Name: Jacqueline Valdez
School or Club: Elegant Body Pilates with Jacqueline Valdez
Location: Gainesville, Florida
Signature Move: Superman (I call it Supergirl)!
Favourite Song: Nuttin But Strings – Broken Sorrow
Splits or No Splits: Always splits – I love them.
P2P: How did you find pole dance, or did it find you?
JV: Pole dance found me. I went to a fitness workshop in 2005 where I tried my first pole class and fell in love with it. I had wanted to pursue pole dance further but when I returned home I got so busy with other stuff, I put it on the backburner. Then in 2010 one of my Pilate’s students informed me of a pole class. She wanted me to start taking classes so I could begin to teach it to others. She felt I could bring proper form and grace to future pole students of Gainesville.
P2P: Who taught you, or how did you learn?
JV: I took a few classes, but mostly I was self- taught. After I professionally competed in 2012 I began my training with some of the best in the business. I also decided at that time to get certified with Marlo Fisken, so I may teach others in a safe and effective manner.
P2P: How did you think and feel back then, being a newbie?
JV: I was a little shy and intimidated in the beginning. I definitely became aware of how weak and inflexible I was in the pole world. But, it was exciting to see myself progress each week. I fell in love with pole dance immediately.
P2P: And now?
JV: I have more confidence in myself now than when I first started pole dancing. I have gained strength, confidence and flexibility. I still have a long way to go. I am amazed at how fun pole dancing is, even with all its challenges.
P2P: Where/who do you get your inspiration from?
JV: I get my inspiration from my parents whom have passed. They went through a lot of hard times in their life through life struggles and illnesses. They inspire me to be a better person, push myself, not give up and to inspire others. I made a goal to not give up on my dream of dancing and that I would make a comeback one day. I had to give up dancing for a long period of time due to accidents. There was one point when I needed help getting out of bed and I was told I would never dance again and I might even be paralyzed in my upper body. I work hard to help others and inspire those around me.
P2P: Describe your dancing style in one sentence.
JV: My unique style is that I am a ballet and lyrical pole dancer. My main focus is on dancing, then adding pole on top.
P2P: What training regimes/diets do you have?
JV: I train daily in some sort of way. I run a fitness studio in Gainesville – Elegant Body Pilates where I teach Zumba, Pilates, Piloxing, Yoga, Burlesque and Pole. I also live a healthy lifestyle – I do not drink, smoke or eat meat. I go back and forth being a vegan and vegetarian.
P2P: How often do you pole, and how long for?
JV: At the start I poled about 3-4 times a week at 4 hours each time. Now, I pole about 2-3 times a week and I usually only pole for about an hour. I recently discovered I have Sjogren’s disease. This prevents me from training as hard as I would like to. I just do it long enough to get a good workout in and to work on new trick and spins. I want to be able to do the things I teach my students.
P2P: What are the main fitness benefits of pole dancing and how has pole dancing improved your fitness, strength or body shape?
JV: Pole dancing will work the body from head to toe. Pole will increase your stamina, strength, core, flexibility, endurance and coordination. On top of that your sexuality and confidence! Pole dancing has pushed my fitness to a whole new level. I have not felt as empowered as I do now. The last time I felt this way was when I was 17 and danced professionally. Pole has also added to my rehabilitation from past car accident injuries. I plan to continue pole dancing until I am way into my 60’s.
P2P: What are your thoughts and opinions about the industry and pole being more main stream now?
JV: I hope the industry continues to grow and the stigma of pole dancing fades away. It is a welcoming industry with some incredibly talented individuals. It is sad that in 2013 some people still see pole dancing as only getting naked and shaking around. There is so much strength, flexibility, grace and technique that pole takes.
P2P: How have things changed?
JV: Pole has changed in the industry with respected competitions and events being held all over the world. Many gyms are starting to become interested in the unique workout it entails. Pole has changed me by giving me many opportunities to shine and has opened a lot of doors for me.
P2P: Do you feel that the names of pole dance moves should be the same across the world?
JV: Yes, I do feel pole dance should have a universal vocabulary for pole moves. It can be confusing to new students when they come in after watching YouTube videos or from other studios. However, it seems to be improving from when I first started and that was not too long ago.
