongly stereotyped.

There are definitely differences in what we teach and how we teach it. I teach children to pole dance but would never encourage children to try to be more sexy whereas I might teach body rolls to adults within my classes and I reserve the right to be able to switch between the genres depending on my clientèle.

The big problem for me is how quick people are to judge me and my chosen activity and I wanted to share a few examples with you that I hope will outline my concerns:

I choose to dance in bare feet and all my classes are taught in bare feet (with the exception of some of our pole portrait sessions) but I see nothing wrong with dancing in heels and I fail to understand why dancing in heels on a pole is so wrong when other accepted dance forms encourage the use of heels; have you even seen Strictly come dancing carried out in bare feet? I once attracted criticism from a lady who commented on a picture of me where I was wearing heels, she said "that's why people don't accept what you are doing is fitness based, the heels just make it look sleazy", I looked down and noticed that the lady herself was wearing heels and asked her if she felt sleazy "it's different" she replied. Well for me it is not different just because I don't like glass stripper heels does not mean I should go around slating those that do choose to wear such items.

Why is pole dancing still so controversial when compared to other activities, as I type there is an event going on in Plymouth City Centre that promotes inclusion and and promotes many dance genres including Salsa and Belly dancing - these activities are accepted by the public so why not pole? 

Stripping vs burlesque:

When is stripping OK, the answer is when it's burlesque. Burlesque is the new socially acceptable form of stripping where it seems Dita Von teese and other stars can undress with dignity - take your clothes off anywhere else and you get labelled as a whore.

For the big critics of pole dancing and in particular those that critisise my children's pole dancing lessons I would like to put the following point up for discussion. Who would you rather your kids aspired to - a pole dancer or a pop star? No one seems to mind children watching pop music videos with images of anorexic celebrities and fame seeking reality TV stars yet show them an image of a pole dancer and suddenly the child is doomed to a world of destitution!

Compare the following 2 images:

Former Celebrity singer Amy Winehouse - pictured above and International Gymnast Oona Kivela - pictured below.

Which image is a better role model for your child? Do you want your child to be healthy, want to eat well, work hard, respect themselves and have great body image - then pick the pole dancer!

Pole dancing vs Pole fitness:

Is there a difference? - yes, of course there is as I explained when I mentioned that I teach pole dancing to children, the course content is different to what I might teach to a hen party or adult class. 

Pole dancing has evolved into different categories and there is a place for each whether it's pure pole fitness (check out the JW method), pole dancing, exotic pole dancing/stripper style, exotic floor-work (this seems to be a fast growing activity), and Extreme Pole (pole dancing now seems to have developed an edge where everyone wants to be doing the most extreme tricks, there is a worrying trend for pole dancers to want to do all the big tricks before their bodies are ready - I expect to see a lot more injuries within the pole world over the next year or so!).

I am not going to summarise as I want to leave the debate open to encourage more discussion and to try to find solutions to some of the problems we face as pole dancer but not just as pole dancers but as women, is part of the problem that there is still inequality for women, if a guy says he pole dances does he get the same reaction that a women does?

Your thoughts please?

Stay Healthy,

Sam x

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Memories from Eileen Rowles

Without turning my blog into some kid of shrine for my recently departed Nan I did want to share something that was discovered as we have been clearing my Nan's house. It won't mean much to many people but for me and my family it has special significance, we assume my Nan had planned to read the following at my wedding but on the day she was very tired as she was caring for my Grandad at the time and his alzheimers was progressing fast, for whatever reason she did not read it at the time nor did she give it to me while she was alive. I want to write one more blog in tribute to my wonderful Nan but in the meantime I hope you enjoy reading this.

For Sid and Sam 6th May 2006.

My most vivid and lovely memory of Samantha is when she came to stay for a few weeks when her mother Lesley was not too well. I had promised to take her to across the field to a little general store. Overnight we had a heavy fall of snow about 4 inches which meant that Sam would have to wear wellies. However she did not have any. I thought it was a shame to disappoint her, so I came up with the idea of using 2 M and S carrier bags which were tied over her shoes with some string. The M and S carrier bags were stronger than they are now. We set across the field and returned home, the bags were still in tact and her feet were warm and hot when we removed them.

