Chantelle (owner): I have to admit that back in 2015 when I received an e-mail from Alex requesting to start taking pole dancing classes with his partner, my first initial thought was “hmm, I don’t think he quite knows what he’s getting into.”
Our classes at Aradia definitely range from a callisthenics workout/fitness class to a sensual/exotic booty shakin’ class – and we do our best to ensure the customer finds the class that is most suitable to their genre of interest. Pole 101, however, is a mixture of all of the above – you’re basically kind of given a taste of everything, and you can then choose from there. The interest for men in the sport can be quite different from women, which was one of the first obstacles I had to learn and overcome when we decided to start offering co-ed classes here at Aradia.
Nonetheless, I was wrong. Alex did know exactly what he was getting himself into – and he and his partner have been students with us for two years now. Being casual friends on Social media, I began to learn more about them individually, and as a couple. During this time, I have to admit that I am completely impressed. To them, it’s nothing out of the ordinary – it’s their life, and they live it exactly how they want to, despite what society deems as “gender appropriate.” Wanting to get to know them further, I decided to interview them so that we could all learn a little bit more about this power couple within our pole family.
Tell me a bit about your relationship. How old were you when you two started seeing each other?
We started dating at 17/18 (Toby, Alex). However, we were partnered in a kids competitive ballroom dance class (Elite dance studio, here in Edmonton) at 14/15. For the next three years we spent up to fifteen hours a week practicing together and developed a strong relationship and partnership. Not to say that we were great at the sport – middle of the pack really, but we were the only partnership that didn’t fight. Having fun and maintaining our friendship was our focus.
Toby, you have mentioned that you’re gender non-conforming. At what age did you feel this way? Did your partner Alex always know about it? Tell us a little bit about that journey with Alex
I am non-binary or genderqueer; I don’t identify as a man or a woman. I use they/them pronouns. I wouldn’t say there was any specific age, but it was more of a gradual process. I have chatted with Alex during the process and he has supported me. We talk a lot about gender and I discuss with him how moving through the world is for me.
Why did you decide you wanted to try pole dancing?
Alex: I liked that it was a dance based, bodyweight based, fun looking, led sport that we could do together. Prior to pole we spent a while rock climbing, which overlaps a fair bit in that list, but because it isn’t led as much, it was hard to stay motivated. In that regard, the instructors that I’ve worked with have all been fantastic
Toby: I loved the idea of learning how to sexy dance and how to do aerial tricks. I’ve always been intrigued by gymnasts. When I started pole, I was a year out of being treated for anorexia, and pole has really helped me in recovery. I was terrified during my first class, but I wanted very badly to continue and learn how to push past the fear. There are many more reasons I wanted to learn pole, but those are the major ones
Alex, you’ve mentioned that pole is a predominately “female” sport. Tell us your opinion on gender stereotypes, and your thoughts on working past/through them
You might remember two years ago that when I first asked about pole classes, you said that men were allowed to participate but we weren’t allowed to partake in Pole 101. I asked about taking classes with my spouse, and the fix we came to was that Toby and I took a few privates to bring us up to speed for beginner pole. I suspect this was because it was a situation that hadn’t been considered. I don’t run into a lot of the usual gender stereotypes, so I can’t comment a lot on that, but I think that things are definitely moving in the right direction.
Alex, has anybody ever made a “suggestive” comment in regards to you being a male pole dancer?
Do you mean people in class, or other people?
Other people (I hope nobody in class would ever do that, or else I’ll boot em out – haha)
Not at all.
Another story! Toby and I worked together for a summer camp in a campground/trailer park when we were 18/19. One week Toby and I painted our toenails. This was a first for me, and I expected someone to say something about it as I always wore sandals. It took a week before anyone said anything, and it was a seven year old girl who asked me about it. I think the reason I don’t hear about it is because I’m tall, large, and bearded. Most people who would say something don’t know how to.