Against the Odds: Stories of Inspiration from the Pole- Jacqueline
We at United Pole Artists are launching a new series chronicling inspirational stories from pole dancers across the world. For our first story I spoke with Jacqueline Valdez, owner of Elegant Body Pilates in Gainesville, Florida. She is a pole dancer who has faced many obstacles throughout her life. She has lived through several car accidents and experienced the loss of both her parents. She has also recently been diagnosed with Sjogren’s syndrome, an autoimmune disorder in which the glands that produce tears and saliva are destroyed. I interviewed her to learn more about her struggles and how she’s working to move past them.
IM: What is your background in pole and fitness?
JV: My background in fitness actually started in musical theatre. After getting approached at a performance in Denver, Colorado to audition for a dance company is when I moved full force into dance. I professionally toured, performed and choreographed in Modern, African, Jazz, Ballet and lyrical. As I danced professionally I got introduced to Pilates and Yoga. I fell in love with these methods immediately and was a natural. I decided to get certified when I moved to Florida and teach full time. I opened up a studio in Gainesville, Florida called Elegant Body Pilates. It is an elite and all women’s fitness studio that focuses on fun and unique ways of working out. I teach women Pilates, Yoga, Personal Training, Zumba and Piloxing. I recently added Pole Fitness to my curriculum after getting certified with Xpole X-pert under Marlo Fisken and Derick Pierson. Shortly after I made a come back to the dance world after numerous car accidents had stopped my earlier dance career.
IM: How did your first accident injure you? How did you feel emotionally?
JV: My first accident scared me but had not affected me physically. Not too long did I get in another accident. All of which were not my fault by the way! This is when my body had trauma and things became difficult for me. I had intense pain, numbness down my arms, headaches and could not move my upper body at times. I even had to have my mother help me at times get out of bed and drive me around. On some days I had to go to the pt, acupuncturist and chiropractor just to get moving. At one point the Neurologist informed me I would have to give up my dream of ever dancing again and would have to drastically cut down on my fitness activity. I was devastated by this news and was miserable. I was tired of being in pain, being stiff and having headaches all the time. I almost gave up but after seeing the struggles my mother went through having the disease Scleroderma and watching the fight she gave I decided to pick myself up and change things around.
IM: How did you rehabilitate yourself after this? Did you use pole? If so, how?
JV: I decided to rehabilitate myself through safe and effective exercises such as Pilates and Yoga. Once things were getting better for me I decided to take on pole fitness. Pole fitness helped me to get even stronger and more flexible. With pole I have made a strong comeback to the dance world and have even had the opportunity to create Infusion Remax -A collaboration of a ballet pole dancer with a live opera singer. This unique collaboration has made world ballet news and history in the pole industry. Unfortunately, recent discoveries have led me to find out that I have Sjogren’s Disease.
IM: Through all your struggles and setbacks what keeps you going and positive?
JV: With all my struggles and setbacks it has been difficult to keep going but I take it one day at a time. I work very hard on living a healthy lifestyle. I enjoy helping others and focusing on my studio. My ladies mean everything to me and inspire me everyday. I also think about both my parents who struggled with diseases and remained strong and brave until the end. That helps me to stay strong and focused. My mother stressed the importance of staying positive and I remind myself that everyday. I am so fortunate to be moving again and it is a miracle that I am dancing again. I am enjoying every moment and allowing the dancing help to heal my spirit.
IM: What about pole dancing makes you think it has a unique ability to heal?
JV: Pole dancing is very unique and very healing. For me when I am pole dancing I am carried away in the moment; can I climb up the pole, can I get this certain move, what song will I dance to, what will I choreograph next, what will my costume be and how can I move the audience. It is mentally, physically and spiritually challenging and healing for me. I love creating new pieces of work that others I hope will enjoy. I also teach pole and seeing the growth with my students, their weight loss and their confidence grow is very rewarding and warms my heart. I am a very proud pole mama.
IM: How did you feel about coming into pole dancing at 40? Was it intimidating?
JV: I am an older pole dancer and it is difficult. It was intimidating in the start. When I competed professionally I had only pole danced for 6 months and at that time I had been primarily self-taught. When I entered the competition I was close to being a mature competitor. I am fighting age, accidents and Sjogren’s. I will not let any of the three define me. I step back and do not look at my age. I do what I can and train how my body allows me to. I am thankful to god for allowing me to dance again. I do wish I started pole dancing at a younger age. There is so much time I lost on a sport that so much fun and so rewarding.
IM: Anything else you would like to add?
JV: My biggest words of advice are to stay hopeful and positive. Always follow your dream and passion at all costs. I hope that I can let others become aware of a disease that sadly not much is known about. You do not have to be labeled by an illness or handicap you may have. I also hope to spread to others what pole fitness can be and to take away the stigma of what most think of pole dancing to be. I hope that Infusion Remax will continue to create new pieces and we will get the opportunity to travel and perform. I want to be an inspiration to others. I am more determined than ever to continue my passion for dance and helping others. I am excited for my journey ahead. Watch out world!
To learn more about Jacqueline you can visit her website at http://elegantjacqueline.wix.com/jacquelinevaldez#