The bags looked really fashionable and were a talking point in the shop. I am sure Sam will remember that family moment. (When asked by my Uncle Graham which was my fondest memory of Nana this was the first memory I recalled)

I have since watched Samantha grow into the lovely girl she is today, credit for this must go to her mother Lesley who brought her up with family values, to be loving and kind, loving and with respect for everyone and lastly to be true to herself.

Samantha is very determined and one thing we all knew was that she would never get married. In fact marriage was almost a taboo subject. That was until Sid appeared on the scene and they announced their engagement. Both Lesley and I were more than surprised. Sid must have been a very special man to change Sam's mind, he must have endeared himself to her, in fact their love of one another is very evident.

As one of Sam's side of the family we really welcome him into our midst. It's great for me to have a new grandson-in-law, in fact my first and he is also enlarging the family.

Family is the key word and to have one in good and bad times makes such a difference. To illustrate this - Last year (2005) I was introduced to Flo, Sid's mother, on a visit to Plymouth. Shortly after I was on holiday in Blackpool with David, my husband, and Eric, my brother. On arrival I had a bad fall and ended up in hospital for an operation on my hip. Eric and David would visit me in the evenings but mornings and afternoons were awful. I knew no one, was in a different place, miles away from home. This particular day I was feeling very low and very sorry for myself when visitors started to arrive and went to various patients beds. I was quite taken aback when 2 ladies entered the ward and came over to my bed. The leading lady approached me and said "Hello Eileen, I am sure you won't recognise me?" In a flash I replied "Oh yes I do, it's Flo" I was the introduced to Leslie, her daughter, who had driven her over from Bradford.

I can only assume that Flo had been contacted by Sid and that Flo decided to visit me, Leslie of course was also involved too. So that is just a small illustration how family can be supportive in bad times.

Today is a very big family day when both family and friends have come together to witness Sid and Sam making a commitment to one another. A really important family day. It's also a proud day for me to have my 2 other granddaughters here today, Valerie from Kentucky, USA - she and Sam have always been very close - and Bethany my youngest grand daughter who is one of Sam's bridesmaids.

Finally we would like to wish Sam and Sid many happy years of marriage and I hope they reach their Diamond Wedding as their Grandmother an Grandfather have.

The family will always be there for you both, we love you both very much.

Eileen Rowles
6th May 2006.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Plymouth Tattoo Convention 2012

On Saturday 12th and Sunday 13th May Plymouth played host to an International Tattoo Festival and the Art of Dance Pole Dance Troupe were one of the many attractions at the event.
Plymouth Tattoo Convention (PTC) in now in it's third year and it attracted over 80 Tattoo artists from across the globe, I think it is one of the first events I have attended where I have spoken to so many people from so many different countries; Mexico, Brazil, Croatia, Spain, France and the Netherlands. Whether local or not I must say what a fantastic crowd of people the PTC attracted, It was so refreshing to pole dance to such an open-minded group and to feel part of such a lovely community.

PTC is the brainchild of local Tattoo artist Dave Wooley, owner of Plymouth's Living Art Tattoo Studio, when I first spoke to Dave about the Art of Dance performing at his event I was worried that he and his crew were expecting a different sort of pole dance than we offer and that we would not be treated with the respect we feel we deserve but any worries I had were soon dispelled by Dave and we were treated like family; we had our own dressing room, the security looked after us all night (not that they needed to) and we received so much praise from all concerned throughout the weekend.

In total I think we performed 8 sets throughout the weekend opting for a pole jam style demonstration where 2-4 dancers did 10-15 minute sets, the idea was to keep the acts fresh and vibrant and to allow us all to perform our best moves without having to choreography a whole routine. Each set had a theme and costume although I think all the photos were taken during our classic rock/leopard print sets. By the end of the weekend we were all bruised and battered but it was well worth it. We were also able to dance to some amazing tunes - here is our playlist from the event:

Disturbed - down with the sickness, Korn - Coming Undone, Metallica - Enter Sandman, Gun's n Roses - Sweet Child O Mine, Creed - Six Feet Under, Metallica - Nothing Else Matters, Mt Eden vs Prodigy - Omen and Prodigy - Smack my bitch up (proved to be a great finale song).

