Against the Odds: Stories of Inspiration from the Pole – Amanda
The next featured dancer in our series of inspirational stories is Amanda Topchik, a self-taught pole dancer who has seen major improvements in her body and self image since taking up pole dancing. She spoke with UPA about how she learned to dance, Glow Burlesque (a pole-infused show), obstacles she’s had to push past and what motivates her to keep dancing.
IM: What was growing up like for you? You mentioned you were in special education classes as a child.
AT: I was always different as a child, I would break out in song or draw all over my work. In first grade action was taken. I refused to pay attention to the teacher and would do my own thing. It came down to Ritalin or special ed classes. My mom refused to stick me on medications so there I was stuck in a small class with students that actually needed to be in the class. Some had learning disabilities and some were mentally handicapped. I was confused and upset I missed a regular class and worked very hard to get back into the class… Kids can be so mean and I didn’t understand what was wrong with me. Although I was put back in a mainstream class in 5th grade it basically haunted me till I moved to NJ at 14.
IM: When did you start pole dancing? What were some of your first moves you ever did?
AT: The first move I learned was the fireman of course! I then taught myself other spins like the showgirl and chair. I also taught myself some basic filler moves that were cute and sexy and to climb.
IM: You said your first pole was from Spencer’s. Those are pretty dangerous aren’t they?
AT: I had some close calls and realized I could only spin in one direction. One night I took it to a party and it finally broke! I fell and had a huge bruise on my butt! I even signed an online petition to get rid of them. My boyfriend’s frat thought it would be cool to buy me a pole for their house and when they showed me it was the pole in the box I told them I wouldn’t touch that evil piece of metal even if my life depended on it!
IM: Who did you watch on YouTube? How did they inspire you?
AT: First I was just typing in pole dance and watching random girls play around on their home poles. Then I discovered the world of competitive pole dancing. I started watching Jenyne Butterfly, Felix Cane and Zoraya Judd to name a few. I always loved Felix’s fluidity she moves like a spider! Jenyne is just amazing words can’t describe her. Out of all the amazing dancers out there Zoraya is my ultimate pole crush! I love her tribal feel and the way she moves and dresses. In one of my latest performances my friends even told me it was quite Zoraya like from the moves to the outfit and makeup. It made my day! All the pole dancers I see basically inspire me in some way I love how different everyone is. Pole dancing is literally an art form.
IM: When did you decide to share your skills with an audience? What was that experience like?
AT: The first time I really shared my skills was at a bar called Hell’s Kitchen in Newark NJ. I was so excited to dance but was limited to what I could do since the pole was literally in the middle of the floor! My first real experience was at a NJ pole competition in Vernon NJ. Two of my good friends came to support me and I was feeling really good. Half the girls were actual strippers and wore their little g strings and outfits! I looked so conservative in my bikini top and boy shorts but I did my best and came in 3rd for the advanced round. It was a learning experience and I can only get better.
IM: Your show sounds awesome! How was this concept created? How has it been received by audiences?
AT: The concept was created by my good friend Felicia. We met at a modeling gig and quickly became friends when we realized we were both performers. Both of us think collaboration of different types of dance and performances work well together. She then decided to create a show called Glow Burlesque which was held the first week of January at NYC’s RBar. The bar loved the show so much they decided to make it a monthly show. The first Tuesday of the month you can watch myself and some great burlesque performers dazzle the audience in black light glowing attire. The audience loves our show as we are very interactive with games and prizes. It seems every month we get more of an audience and I get covered in more and more black light paint. I feel so alive up there making the crowd go wild!
IM: How has pole helped you heal? Why do you think it’s unique and powerful in its healing abilities?
AT: Pole has helped me heal in many ways. Not only was I struggling to socialize as a child but I was also out of shape. I was not obese by any means but I could stand to lose some weight. I was not athletic whatsoever and was embarrassed when we had to do those physical fitness tests. I lost some weight in my late teens but I was not where I wanted to be. Mentally I got stronger as I finally made friends but there was still something missing. Pole dancing filled those holes. It was great every month I would notice my body looked different. I was getting fit and toned, I could stand up a little taller. Because I looked great I felt great. My confidence went sky rocket and every task I did whether it was at school or at work I did better. People even noticed and asked me what I have been doing. I would just smile and say pole dance. Some people look at me funny until I show them a video and they understand how pole has healed me. Without my pole I think I would crumble to the ground. It is my everything. It’s the best pick me up when I have a bad day or I need some inspiration. I started out as a fine artist with paints and pencils now my body is the paint and the pole is my canvas. My performances are created with lots of emotion. I feel the ones that are created when I am stressed out about something are my most powerful.
IM: What advice do you have for anyone who is going through a difficult time?
AT: Get on a pole and swing! Move around blast the music till you can’t dance anymore. The bad energy will leave you! That is usually my advice. If a pole is not available or it is just not your thing then I say yoga and centering yourself is the next best thing. I still have my moments of breakdowns, depressions and anxiety. The pole really helps as I can get everything out physically without hurting myself (except for bruises and soreness). And just talk it out someone is always there to listen no matter how ridiculous the cause is.
IM: Anything I didn’t bring up that you would like to add?
AT: Be yourself and push through your struggles. I love to hear success stories as much as I love to tell mine. With everything I have accomplished in the 4 years of pole dancing I hope to continue performing and find the opportunity to travel the world.