Elevating the Performing arts to new extremes

The Intoxicating Effect of Pole Dance

Past articles:

Settling Into the Moment ~ A MN Poler's Story

When injuries left DaNae Wiseth sidelined, pole became her new sport.
National pole competitor TenaciousDNae based out of south central Minnesota shares with Pole and Performing Art on how pole fitness became her sport and passion. 

DaNae, who grew up on a farm in rural Northwestern Minnesota, says she has been an athlete for as long as she can remember. She played volleyball and basketball throughout her K-12 years, but unfortunately, her senior year of high school ended with a serious knee injury and surgery. DaNae jumped into rehab quickly, with plans to play collegiate volleyball, but was unable to recover fully. "I thought that was it for me," she said and set aside her athletic pursuits. So she decided to help others, studying athletic training and exercise science, later channeling her gift for health care by getting her degree and working as a LPN. In June she will graduate as an RN.

It wasn't until 2013 when she found pole through a friend (Amanda Dawn, who she lovingly calls her "pole mamma"), that she rediscovered her inner athlete. "I could hardly walk down the stairs after my first class, my legs felt like jelly," she laughed. "I was immediately hooked, I couldn't believe how pole dance could target muscles I needed to strengthen in such a low impact way." DaNae said the fitness challenge of pole helped her train like the athlete she knew she was, but thought she had lost. "My legs are so much stronger and my knee feels great, the grip strength I gained in pole has helped my wrists feel better, really everything is stronger." 

Since 2013, TenaciousDNae has trained pole regularly three times a week and has competed regionally and nationally at Pole Sport Organization events and the Minnesota Pole Competitions in 2017, with plans to participate again in 2018. Since she began poling, DaNae has only taken a break from training once, "I didn't want to stop poling, but I was diagnosed with melanoma skin cancer, on my shin, of course!" she smiled, as we knowingly nodded. "I couldn't really climb or do a lot on the floor, so I decided to take a break to focus on my health." And has she ever! DaNae is now back to pole dancing three times a week and recently performed a beautiful pole solo with the North Polers aerial dance troupe in front of 1,300+ people at the Mankato-based RAW Fusion Fashion Show fundraiser, and is 100% skin cancer-free! 

But DaNae insists that the benefits pole has given her has gone beyond her improved physical fitness. "I was not expecting to find such an amazing supportive group of people or that they would be come some of my closest friends!" she shared with us. She paused for a moment, thinking quietly, and said, "Pole has made my body stronger, yes, but it has also made me a stronger human being with a greater capacity to love myself, and I think that is what keeps me coming back, for those moments in training when I get to settle into the moment, and move for no other reason than for the joy of moving." We couldn't say it any better. Pole on, DaNae, pole on. 

Betty Harsma, contributor to the PPA blog, is a poler, social media maven, and yogini seeking joy and balance in the everyday. Follow her @happybettyann


Masters Division Champion Mary Caryl on Channeling Your Ego, Embracing Vulnerability, and Competing after 60

Pole and Performing Art recently had the pleasure of speaking with Mary Caryl about her six years of poling experience. competitions, and what she will be sharing in her upcoming Pole Star workshops at the Minnesota Pole Competition.

Minnesota-born, Los Angeles-based, Mary Caryl started performing pole when many people her age were thinking about  relaxing in retirement. But taking it easy isn’t Mary’s way;  she loves to perform!  One of her favorite performances was one she choreographed herself to Madonna’s "Hanky Panky". The routine was flirtatious, with a touch of comedy, which is Mary’s signature style.  To enhance each character, she also designs and makes her own costumes.

One of the "added plusses" to poling is all the friends she makes, most of them young enough to be her daughter.  She loves to give advice, especially about men. Many young women, who are smart, successful, and sexy,  have trouble connecting with men the way they want to.  It's often just a few words that help put a new perspective on relationships.  To be able to make a little difference in someone's life, is a big reward in itself.

