History of the Art of Dance
History of the art of dance

 

 

The History of the art of dance:

The art of dance was established in 2004 three years after I was introduced to pole dancing by my friend Sophia who, since leaving the Windmill club (a lap/pole and table dancing establishment), had noticed a negative change in her fitness levels and body shape. Pole dancing as a fitness was in it's very early stages and was far from recognised as a mainstream fitness however Sophie and I hatched a plan to start our very own polercise classes with Sophie teaching and myself dealing with promotions and marketing. Things were slow to start and finding a venue was not proving easy. I had just resigned from the NHS and was desperate to get my teeth into a new project and was impatient to get the pole dancing classes working. I think at the time everyone thought I was mad as pole dancing was seen as an  activity that occurred solely in strip bars.

 

How it started:

My first view of pole dancing happened when I visited Temptations lap dancing club to check out for myself the pole dancing that Sophia was raving about. I was in complete awe of the ladies dancing on the poles as their dance form seemed so beautiful. I saw a lady called Porsche doing a back hook spin and decided that would be the first move I would learn. The spin looked so beautiful and graceful.


Sophia and I ran our first few classes at Temptations lap dancing club (T1 - Keyham Road) but quickly realised that the lap dancing club was not the right environment to provide fitness based pole dancing classes to members of the public. It was certainly not nice to be warming up for a class then finding a cigarette butt stuck to your foot! After running another few lessons at Club Fandango I eventually I found a fitness venue who were happy to give the pole dancing classes a go.

The very first official art of dance pole dancing classes were held at Saints gym in Mutley Plain, Plymouth, where classes were held alongside Thai boxing and Mixed Martial arts classes. The first pole dance classes used home-made removable poles made of 50mm stainless steel tubes that fixed onto a scaffolding rig that was also home to many punch-bags. There were 3 poles and early classes involved up to 4 students per pole. It was always a manic rush to get the poles in and out at the start and end of each lesson and the end of the lesson would usually involve a sea of male faces waiting for us to finish and take down the poles.
 

Art of dance pole dancing logo image

It was time to get a logo for the art of dance so I spoke to local friend and photographer Jojo who took some pictures of me that would become the company logo - see picture left of the image used to create the art of dance grey lady.  The art of dance grey lady was then brought to life by graphic designer and friend Sean Hopper who also designed the art of dance's original website. You can still see the art of dance grey lady used in our current logo on this website header.

Of course, pole dancing as a fitness was still in it's infancy and the original image featured me wearing a bra, thong and thigh high boots. Some schools still teach this way but the evolution of fitness pole dancing now means that most of the art of dance images  used today feature instructors and students wearing sports led clothing usually a crop top, hot-pants and bare feet.

Sophia soon decided to move on to new ventures but I was hooked and I needed additional teachers to help with the classes. At this stage I was not actually teaching any of the lessons but was merely managing them, and participating in them, however, I was quickly picking up new-found skills and soon I would be taking over the teaching of some of the lessons

 

Anoushka, Saskia, Fi, Laura and Sue were soon on board helping out with the teaching of the classes and I had finally managed to get business insurance with the help of Rebecca Drury from Seven Veils Productions in Brighton. As Pole Dancing was such a new activity most insurers did not want to offer any insurance at all but the company suggested by Rebecca insured circus performers so were all too familiar with acrobatic risks! Most of the newly found staff came and went their separate ways but Sue (aka Georgina Gale) remained firmly devoted to the ethos of the art of dance and was definitely in it for the long run.

 

The evolution of the art of dance:

During 2004 I was involved with another business venture, the Plymouth Calendar Girls. Myself and fellow entrepreneur Chris Passmore of Yellowbird media produced Plymouth's first ever glamour style calendar with me taking centre stage as the May Pin-up! The Calendar was great fun to produce and saw us getting up to lots of mischief after being told off for taking scantily clad ladies to local Plymouth landmarks. The Plymouth Calender girls name was eventually passed onto local businessman Myles Lockwood who continued to produce an annual publication featuring local ladies.

podium pole dancing stage

In a desperate attempt to take pole dancing to the masses, I commissioned the building of a 'portable' (see picture right) podium pole dancing stage. The stage, still used today, provides an outdoor pole dancing opportunity as well as the chance to perform in venues with unsuitable ceilings for a fixed pole dancing pole.  Since then the development of the X-pole brand now means that anyone can buy their own portable pole dancing unit for a fraction of the cost of my one-off podium stage. The podium stage has earned itself a rather nasty reputation as it is very wobbly and makes all pole dancing moves seem completely unstable, it's rough surface and hard edges usually result in skin abrasions and bruises too. The stage has claimed many victims to date!

In 2005 I employed star student Jo Turpin  to teach pole dancing for the art of dance. Jo had quickly picked up the basics and was already racing towards an advanced level, Jo was already popular with all the students and made the perfect choice for the latest addition to the art of dance team. Jo soon became an invaluable part of the art of dance and an essential source of support for me as I struggled to learn the pro's and con's of running my own own business. Jo went through the whole rollercoaster with me helping me to deal with the highs and lows of being self-employed.

Art of dance Paignton bike festivalDuring the same year Jo and I and some of the art of dance promotional girls attended the Paignton Bike Show providing pole dance displays as well as a charity bike wash.The girls had a great laugh but were prevented from attending in 2006 due to complaints from the Christian Bikers group. Another complaint also made the day very memorable as I decided to get the promo girls to pose on the bonnet of the Devon and Cornwall Police's Chief Inspectors car, he was none too pleased and ordered the girls off his vehicle but the picture (see left) was already taken and became a popular image for the agency as well as a great source of amusement for me.

 

Desperate to find out more about the evolving fitness pole dancing craze I headed off to the Erotica exhibition in London where I met with Clive Coote the MD of a new company called X-pole. I soon became an agent for X-pole and was also able to start replacing the existing home-made studio poles with brand new X-poles, the X-poles were still being developed at this stage and this meant that for the first time students could have static or spinning poles that adjusted to different ceiling heights and could be used for professional or domestic use. I returned to Erotica the following year, accompanied by Jo, where we were invited to pole dance on the Vertical Leisure stand in front of hundreds of people. Jo and I had a fabulous weekend and many fond memories from our London visit.

