Grunty Crush of the Week: Danielle Christine Gets Poleitical With Aerial Arts

Poleitical Clothing
Poleitical Clothing
Credit: Alloy Images, From PPC 2012

The last time I wore my “Keep Calm and Pole Dance” shorts from Poleitical Clothing, a woman in my class told me that my “ass looked nice in those shorts.” That is the ultimate compliment for any pole dancer and it almost always happens when I rock my Poleitical Clothing gear. I don’t even know how I discovered the Los Angeles-brand but I think it had to do with me getting sucked in to their Instagram page via one of many pole related hashtags, and the rest is history.

At some point in my pole journey, I joined the Pole Dancing Bloggers Association and came across Danielle Christine. I remembered her name from handwritten thank you notes that I received with  my Poleitical Clothing purchases and we’ve been e-friends ever since. We haven’t met in person but I like her energy so I reached out to chat about her career as co-owner/co-founder of Poleitical Clothing, owner and blogger at Poleitical Diaries, blogger at Bad Kitty Exotic Wear, and her passion for pole and lyra.

Danielle and Marlo Fiskin wearing Poleitical Clothing. Photo Courtesy Danielle.
Danielle and Marlo Fiskin wearing Poleitical Clothing. Photo Courtesy Danielle.

How did you get into pole dancing and what is it about pole that has sparked your passion for the sport?

I got into pole around 2006, when a friend of mine invited me to take a class that her friend Tara was starting – it was a combination of life coaching and erotic movement. The focus was really on coaching women through blocks they had in the areas of their confidence, sensuality, sense of self, etc. I found the classes to be transformative. My initial reaction, before signing up, was one of distaste and judgment, but after a while, it dawned on me that my reaction was so strong that it was weird. I took a step back and asked myself why, and it became clear that I was scared of the class. So, I immediately signed up for it. While the classes had more floor work and coaching than crazy pole tricks (we did some spins, that’s it), they remain one of the most influential and powerful experiences of my life, and I am happy to say that it brought some amazing people into my world (one of which is now my editor at Bad Kitty!). After Tara’s classes ended (she moved away), I was out of the pole world for a bit. This was after S Factor had begun, but before the advent of pole as fitness, so there were not a lot of options available. After a couple of years of not really doing much with it, I noticed that I was feeling disconnected again, and I started vaguely looking for classes. I happened to share a friend in common with a pre-USPDF Natasha Wang, and on a group outing, we got to talking about pole. She suggested I check out The Pole Garage in Santa Monica, CA. I started classes there almost 4 years ago, and have been poling pretty consistently since that time.

As far as my passion for pole goes, I think the thing I love about it is that it is always different, and there is always more to explore. There is something for everyone in it, and you can consistently challenge yourself with some new aspect of it, so it’s never boring. I love the experience of working on something that seems impossible one week, and seeing the change a few weeks later. I’ve never experienced anything with such a rapid return on investment.

I started lyra about two years ago, when I was in a pole rut. I had plateaued and was really frustrated, so lyra was a welcome break! I took to it really quickly, and have been in love with it since day one. I started at Evolve Dance Studio, and now train at Aeriform Arts.

Lyra
Credit: George Grigorian

Describe your polerina style.

I’m really into freestyle movement right now, so I have loved exploring those classes, although my schedule doesn’t always allow for me to go to them. It’s invigorating, challenging, and freeing. I did not grow up a dancer or a gymnast, so I don’t have that sort of natural athleticism or movement, and it’s been a bit of a struggle for me to find what is mine to do. Freestyle movement is closer to what I love, which is storytelling. I was an actor for many years, and I will always be an actor at heart, so I am working to develop that craft in dance. Freestyle helps with that, as it opens up areas I hadn’t thought to explore. I guess, though, if you were to watch me free dance, I’d think you’d see me as a floorwork girl. I don’t get on the pole that much, as pole combos aren’t natural to me. I don’t flow from trick to trick, I have to work at it, but I can roll around on the floor like a boss.

Speaking of pole, tell me about your popular line of apparel.

Poleitical Clothing is a partnership with my friend, Courtney Rheuban. We were both students at The Pole Garage, and we met through a Facebook group for the studio. We had been joking about how we wanted t shirts that said, “Keep Calm and Pole Dance” on them, and one coffee date later, we were starting a company! We began in mid-2012, and debuted the line at California Pole Dance Championship that same year. I credit Courtney with a lot of the drive behind the initial creation of the business – she had experience in fashion and in starting a business, and I was just along for the ride and excited to be there. As we’ve developed, we’ve grown into our roles: Courtney handles a lot of our “business” end, with financials, wholesale ordering, etc, and I’m more of the customer contact, social media, and design side. We collaborate on each of our designs, going back and forth on possible ideas, possible products, and my background in art and design (college) comes in handy with sketching out our ideas. Our personal styles are very different – Courtney works in fashion and has great, fun, stylish taste, and I am way more casual/all over the place. Mostly, I am a jeans and white t shirt girl. I think our goal is to select wear that we find cute, but also comfortable, and we’re very careful to look for things that will look good on most figures. One of our long term goals is to expand into larger offerings, particularly with plus sizes and men, and I personally would love to begin making our own clothing, as opposed to printing our designs on sourced items. I just need to learn how to sew, so I can make some prototypes.