For Mary, performing is a way to connect with sensuality, self-esteem, develop strength, flexibility, musicality and technique; all to be expressed through pole artistry.  She feels that the sport helps women and men to find more confidence in their physical bodies.  Personally, Mary Caryl hopes that when younger pole artists  see her perform and compete at an elite level, they will believe, “If she can do, this, then I can do it too.”  What you look for, you will find.

Mary’s Four Words: Ego, Vulnerable, Jealous, Deserve

To get along in life, a strong ego is essential.  Life can be discouraging if you let it,  but developing a strong sense of self-confidence will help pull you through a tough time.  Just know  when the ego is not needed and  tuck it into your back pocket. To be vulnerable allows things to happen in your life but she cautions the importance of being physically safe,  and not take unnecessary risks.  She feels that it is ok to be a little jealous; but use that feeling to propel yourself forward, not to diminish others. When focused into positive actions, jealousy can be a powerful motivator.  When you deserve something, it is because it has been earned, not entitled.  To sum up, every performer, fueled with a little healthy jealousy,  needs a good ego and  allow a sense of vulnerability to  help them  take the stage! That will help you earn, not deserve, all the accolades that come with performing.

Pole, for Mary Caryl, is an opportunity to improve both physically and mentally, and to touch each other's lives with what you bring to the studio!  You can attend one of Mary Caryl's classes next month at the Minnesota Pole Competitions in Maplewood, Minnesota. Get the details on Mary’s workshops such as "Splits, Extension, & POINT YOUR TOES" HERE.    


Story by Amanda Lanser

​Edited by Mary Caryl

How Amber Cahill Stays on Top of Her Game (Whatever That May Be)

Amber Cahill doesn’t stay still for long. If she’s not teaching pole, you might find her competing in lyra or silks. Breaking her collarbone couldn’t even keep her down. Now that her successful studio has expanded into two Iowa locations, we sat down with Amber to learn how she stays on top of her game.

Train Every Night, Compete Every Weekend

Amber’s no stranger to a rigorous schedule. She started performing in dance competitions at age 5 and gymnastics competitions at age 7. Spending weeknights in the studio or gym and weekends on stage or the floor, Amber competed through high school, following her gymnastics trainer to Illinois State University.

After school, Amber’s rigorous schedule took a backseat to a new career as a teacher and mom of three young boys. When she dropped her youngest off at school, Amber wandered into a pole class in Des Moines, Iowa. She hasn’t looked back since.

Motivated by Competition

Amber put her new skills at pole to work in the 2012 Great Midwest Pole Competition. She was hooked on the competition and the great attitudes of her fellow competitors. She went on to perform in 12 more competitions over the next two years, honing her skills in pole, lyra, and silks.

Despite this rigorous schedule, training is the focus for Amber, not winning, traveling, or even teaching. She uses competitions to motivate herself to train. “Be the best you can be and stay on top of your game, whatever your game may be,” she says. Competing inspires Amber to train and stay sharp.

Working Backwards

Many athletes create routines based on how many weeks they have to prepare. Not Amber. She often works backward, finding inspiration in the details, such as a costume. From there, she finds the character, song, and routine. Then, she seeks out a competition where she can perform her new creation.

Similarly, Amber finds that music inspires her to learn new tricks and skills. As she develops a routine, she’ll feel that the music demands a particular move. She’ll add that move to her training regimen, even if it’s new to her. “The music needs this move,’ she says, “so I need to learn it.”

Many athletes focus on the physical aspect of training, but for Amber, mental preparation takes priority. Her training regimen is 20 percent physical and 80 percent visualization, from planning and writing out a routine to finding the perfect music. Only once these pieces are perfectly in place will Amber start a physical training program.

Today, you’ll find Amber teaching classes in the Des Moines, Iowa, area, where she owns two studios under the TGR Fitness name. Her studios offer five programs that are all based on movement, from pole and aerial to ninja warrior fitness programs. She also actively competes and judges competitions across the Midwest. We are looking forward to seeing her in the Twin Cities this January for Minnesota Pole Competitions, Vendor Fair, & Workshops!

