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  • Karla

My S Factor & Pole Dance Journey

Today I want to share with you how I came to be where I am today, teaching S Factor and pole dance classes in Portland, Oregon.


My first S Factor class change my life…

I was on vacation with my now-husband, and met some of his friends (Donald & Brenda) in San Fransisco. I was invited to attend an S Factor taster class Brenda was teaching one morning. All she told me ahead of time was that it was a pole dance and sensual movement class, and that I would love it!

I was equally intrigued and terrified of the idea of anything related to pole dancing (does anyone else automatically think stripper?) but I was open to trying new things. Besides, I thought, I was in a new city and if I made a fool of myself, I wouldn't see any of these people again!

I walked into the studio and was instantly surprised by what I saw. The space was dimly lit with soft red lights around the room. There were only four poles, black mats laid out in the shape of a circle, and one mat placed in the center for the instructor. Not a single mirror in the room (what a relief!)

I was invited to find a mat and wait as the other women filtered in, claiming their space in the circle. After brief introductions, the teacher asked us to sit in a cross-legged position with our eyes closed, and begin to tune into our breath and body.

In the silence, with only the sounds of our breath filling our lungs and the slow exhale out of our mouths, class began…

Soft music filled the space and we were guided through the S Factor warm-up, a combination of breath guided movement, gentle stretches for the body, and moments of heart pumping sequences.

Throughout the warm-up, I was invited to keep my hands on the curves of my body. To notice and tune into what my body craved and desired in that moment. To look at the shapes and curves of the smallest detail of me and find the beauty that has been there all along.

I had never looked at my body with such adoration and awe. I had never touched my curves or moved my hips for the sole purpose of my own pleasure.

Sure, I had tried to move in sexy ways during my "sexy times" with a partner. But this was different.


We then moved into my first pole dance lesson, and I learned the firefly spin! Oh boy, was it fun! Yes, it felt awkward and I knew my spin didn't look like the teacher's yet, but I was hooked.

The class eventually ended and a few days later I was on a plane back home to Portland. I instantly tried to find an S Factor teacher in my area but there wasn't one. It wasn't until about four years later that I would find myself in another S Factor class.

My S journey took a pause but my pole dance journey did not. Turns out Portland, Oregon is a city with many options for pole dance studios! After experiencing the beautiful, inviting, and self-empowering world of S Factor, I was eager to continue that journey and be a part of a fun and badass community.

I found several pole dance studios in my area and picked one at random. I was honestly really looking forward to the first class.

I was craving a warm, inviting, atmosphere to continue exploring my sensuality.

Now, don't get me wrong. I loved my pole studio, teachers, and met many wonderful people in my classes. But instead of the intimate atmosphere I desired, I walked into a space covered in mirrors and bright overhead lights, and was led through a sterile warm-up consisting of your typical fitness moves.

I do love the art of pole fitness and how it challenges my body, so I stuck with my classes and quickly moved through each level, gaining in strength and flexibility. I was climbing up and down the pole, doing aerial inverts and prided myself on my strength.

Eventually the time came for my first pole recital.

This is an opportunity for students to choreograph their own dance and invite friends to come watch their performance.

If I haven't said it yet, I'll say it now: I did not grow up dancing. I have zero dance background. I didn't know how to count the beats in music or string together moves. But with the help of my teachers, I put together a piece I was proud of and managed to make it through the nerves of performing.

I continued my pole training for about two years. I performed two recital pieces and performed in Seattle's Pole Sport Organization competition (I placed dead last in my category!)

The final performance I participated in was my studio's annual show. They took on four training company students (newer up-and-coming pole dancers) to add to their company dancers for a two-night production.

I was excited and nervous to be chosen for the training company and to be dancing next to some truly amazing performers! I was thrilled to see myself flourish and grow as a performer.

But the night of the performance came, and during rehearsals I quickly realized I would be performing on poles much thicker than our studio's…

Well, of course, sometimes life dishes out an extra dose of reality and hard lessons. During the performance on the first night, I completely f*cked up my part in front of my friends, fellow students, and other dance company members.

Any other perfectionists out there?

I am already incredibly hard on myself, and the second I didn't complete the trick I wanted to hide in a hole. The worst part is, after the song was over and I went backstage, I was immediately met by our studio director who got up in my face and asked what had happened out there.

No words of encouragement. No stories of times they had experienced failures while performing. Just judgement and disappointment.

I had never felt more terrible about myself. This movement I loved was now the source of so much self-judgement and negativity. I became depressed and stopped attending classes after that performance. I missed the pole, but the fear of another epic failure lingered in my thoughts.

Luckily, this story has a good ending...

Remember my friends, Donald and Brenda? Well, to my delight, they decided to move to Portland! After Brenda settled into her new city, she began offering S Factor classes, and I was the first to sign up.

I know my pole dancing experience isn't everyone's experience, but I often get asked about the difference between S Factor pole class and other more traditional pole classes.

S Factor is the movement of the feminine. It's a safe place to begin the discovery of your own body and reclaim a sensual relationship with it.

In S Factor, it isn't about what your dance looks like, but how it feels. It's about lingering in every ounce of pleasure along the way. It's about witnessing and celebrating your body and curves, as they are. And most of all, it's about seeing the beauty in every feminine body and celebrating your sisters along the way.

I have found my home in S Factor. I have found a place to take up space, to be too much, to allow the "stumbles" or "failures" to be a part of my dance. To be celebrated just as I am.

I couldn't be more thrilled to now be a teacher in this beautiful movement practice. To guide women back to into their bodies, and just reflect the beauty and power of their feminine selves.

I can't wait to see where this journey leads me and am thrilled to share it with you.

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