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Club spotlight: AZ Pole and Aerial dance offers ‘no judgment’

From+top%2C+Tatyana+Wong%2C+Erika+Haws+and+Dorie+Chen+from+the+University+of+Arizona+AZ+Pole+and+Aerial+club+at+Bash+at+the+Rec+on+Aug.+20+at+the+Arizona+recreation+center.+AZ+Pole+and+Aerial+holds+pole+and+aerial+dance+classes+every+Sunday.+%28Photo+courtesy+of+Alexis+Garza.%29
From top, Tatyana Wong, Erika Haws and Dorie Chen from the University of Arizona AZ Pole and Aerial club at Bash at the Rec on Aug. 20 at the Arizona recreation center. AZ Pole and Aerial holds pole and aerial dance classes every Sunday. (Photo courtesy of Alexis Garza.)

After its launch last semester, AZ Pole and Aerial, the first club of its kind at the University of Arizona, is returning for its first fall semester on campus.

Before you envision effortless showroom pole performances, consider the physical tenacity this sport demands. The grace and beauty of the art forms disguise their intense athletic demands.

Bruises, or “pole kisses” as Rachel Davenport affectionately calls them, are souvenirs that more experienced club members promise newcomers will experience after their first class.

Tatyana Wong, Nicole Ferguson and Davenport founded AZ Pole and Aerial last spring. The club hosts $5 pole classes on Sundays; beginners are from 6-7 p.m. and intermediate follows from 7-8 p.m. at Vertica Fitness, 3957 E Speedway Blvd. No. 201. Davenport teaches the classes full-time.

Every week, the club distributes first-come, first-serve signups to hundreds of students looking to explore the rewarding world of pole and aerial dancing. 

“So many people come from those dance backgrounds of ‘you have to be 100 pounds, this and that,’ but you don’t have to be any of that here,” AZ Pole and Aerial Vice President Dorie Chen said.

Chen said she grew up in a strict Asian-American household where sexuality and body positivity weren’t facets of her identity that she felt she could freely express.   

After taking a pole class at Vertica Fitness she found the outlet she’d been looking for.

“There’s no judgment, no body-shaming, no nothing,” said Chen, who started just four months ago. Chen practices in seven-inch white Pleaser heels that ricochet off the pole with a distinctive clack. “It’s given me a sense of body confidence I’ve never had before.”

“The pole bruises never end, you just find them in weirder places,” said the club president Wong, who has been practicing pole for just under two years.

Like many of the UA students involved in AZ Pole and Aerial, Wong comes from a strong dance background and was seeking a community to support her newfound affinity for pole.

Alexis Garza, who serves as the social media chair for the club, echoed the rejection of stereotypical dance environments and said she felt embraced by AZ Pole and Aerial.

“I was a dancer for 13 years, but didn’t like how harsh and critical it was,” Garza said. 

Garza got involved with AZ Pole and Aerial after years of feeling inadequate for the unrealistic roles prescribed by dance. 

“No girl here is the same shape or size. I love how empowering it is and how good it makes me feel,” Garza said.

During their first class of the semester on Aug. 27, Davenport yelled over the music of Ice Spice and Nicki Minaj to remind students of their intentions during warm-up and conditioning.

“The hard things help us improve,” Davenport said to the class.

The class often erupted into cheers, encouraging both beginners attempting back hooks for the first time and intermediate students attempting more complicated archer variations.

Wong, Ferguson and Davenport made it a point to shower students with compliments whenever they could.

The club’s demographic is a diverse group of people, ranging from freshmen to graduate students at the university.

As SZA’s basslines hummed throughout the room of nine floor-to-ceiling poles, the intermediate pole class came to an end by exploring their individual flows.

Davenport encouraged students to submit feedback on their desired skills to better tailor the direction of class to them.

This semester, the club also is offering its first aerial silks dance classes for $5 from 3-4 p.m. Sundays at Circus Sanctuary, an acrobatic arts space at 2706 N. Silverbell Road Suite 1120.

Monica Silva, an aerial silks instructor of 20 years, said that while performing on silks is beautiful, there’s always a potential danger to it. She shared with students, at a recent class, an incident from her first years learning silk when she fell 18 feet onto concrete after losing her grip.  Fortunately, she said, she walked away from the incident only suffering a few weeks on crutches.

Silva encouraged students to pay attention to their gut instincts, breath and grip as they deliver the initial signs of a necessary dismount, being careful to not let the more intricate moves take priority over doing what’s right for your body.

“You don’t need any level of skill or strength. You can perform exactly where you are,” Silva said. 

This semester, club members have the opportunity to perform in a December showcase with Circus Sanctuary for an additional fee.

The club hopes to integrate more on-campus workshops this semester to make it accessible for students without cars.  Some workshops could include chair dancing, heels, floorwork and flexibility.

You can find AZ Pole and Aerial on their website or on Instagram.


*El Inde Arizona is a news service of the University of Arizona School of Journalism.


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