A lot of you reading this will be very familiar with London Dance Academy. The current teachers, our studios, our timetable and our pole dance levels. (Addict Members, we see you!) However, many of you probably don’t know the history of the wild ride it’s been to get here. Over 15 year’s has flown by for us. The pole dance and aerial landscape in London looked very different in back in 2005.
In celebration of this achievement, we decided to ask one of the founders, Melissa a few questions about the history of London Dance Academy.
Why did you decide to start up London Dance Academy?
I had first tried out pole dancing in a club with my friend Alexe and fell in love. I already had a dance and teaching background so quickly saw the opportunity to start introducing pole to others. In the beginning we started as LAP (London Academy of Poledancing). Our first venue was upstairs in our mates biker bar in Camden, we then began teaching in other clubs and bars.
We could see how great pole was for our students strength and fitness, so we started selling it as classes at gyms. We found success at the likes of LA Fitness, David Lloyd and Virgin Active. It was frustrating to not be able to quality control external venues. I wanted our students to feel confident and inspired. I eventually found a neglected old basement in a quirky unfashionable part of EC1 and invested everything I had in the London Dance Academy. It was affordable back then and the space was in such a state that we got it for a bargain before the area changed and the rents went up.
What were some of the reactions you got in those early days when trying to popularise pole dancing?
There were plenty of good reactions; people were really curious about the classes and loved what we did. I also met some of my good friends in those days; they discovered pole for the first time by seeing us training at their local gym and got involved. Unfortunately, we also had our fair share of people thinking we were strippers and judging accordingly. We did teach some of the girls from the big strip clubs too, but there’s nothing wrong with that. We couldn’t control the level of privacy in external venues so we’d get people watching us through the windows. Back in those days, people didn’t know about pole as a sport, so were surprised to see some of our high heeled athletic antics!
What was pole like in those early days compared to now? How have the classes evolved from then until today?
Pole Dancing is much more sporty – tricks and technique based now – there’s new athletic moves being invented all the time. When I started, a basic handspring was seen as one of the most advanced moves you could do. However we have recently seen the Classique and Exotic styles making a comeback – it always does eventually! It’s a wonderful way to feel confident and take hold of your own sexuality. For me we have many facets to our personalities. We let everyone who walks through our doors be who they want to be with no judgment.
At what point did you start to include some of the other more unusual classes on top of pole?
We started stretch and burlesque in 2006, aerial hoop, silks and yoga in 2010, and lap dance and twerk in 2013. We are still very proud to have been the first studio and gym to offer AntiGravity Yoga in the UK! They are all complementary styles so it makes sense to have them all together in one place. I believe in thinking outside of the box and asking our students what they would actually like. Being constantly creative with ideas, like my signature class Splits Therapy, helps us to stand out as a studio. And of course our family feel. We recruited some of the studio’s best known teachers like Sophie, Hannah and Ayesha in the very early days. And we’re very happy they’ve stayed with us since.
How big was London Dance Academy when it started and how big is it now?
After starting upstairs in a rock biker bar in Camden teaching small groups, we progressed to having classes at big gyms and clubs all over London. Some venues we had 3 – 4 times a week with parties on Saturdays, usually with 10 -14 in a class. Now we offer about 200 classes per week with 6 – 14 pr class on average depending on the studio.
Could you pick out any of your proudest London Dance Academy related achievements to date?
Still feeling the fire after all these years. The journey continues to amaze me. Remaining at our studio after the rent went up 400% has to be my proudest achievement.
Being an independent dance school and promoting the importance of these traditional institutions is so important. We don’t want the Arts to disappear.
The City of London invited me to close the speeches at a Culture and Arts event at the Guildhall. We have managed to put Pole dance on the map. When the Arts Council of one of the world’s greatest cities takes you seriously, we are proud of what we have achieved. I am truly blessed by the supportive and inspiring people in my life.
How would you like the studio to develop in the future?
It would be great to have even more London Dance Academy locations to teach more classes. We want more people to be able to enjoy our classes more conveniently to where they live and work, I am accepting invitations to teach more workshops and retreats internationally to introduce our style to other people and schools. I would like to invite people from all over the world to visit us. And unite with other pole and dance schools around the world to keep dance independent, be a part of the history of London Dance Academy.