On Sunday our very own Burlesque Artiste Georgina Gale AKA Sue Manser (pictured below)  charmed the crowd with some traditional 1940's inspired burlesque. Sue really does have a way of making striptease beautiful, her stage presence is just phenomenal and anyone who thinks burlesque is simply a matter of taking your clothes off will have their opinion challenged by Sue's art.

Some memorable moments for me included adjusting to the constant buzzing of the more modern methods of Tattooing and seeing Japanese Tattoo Artist Hori Kei/Tomoya Akitsu using traditional methods of Tattoing to create beautiful designs. Aside from the Tattooists there were some great bands, clothing and jewellery stalls, piercers, the Demon Drone and a fabulous display of hot rods and motorbikes. The weekend was a perfect mixture of sights and sounds to stimulate the senses and the glorious May weather meant you could enjoy the delights of the convention whether inside or outside.

I should add that the PTC is held in one of my favourite buildings, the Plymouth Guildhall, this place holds such special memories for me; it was the place where my school speech days were held, it is a place I have performed at on numerous occasions such as International Women's Day and the Women's Health Fair but more importantly it is the place where I got married and thanks to my husband and I we managed to get a licence for the Guildhall so that now anyone can get married in this charming building in the heart of Plymouth. I really think Plymouth's Guildhall is a much over-looked venue with so much potential.

Vicki Terry from Vix's Pole Fitness and Megan Hookins from The Art of Dance. Make-up by Lucy Gaskell.

All in all I can highly recommend the Plymouth Tattoo Convention to anyone, with a weekend ticket costing just £25 you can entertain yourself throughout and mingle with some truly lovely people. Before I sign off for today I would like to thank a few people; Cuz  Cussen for looking after us so well and ensure the running order went without any hitches, Andy Howard for being the best MC ever and for getting the crowd rocking, Ossie Glover for some fabulous photography and Lucy Gaskell, our new resident make-up artist, for making us all look beautiful. Lastly a massive thank you to Dave Woolley for organising the event, we are already looking forward to Plymouth Tattoo Convention 2013 which promises to be even bigger and better.

You can read more about the PTC event at Plymouth Buzz.

Stay Healthy,

Sam x

Friday, 23 March 2012

Pole Dancing is an art form

My last blog was about prejudice towards fitness pole dancers and I was hoping to blog about a different topic today, that was until I received a phone from Plymouth Dance explaining why I wasn't listed on their website. Here is a copy of the letter I have just sent to them:

"I am writing in reference to your decision not to promote my fitness pole dancing classes via the Plymouth Dance website. I am deeply disappointed that my art is not recognised by your organisation and I feel that your decision not to promote my classes simply reinforces the negative stereotypes I have been fighting since 2004.

Whilst I do not deny that fitness pole dancing has some origins linked to strip clubs and exotic dancing, fitness pole dancing is completely different to the dancing that takes place in clubs as a pre-cursor to a sexual act. I would argue that Belly Dancing has far more inappropriate origins yet you are happy to promote that as an activity on your website. We teach a mixture of different pole dancing techniques including aspects of Chinese Pole and Mallakhamb. Our classes start with a warm up followed by some high impact pole dancing, strength training and then a cool down focusing on improving the flexibility of our students.

Modern fitness pole dancing is a cross between dance and gymnastics and to pole dance at a professional level takes extreme strength and flexibility. We use pole dancing as a way to boost the mental and physical health of our students. We teach both males and females from 12 years and over.

I wonder if you have seen the recent Sky Got To Dance series where a pole dancer reached the semi-finals of the competition demonstrating the modern fitness phenomenon of pole dancing and its incredible athleticism.

Would you be interested in visiting my studio and watching a lesson so that you can make an informed choice about my dance form?

I am more than happy to discuss any concerns that you may have to try to alleviate any misconceptions. Please take the time to consider your response as this is a subject that I am passionate about and I am finding it increasingly difficult to deal with the extreme prejudice I am facing from many organisations and individuals

I will let you know what response I get and hope that in the meantime you enjoy my beautiful new pictures courtesy of the lovely Tamar Preston. To see all our new and old images just visit the
Art of Dance Gallery.