 

Who is responsible for the designs, and what type of preparation went into launching your

company?

Courtney and I will send each other ideas pretty consistently, and we have a backlog of ideas that we’ve saved up. We try to debut something new a couple of times per year, whether it be a new style of clothing, or a new art design. Once we settle on a new concept, I usually sketch out the artwork and send it to Courtney for approval, and if we need a designer to create a digital copy, we reach out to a friend of mine who helps on that end. While I went to school for art and design, it was right around the time that the shift to digital art was happening, and I was very much old school – I loved to get my hands dirty – so I never really got the hang of sketching in a computer program. Luckily, my friend who assists us is awesome at it and translates my real-life sketches and notes into beautiful digital files!

When we initially launched, we were beyond excited about it, and things fell into place really quickly. Very early on, we were approached by Leen Isabel from Pole Dancing Adventures about doing a giveaway on her blog, and her support was instrumental in getting the word out about our brand. She was our Pole Fairy Godmother! Since then, we’ve worked hard to build our online network, and we continue to do things like participate as vendors at local LA events, donate our shorts to events for the pole bunnies, and run fun giveaways, particularly through Instagram.

Credit: Roselle Photography
Credit: Roselle Photography

What are three of the most important lessons you’ve learned about yourself as a small business owner in the fitness apparel world?

1) Don’t get too upset when someone tries to do a riff on our Keep Calm artwork. It happens. I don’t like it, and I totally give a side eye to the other artwork, but it happens.

 

2) I love social media and really enjoy interacting with our fans through all of the different platforms. I’ve developed some solid skills in that arena, and I’m looking forward to learning even more!

 

3) It’s easy to have a passion project, but much more difficult to turn it into a money making enterprise.

 

Do you have any tips for small business owners in this lane? 

 

Try to be original. Try to cater to more than just one subset in the industry – specialty items/offerings are great, but if you only cater to the super advanced (for example), you cut yourself off from a whole revenue stream, and that’s just silly to me. Be choosy about your partnerships– if somebody has a bad rep, know that your association with them may cost you business.

 

If you’re starting a studio, vet your teachers and ask for feedback from students – and really consider the feedback. Don’t assume you know everything, or that your opinion/vision is the best. If you’re starting a product line, take care in what you offer, and take pride in it.

 

Going back to pole, what was your latest most exciting pole dancing victory?

I just performed at the NorCal Pole Presentational, which was a victory for me! I hadn’t performed in a public setting in over 2 years, and I would not consider myself a great choreographer, but I was proud that I put together a piece with a story and stuck with it, despite some minor hiccups. While training for the piece, I finally got my aerial invert to not be so wretched, and that’s a big deal for me! I also was proud that I figured out my Reiko Step Up to Cupid on spin pole with a week left before the performance (I had to throw out something that wasn’t working and needed a replacement). I’d really like more opportunities to perform, but I feel like the only real offerings in LA are to compete, which I’m ambivalent about. I am competing at PSO’s Pacific Aerial in September, but it’s on Lyra, not pole, and I signed up mostly to get the chance to perform.

 

How do you balance life as a business woman , as an everyday woman friends, and as an aerial artist?

I don’t really know, to be honest. I kind of just do what is next on the schedule and try to be kinder to myself if things don’t work out as planned. I do try to make a point to be at home with my boyfriend, if I know I’ve been super distracted with work, or busy with classes, and I try to find time just for me if I am stressed – whether it be going to a class, or just reading a book.

 

What do you wish for yourself for the rest of the year?

I am working to get myself into a new day job, so that’d be up front! I’m hopeful that my routine for the lyra competition will be smooth and fun, and I want to launch some new stuff for Poleitical Clothing. I have also really loved contributing to the Bad Kitty blog, and I’m excited about the new pieces I have in the pipeline! My hope is that I can continue to bring interesting material to the table and to grow as a writer, both for their platform and my own. I’m also REALLY excited to be attending Aerial Amy’s pole retreat in October – it’ll be my first time teaching anyone but the occasional friend, and I am excited about the workshop that I have planned for everyone. My wish for the end of the year is that the things I’ve been working toward all pan out in great ways! I’d also love to find new performance opportunities, or to even develop them myself. I’m really interested in exploring the storytelling side of pole – beyond competition and beyond “here’s a sexy night of pole” – and I hope to find a way to develop that creative side of things, for myself and for others.

 

I did this interview back in September so feel free to catch up with Danielle in real time at these places:


www.poleiticalclothing.com
 – Main clothing site.
poleitical.com – Poleitical diaries blog
instagram – @poleiticalclothing for biz, @reelsmartcookie for personal.
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Starrene Rhett Rocque is a former member of Dumbledore's Army who now enjoys gallivanting at pole, yoga and dance studios. She also occasionally fantasizes about becoming a shotgun-toting b-movie heroine.