Covid-19 has made this year a tough one for every community and industry. And, unfortunately, the pole community and industry being no exception. In part one of this series we spoke with Colleen Jolly, owner of Pole Con, performer, and pole instructor; Dakota Fox, co-owner and instructor of Aradia Fitness; Natalya Nightshade, owner of Nightshade Designs, founder of the Nocturnelle Pole Show, and pole instructor at BrandiLand Studios on their views on how the covid-19 pandemic has affected the pole industry and them personally. Here in part two, I asked our interviewees in what ways they have adapted to ease the strain covid-19 has placed on the pole community.
Colleen Jolly: “The studios that I primarily teach at, pivoted to Zoom immediately when our states (I teach in two different states) closed gyms. We had discussed this as an option when it was clear that businesses were going to be asked to close. In the weeks before the shutdowns happened, we did see a drop off in in person classes as people were getting scared or at least starting to be cautious. Class sizes have shrunk, and the studios are catering just to members rather than a mix of members, drop ins, Groupons, ClassPass holders and private parties. So far, both studios are still viable and intend to reopen.
For PoleCon, I’m continually watching the news to see when it will be clear if August can happen or if I’ll have to reschedule. If I have to reschedule again, it will be for June 2021 (UPDATE, In-Person PoleCon has been rescheduled). I’m contractually obligated to be at the Sheraton New Orleans and fortunately they have been very easy to work with. The hotel and travel industries are suffering a lot right now too which makes them easier to work with. I’m also looking at virtual options which I’ve warmed to over the past few months (UPDATE, there is now a Virtual PoleCon scheduled for October 17,2020) . Remote teaching and Zoom-type connections do not replace in-person experiences but at a time when we are all craving interactions with our tribe, it may be an acceptable replacement. For now, at PoleCon, we’ve been focusing on asking people to help exhibitors and workshop leaders while sharing mostly older memories on our social media. We’ve done very light direct sales marketing (such as “buy this workshop!”) as compared to our usual. I want to also be very sensitive that a lot of people have lost their jobs and PoleCon is a luxury expense. I’ve also been posting a lot of “talking head” videos of myself explaining changes as they happen. I’m not super comfortable with that but many people have told me they appreciate the information and the format so I’ll likely continue even though I’m rarely “camera-ready” anymore at home!”
Colleen shares a situation many of us have become familiar with; the lack of in-person interactions are definitely not the same. But virtual classes are most certainly welcomed when compared to the alternative of no classes at all. Like Colleen, Dakota has also implemented streaming classes as a way to provide students with access to their pole community.
Dakota Fox: “I was monitoring the coronavirus event from pretty early on – I tend to be a “worst case scenario” type of thinking at times (haha). After sitting down with my business partner in February, we began researching & making contingency plans for *if* we had to modify studio operations OR close down completely. I launched Aradia Fitness USA Online on March 16, already pre-loaded with a dozen on-demand classes for clients (old & new). We’ve been adding dozens of new classes from pole, fitness, yoga, conditioning and more every month since then as well as virtual personal training and pole lessons by request.
Once more was known about the virus and our state began easing outdoor gathering restrictions, we began offering small group training classes outdoors in June – often live-streaming these classes as well. That same month, we also slid livestream pole into the schedule once more of our client base had their at-home poles ready to go. Although many studios may already be offering in-studio group classes as a regular schedule again, I personally don’t feel quite comfortable for that, yet, based on the rising infection trends since states have been re-opening. The health & safety of my staff and our clients is most important, above all else.”
Dakota’s cautiousness, and adaptability to online classes are appreciated traits for many in the pole community, as staying healthy is top concern for us pole dancers. Though it’s not just pole classes that have taken to online platforms as Natalya shared with us.
Natalya Nightshade: “The only two adaptations have been teaching online via Zoom and hosting a virtual iteration of Nocturnelle, both of which have been wonderful experiences. Outside of that, I’m just taking everything a day at a time and accepting that a lot of things are outside of my control right now.”
We can see that streaming has become very popular and helpful in keeping the pole community strong and interactive. This adaptations is definitely needed but I think I can safely say that we all miss seeing our pole friends and instructors in person. But perhaps as we continue to adjust to these new times we can make new pole friends and take classes from across the country; something that we otherwise might not be able to. In the third part of our series we will discuss with Colleen, Dakota, and Natalya on their predictions for the pole industry as states begin to ease restrictions and businesses begin to start again. Until next time, stay safe and keep poling!