 ​Story by:
Amanda Lanser​​​
November 2016

Morgan Gerhard, Sport Acro Athlete, Silks Artist, Cirque Performer and Musician

“Really, anyone can do anything. They just have to show up. They have to go and take that step to do it.” Aspiring artists and performers can really take Morgan Gerhard’s advice to heart. His 30-year career has included musical performances, sound recording and mixing, cheerleading, tumbling, dance, and silks. Thru his love of cheerleading, Sport Acro and dance, he his helping shape the way we do partner acrobatics today.

A native Minnesotan who now lives and works in Los Angeles, Morgan got his start in partner acrobatics as a cheerleader for the University of Minnesota. After college, he was asked to join the new gymnast’s squad for the Minnesota Vikings. The squad focused on tumbling, mini-tramping, and aerial stunts that complemented the female cheerleaders’ dancing. Morgan’s work there was part of the beginning of bridging cheerleading and Sport Acrobatics worlds.

After his move to LA, Morgan toured the world as a trumpet and saxophone player with some of the most famous acts of the 1950’s. He also got into swing dancing and started a career in sound mixing. His enthusiasm for pushing himself out of his comfort zone and into new disciplines eventually led to performances in acro, dance, and silks.

In fact, Morgan’s favorite style of performance blends these three disciplines, which will be on display next month at the inaugural Twin Cities Performing Art Convention on April 2. He’s got some surprises planned for audiences in his two performances with fellow artists Heidi Coker and Kelly Thorpe, including some stunts the pole world hasn’t seen before.

Morgan is excited to be back in Minnesota for this exciting weekend. He never thought he’d be coming back for a pole show, but in his words, he’s looking forward to it being “so much fun, don’t ‘ya know, eh?”

Don’t miss the chance to see Morgan on April 2. If you’re an aspiring sport acro or acroyoga athlete, silks artist, musician, or other artist, take a cue from Morgan’s performing art career: Get out of your comfort zone, take classes, and have fun.   

 ​Story by:
Amanda Lanser​​​
March 2016

Gravity Doesn't Win This One...

Gravity is something you may think keeps us down. But, for a few folks in the Twin Cities, gravity is something they laugh at and use it to their advantage. Take The Aviary, a yoga hammock studio, for example, they find that fitness and relaxation off the ground can be quite rewarding. And also, the Twin Cities Trapeze Center; they fly high above the ground and through the air in spite of gravity.

Being off the ground is a commonality among many of the studios appearing at the Twin Cities Performing Art Convention on April 2nd at the Muse Event Center. This first-of-its-kind event is geared toward empowering women through the performing arts and even includes a showcase from UNCAAGED.

UNCAAGED is a non-profit youth development program geared toward helping African American girls. Their slogan, Leadership, Sisterhood, Strength Building, Life Planning, Mentorship, Ownership, and Scholarship, helps to empower minority youth through the performing arts.

What empowers you? Come spend the day and experience a whole myriad of the local performing art, fitness, and dance studios, as well as other local businesses. Indulge in a workshop or two and connect with an amazing community.

Twin Cities Performing Art Convention 
April 2, 2016 

Matt Davis, Pole Artist, Performing Artist

Already comfortable in spandex from his wrestling days and a pro at falling safely from years at the skate park, Matt Davis is one of the Twin Cities’ most athletic and daring pole artists.

Matt can go on and on about how much he loves pole, but even if he hated it, he says he’d still do it for the physical results he gets. Before pole, Matt had the typical skater physique: very thin and not a lot of muscle. That quickly changed as he challenged himself to master some of pole’s most athletic tricks.

As a pole artist, Matt bases most of his training off of Zen principles, such as not getting angry or upset when he doesn’t get a trick, not worrying whether he’s making progress fast enough, and not allowing comparisons to other people bother him.

With that attitude, he’s added tricks to his repertoire that take considerable skill and athleticism. “I really like moves that highlight strength, technical ability, and daring,” he says, “essentially the pole equivalent of skateboarding. Drops, fonjis, flips, a lot of shoulder mount stuff. Someday I’d love to have an iron cross.”