Stay Healthy,

Sam x

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Pole Dancing Prejudice?

I was under the impression that people were starting to realise that pole dancing is a great fitness activity as well as a beautiful performing art but it seems that certain groups within Plymouth aren't quite that educated.

I start with the South Asian Society who I have blogged about before. Every year they organise an event called 'Integration through culture:Dance, Dance, Dance' - the event is describe as follows; "The unique and very successful Dance Dance Dance show is back again this year to enchant and excite the audience with extravagant dances from around the world.

Our aim is to raise funds for the Cancer Research UK charity with Integration Through Culture - Dance, Dance, Dance and to lavish the audience with a unique sense of diversified dances. The event aims to create an awareness of integration in the multicultural society we live today through dance, to realise the full potential of our co-existence and to promote racial and cultural harmony among different communities. Up to 20 dance styles including: Belly; Salsa; African; Morris; Cornish; Classical; Ballet; Bollywood; Western; Chinese; Folk; Nepali and Djing will delight the audience.

This event to promote integration and diversity has prevented me from performing for the last 5 years and this year they even failed to acknowledge any of my e-mails. I am so disappointed at the sheer prejudice displayed by organiser Sanjay Sharma and his colleagues. Despite my sadness at my 5th year of exclusion another group has disappointed me even further...

In 2011 I was invited to perform at the Attik Dance Community platform  and was delighted at the opportunity, unfortunate I managed to injure my knee (Grade 2 medial collateral ligament tear) just a few days before the planned performance, I was gutted but was looking forward to this years event. I sent in my 2012 application but heard nothing back, I e-mailed again, still no response. I then called and spoke to Attik's new artistic director Ben Dunks who told me that they had received my application and that they would get back to me. To date I have had no response so I assume they have also decided to exclude pole dancing from their event without even having the courtesy to tell me why. 

It seems it is easier to ignore me than to formulate an argument as to why pole dancing should not be part of a community dance event. But these are not the only rejections I have encountered; Plymouth City Council are looking for performers for their Lord Mayor's Day event
(Quote from P.C.C. "This year’s theme will be ‘Nations of the World’ and anyone can get involved – from individual people to community groups, clubs and organisations.) so I thought it would be a great opportunity to showcase my skills and educate people about what I do, again no reply to my initial e-mail so a follow up e-mail might have more success? I did get an e-mail on the 24th February stating that someone would get back to me, I am still waiting and am not holding my breath for a response let alone a positive one.

2 years ago I was invited to perform for the Plymouth Soroptomists, I even risk assessed the function room and met with Soroptomist members only to be told later that some group members had decided that pole dancing was not appropriate, I was offered no apology and was surprised that a group of women who are supposedly very open-minded could be so judgemental.

I should thank those people who have invited me to perform recently. I had the pleasure of being one of the guest performers at the University of Exeter Pole Dancing Showcase on Wednesday 29th February. The audience were fabulous and it was so lovely to hear friends and families of the performers talking about pole dancing and how their perceptions had changed after watching the showcase. And there you have it, if people watch a pole dancing performance (not an erotic or lap dance) they can understand the incredible strength, flexibility and cardiovascular capacity required to perform high impact pole for a 4 minute performance. However if pole dancing is excluded from events the negative stereotypes are further re-inforced.

picture above courtesy of Paul Garniss of me and the Exeter University Pole Dancers.
I do want to say a big thank you to Art of Dance student Claire Stanton who invited me to perform at her 50th Birthday party last night, she wanted to show her friends and family that pole dancing is not something to be sneered at and I hope my performance did the job, I certainly had some great compliments from audience members about the strength I displayed. Not sure how my choreography went as the DJ played a completely different version of the song I was expecting, I was crouched on the floor waiting for the instrumental intro when a rap by Kanye West started, hope I managed to wing it anyway. Thanks again to Claire for allowing me to perform :)

So just one more pending performance this week, on Tuesday I am guest performing alongside fellow Art of Dance Instructor Emma Thorpe and Rose Biggin from Exeter University at the University of Plymouth Pole Dancing Club. It should be a great night and I just hope we get a good turnout. Pics and videos to follow.

