Recently we were visited by the delightful, delicious, d’lovely Ivory Fox!
Ivory Fox is a NYC based pole, aerial, and burlesque performer. She has performed across North America and in several international burlesque festivals. Classically trained in dance and gymnastics as a child, she fell headfirst into pole and circus as an adult. She adores teaching the safe and fun ways to go upsidedown on and off an apparatus. She currently teaches at Body&Pole and TheMuse in NYC.
Ivory spent an afternoon at Irish Pole Dance Academy to share with us her signature ‘Pinup on the Pole’ and Handstands workshops. I caught up with her afterwards to ask a few questions to find out more about her…
What attracted you to pole dance? How did you begin?
My best friend was working with a choreographer, who was one of the original judges for USPDF. She was interested in bringing contemporary dancers to pole dancing. I kept begging my friend, I was like ‘Pole dancing sounds like so much fun! I used to be a gymnast!’. I kept begging my friend to have me come in, so my best friend brought me into the studio and I just LOVED pole. I was like, ‘This is so much fun!’ And then I was like, ‘But I’m going to kill myself!’, so I applied for New York Pole Dancing’s work/study program. And when I got in I started work-studying, training, taking classes there, whilst still working on some other projects.
Kind of simultaneously, I got into Burlesque and stared performing more immediately with that. There was a show in New York at the time, the venue has since closed down (rest in peace!), that had poles in it and the Burlesque producer liked to have pole go-go before the show. So he actually became one of the people who helped me the most. He would hire me regularly, so I would be performing, training and also working different styles of pole to find my own style of pole and to find my own style of pole within the burlesque community. So I was doing contemporary pole, classique pole and Burlesque pole all at the same time, training, performing and getting experience… And that’s how I got into pole!
Wow! How long ago was that?
I’m trying to remember… I think it was about 5 years ago!
Wow… So not that long ago!
I did gymnastics as a kid competitively and then from that got into dance and did dance. Within dance I never lost my ability for handstands and cartwheels and my love of going upside down… That stayed with me!
Who is your pole inspiration?
So I remember I had no frickin’ clue where anything was with pole, you know the community or anything like that. I remember the first person I saw on Youtube that I was like ‘Holy f***!’ was Oona Kivela. I was like ‘Whaaaat?!’. I’ve always been attracted to more of the powerhouses. And then after Oona, another person that blew my mind was Heidi Coker, her ‘Pole Art’ piece, the spider piece. She became one of my pole idols, she’s just so clean but so strong and just… Ahhh I love her! And then most recently is Yvonne Smink, I really love people who innovate, who create new moves or just create new ways to do moves or within. So it’s not necessarily like they create something that only their body can do. So you know, Oona’s spins, and then Heidi’s just, insanity, but then Yvonne with everything she does through a brass monkey and things that we all can recognise and may not always be able to do but sometimes can do parts of it. I just really love those ladies…
They use the basics in such a way that everything’s so clean. And also people who keep MOVING, they don’t just hit a pose, but everything’s moving around the apparatus, manipulating the apparatus and manipulating their body around the apparatus. That sort of constant motion..
Do you have any tips for pole students in finding their own style?
Trying on other people’s styles, there has to be a while where you have to lose yourself, I think. Where you do try other people’s styles and I don’t mean that in a copying sense, I mean that in a student sense, like ‘I’m going to be a student and I’m going to do it the way the teacher says and the way the teacher does and try and learn how they’re doing it’. And then once you have the knowledge of the how, where, why and when then you can start playing with that. But respect the teacher, respect other people’s movement qualities. Try it on, like maybe don’t steal the moves or perform it, but definitely take class from other people, watch how they move… And then the magic of the open studio; play, throw yourself at a pole, video it, watch it, see what speaks to you in your videos.
And go see people perform! Watch the videos online, watch different qualities; you know we sometimes get stuck moving a certain way because when we train at one studio or with certain people, you all start homogenising and moving together. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but then also, leaving and going taking class others places, seeing what other people have.
And then when guest instructors come, take their class. You never know, it might not be the greatest class, it might not be a great class for you; like I took classes with Phoenix Kazree and my body was like ‘I can’t do this!’ but the first half of the class I really adored and loved, it was just one or two of those big tricks didn’t work for my body, with the way my shoulders use. It was great, she’s such a knowledgeable teacher, she was like ‘This is going to work for you, I don’t wanna break you!’. As you become a teacher, continue to take classes with other teachers. I learned a lot from Phoenix, I really admire her as a teacher and it was great taking her workshop. Just keep taking class and playing on your own. Watch other things outside of pole dancing.
I know mentioned earlier during your workshops that you’re not really into the idea of competitions and competing. You have done some competitions before, and what advice do you have for those who do want to compete?
The best advice I got was from a Burlesque performer in New York named Gal Friday, she was like ‘Don’t go into it for one reason’. There are some people who are built as competition machines, who go to f***ing win and that’s their objective and that’s what they’re going for, and you’re probably not going to beat them. Those are the people that win the Olympics! You’re not going to necessarily out-train them. That doesn’t mean they’re unbeatable. The advice of ‘have another reason to do it’ is one of the smartest things in the sense that: if you’re only going in for the win, and it doesn’t come in, what are you left with?