Jo Turpin Sam Remmer KT Coates It was the meeting with Clive the previous year at Erotica that led to the idea of developing a pole dancing syllabus with KT Coates, founder of Pole Dance Community approved Vertical Dance pole dancing school. KT, Jo and I spent hours going through the known pole dancing moves and trying to agree on a universal name for each one. See picture right of Jo, KT and I working through the art of dance and Vertical Dance syllabuses and creating a mutually agreed syllabus. The meeting with KT was a great opportunity for both businesses to expand their own syllabuses as well as starting to work towards a nationally recognised syllabus.

 

During the art of dance's development I was lucky to get plenty of support from the local press and was soon featured in the Herald (Plymouth's local newspaper) as well as on former local radio station Plymouth Sound. I was also invited to appear on BBC Spotlight (regional news programme) and BBC Radio Devon with presenters Gordon Sparks (see picture below of Michaela Roberts, Gordon Sparks and myself in the studio) and Paul Moxham. I also got invited to write a health and fitness blog for the thisisplymouth website All the Herald blogs can be found by clicking here. The title 'Pole Star Health Tsar' was given to my by Neil Shaw at the Herald and it has stuck ever since even though I often forgot the fitness emphasis of the blog and have general rants about anythign and everything!

The support from the local media over the years has been invaluable and I can't thank them enough for their constant support despite people's criticisms of my chosen fitness activity.

Gordon Sparks pole dancing pictureJo and I also linked with local promoter, art of dance student and NSPDS founder Michaela Roberts to plan an erotic dance night at the former Kyoto club. The night was arranged to raise money for Gordon Sparks' chosen charity after he was diagnosed with Testicular Cancer. The night featured pole and lap dancing, belly dancing, turkish dancing, a burlesque act and flamenco acts. The event raised £420 for Orchid Testicular Cancer charity despite my dramatic fall after seriously messing up a reverse grab spin much to the entertainment of spectators Gordon Sparks and Katherine Endacott. My top hand slipped off the pole and I remember skidding across the polished floor on my bottom!


Other charity events that year included art of dance student Nikki Burns (see Picture below) running the London Marathon, the art of dance were proud to sponsor Nikki and her mammoth effort.Throughout the art of dance's history we have always been eager to work with charities to help raise money and awareness for those charities but also to allow us to show pole dancing in a new light to help break the negative stereotypes people still have about our art. Our eagerness to help charities has not always been welcome and several charities have refused to work with us as they have not seen fitness pole dancing as beneficial to the reputation of their brand. I am however grateful to those charities who have welcomed us on board.

Nikki Burns Pole Dancing Picture

As the art of dance pole dancing classes continued at Saints gym I was developing another interest .... in Saints gym owner Sid Remmer! It soon became clear that my interest was reciprocated and Sid proposed to me in his own unique style in December of 2004 and as most of you will already know from my surname,  I accepted!

It was during a Thai boxing trip to Thailand with husband to be Sid that I encountered two of my most unusual pole dancing experiences. The first happened on the King's birthday, a very special day in Thai culture, when all bars close and Sid and I had picked this very day to travel to Hua Hin to find a local bar! After a short walk we saw a light coming from a gap underneath a bar shutter, we peered underneath to find some welcoming locals in a charming bar with a pool table. To cut a long story short the chance meeting with the local bar girls prompted an invite to a local girl's birthday party the following day and before I knew it I was drinking with the local bar girls at a venue with a pole. I, along with friend and student Sally, soon learned that drinking and dancing on a concrete mounted pole do not mix but I didn't care as I was caught up with teaching my new found friends the finer art of pole dancing.

My pole dancing experiences in Thailand didn't end there as the Thai boxing holiday party ventured to Soi Cowboy, a popular tourist red light district in Bangkok. I upset the bar manager in one establishment after buying a pair of heels off one of the bar girls and joining her on stage to dance on one of the 20 or so poles. The manager asked Sid and I to leave but the bar girls opted for another option, they took Sid and I to the private VIP area so that I could teach them some new pole moves, they even offered to pay me!

As the art of dance grew I took on another student as a pole dancing instructor, Jo Greer. Jo had impressed us all with her natural pole dancing ability and desire to choreograph. Jo Greer had represented the art of dance at the Vertical Dance Pole Princess competition (amateur pole dancing competition) and had performed superbly. Jo stayed with the art of dance as a pole dancing instructor for about a year before moving on to teach at Cannon's gym. Jo now runs her own successful pole dance school at Newnham in Plymouth.

In 2006 I married my fiancé Sid Remmer at Plymouth's Guildhall, it was the first ever civil ceremony at the venue and we had fought hard to enable the venue to get it's license. Despite our wedding plans my addiction to pole dancing was not about to get a day off, an x-pole was installed at the venue and to commence the start of the wedding reception I pole danced for her Sid in front of all our friends and family much to the apparent shock of my Grandad who, in his early stages of Alzheimer's ,could not comprehend the change from my wedding dress into black bikini. My performance to Robert Palmer's 'Addicted to Love' was followed by friend and colleague Jo Turpin and   friend and fellow pole school owner Genevieve Moody from the Flying Studio (formerly strictly pole dancing).

Later in 2006 I entered my first pole dancing competition, Miss Pole Dance UK, at the Barracuda club in Newquay, I didn't expect to get through the qualifying heats and was shocked to hear from promoters Kay & Steve that I had been selected for the finals. My performance at the finals was a great opportunity to meet fellow pole dance enthusiasts Tracey Simmonds, Amber-Rose, Rachel Dunkley, Harmony Rose, Deb Riley, Donna Gant, Racquel Roberts, Charlotte Gale and Sarah Holborrow. I was thrilled to have been part of the competition but slightly upset by the predominantly male audience and inappropriate comments from the MC. Click here to my practice video for the Miss Pole Dance UK 2006 finals.