P2P: How do you feel about students learning from YouTube videos?
JV: I worry about it when people learn from YouTube videos. I understand the excitement of learning new things and people’s eagerness to go upside down. But at the same time I worry about safety and technique of individuals. A lot of new girls get hurt when playing on their pole at home watching videos. In many of the videos out there, the moves are not done accurately. If you do home lessons, pay to do so from a professional online site. I believe in the longevity of being able to do a sport you enjoy. I always encourage others to take classes from a professional and certified instructor.
P2P: What are your favourite moves?
JV: My favourite move is the Superman. It has become my signature move! I also enjoy spinning pole. It is fun, very hard and pretty.
P2P: How long did it take you to nail those?
JV: I somehow managed Superman immediately. With the spinning pole I managed some moves immediately and lots I struggle with. I do get pretty dizzy like almost everyone.
P2P: Who are your favourite dancers out there now?
JV: I love watching Marlo and Anastasia. The strength, flexibility and grace that these women have are amazing.
P2P: What competitions have you entered or won?
JV: I competed in the first ever Florida Pole Fitness Championship in 2012 as one of the top ten in the professional division. It was surreal. At that time I had only been poling for a year and was mostly self- taught.
P2P: What are your future plans for pole dance?
JV: I plan to continue to flourish in the pole world. I want to change the stigma of pole dancers to others who do not appreciate the sport. I want keep embracing my unique style and creating dances that make a statement in the industry.
P2P: Do you have any upcoming events?
JV: I will be working on doing a charity event at my studio. I also have created the group Infusion Remax where I do ballet, lyrical and pole dance while my friend and collaborator sings. We hope to perform all over the world sharing our unique collaboration. We actually created history in the pole industry as the first to do this and take it to the stage in 2012. I performed a ballet pole dance while he sang opera. Please check out our video – enjoy! http://youtu.be/hg3sUVWThSo
P2P: You said you are 40 years old, how is it being a mature pole dancer?
JV: Being an older pole dancer is definitely challenging. I don’t move like I did when I was in my 20’s. The truth is that I am so thankful to be moving – let alone dancing or performing. At one time I thought I would have to give up my dream of ever dancing again because of the accidents. Due to perseverance and determination I have returned to the dance world. I will continue to do so even having Sjogren’s. I am ready to share with others my passion for dancing, performing and teaching. I hope I can inspire others to not give up on their dreams.
P2P: What is Sjogren’s? How has Sjogren’s affected you and how do you manage?
Sjogren’s has affected me in a mild way compared to many others. I get fatigued, stiff joints, catch colds and infections easily, dry eyes, dry mouth and sensitivity to foods, smells and temperature. I do not work out like I used too. If I did I would not be able to move for a week. So, I do what I can. I have approached the illness through holistic means: chiropractor, PT, massage, acupuncture, supplements, and I have made many changes to my diet. I take it one day at a time and listen to my body.
P2P: Are there any other comments about pole dance you would like to add to the interview?
JV: I would love to add that pole dance is an amazing sport bringing men and women together – those that were once or are dancers, gymnasts, circus performers and contortionists and also those that want to get fit in a unique and different method. Pole is empowering. Pole gives self confidence and pleasure to all that take it on. Pole is very athletic and requires safe training like all sports. I am so thankful and proud to be a part of this industry. I am savouring each experience, enjoying the ride and thrilled for my continued journey in the pole dance industry.
P2P: What hints and tips would you like to share with our readers?
JV: I would tell anyone that is interested in pursuing pole dance to be patient. You have to crawl before you walk. Don’t give up. Listen to your body and make sure to take classes from a teacher you feel safe and comfortable with. Enjoy the journey because pole dancing will change your life forever and for the better!
P2P: Where can we find you?
JV: Please feel free to look me up through my website at: elegantjacqueline.wix.com/JacquelineValdez
Subscribe to my YouTube page: Jacqueline Valdez
Follow me on Facebook at Elegant Body Pilates with Jacqueline Valdez
Photos by G.C. Wynns Photography, Bruce Richardson, Don Curry and Daniel Bray.