What I took from Gal’s advice was some of the competitions that I put in for, some of it’s as simple as ‘This competition is in New York, I live in New York, great! This is going to kick my butt and motivate me to train more and give me something to be excited about’. Sometimes it’s a small enough reason to be good enough. Others it was like I have a piece inside of me that I need to get out. There’s a piece of art that I want to create, here’s a competition where I feel this venue will be if not a perfect stage, a close to perfect stage in which to put it on and it’s going to have me build something inside of myself that I need to get out artistically. So you can have a physical reason, you need to train hard. You can have an artistic reason. Or sometimes it’s ‘Okay, I want to do a competition in Denver because my family lives there. So I’ll be able to go and have a good time but I’ll also be able to visit my family’. Or if it’s in a foreign country I’ll be able to go and it’ll get me to another place.
So always have another reason, and that other reason can be like ‘I want to make more friends in the pole community!’, so you go and you meet new people at the competitions. So having another reason to make yourself happy, you won’t drive yourself as crazy being like ‘But I have to win!’. It’s like, no, but is this piece pretty? Or is this piece fun, or is this piece going to get me to somewhere I wanna go. Like, I’ve used pieces that have not won competitions, as submission videos to get into other competitions. Sometimes you need another video. Or I’ve also used pieces from competitions, have booked me tours with Dos Equis; they’ve booked me in Chicago’s contemporary circus festival. So you never know who’s going to see that video or that competition and three months later might offer you a job or a position somewhere else.
Wow, great tips there for everyone! Now for some fun questions! What are your top favourite songs to dance to right now?
I’m obsessed with Sia, so I don’t always dance to this one but when I need to f***ing do it, ‘Unstoppable’ by Sia is like the best song when you’re at the end of a workout and you’re like ‘Okay, I have to get these five more press handstands, and I have to just like f***ing climb this pole five more times’ or I need to just like ‘Raaarrr!’. ‘Unstoppable’ by Sia, definitely…
Let me see what else I’ve got on my playlist. ‘She’s a lady’, I s*** you not, by Tom Jones, because if I’m in a bad mood that song is going to put me in a good mood! I will totally Tom Jones it up when I’m like frustrated with something and I need to laugh at myself, cause I’m in the studio by myself being an idiot.
I’ve been really into Woodkid, musical person / group, I feel like I should know more about them, If I need to feel dramatic and serious, and also it’s got a good beat behind it. I really love ‘Conquest of spaces’, it’s what I did my act to at Vienna Boylesque Festival, so I’ve been listening to that a lot.
Some of these other songs are embarrassing but let’s go for it! ‘I’ve gotta be me’ by Sammy Davis Junior, when I’m just like ‘You need to remember that you can’t be anyone else, you’re just going to have to be you!’, and it also works really well for me because it fits into that I’ve gotta be me, that cheesy 1950’s movie musical; yes, that’s who I am, that’s what I’ve gotta do! I’ve been listening to ‘Pony’ a lot, by Post Modern Jukebox, and then Queen, I listen to a lot of Queen. I listen to a song if I’m building a new act, I listen to it kind of obsessively. And I have a not well-known song called ‘Seaside Rendezvous’ that I’m building a beach act to, so I’ve been listening to that a lot. I’m all over the place: Queen, Tom Jones, Sia, Woodkid, Sammy Davis Junior…
What do you like to eat and drink? Do you have any nutrition tips or is that your kinda thing?
OMG I eat everything! I love food. Eat enough, that’s one of the main things… It’s hard sometimes because I perform really late at night then I don’t always want to eat at 2am, and then the next morning you wake up and you have no energy and you’re hungry, and your body can’t catch up and then my training’s are never as good. So I always try and have food on me, like some nuts, a protein bar or dried fruit. But those are just if I’ve been stupid and haven’t gotten food. I’m terrible with nutrition because I believe in listening to the bodies cravings; if your body’s like ‘I want a f***ing chocolate bar’, you probably waited too long it needs the sugars to quickly process and it needs the food then.
I like to feed myself every 3-4 hours. I’ve also trained my body since I was about 5 or 6 years old to eat and then go upside down immediately, so I am very lucky, I have a cast iron stomach. I can eat a burrito and then go upside down in a half hour. I feel like with the way I teach and the way I train circus that I have to be able to eat in between my trainings. I’ll eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich over an hour while doing a handstand training. So you can do it too! *Laughs* Yeah I’m not a nutritionist but I know the three meals a day thing is not enough food for me. I need to constantly replenishing while I’m training. Sometimes it’s every hour…
Yeah it makes sense; just listen to your body and eat when you’re hungry…
And eat breakfast!
Ok last question, tell us one random fun fact about you!
Well you already heard about my cast iron stomach and I can eat a burrito and pole dance! Ok, I am short, I’m 5 feet tall. But on top of that, fun party tricks, I have short arms. Most people can kneel and sit on their feet and their hands reach the ground, and mine don’t! And I have very small hands. So that’s just a funny body quirk of mine! It makes handstands slightly easier, but it makes pressing and other things within handstand harder and certain things on the pole, like threading; I can’t fit as my arms aren’t long enough!
And I have a tattoo of a turkey on my hip that most people don’t know about, because that’s my dad’s nickname for me! I grew up in Wisconsin, which is a pretty middle of the country part of America that’s very farmland-ish. So my dad doesn’t curse; he’s a good Norwegian, very polite, Lutheran. And so when I would sneak into his office and steal the gum out of his desk that he kept there, he would always call me a turkey. So I tattooed it on my body and my dad was not super thrilled!
That’s hilarious! Well thanks so much for being a good sport and sharing that with us, as well as everything else!