In the same year there was an international movement to create an International Pole Fitness Association. Jo and I received an invitation from Elena Gibson and KT Coates to the IPF launch at Raymonds Revue in Soho. I was also invited to perform at the event alongside other renowned pole dancers including Adam Jay and Rowena. I was  really nervous about performing alongside pole dancers that I had aspired too but sI was well received by all and the event gave me the chance to make lots of new friends within the pole dance world.

As fitness pole dancing continued to evolve the art of dance were invited to start pole dancing classes at, the Caradon council (now One Cornwall) owned venue, Lux Park Leisure Centre in Liskeard. Jo and I performed at an open day at the centre seeing members of the public and Caradon council staff having a go on the poles at the council venue. It was during these events that I received a telephone call from Liskeard based pole / lap dancer Jet (pictured below - middle at the art of dance 3rd Birthday Ball) who was looking to teach pole dancing and I was quick to seize the opportunity to employ Jet as the Liskeard pole dancing instructor for the art of dance.

 

In an effort to continue our professional development Jo and I attended a 2 week YMCA Exercise to music course at the St Mellion golf course in Cornwall, it was a gruelling 2 weeks as we trained all day and taught during the evenings. I hated the aerobics aspect of the course but loved the physiology and anatomy and the chance to be a student again. We made the most of the course and had a great laugh with fellow course members and the fabulous YMCA trainers.

jo val sue

 

In 2007 Jo and I participated in our first ever Women's Health Fair at Plymouth's Guildhall. The event has become an annual outing for the art of dance and a great opportunity to take pole dancing to a new audience. The event features many different businesses and is a great social networking opportunity however performing from 10am till 4pm usually results in a large number of bruises and abrasions and 2 very tired pole dancing instructors!

 

In February of 2007 the art of dance managed to get ourselves banned from Marjon College after we arranged a Pole Idol competition, the competition was a great success and was well attended, it was won by art of dance student and Vet Miranda Richardson. Despite the success of the event there were concerns raised by Marjon officials who felt that the Christian Ethos of the college made it inappropriate for pole dancing to take place on their premises, this information was relayed to Sam verbally over the telephone so I decided to challenge the decision and asked for it to be put into writing, when the e-mail arrived the reasoning had changed and I was told that the college was concerned that a pole dancing competition within the Student Union Bar may incite violence. Myself and the art of dance team were never allowed to return to the college despite the fact that we had Marjon students attending their pole dancing classes via Plymouth University.

art of dance 3rd birthday ball Sam Remmer Rosanna Durban and Jo Turpin

Just a month later more controversy occurred after art of dance student Michaela Roberts decided to enter Britain's Got Talent, her raunchy routine caused mixed reactions from both the media, fitness pole dancing professionals and the audience. The performance was part of Michaela's drive to undertake a list of life challenges after her 40th birthday. The next challenge involved producing a pole dancing music video, Michaela asked me to perform in the video and I jumped at the chance.  Click here to see the video.

Also in 2007 Jo and I organised the art of dance's first ever Birthday ball to celebrate three years of teaching pole dancing. The event was held at the Duke of Cornwall hotel in Plymouth, Jo and I were determined to create an environment where pole dancing students could showcase their skills in an elegant environment and in front of friends and family. The event was a sell out despite the pre-event mayhem; 3 days before the event I went to the venue to measure the floor to ceiling height, I had already been assured prior to booking that the ceiling at the venue was solid and would accommodate an X-pole, however one simple tap on the ceiling soon proved otherwise and Jo and I started to contemplate a pole dancing event with no poles. So the show was saved by the wobbly free-standing podium pole and, despite several slips and falls, the show was a resounding success.

 

Student pole dancing performers included Alex Russell, Michelle Baxter, Drea Lynch, Limara Silk, Tamar Preston and Miranda Richardson (winner of the art of dance pole idol competition at Marjon college) and instructor exhibitions came from Rosanna Durban (Pictured left middle), Val Hoare, Sue Manser, Jo Turpin (pictured left -  right) and Sam Remmer (pictured left- left).

The art of dance 3rd birthday ball was also a time to welcome our newest pole dancing instructor and former art of dance student Rosanna Durban, Rosanna had completed a PoleKatz instructor training course and was familiar with the art of dance teaching style, she also had skills in podium dancing that were an asset to her dance teaching ability. Rosanna not only joined the Plymouth branch but found a new venue at the Sweat and Stretch gym in Exeter where she undertook weekly classes for us.

 

Rosanna was the principal instructor at the Sweat and Stretch gym for nearly 3 years before the recession forced us to relinquish the venue in 2010. Despite the loss of the Exeter venue Rosanna's students weren't ready to quit pole dancing and they still travel to Plymouth to book private lessons with Rosanna to continue their pole dancing practice.

Limara Silk Pole Dancing Picture

Limara Silk (pictured right) had been a student at the art of dance for about 2 years and had more than demonstrated her ability to master the art of pole dancing after her fabulous performance at the 3rd Birthday Ball. Limara had also shown her ability to overcome her confidence issues and with Jo and Sue as her guides Limara soon came top of the list when it came to taking on another pole dancing instructor. Limara became the principal instructor for the Liskeard venue, after Jet moved to Bristol,  and she also taught pole dancing lessons at the Plymouth studio.

The Liskeard venue opened up an opportunity for me to teach 15 year olds to pole dance as part of a council initiative to keep kids of the streets and re-motivate them. I loved teaching the group of girls from the Caradon Youth Project and received a glowing report for my work with them.  I was a little nervous at the start of the first class as about 8 young ladies arrived with their key worker to partake in my pole dancing lesson, the group included a confident young lady who when asked whether she was left handed or right handed replied - "I  write with my left hand but punch with my right" my reply was simple "Ok, so you should be more comfortable working on both sides of your body then?", the girl seemed disappointed that I had not risen to her comment and was soon swinging around the pole along with 7 other ladies who worked solidly for the entire 1 hour session, they all politely thanked me at the end too and assured me they looked forward to the next session. I felt so rewarded and still miss the sessions to this day.

