Never Give Up
Interview of Nicki by Sara Schreiber
Nicki struggles with comparing herself. “I have a really competitive personality,” she says. “In class sometimes, I’ll see someone doing something awesome and I’ll be like, ‘They’re at the same level as me; I should be able to do that.’…I have to constantly remind myself everyone has their own journey and everyone has a different background.”
Nicki started her pole journey six months before the COVID-19 pandemic struck the United States. The competition she had been training for—her first—was cancelled. Nicki wasted no time getting a pole set up in her apartment and putting up mirrors for her own little home studio, but the shutdowns weren’t her last roadblock on her pole journey.
At first she felt too new to the sport to compete, but a little push was all she needed. “Until I was eleven I was in pageants,” Nicki says, “so I was used to doing things, to be honest with you, that I wasn’t very good at in front of a crowd.” What did make her nervous was the lack of a mirror on stage. “I don’t even know if I can do this routine without looking at myself,” she says, but she’s looking forward to competing. One of Nicki’s goals is to choreograph an entire routine herself and place in competition.
Lately, Nicki’s been training her floor work skills and flexibility. “I’m working on Jade,” she says. “I can do it, but it looks ridiculous because my legs are like scissors.” She was actively training her splits for around a month and then she tore a hamstring. “I was trying to do a Reiko,” Nicki says. “As I let go, the pressure was too much for my hamstrings… I felt it and heard it.” She went through the rest of class gently and afterward went to a salsa lesson with her partner. Afterward, her leg was so stiff she couldn’t walk on it. She was out of commission for two months. A few weeks ago, she tried Reiko again and strained her other hamstring. “I feel like it always happens when I’m trying to get bendy and stretchy,” she says. In the meantime, she has learned that good angles can do a lot to imply flexibility.
At first, inverts caused back pain for Nicki. “I ended up being this person who…instead of coming out slowly, I would slide all the way down the pole because my back couldn’t handle it,” she says.
Her hard work to overcome this issue paid off and she’s thrilled to have built enough strength to trust herself in an aerial invert. “My biggest accomplishment tricks-wise is being able to aerial invert,” she says.
As a five-foot-nine woman, eight feet of pole makes it tough to train aerial inverts at home. “If I go upside down, I’m going to kick the ceiling. Then to wear heels in here!” she says. Nicki worries her form is suffering. “I’m trying to stay lower, whereas at the studio, you’re climbing, you’re reaching, and you’re stretching out. You’re not conscious of ‘I can’t go there because I’m going to hit the ceiling.’”
Despite the challenges, Nicki has begun her journey to a long-term goal: “I want to open my own studio.” Over the winter, she earned her certification to teach beginner spin pole. Nicki tells anyone considering pole, “Just go try it. You don’t have to show up in a thong and Pleasers. You can go to class in your shorts and your sports bra and your tank top. You can still…learn how to do really cool shit and get stronger.” Nicki sees pole as something bigger than an athletic endeavor:
“Being around the amazing women that go to these classes is really inspiring and therapeutic. It’s been great for me. I don’t think I’ll ever give up pole.”
You can find Nicki on Instagram: @nicki.poles