To those groups who don't want me pole dancing at their events don't be too surprised if a podium pole dancing unit suddenly turns up outside your venue, you can bury your heads in the sand all you like but it won't make me go away, in fact quite the opposite :)

Stay Healthy,

Sam x

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Kids Pole Dancing - The debate continues

The pathetic ignorance of those who do not understand what I teach rears its ugly head again; In a recent article 'Trending with toddlers: pole dancing' the author attacks my pole dance classes and has even been watching my facebook activity. I am still horrified at the sheer lack of research that goes into such writing but I am used to the criticism. However I am disgusted that the author has used the label 'paedophilia' as one of her blog search terms.

Here is the article - Trending with toddlers - feel free to comment!

Stay Healthy,

Sam x

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Worst Acheiving Council 2012.

I would like to nominate Plymouth City Council for worst achieving council of 2012 and am still amazed at the 2010 title of 'Best Achieving Council" (note that the Best Achieving council title is still splashed over council stationary, at great cost to the taxpayer, despite the fact that the MJ award was given in 2010).

You may wonder who decides on which councils win the awards well, surprise, surprise the awards are given by other council leaders and highly paid chief executives all giving each other a big pat on the back and rejoicing in their extortionate wages at a lavish party at the London Hilton.

But perhaps if we stop focusing on awards the council could actually get down to the business of looking after the city? What woud you rather see - Council leader Vivien Pengelly nominated for council leader of the year or the potholes filled in on our poorly maintained roads? On the subject of Vivien's shortlisting I note that both her and Chief Executive Barry Keel (who has resigned) have both listed in their successes the sale of Citybus and the incinerator, in my opinion neither of these things are considered success stories and no one ever got to the bottom of how it took 1 million pounds of taxpayer money to value Citybus prior to it's sale.

Another accolade cited by Viv and Barry is their contribution to children's services which is kind of ironic as we still are one of the worst areas in the country for child poverty and let's face it if Viv and Barry were really so concerned about the welfare our Plymouth's younger citizens perhaps they could have taken a pay cut so that less frontline service cuts were needed. By cutting the pay on those at the lower end of the scale they have instead contributed directly to child poverty. We are told that senior management is being restructured and 2 of the top 6 jobs have been disposed of which makes me question what those people were doing in the first place to make them that easy to get rid of?

Now let's focus back on the incinerator, the council claim this is a good decision for the people of Plymouth but most people don't seem to agree and the councils waste management record isn't great in fact the council has recently been charged with illegal waste dumping resulting in this comment from the Environment agency  "the selling of illegal waste by Plymouth City Council revealed 'serious management failures". Now we hear that plans for a new recycling depot have been put on hold due to a £800,000 budget deficit, does this mean most of our recycling will get burnt at the incinerator instead? 

Another 'success' listed by the council is the Life Centre but will this really be a success or another white elephant for the city? The impoverished children of Plymouth certainly won't be able to afford to attend the centre and for those who can afford to get to the centre they must remember to add the costs of new tyres to their bill as the numerous potholes will surely have an impact on anyone driving to the eyesore (see picture below).

Imagine if the 46 million pounds used to build the Life Centre had been spent on the Hoe Foreshore, the bus station, highway repairs and the airport instead. Of course the council are already trying to pass the buck for the crumbling waterfront as they put pressure on local waterfront businesses to back the BID (this is a Business Improvement District option where businesses pay a levy on their business rates to fund foreshore improvements), Barry Keel used the usual council bullying tactics stating that there is no plan B if the BID is rejected. If the council had spent more wisely on Plymouth's jewel in the crown then surely a BID would not be needed.

Please vote carefully in May.

Stay Healthy,

Sam x

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Cross training and overcoming fear.