Another opportunity to reach out to new groups of people came in the form of the University of Plymouth Pole Dancing Club (UPPDC).

2007 also saw the employment of a new pole dancing instructor and old friend Nicola Ashurst. Nicola was moving back to Plymouth to study at Plymouth University and had been teaching pole dancing in Portsmouth for PoleStars. Nicola, or Nixi as she was fondly known, quickly became a fond member of the art of dance team.  Nixi's flexibility and yoga background complimented her pole dancing and enabled her to teach well attended flexibility classes as well as pole dancing classes at the art of dance. Click here to see the gorgeous Nixi in action during a rehearsal at Annabel's Discotheque. Nixi was a valued pole dancing instructor for the University of Plymouth Pole Dancing Club before her unfortunate departure from the art of dance after a dislocated knee made it difficult for her to teach.

Another business opportunity presented itself to the art of dance during the same year as Jo and I were paid to film a short pole dancing clip for internet giant AOL. The Herald reported the story and the video clip became the most downloaded clip on the AOL 'show me' website for the entire year.

Kelly Shaw pole dancing picture


In 2007 I entered both Miss Pole Dance UK and PoleDivas championships reaching the final events in both competitions, My performance nerves refused to go away but I persevered nevertheless determined to represent the art of dance and Plymouth in a national event. Click here to see my winning qualifying performance and Click here to see my performance in the finals of the Poledivas championships in Manchester. The Miss Pole Dance event was filmed by Nuts TV resulting in Sam spending a day with a Nuts TV camera-man, the footage was featured as part of TV documentary challenging peoples perceptions of pole dancing. Click here to watch a clip of the Nuts TV documentary.

 

In the same year Sam decided it was time to get an extra instructor for the Exeter venue to help out existing Exeter instructor Rosanna Durban. Sam was pointed in the direction of lap dancer and model Kelly Shaw (see picture left) and was quick to employ her to help out with the Exeter venue, Kelly's enthusiasm to teach pole dancing soon resulted in her finding a new art of dance venue for Torquay at the Bishop's Court Hotel but a breakdown in communication between Sam and the hotel owner soon saw the venue close. Sam & Kelly found a new location at the One Vision One Fitness gym in Torquay, the gym's owner Caroline was receptive and friendly and we were genuinely excited about the prospect of a Torquay venue. Unfortunately we expanded too quickly and the venue was destined to fail, the recession was starting to hit and we couldn't risk trading on Torquay any longer. It was with sad regret that the Torquay venue never worked out for us and we were forced to say goodbye to Kelly.

One thing that did come out of the art of dances liaison with Torquay was the opportunity to perform at South Devon College as part of their Be Healthy Week, a chance to educate the students about healthy living, diet and exercise. Kelly and I were given two opportunities to perform pole dancing in front of the college students during their lunch hour. Our first performance on the Wednesday afternoon was well received but when we returned on the Friday afternoon we were told we have to perform in a separate area as their had been complaints about our previous performance.

Kelly and I then performed in the sports courts within the college, away from the main exhibition area and with an audience of just 25 or so people, a far cry from the 1500+ audience we had on the Wednesday afternoon. Sam was extremely disappointed with the decision to move the display but performed regardless. Click here to see the performance which has had over 89,000 views to date and was part of a media storm that was set to go viral.

After the South Devon College Performances I received a phone-call from the college's vice principal, Pat Denham, it seems the press had been in contact with the college about the pole dancing performances and the vice principal wanted me to keep the display as quiet as possible. I was asked to remove all photos, videos and references to the pole dance displays from my blog and website. Unfortunately it as not the first time I had been forced to defend my art and I was now ready to fight my corner, I refused to deny that I had performed at the college and a row quickly erupted, the media jumped onto the story blowing it out of all proportion. Here are just a few of the on-line news stories that appeared during the next 48 hours from The Mirror, The Herald and the BBC. As the media frenzy continued the national ITN News crews and local Spotlight team descended on the Art of dance studio to follow up the story and I was featured on all the major news channels that evening. The following day I assumed that the story would be forgotten but I was then hounded by the New York Daily News channels as well as the Melbourne, Sydney and ThaiIndian press who were also covering the story.


The art of dance was given a welcome bost when it was offered some free advertising from local friend and entrepreneur Chris Passmore from Yellowbird media. Chris donated the use of one of his advertising vehicles as well as a 6 metre by 3 metre banner. The banner has great advertising impact and has been driven around the city on many occasions creating a great talking point due to it's visual impact.

Art of dance pole dancing banner

The art of dance yellowbird media banner pictured right at the 2010 Tattoo convention in Plymouth.

To this day I am still amazed at the whole incident which was the result of nothing more than a gymnastic display aimed at encouraging young people to partake in more exercise in line with the Governments Change for Life Initiative of which the art of dance is a proud supporter. Although I knew that there was still much negative stereotype surrounding my art I was shocked by the hate mail I received including ludicrous  claims that I was 'obese' and was apparently guaranteed a place in hell. I refused to  be deterred by the individuals that criticised me and vowed to continue the fight to change people's perceptions of pole dancing as a fitness activity.

After the negativity of the South Devon College saga I was delighted to receive more positive press coverage when I was awarded the title of body weight culturist of the month. The body weight culture site takes physical exercise very seriously and they recognised the physical benefits of using the pole as a physical exercise training aid. I was extremely honoured to receive this accolade. Click here to view.

In November of the same year I  received another nomination in the form of a Pride of Plymouth award from student Mia Gilson. I was eventually told I was one of the 3 finalists and I was invited to attend a glittering awards night held by former Radio Station Plymouth Sound at the Boringdon Hall in Plymouth. Despite not winning I was happy just to have been recognised for my hard work and determination via the art of dance and was moved that Mia had taken the time to nominate me in the first place. I have always cared passionately about my students but to receive official recognition for this was extremely rewarding.

