A Fresh Perspective with Estee Zakar

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Me and my peeps after a workshop with Estee Zakar. I’m the one just crouching there. I’m fly like that.

I’ve been taking pole dancing lessons for ten months now exclusively at Boulder Spirals. On a few occasions the girls have loaded into Leslie’s giant car and trucked down to Denver for a workshop with a visiting artist or taken classes at Spirals with someone from out of town. I’ve usually hung back from these excursions because I felt I wasn’t worthy of taking a workshop. I consider myself at the bottom of the totem pole as far as my skill level is concerned. Given the awesome performers at Spirals, this isn’t quite as self-depricating as it sounds, those ladies are awesome.

I have been interested in learning from other dancers of late, though. The entirety of my experience has been with Sasha, a fantastic teacher by all rights, but even she once said, “The greatest gift you can give to yourself is taking a class with a new teacher.” or something like that. When she posted a video of Estee Zakar performing at the 2012 Pole Convention along with a link to take her workshop at Spirals, I decided to jump on in.

I made my usual grand entrance by barging into the studio and demanding to know who owned the white Nissan, because I WANT THE WINDOW STICKER ON IT. There were several ladies lying on their backs with their legs up the pole. The one I didn’t recognize said, “Oh, that’s me.” As in, I’m the one who drives the car and that sticker is a picture of me.

“You must be Estee …. and you’re teaching a class. Oops. My bad.”

If you know me, this will make you laugh because this is totally the kind of thing I do all the time. Remind me to tell you my Taj Mahal story.

First of all, can I say how amazing it is to see a competition level pole dancer up close? I’ve seen lots of Youtube videos but there is something about having one right there, doing an amazing trick, that inspires a whole new level of awe in me. I’m about to chuck my gym membership once-and-for-all after digging her amazingly athletic body and seeing it in motion. She did moves that make cross-fit and P90X devotees look like a bunch of pussies. That’s right. I just said that.

And her professionalism? She has so much knowledge about physiology and body mechanics. The truth is that most, if not all, pole dance instructors and competitors do. This kind of activity is impossible without it, which makes it all the harder for me to stomach the ignorance of the general public when it comes to this amazing art form. I’ve bitten my tongue so many times that it’s a miracle it’s still attached.

As a fledgling instructor myself, I am always looking for new tools to put in my bag of tricks. I am totally going to crib Estee’s chair warm-up, both for my class and at home. Finally an alternative to jumping jacks that doesn’t hurt my plantar fasciitis. It’s an old person problem but nonetheless, any time I’m asked to do jumping jacks or run around bare footed, it flares up. I end up doing low-impact modified jacks and looking like this:

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Me, doing floor jacks.

What followed was a 90 minute wish-list of tricks we were all dying to get. Everyone wanted two or three tricks and I was positive we wouldn’t get through them but sure enough we did. My personal nemesis was Windshield Wipers, or Outside Leg to Inside Leg Hangs. I remember showing up early for a class and watching an advanced class. There was one woman all the way up the 17 foot pole and I watched in awe as she effortlessly switched from one leg to another. To the untrained eye, this looks like there is a moment where nothing is holding you on the pole. Actually, your waist and back is, but that was inconceivable to me at the time.

I busted into my outside leg hang (compliments of my performance at Shine a few months back) and then she calmly talked me through it, back and forth. The amazing part is that I hardly slipped at all going from one to the other and I felt really safe and solid. It helped that Sasha had been drilling the importance of moving my leg out and around parallel to the floor, so I already had that in my pocket. After I got it, I looked like this:

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Cat having eaten a canary. I was that psyched.

My other heart’s desire was the butterfly. Sasha had taught it to us coming from an inversion in the forearm grip and then the elbow grip. My problem was my chest was too close to the pole. Estee bypassed that issue by drilling handsprings and then having me flip into it. It’s not pretty, but it’s one of those BIG MOVES that just makes you happy to know you can do. I’m scared to do it again, and I won’t do it without a spot, but there is something about knowing that I have it in me.

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Needs so much work, my ankle needs to come around. But still, I did it!

As of now I am totally hooked on doing workshops. You won’t get anywhere without taking ongoing lessons and having an instructor that knows you and your strengths and weaknesses. But throw in a dash of new eyes, fresh tricks, new perspective and maybe a little pole crush to motive me? Magic. Estee, (yes, we’re on a first-name basis now) says she can help me get my splits. Anyone want in on a private?

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