Marley and Me: Taking Class From Lara Michaels

I’m on a roll these days with workshops. Kudos to the ever connected Sasha Viers, she’s been networking like crazy these days because a couple of weeks ago Estée Zakar taught a technique class and yesterday Lara Michaels, of NYPD (that would be New York Pole Dancing) taught two workshops back-to-back. Now that I’m over my fear of workshops I can’t wait to take more.
        Lara taught Spin and Climb and then Sequences and Choreography to Boulder’s burgeoning pole dance community. I didn’t barge into studio this time, determined not to disrupt class like I did with Estée. I sussed out Lara and introduced myself. She was pretty easy to spot, gorgeous as she is tall. Sasha said she is often in Boulder and with any luck might come back and teach again. It turns out her boyfriend’s children live here; I bet his ex just loves her. I would self-destruct into a pile of smoking green ash within seconds if anyone nearly as spectacular as Lara came anywhere near one of my exes. Did I mention that she pursued a Master’s Degree in music performance (violin) and was a professional ballet dancer? Jesus, it just keeps getting worse. But I digress.

Lara Michaels: Professional, funny, warm and encouraging.

Lara started Spin and Climb with a quick warm-up and stretch. My mind wandered while in Upward Facing Dog and I noticed how incredible everyone’s derrieres looked, despite having nowhere to hide in their Bad Kitty pole “shorts”. I caught Shawneen’s eye and she whispered, “Damn, everyone’s ass looks amazing.” Took the words right out of my mouth. Seriously though, I’ve been toying around with dropping my gym membership because between walking my stupid dog all the damn time, teaching and taking classes at Boulder Spirals, what do I need the gym for? You’ve got to surround yourself with people who you strive to be like and I want to be like these ladies, not like a bunch of gym rats. Sorry fellas.

You won’t find these physiques in a gym.

Lara structured the class around teaching a spin combination from her 2012 USPDF Amateur compulsory round (it starts at :53 and ends right before the splits). Try as I might, my attempt didn’t look anything like it, but dare to dream, right? What I like about learning from someone new is that they use different words. I liked Lara’s choice of words like “orbit” and “impulse”. She talked a lot about where movement initiated, how to create energy and manipulate our areas of gravity to propel our bodies around and up the pole. Her movement is the perfect case in point for her technique. Her alignment was always impeccable, no lax core or wobbly hips interrupted her trajectory. She had total balance, amazing lines and crystal clear communication by way of articulate words and demonstration. I daresay watching her was an education in and of itself.
        She taught us transitions and sequences starting from an outside leg hang. I know lots of tricks but I usually approach them from the ground, Lara taught us how to go from an arial mount and link them together. I watched her hang on one knee and point out with her two free hands the various points of contact and safety, simple as 1, 2, 3. She might look like Pole Dancing Barbie (and I mean that in the nicest possible way) but everything coming out of her mouth was all business. This was not a ditzy “Okay, so just do what I do.” kind of class. I learned how to do the Marley….

Me doing the Marley!

… and watched as Linda, Shawneen and Keri nailed splits on the pole.

Linda finds her splits on the pole.

We were all so high on possibilities that we tried things that would have been a total NO WAY on a regular day. Lara made it all look easy (because it is easy for her) but was so clear about her instruction that it seemed feasible. Scissor up the pole? Can do, although it’s ug-lee right now. But in my mind’s eye I can see Lara do it. I can visualize the extension necessary and how the hips rotate away from the pole to make room to hook the knee. One must be able to see it to do it.
        The choreography portion of the workshop was broken down into three distinct parts: Where to start. How to get out of the box. Now do it yourself. She talked about how she choreographs routines for competition starting with (thank God) paper. I completely relate to writing down every trick you know (although her list takes up five pages and mine takes up one), thinking about sets and and challenging yourself to nail new skills. She added in the competition aspect by talking about compulsory moves and visualizing the dance from a judge’s perspective. Then she talked about how to approach the pole. The most boring way to do it is to start with one hand on the pole. I got a chuckle out of this because I’ve been choreographing short routines for my Level One Intro to Pole class and they all start – you guessed it – with one hand on the pole. I’m still a rookie, what can I say?

We were in a tight clutch around Lara when we heard Shawneen say, “Um, I’m doing it over here!”

She talked about motivation, are you attracted to the pole or are you repulsed by it? She challenged us to think of new ways to approach the pole by teaching us a quick sequence where our feet, sides and elbows touched the pole but nothing else. She warned us that we might hate the routine but the goal was to get us outside of the box. The routine was strange I’ll admit, but really challenging in that it wasn’t about being sexy or pretty, it was about thinking of different ways to relate to the pole. She had us dance to a croony song and then switched to a percussive song by M.I.A. Same choreography, new music, and eight bodies interpreting it. The focus was not on the end result (i.e. Let’s all do it just like Lara) but on finding our own timing and rhythm. The result? Expansiveness. New areas of creativity all lit up.

      I missed the self-choregraphy part of the class. I had to dash home to prepare for a gigantic dinner party that was happening in an hour and I was in desperate need of a shower. My system was awash with anxiety sweat. Gross as it may be, it was proof that I had pushed myself and stepped out of my comfort zone. That was a day well spent. Thank you Lara, come back soon!

Lara coaching me through a spin.

3 thoughts on “Marley and Me: Taking Class From Lara Michaels

  1. Pingback: One Day (6881-6884) | Vivienne's Process of Elimination

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