Archive Art of dance studio


In January 2008 the art of dance decided it was time to expand and find it's own premises to further it's pole dancing and Burlesque lessons. The art of dance moved to its new premises at 26 Seaton Lane in Plymouth, just next door to the former Saints gym. The refurbishment of the building involved mammoth efforts from the art of dance team as well as much help from wiling students and friends such as Jo's husband Tony and his son Jamie. Without the Turpin's the move would have never come to fruition on time and I owe them dearly. The former photographic studio and beauty salon was soon ready for it's first pole dancing lessons although it would be over 2 years before the seemingly jinxed 2nd Burlesque studio would finally be complete and the venue would see a semi-return to it beauty salon days.

Picture right of the art of dance pole studio at 26 Seaton Lane in the 1980's when it was used as a photographic studio.

In April 2008 Sam and Rosanna were invited to perform at the Face of Exeter modelling competition. Rosanna opened the show and wowed the audience, click here to watch her amazing performance. Sam opened the second half and also got a great crowd reaction, click here to watch Sam's performance. The Exeter event was yet another opportunity for us to take pole dancing to a mainstream audience and we were really pleased to be so well received.

Rosanna Durban Full Monty picture

In June of 2008 the art of dance received an unusual request from the guys at the nearby Raffles Club to choreograph the final scene from the film 'The Full Monty', Proprietor Phil Gill had decided to organise a week of fund-raining events for St Luke's Hospice and the event would include a pole dancing night on the Tuesday and the week would finish with Full Monty act.  I immediately turned to choreography master Rosanna Durban to undertake the challenge and Rosanna took it and made it happen resulting in a fabulous charity night at Raffles social club and some great press for the art of dance and St Luke's Hospice. Click here to read the full story. It was a very memorable evening and the guys from Raffles were a pleasure to work with. Raffles is not only a local business but a source of security in the fact that the guys always look out for us when we are locking up the building and they phone me if they have any concerns such as lights being left  on, windows being left open etc.


In 2008 I, once again, entered the PoleDivas championships south west qualifying heats in Bristol and was joined by art of dance student Tamar Preston who entered the amateur advanced section, both of us won our respected heats and went on to the grand finals in Manchester. Click here to watch Tamar's winning video from the qualifying heats and click here to watch my winning performance from the same heats. You can also Click here to watch my performance in the finals.  Jo and I had already mentioned that if Tamar did well in the competition that there could be a job vacancy for a pole dancing instructor at the art of dance and after Tamar's beautiful performance she was taken on as the latest pole dancing instructor.

In the same year I was invited by Tim Galvin to take part in a student-made film looking at the public's perception of pole dancing. The 10 minute documentary entitled 'Make me a Pole Dancer' was well received by both Jo and I and the students at the art of dance as well as receiving lots of views on Youtube. Click here to watch the video. The footage later led to further TV work as I was selected to take part in a half hour documentary on BBC 3, the series was originally called Secret Britain but the title was later changed as a new presenter was brought in and the series was retitled 'Natalie Cassidy's Secret Britain'. 

suzy itimar bbc

The BBC documentary was to prove an interesting experience for both me, my husband, my family, staff, and friends as BBC camera crew, Suzy & Itamar (pictured below in the art of dance studio) followed my every move throughout a 4 week period. Luckily for me the camera duo were a pleasure to work with and I still miss them both. The whole experience was great fun and I have some very happy memories from the 4 weeks of filming. Unfortunately the final cut of the documentary did not quite get across the argument I hoped it would but it was not that bad either and it did give the nation a chance to check out Sid's glorious socks!

An unusual opportunity arose after a chance meeting with a member of the Golberdon Women's Institute whilst on a flight to Portugal. I was chatting to fellow passenger Liz Moir and was telling Liz all about pole dancing as a fitness and the challenges I faced as a pole dancing instructor. When I returned from holiday I was contacted by Liz and invited to perform at the Golberdon Women's Institute for their spring group meeting. The event was to be held on My Mum's birthday so I was delighted to attend and was able to take my Mum for a special night out. Click here to watch the video of my performance on our very wobbly stage.

On 25th April 2009 the art of dance team were treated to a special team build involving petting small, cute, cuddly animals at Pennywell farm, click here to view the fabulous day out. The day wa a great opportunity for us all to chill out away from work and to behave like complete children.

2009 was also the year that Jo Turpin decided to pursue a new career teaching Pilates, I was gutted to see Jo leave but am so pleased she has found success with her new venture :)

UK Pole dancing day picture

On the 1st May the art of dance took part in Britain's first ever UK pole dancing day. Students and instructors across the UK took part in events and pole jams to celebrate the national event. The UKPDD coincided with the launch of the Pole Dance Community (PDC) website founded by Sid and I after we recognised a need for a regulatory body for the growing fitness pole dancing industry. As an ambassador for the pole dancing community Sid and I were invited to the launch of the JLN Pole Fitness School in Westhoughton where Britain's youngest pole dancing instructor, 16 year old Jess Leanne Norris opened her new fitness pole dancing studio. Click here to see Sam's performance at the event and click here to see PDC footage from the opening.

Pole Dancing Picture

The Pole Dance Community is still a growing concern and it is continuing to expand and evolve.The PDC operates a strict code of conduct for pole dancing schools to abide by and also offers a free 300+ moves syllabus with pictures and videos as well as the Advancement and Accreditation Programme for the grading of pole dancing students and instructors.

Picture right of Sid and Sam with Jess Leanne Norris and the JLN fitness pole students at their principal studio in Westhoughton.

In line with the PDC ethos of continuing professional development (CPD) for all pole dancing instructors I decided to partake in some training provided by the Keep Fit Association  (KFA). The first course I attended looked at Laban Principles of dance and gave practical ideas for creative session plans as well as ideas for developing exciting warm ups and cool downs. The course was not only extremely informative but was also a great chance to network with other fitness professionals and to make new friends.

Later in 2009 Tamar reached the finals of the PoleDivas championship and was a fantastic ambassador for the art of dance. Click here to see her finals performance.

