Aerial Dance Society creates body-positive environment for members

Members use pole, lyra, silks for various moves; dancers go beyond skills learned in Pole Fit classes



ADS treasurer Stasia Kulsa practices a move on the pole, one of three apparatuses members use for aerial dance moves.

ALEX MCCOLLUM, Multimedia editor

WSU’s Aerial Dance Society provides an alternative workout for students who may not enjoy a typical gym environment with weightlifting and cardio machines. 

Instead, ADS members use three different apparatuses and learn dance moves to get a full-body workout, ADS vice president Madison Fleek said.

The three apparatuses are the pole, lyra and silks, Fleek said. The pole is a rotating metal pole that dancers climb on, while the lyra is a hoop they are suspended from. The silks are fifteen-foot-long hanging pieces of fabric.

ADS members focus on safety in all their routines, she said. Dancers are taught all the steps leading up to new moves, as well as how to secure themselves on the apparatuses and how to walk properly.

Fleek, a senior animal management major, joined the ADS shortly after she transferred to WSU. She noticed the poles set up at the Chinook Student Center on an Experience WSU tour and signed up for a Pole Fit class as soon as the semester started, she said.

During class, Fleek’s instructor mentioned the ADS meets for practice every Saturday. 

“I’m like, ‘I have nothing else to do this Saturday, so let’s try it out,’ and I immediately fell in love with it,” Fleek said.

Practices with the ADS allow for more experimentation and for participants to try more moves than a typical Pole Fit class allows, Fleek said. Pole classes teach a lot of individual and basic movement, while the ADS is about putting those moves together. Dancers learn higher-level moves and try moves prohibited in a regular pole class.

In pre-pandemic school years, ADS members showcased their talent during Mom’s Weekend and other events. Over the summer, the ADS showed off a few dancers in an event called Fridays at the Clock with the WSU School of Music, ADS treasurer Stasia Kulsa said.

Kulsa’s interest in the silks and lyra drew her to the ADS, she said, but the supportive environment is another benefit of being with the group. Kulsa also began with the Chinook’s Pole Fit classes.

“I’ve had a lot of friends in the club, and I think it’s just, everybody’s been so welcoming and almost ridiculously supportive,” she said.        

ADS president Makayla “Mak” Murphy also feels the ADS’s positive atmosphere. 

“I feel like I’m a part of it even when we’re not meeting,” they said.

Murphy comes from a background in aerial dance, as they danced throughout their youth and spent three years in a cirque in Alaska, they said. They also instruct Pole Fit classes and have taught other dance-related fitness classes through University Recreation.

The group tries to create a body-positive and movement-positive environment, Murphy said. 

The pole requires more skin contact, which makes some newcomers unsure of what clothing they should wear. The ADS wants to be a place where people do not feel restricted to wear certain clothing, they said.

Film and television also tend to depict aerial dance, primarily the pole, in a sexual manner, Kulsa said. There are many other styles of aerial dance, like comedy or lyrical. 

“It would be nice if more people joined and more people tried it and realized that strippers and Hollywood are not the only thing that pole is,” she said.

One of the ADS’s goals for this year is to revive some membership, Kulsa said. The pandemic, coupled with graduating seniors, reduced the group’s numbers. 

The group met for practice during the spring, but they were limited to 10 people at a time, Kulsa said.

The ADS will meet for practice 12-2 p.m. on Saturdays at Chinook Room 30, Fleek said. Dancers are required to sign a safety waiver before they can participate.

Dancers also pay $30 per semester to be part of the ADS, Murphy said. However, if they are unsure about joining the group, they can pay $5 per practice until they pay $30 in total.

If pandemic restrictions allow, those interested can show up to an ADS practice and try out some beginner tricks and moves, Fleek said. All students, regardless of gender or aerial dance background, are welcome to join the club.

ADS officers can be reached through their Facebook page, Instagram and on Coug Presence, Fleek said.