We have the details of her journey from the very beginning until today and we are beyond excited to share her story with you!
Havok, what brought you to Miss Fit Academy for the first time? Did you have any prior experience?
I came to Miss Fit Academy with NO prior experience, just the deep desire to learn pole. I'd been watching Michelle Shimmy and Maddie Sparkle on YouTube for months before I got up the courage to search for classes near me and sign up. I'd done yoga before and I was a cheerleader growing up but I had no dance experience before that (except when I did ballet from age 3-6, duh). Everyone at Miss Fit was super nice and even though I couldn't come very often at first, I really enjoyed it (and obviously still do!)
What practices do you find most effective to cross-train/condition when outside the studio?
Freestyle dancing (especially floorwork), calisthenics, and YOGA. This combination helps with strength, balance, flexibility, focus, and most importantly, INSPIRATION. I cannot stress enough that it doesn't matter how much of a flexy bendy beast you are if you are so burned out that you don't want to dance. But yoga has been the best addition to my practice because it's such an all-inclusive program that hits everything -- strength, balance, flexibility, and focus. And it leaves you with that weird soreness that aerial/pole does -- you know, the one where you didn't know you had a muscle there but now you can't lay down without groaning. That's good stuff.
the acceptance and encouragement from my fellow dancers have played a huge role in allowing me to accept myself and to push through those moments to progress and, eventually, success.
What scared you the most when you started your pole/aerial journey?
I had two huge fears starting this journey: 1. that I would be the biggest person in every class and 2. that I would look and/or BE clumsy/stupid/weak/overall terrible. I was very nervous about dancing in front of people at the beginning of my journey and wouldn't take pics or video myself because I was so scared of looking stupid, which I really regret now. I have definitely been the biggest person in the class (and still am in some classes) and I've definitely looked weak or clumsy or terrible but the acceptance and encouragement from my fellow dancers have played a huge role in allowing me to accept myself and to push through those moments to progress and, eventually, success.
How did you push through any intimidation/fear you may have experienced?
So many of the fears I've experienced in pole/aerial have been overcome by sheer peer pressure/encouragement. Having teachers that are willing to baby you through an entire move and having fellow students who are there to talk you through it and cheer you on make all the difference in the world. It took me two years to get up the GUTS to do a 360 drop in silks but Grace's willingness to stand there and spot me through the whole move and Kaitlin's consistent pressure/encouragement ("Come on. It's time to do this, Ashleigh.") were things that I NEEDED to get me to face my fear. Doing that drop was definitely one of the proudest moments of my aerial journey and I think about it often when I come to a new move that I'm nervous about.
Everyone is scared and nervous at first so just recognize it, acknowledge it, and move past it.
What move (pole or aerial) has been your favorite and most satisfying to achieve?
Oh man! My most satisfying achievements have to be broken down by apparatus:
In pole, definitely my handspring. It's such a watershed moment in your pole journey because you can just DO that. FROM THE GROUND (and eventually from the air). The best part is that I worked on it for so long, then totally abandoned it for a while, so it was a huge surprise when I just popped out 10 handsprings one day in Pole 4. The next class I got my pencil and the class after that I got my jackknife. It's just so incredible to see your strength progress like that.
In silks, it's the 360 drop, mostly because it took so long for me to get over my fear. I'm currently working on windmills and then I'm sure those will be my favorite (they're literally the move I saw that made me want to try silks) but, as it stands right now, I'm just so proud that I can and WILL do that 360 that it holds a special place in my heart.
In hoop, it's the meathook. Again, I struggled and struggled with meathooks and have finally developed the strength to hold them. They're still not perfect and I'm definitely better on my dominant side but it's so satisfying to work hard on something for a long time and to finally achieve it. Feels really good.
And I can't forget my floorwork! I recently got my fish flop and YES YES YES. So proud of myself and so thankful for the tireless patience of MissPole Tricksee for walking me through all the steps to make that a success. Hard to imagine that something called a "fish flop" would be so technical but it REALLY is.
Any advice for newcomers?
I have SO MUCH advice for newcomers!
1. SHOW UP. I know it's scary and new but COME IN, be willing to look dumb, and just relax. The worst thing you can do is come in and be too scared to have fun. Feel that fear for sure, then shake it off and let yourself go. Everyone is scared and nervous at first so just recognize it, acknowledge it, and move past it.
2. VIDEO YOURSELF. Seriously, that's why we all have high-quality cameras in our phones. Videoing yourself lets you see all the little things you might be doing wrong so you can perfect your form or figure out why you just can't seem to nail that move. It also gives you a very real reference point to see how far you've come!
4. BE YOURSELF. Lots of people come in wanting to be a specific dancer -- I know I wanted to be Michelle Shimmy when I first started (and still kind of do TBH) -- but who you are as a dancer is incredibly unique. If you spend all your time trying to be someone else, your dancing becomes very frustrating. Let yourself play, discover your style and your flow, and then run with that. Definitely try different things (I loved the Heidi Coker workshop I took even though her dance style is completely different from mine) but, at the end of the day, your practice will be so much more rewarding if you give yourself the freedom to be the dancer you are.
5. TAKE TIME TO FLOW. Everyone wants to nail tricks, sure, but I've found more delight in flow than I ever have in drilling tricks. Flow lets you play and gives you that meditative release to really explore your own movements. I've even hit moves I'd been working on for weeks during flow, just because I wasn't overthinking them! Flow keeps you deep in love with dance, so be sure to make time for it!