As much as I love pole dancing (just in case you hadn't noticed) the new year has been a time to try some new activities, it wasn't a new years resolution as I don't do those, it was more of a chance to cross train, boost my fitness levels and meet new people. Last week I reached one of my big goals, I have been working since September 2011 to be able to get my toes onto the back of my head, to achieve this I had been doing some contortion training Marlo Fisken style (for those of you ho don't know who Marlo is she is a New York based pole dancer with an amazing background in theatre, circus and dance). I had the pleasure last year of a 3 hour workshop with Marlo at Spin City in Bristol and Marlo was able to teach me lots of new stretches to help me to increase my flexibility.

My next goal was to overcome my fear of toppling, I should explain that there are certain moves in pole dancing that require the body to turn in a way that my brain does not like, walkovers generally terrify me so every Thursday night at 8.30pm I'm off to train at Swallows Gym aka Plymouth Gymnastics club. My first session at Swallows was, as expected, terrifying. I went with the lovely Megan Hookins who unfortunately for me is a gymnast, let me set the scene; Swallows is huge and is full of every bit of kit you can imagine. After a brief warm up everyone in the room, apart from me, started somersaulting, vaulting and generally doing things way beyond my ability. As I watched in awe a lady arrived and explained that it was also her first session, brilliant I thought. My happiness was short lived as Tasha then explained that it was her first session after a 2 year break but that she was a former Kent county gymnast, Megan and Tasha then disappeared off across the mats triple somersaulting as they went.

I decided to start with something that might be within my remit, we have a set of gymnastic rings at the Art of Dance so the rings at Swallows seemed plausible. The first hurdle was the height, the rings are several metres of the ground and I wasn't even sure how I could reach them, I managed to shimmy up one of the crash mats and balance precariously before jumping on to the rings, after a few poses and turns I landed rather ungracefully on the crash mats below and then watched as one of the gymnasts lowered the piece of equipment that allows you to get onto the rings with ease! According to Dave, one of the coaches, I managed a German Hang and a dislocater (I felt the dislocater and it's name perfectly described the sensation I felt through my shoulders)) and the German Hang was actually a case of me hanging on for dear life as I became aware of exactly how high the rings are.

Next up was some rope climbing, this should be easy I thought, one of the guys showed me the basic technique and off I went however the gentleman failed to inform me that climbing a rope in bare feet is not such a good idea, I left most of the skin off the top of my foot at the bottom of the rope but did manage to climb a few metres.

Despite being completely out of my depth I loved every minute of it and now on week 3 there is some progress in my ability even if it is very small. This week I got one rotation on the baby pummel horse which may not sound very good but trust me the pummel horse is ridiculously hard work so much so that the first time I tried it with the lovely Vicki Terry we spent most of our time either falling off or laughing. Laughing and falling off things was pretty much the theme of my second week at Swallows.

Week 3 of cross training had one additional element - Zumba! My Mum has been doing Zumba with the lovely Emma Newton-Bates for some time now and I have been wanting to try it for ages, I have never liked traditional aerobics (that is why I hated doing the practical element of my YMCA ETM course) as I find it too restrictive, Zumba allows more free flowing body movement and expression which is much more appealing to me. I expected to be rubbish but wasn't quite as bad as I was expecting, perhaps after being so pathetic at gymnastics anything was going to seem easier?

So if you want to see one of my failed attempts at gymnastics just check out Megan's videos of my springboard faceplant and my first assisted walkover (this one worked - the second one which thankfully wasn't videod involved missing the mat and landing on the back of my neck). Oh and here's Megan showing me how it should be done.

Stay Healthy,

Sam x

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Kirstie Tancock - one very brave lady.

I have just finished my interview with CF sufferer and double lung transplant survivor Kirstie Tancock.  I first met Kirstie when I performed alongside her at the Exeter University Pole Dancers charity showcase for Help for Heroes where we performed alongside local Marines.  I was unaware of Kirstie's battle with CF and was just amazed by her natural grace on the pole. I became aware of  Kirstie's predicament through a mutual friend and fellow CF sufferer Kimberley Liane Neill. (my first blog about Kim - a very brave bunny) Both ladies have shown me incredible bravery and determination as well as a natural ability to pole dance.

Some of you may have seen Kirstie in recent media articles and the moving BBC 3 documentary 'Love on the Transplant list' directed by Mel Beer.

