If you're yet to discover the joy of mastering tricks on a pole, it's never been a better time to get to know Sam Fontani.
Winner of The Great British Pole Dancing Championships, and one of our fabulous Pole Tricks Instructors, Sam has been busy celebrating and reflecting on her career so far...
Our blogger Kat caught up with our champ to talk all things competition, assumptions and what's next for her...
When did you start teaching pole at Gymbox and how did that come about
I started to teach pole at Gymbox last summer after completing my certification. I was already a certified PT and flexibility coach but my biggest goal has always been to teach pole!
When I heard there were auditions for a pole cover teacher role at Gymbox, I applied and my dreams came true! A few months later, both Ealing and Westfield branches were looking for a pole Instructor so (thanks to Cheryl Teagann and the Gymbox Team, who believed in me and my potential) I permanently took over the classes in the West London branches of Gymbox. I’m forever grateful!
Pole dancing has definitely become more mainstream over the last decade. When did you start your journey as a pole dancer and what made you decide to give it a go?
I actually started pole dancing in August 2019, right here as a member of Gymbox! So a big “thank you” to Gymbox for making me who I am today!
Gymbox gave me my first taste of pole dancing and then my obsession got bigger and bigger. A month before lockdown, I bought a home pole. It ended up being a perfect time to practice (not great for many other things, unfortunately) and I have been doing pole day and night over the various lockdowns.
I have had the opportunity to train online with famous and great pole dancers around the world. It was in February 2020 that I met my coach Iliana Ciccarello, who made me the instructor and the pole artist I am today.
Pole is like oxygen to me - I can't live without it! It became part of me since day one and has changed my entire life. I went from working in high luxury hospitality management to being a full time pole instructor and Bsc Sports & Dance therapy student!
You recently won the British Pole Championships, congratulations! That’s an amazing achievement. What was your competition experience like and how did it feel to come away the winner?
Thank you! The Great British Pole Championships was my very first live, pro competition.
When we do comps, we need to tell a story on the stage, any story that the pole dancer is inspired by. I was inspired by Roman Mythology and so I chose to create a performance based on the story of the Goddess Diana.
It was such an honour to play the role of Diana, who was the goddess of wild animals and the hunt. Creating this routine was all about capturing her fierceness, strength & resilience, as well as desperation and the grief for a lost love.
Back in December, I had a lat Injury and then Covid hit me hard for a month. I thought I wouldn't make it through to the competition. Building up choreo in certain circumstances was hard and challenging, but I never gave up!
January was the hardest and most satisfying month of this year so far: I passed the last semester of university assessments with all A’s (yay!), built up my competition routine and taught classes and private sessions. Being on stage and telling Diana's story to the audience was already a big win for me, but in the end everything paid off even more when I won that gold medal!
There were amazing and talented pole dancers from all over Great Britain in the competition and it was great to meet them. I am also so grateful to have been a finalist, then a winner, at such an amazing event.
Do you have any other competitions on the horizon?
Yes, I do! I guess when you start competing, you always want to apply for more, even if it's hard work [laughs]. It's never enough!
I'm currently preparing for POSA nationals in Italy (Pole Sports & Arts World Federation). Italy is my home country and I am excited to perform at home for the very first time. I am totally going out of my comfort zone here, because although I still have to build an artistic routine, I must include my chosen flexibility, strength, acro-dynamics and spinning codified elements to get the best overall score, just like in gymnastics. Pole is definitely a mix of dance and gymnastics technique!
During your time as a pole dancer, have you encountered many false assumptions about the sport and if so, what were they?
Oh yes, especially in the beginning of my pole journey, but throughout my pole career too!
When I started to do pole two and half years ago, I was a beginner (and yes, everyone’s a beginner at some point!) so my lines and my technique weren’t there yet, but I always posted my pole journey through social media. For me, hanging upside down was always a big achievement and I was proud to share it to inspire others to start pole.
Most of my friends and ex-colleagues told me things like "what are you posting on social media? Why do you do this "stripper thing?” I never agreed with their thoughts. I was also upset by these judgements towards me as an athlete and the stripper world! I have nothing against strippers. Actually, we have a lot to thank them for as they developed so many tricks and techniques in this sport/art.
People who don't know what's behind this sport think you just hang on a pole and swing around by doing some dancing moves - ha, that would be so easy, right?! Just try everything on 8 inch heels, then I could probably accept your judgment [laughs].
In reality, pole is pure art and open to everyone who is creative. It's a complete sport, combined with the basics of dance, and requires a lot of hard work, sweat, endless hours of training (if you're competing or performing especially), determination and consistency, and so much more!
I'm happy that I am now surrounded by incredible friends that support me and that a few of them also became my students!
What have been some of the biggest benefits you have experienced from training in pole?
I have received both physical and mental benefits. I have gotten stronger and built up my confidence as a woman and as an artist. I have learnt how to be patient and believe in my potential, as well as how to listen to my body and take care of it.
I have also met wonderful people who have become friends for life. Pole is definitely the best therapy ever!
What can people expect from your pole classes at Gymbox?
Teaching is my vocation and although I'm a very serious teacher when it comes to pole technique, exits and entries of a trick, and am quite demanding on the warm up (safety first!) you can expect so much fun and a great community of people who become "pole friends" and who support each other.
I also want to make it clear that Pole Tricks is open to men! So many times men have stopped me in the gym and asked me if they can book the Pole Tricks class. Yes! You all can book in and we want you there. I can teach you some badass tricks like the human flag.
I also support every woman who wants to increase her self-confidence through pole because I have been there too. Pole completely changed my life for the better and you could be next!