In 2010 Sam was invited to perform at the Exeter University Campus for the University of Exeter Pole Dancing Society. Sam performed alongside members of the Exeter group as well as members of the University of Plymouth Pole Dancing club and Exeter marines who had just returned from Afghanistan. Click here to watch the Marines impressive pole dance. Sam also performed at the University of Plymouth student union for a similar charity event to raise money for the Muscular Dystrophy charity. Click here to watch her performance.

The recession had a dramatic negative impact on the art of dance nearly resulting in bankruptcy and making 2009 the most difficult year the art of dance had  ever experienced.  As overheads rose and student numbers decreased the future of the art of dance looked grim. The business just about kept it's head above water into 2010 when a new business opportunity arrived and I seized it with both hands. The Herald covered the unfolding business story as I joined forces with local Beauty expert Lisa Hill,(Chica Bella) Yoga teacher Jane Macdermott (Jane's Flow Yoga) and Creative Nail Technician Naomi Grant (The Nail Room). I was able to sub-let part of the premises to the 3 new businesses creating joint marketing opportunities and a new support network for all involved. Having the new ladies on board was a massive boost for the business and was essential for the maintenance of my sanity!Art of dance Plymouth

Picture right of art of dance pole dancing instructors Sam Remmer and Rosanna Durban, Flow Yoga expert Jane Macdermott, Burlesque artistes Georgina Gale and Amelia B, Nail Room owner Naomi Grant and Chica Bella owner Lisa Hill.

To promote the art of dance and to take pole dancing to the people we have always strived to take part in community and charity events and another fabulous opportunity came our way when we were invited to perform at the Unite Street Festival. Despite some apprehension about how we would be received the event was a resounding success. Click here and here to watch the 2 performances we carried out on the day.

November 2010 and another KFA course was booked in Plymouth, the day consisted of a morning talk on equality and prejudice with a look at the Disability Discrimination act and a chance to debate how we can make our classes more inclusive. The afternoon was a practical session with a twist, the trainer started by teaching us a routine that she knew we would struggle to cope with, the idea was to remind us that our students may need more time to learn new things and we were all reminded of the importance of being a good practitioner. The session also looked at other ways of reviewing your teaching such as videoing and mentoring as well as looking at the importance of good personal performance so we can be good role models to our students and so we can inspire their own personal practice.

 

In an effort to include more CPD I joined an event organised by the Department of Health and Dance South West. The Health and well being through dance event was held on Thursday 2nd December at the Jury's Inn Plymouth and was an amazing learning and networking opportunity. Click here to read my blog about the day.

I should mention that opportunities at the art of dance have increased recently thanks to June Gamble of Plymouth Dance who has welcomed the art of dance to the Plymouth dance scene and has kept me informed of all relevant events. The Plymouth Dance projects invaluable for the Plymouth arts scene and I hope the funding for it continues.

In 2010 I made the decision to retire from the competitive side of pole dancing as I never really got a handle on my performance nerves and felt it was time to allow younger and more flexible dancers to take to the stage, however, I was not ready to leave the competitive world completely. Instead I turned to judging and judged for the United Kingdom Amateur Pole Performer (UKAPP), PoleDivas championships and The Bristol Pole Championships. I am also now judging for the All Wales Pole Championships in 2011.

The tabloids reared their ugly heads again in December 2010 by using my picture to accompany a badly written article in the Daily Star, click here to view the article. I was disappointed to be associated with the article but am now used to poor and inaccurate reporting by tabloid journalists and am aware that as I don't own the images being used there is little I can do to prevent the images being circulated. 

2011 started with a bang and the chance to boost my own pole dancing progress with a series of jams and workshops starting with a master class with Becca Butcher (winner of 2010 EMW Polarity competition. I then went to London to jam with former world champion Elena Gibson alongside Genevieve Moody, Kate Johnstone, Dana Mayer and Lorna Thomas.

My next stop was a jam in Swindon at Emily's Pole Fitness where I was joined by Level 2 PDC pole dancing instructors Emily Smith (owner of EPF) and Robyn Rooke (Bristol Pole Champion 2010 and proprietor of 360 Pole Dancing).  The following week I travelled to Exeter to train at the Spin City Exeter studios with principal instructor Alex Conley, we were joined by Sarah Scott (Studio 22 and Pole Divas finalist), Bendy Kate (UKAPP 2010 champion), Robyn Rooke and Emily Smith.

I was also involved in the Pole Dance Community's first ever Syllabus filming day and have been actively involved in buidling this universal syllabus resource, this has involved finding out the numerous names used to desribe each pole dancing movement and then working with PDC members to categorise the tricks, spins, transitions and combinations into levels of difficulty.

During 2011 both myself and Rosanna Durban have been undertaking ever more continuing professional development with Rosanna attending master-classes with Justine McLucas (advanced pole tricks) and Natasha Wang (advanced pole tricks and combinations)  whilst I attended classes with Becca Butcher (advanced pole tricks) and Marlo Fisken (advanced pole tricks and flexiblity training).

The Art of dance also saw its timetable evolve with a monthly safe stretching workshop with guest instructor and stretching master Claire Nash. The benefits of the stretching have allowed both students and instructors to achieve greater flexibilty with less risk of inury.

2011 was a busy year for me with judging at many pole dancing competitions including United Kingdom Amatuer Pole Performer (UKAPP), All Wales Pole Championships (AWPC), United Kingdom Pole Artistes Championships (UKPAC), United Kingdom Professional Pole Championships (UKPPC) and the Bristol Pole Championships (BPC).