Please take a moment to read my interview with  Kirstie.

Stay Healthy,

Sam x

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Calling for the resignation of Vivien Pengelly.

You only have to read the current headlines to get an idea that people have had enough of our 'leaders' keeping their snouts firmly in the trough. David Cameron has promised to cut down on the fat cat culture although I fear that despite saying all the right things his actions may not be as positive.

At local level it seems the frustrations are just the same, the arrogance of our council leaders has intensified with their disregard for the city's views on the incinerator; Vivien Pengelly wrote a letter to the Herald only this week stating that the incinerator decision was not based on party politics yet of the 12 voting members on the planning committee the 7 that voted in favour were all Conservative and the 5 that voted against were all Labour - statistically that is one hell of a coincidence.

Within a week of announcing the go ahead for the incinerator Plymouth City Council launched it's housing consultation which apparently aims to make Plymouth one of Europe's finest seaside cities and create the best living conditions for Plymouth residents; Not quite sure how they hope to achieve this with no airport, a crumbling waterfront, an embarrassing bus station and poor train links, oh, and the incinerator.

Also emerging this week is the introduction of the council's take on the Sexual Encounter Establishment Licensing that has come about as a result of the Policing and Crime Bill 2009. Ironically the Herald report on this was entitled 'Plymouth People to get power to block sex clubs' - I look forward to the day when the people of Plymouth are genuinely empowered and not ignored and ridiculed. I wrote last year about my concerns about the legislations and how they would be interpreted and I share those same concerns today as the legislation proposed by Plymouth City Council fails to clearly identify the difference between pole dancing as a recreational and sporting activity and pole/exotic dancing that is used as a pre-cursor to a sexual act.

In all honesty I think the people of Plymouth would rather see time and money being spent on some of the cities more pressing issues, at a time of cuts to frontline services I am sure the council could schedule its priorities a little more effectively? Here are some of the comments from the Herald article on the S.E.E. proposals:
Plymouth people to get power to block sex club plans its a pity that the same self righteous hopefully soon to be sacked councillors didn`t give the peopel of Plymouth the power to block the massive eyesore and health hazard they recently approved at Weston Mill. Roll on next election is all I can say.
Ironic that the advert next to this was the Samaritans - need to talk?...we'll listen

They don't get paid - PCC you do and you don't listen!!

 “OH PCC you do make me laugh! Plymouth people to get power - that'll be the day!

"RESIDENTS could have much wider grounds to object; Under the new legislation, however, residents are able to object to licence applications on much wider grounds – for example, if they feel a club is not in keeping with the character of the local area or is too close to a school or church; It covers issues such as hours of opening, health and safety requirements; we have consulted with residents' groups and associations"

Just like you did with the incinerator proposal...even after a 6,000+ petition, hundreds of objections you still IGNORED us. The incinerator site is too close to homes and schools, the hours of opening are not acceptable, health and safety still a grey area due to research still being carried out....consulted with us-that means nothing!

Bet these clubs employ more people than an operational incinerator and are probably monitored more stringently.

Double standards again in this 'fair' city!

 “sorry is it 2012 or 1932? why is this country so uptight, a sex industry will be there regardless, rather it was regulated and looked after then seedy back ally illegal clubs which is the way we will go back to if they start banning all lap dancing clubs.

Last time I looked (oops) these places weren't open during the school day, and if you took a bible you could be catered for, and there were lots of interested parties.
There are far more alleged illegal sex acts committed outside of these places than within.
One particular brand of church has been in court worldwide over this.
Keep your curtains closed if you don't want to see who frequents these places - unless it is your fed-up partner of course! :)

Anyway back to the point in hand - we have been seriously let down by the current conservative administration  - the same administration that have refused to take pay cuts at a time when they are happy to cut front-line services. Just read some of my previous blogs to get more examples of the council's failings:

Vivien Pengelly is missing the pointHave they lost the plot, incinerator is wrong, angry.

I do not think we should have to wait till the May elections to get rid of those who are letting us down. If Vivien Pengelly and her cronies really cared about Plymouth they would do the right thing and resign now - preferably without a golden handshake.

Stay Healthy,

Sam x