But Matt’s routines do not end with technique. He always tries to bring humor and character into his performances, asking himself, “What’s the most ridiculous thing I could do in this situation?”

In his first performance, that meant a little trickery. Matt had the MCs to announce they weren’t sure who would be onstage next and ask Matt to clean the poles while they figured it out. Matt wiped one pole down, did a trick, wiped the next one down and did another trick, and then started to take off clothing. At that point, the audience knew Matt was actually the next act. Matt had even fooled one of the instructors, who was flipping through the program to figure out who was up next.

Since then, Matt’s worked with instructors at the Stomping Ground, ExperTease, Rabbit Hole Studios (where he’s a board member), and Dollhouse to improve his choreography and confidence on freestyle tricks. Competing is on Matt’s pole wish list.

Matt continues to challenge himself to master difficult tricks, which he finds are the most rewarding because they take him the longest to learn and cause the most pain. He has some advice for aspiring pole artists: “Pick something you don’t think you’ll ever be able to do and start working towards it in small increments. One day, you’ll achieve what had once been impossible for you, and that’s the definition of growth.”

You can connect with Matt on Facebook. Catch him in action in performances at Rabbit Hole and other local performing art studios in Minneapolis.

*Matt is one of the first males in the state to compete in the Minnesota Regional Pole Competition! Catch him there this Saturday, January 9.

​Article by:
Amanda Lanser​​​

Photo: Alyssa Kristine Photography

​​Pole Dancing.  Those two little words can evoke so many emotions. 

To me, pole dancing and freedom are synonymous.  Pole dancing means freedom to be who you are, to express yourself how you choose, to find a place to exist. 

Profound, right? How can something like pole dancing have such a powerful effect?  Imagine this…

ou want to try something different for your workout. Maybe you saw a Groupon for pole dancing and thought, "Sure, why not."  But before the big day you talk yourself in and out of going to class at least 20 times. 

         "I can't do this, I need to lose 10lbs first."

         "I can't do this, I have no upper body strength."

Sound familiar? Thought so.  

Your first class comes and the last fleeting thought of bolting comes and goes as the instructor starts the warm up. You try your first spin and follow the instructor as best as possible.  It's hard, you're sore, you can't do this.

“Wait. Did I just do that spin right?  Holy crap, I did! This is amazing!”

 The next 50 minutes fly by in a whirl of spins, body waves, and hair flips. You LOVED it! The energy of class, the spins that you were able to do, it all was incredible.  So you keep coming back. 

 Intoxicating isn't it?  You want to share this experience with the world.  Every new spin, trick, and flow, you want to post on Instagram because you're amazing!  Look at what you are able to accomplish with hard work. 

But then, doubt.  What if someone you know from work or your family sees it? What if they think you’re a stripper or what you are doing is inappropriate?

You hide all your pole pictures. You build a wall around your pole community to protect it from the outside.  Then one day you find yourself in conversation with someone at the gym and she comments on how impressed she is that you can do a couple pull-ups. 

         "Should I tell her why I can do this?"

         "What will she think of me?"

But you take a chance. If she doesn't get it, that's her problem.  But, she's intrigued.  So you give her the name of the studio and your favorite instructor and go on your happy way.

You start to think, 'who cares if they know and don't like it."  You start to tear down that wall you built.  Sometimes you get negative feedback.  You smile, you explain what you do, and they still don't get it.  You don't really care. You aren't going to change what you do, and they don't want to change how they think.  You move on.  Sometimes moving on is hard, but you seek solace in your craft.  Then you realize, you are free.  Free of the haters.  What started out as a passing idea has become your craft.  Sometimes that scares people, but it's yours. You own it. You are free.

Suddenly your life is viewed differently.  The "I can'ts" that almost held you back that first day are now becoming "maybe I can".  Challenges that seemed impossible before, seem very possible now.  Marathons?  Mountain Climbing?  You can do anything.  You are now free.  Free from the "I can't." 

 Charisma Blue,
PPA blog contributor, is a pole dancer, performer, and instructor. Find her on social media! 


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