During the year we had taken on 2 new teaching assistants, Emma Thorpe and Megan Hookins. Emma became a pole dancing instructor for the art of dance in September 2011 having been a student with us for over 3 years, a committee member for the University of Plymouth Pole Dancing Club 2010, having achieved second place at the Bristol Pole Championships 2010 Intermediate category and a grand finalist at the United Kingdom Amatuer Pole Performer 2011 Intermediate section after winning the Bristol heats.Art of Dance Pole Dancing Instructors

In this year the Art of Dance worked with students from Bournemouth University to produce a docmentary about attitudes towards children pole dancing. This came about after the introudction of i-pole dancing classes for kids aged 12-15 years of age. Controversy surrounded the classes and once again the Art of Dance found itself in the middle of a media frenzy (The Daily Mail, The Sun, Plymouth Herald). I also did interviews for That's Life magazine and Take a Break magazine to try to get my side of the story across and to explain that our i-pole classes do not sexualise children.

Picture right - Rosanna, Emma, Tamar, Megan and I.

2012 saw the Art of Dance finally beating the recession and moving forwards. Our team was now stronger than ever consisting of Rosanna Durban, Emma Thorpe, Sue Manser, myself and our newest recruit gymnast and sports therapist Megan Hookins. We were lucky enough to perform at some amazing events including the Plymouth Tattoo Convention and Club Libertine for which we are now resident acts. I was busy as usual judging for the following competitions; Midwest Pole Championships/North American Competition Online Heats (National), United Kingdom Professional Pole Championships (National) , Inter-University Pole Championships (National), World Pole Sports Championships (International) and the South West Amateur Pole Championships (Regional).

We were sad to see Tamar depart but excited that she has an exciting new career in teaching once she finishes her second degree.

Cross training opportunities included myself and Emma Thorpe trying out Chinese Pole at a local Circus group, Emerge Circus. See picture left.

2013 started with the sad news of Emma's departure as she moved to Bristol with a work promotion, we were all gutted to see her go but have ensured we have caught up with each other at every opportunity. Emma's loss did mean we had the chance to take on Xpert trained pole dancing instructor Cheryl Garniss, Cheryl has a wealth of pole dancing experience and is a great asset to our team. To help bond the new team we started the year with a team build involving an adult ballet lesson at Ballare with accomplished instructor Laura Fleet.

Chinese Pole plymouthOnce again I was busy judging for various competitions including Pole Fitness South Africa Online heats (National), Solent Pole Competition (Regional), Inter-University Pole Championships (National) and the South West Amateur Pole Championships (Regional). See picture below left.

As part of our quest for continuing professional development Sue Manser and I attended a one day course organised by Macmillan Healthcare, we joined many dance practitioners from across the South West to learn how to deliver dance classes to Cancer patients.

Once again the UPPDC continues to grow from strength to strength and is still one of the biggest sports clubs at Plymouth University. The UPPDC competed in the 2013 Inter-University Pole Championships and have organised several charity fundraisers, their last showcase raised enough money to sponsor a guide dog called Scooby. Scooby is a black lab/retreiver who will hopefully grow up to make a fabulous working guide dog. The girls receive regular updates on Scooby's progress and already have further fundraisers planned. Rosanna Durban Haines Pole Dancing Instructor

Perhaps one of the most exciting events of 2013 was Rosanna's wedding. Rosanna finally  married her lovely fiance Steve in a stunning ceremony attended by many of the Art of dance students. We were all so happy for Rosanna and were honoured to be able to spend her special day with her. See picture right.

2013 was also the year that I said goodbye to my beloved 50mm screw thread chrome X-poles and replaced them with new 45mm Xpert poles. 45mm seems to have emerged to the new industry standard for the UK and the 45mm is far better for most of our students hand grips but most students took a while to learn to love the new poles.

Pole Dance Judging Picture
2013 was not set to be a controversy-free year and once again I received critiscism for my chosen art form. For the 5th year running I was excluded from the Dance, Dance, Dance event held in Plymouth to celebrate cultural diversity and dance in Plymouth. More critiscism came from local, arts council funded body Plymouth Dance who claimed they could not promote my classes. You can read the full story here on my blog, Pole Star Health Tsar.


This year saw a continuing argument within the pole dancing industry for fitness pole versus stripper style pole. Whilst we all appreciate the fitness benefits of pole dancing there are different ways pole can be taught and different schools adopt a different theory as to how pole should be taught with many schools wanting to retain the right to teach sensual pole and to wear heels during classes. At the Art of Dance we reserve the right to teach both genres recognising the demand for both styles of classes. Our main classes (12 years old plus) remain pure pole fitness but our workshops offer additonal options such as sxxxy pole,  pole dancing in heels and burlesque master-classes all held in the Plymouth studio. 


In 2014 The Art of Dance took on a new instructor, Lucy Provenzano. Lucy (pictured right) had been a student with us for some time and was partlucy provenzano pole dance teacher plymouth of the University of Plymouth Pole Dancing Club. After undertaking a 6 months teacher training post at the Art of Dance and achieving a successful level 5 grading with distinction Lucy became an Art of Dance instructor.


In 2015 we took on another new instructor Shin Tan. Shin's background in ballet and contemporary dance meant she was already an accomplished dancer and with just 6 months of pole training she won the intermediate/advanced amateur section of the 2014 Pole Theatre Competition.  and after completing a 6 month teacher training post and qualifying as a Spin City Instructor was ready to start teaching for us. Shin also took the role of team captain for the University of Plymouth Pole Dancing Club.

2015 was also the time to takeon a new teaching assistant, Linda Jerret had been a student with us for many years and had demonstrated her dedication to pole and her immense strength on the pole.

TBC


My background:

Margaret Morris Movement Claire Cassidy
In addition to the many experience that have presented themselves whilst running the art of dance , and listed above, I should perhaps tell you a bit about my background and what skills  I have to offer as an art of dance practitioner;  My very first dance experience was when I learned Laban based Margaret Morris Movement as a child, my first dance teacher was the amazing Claire Cassidy who taught me right up to her retirement at the age of 83. Claire is, and always has been, an amazing influence, she was athletic, extremely flexible (she could still do the flying splits even at 83!) and was a fantastic and inspirational teacher.

MMM Teacher Claire Cassidy pictured left on her retirement.

As a teenager I moved on to study Contemporary dance at the Barbican Theatre with several fabulous teachers including master choreographer Jules Laville. My experience at the Barbican Theatre involved the attendance of many weekly classes, workshops  and performance pieces.

As I entered my adult years I began my work within the field of Mental Health and Learning disabilities, I had planned to go to University to study Speech Therapy but decided to take a year out, by the end of tat year I was earning as much as a speech therapist so I binned the university idea and embarked on a 10 year career working full time for the NHS and part time for Social Services.

In addition to my paid roles I also took on a temporary role within the Plymouth Branch of the stroke association where I was able to  work with a physiotherapist to deliver an arm chair exercise programme for stroke victims. The arm-chair dance sessions were held within Age Concern building and were extremely rewarding.

It was during my work with social services in Plymouth that I got the chance to do more work with Jules Laville from the Barbican Theatre, Jules taught dance sessions to individuals with learning disabilities at the Manadon Day Centre which was one of my places of work.. The sessions were also held with local belly dance teacher Rosie. Both ladies were greatly respected by the students at the centre and the classes gave me great food for thought.

My work within the NHS and Social Services involved ongoing professional development including valuable training in he fields of IT, communication, sign language and one of my favourite areas; sensory impairment. I had previously worked with Scope focusing on work with individuals with dual sensory impairments and was able to further apply my skills to my new roles within the challenging behaviours service as well as in my day care roles. My work within the field of Mental Health and learning disabilities has given me the opportunity to learn valuable communication skills that enhance my teaching practice as well as giving me important skills such as how to write effective risk and COSHH assessments, implementing session plans, networking skills and dealing with challenging behaviour.

Another experience that has been invaluable to my teaching skills and contributes hugely to my cool down stretches and technique is yoga which I have practised since the age of 25. Yoga helps my flexibility and mobility and definitely reduces some of the impact of pole dancing by realigning my spine and working my usually knotted muscles. I have had the pleasure of many different yoga teachers over the years and their wealth of experience is an ongoing help to both my personal fitness as well as the knowledge I am able to impart to others through my teaching.

In 2015 I was able to offer a one-off training session to members of the South Devon Gymnastics team, I have also been offering one to one training to Special Olympic medal winner and kayaking champion Steven Dodd. Our sessions have enabled him to develop his shoulder mobility and flexibiity to aid his overall training.

In March 2016 I organised the South West University Pole Championships which was held at Plymouth University and saw 6 universities compete against each other. Bristol, UWE, Plymouth, Exeter, Swansea and Cardiff battled it out with Exeter winning the SWUPC title.

Within my roles at both the art of dance and the Pole Dance Comunity I have been lucky enough to train with some of the UK's elite pole dancers as well as training with international masters, they include Pantera Blacksmith, Oona Kivela,  Elena Gibson, Marlo Fisken, Karol Helms, Charlee Wagner, Becca Butcher, Tracey Simmonds, Jess Leanne Norris, Justine McLucas, Bendy Kate, Sarah Scott, Michelle Shimmy, Nico Modestine, Karen Chaundy, Genevieve Moody, KT Coates, Robyn Rooke, Kate Edwards nee Johnstone, Harmony Rose, Amy Williams, Dan Rosen, Leah Rose Clarke, Emily Smith, Kitty Velour, Charlotte Holstead and Danny Charge.



Judging CV to date:

2009

JLN Pole fitness Student Xmas Competition (Regional)
Pole Idol, South West Amateur Competition (Regional)

2010

United Kingdom Amateur Pole Performer (National)
PoleDivas (National)
Bristol Pole Championships (Regional)

2011

All Wales Pole Championships (Regional)
United Kingdom Amateur Pole Performer (National)
All Wales Pole Championships (Regional)
United Kingdom Pole Artistes Championships (National)
United Kingdom Professional Pole Championships (National)
Bristol Pole Championships (Regional)

2012

Midwest Pole Championships/North American Competition Online Heats (National)
United Kingdom Professional Pole Championships (National)
Inter-University Pole Championships (National)
World Pole Sports Championships (International)
South West Amateur Pole Championships (Regional)

2013

Pole Fitness South Africa Online heats (National)
Solent Pole Competition (Regional)
Inter-University Pole Championships (National)
South West Amateur Pole Championships (Regional)
Midwest Pole Championships/North American Competition Online Heats (National)
UK Professional Pole Championships (National)

2014

Inter-University Pole Dance Competition (National)
Midwest Pole Dancing Competition/North American Pole Dancing Championships (National)
South West Amateur Pole Championships (Regional)
English Riviera Pole Competition (Regional)
UK Professional Pole Championships (National)

2015

Inter-University Pole Dance Competition (National)
Midwest Pole Dancing Competition/North American Pole Dancing Championships (National)
South West Amateur Pole Championships (Regional)
South West University Pole Competition (Regional)
Pole Legends New Zealand (National)
English Riviera Pole Competition (Regional)
UK Professional Pole Championships (National)

2016

Inter-University Pole Dance Competition (National)
Bristol Pole Championships (Regional)
English Riviera Pole Competition (Regional)
United Kingdom Professional Pole Championships (National)

2017

South West University Pole Champsionships (Regional)
Bristol Pole Championships (Regional)

 

I am currently undertaking the ETED pole dancing instructor qualification and I passed my beginners and intermediate theory exam in 2012. Despite my extensive pole fitness experience I wanted to retrain to check my skills were still current and to aid my continuing profesional development.

 

As the art of dance continues to grow I wants to remind you all about the ethos of the art of dance as it has remained unchanged since its conception. The art of dance is a tool to bring physical and mental improvement to individuals regardless of shape, size, age or ability. We want everyone to be given the chance to exceed their own personal expectations and to use their experience at the at of dance to help them lead a more fulfilled and successful life.

I would like to thank everyone who has helped the art of dance over the years, without you all none of this would have been possible. I should  also air particular thanks to the art of dances biggest supporter, My Mum x x.

Sam x

 

N.B. This article will be continually updated and no doubt people will point out the many spelling/grammatical mistakes that I am bound to have included. Apologies also to anyone whom I have forgotten to credit.

 
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