We had the good fortune of connecting with Natasha Wang and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Natasha, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
When you’re self-employed, the line between work and life becomes murky, especially when your career was once your hobby.
I can’t go to a yoga class without taking mental notes about how the teacher breaks down a certain asana. Every mid-day walk is accompanied by a business podcast. And I’m physically unable to pry myself from my computer at 6pm like regular folks. There is no hard and fast stopping point, nor is there the concept of “weekend.”
Before the pandemic, I made most of my income traveling and teaching pole fitness. These trips usually lasted anywhere from two weeks to two months, and because of the exhausting travel and teaching schedule (sometimes a new city/country every day), there was little time for anything other than eat-teach-sleep.
When I’d return back to LA in between tours, I would clear my schedule and spend the few weeks in between trips recuperating, training, developing new teaching content or preparing for performances. It was a pretty simple life! Work hard/rest hard.
When Covid canceled all my teaching and performance gigs, I had to pivot like most everyone in the fitness and entertainment industries and go online. Now I run an on-demand pole platform that’s very much like having a pet/finicky plant. I have to nurture it and feed it, otherwise it’ll stop growing and die.
I don’t have the freedom I had pre-pandemic, and my work/life balance has taken a hit, but staying put for 2+ years has enriched my life in other ways – more time with my partner and cats, learning new professional skills and acquiring new certifications, and becoming a better teacher and mentor.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Voyage LA Interview
Please tell us more about your art. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
I’m a pole dance teacher who stumbled upon pole at the age of 29 without having any background in movement, dance or fitness. Despite inauspicious beginnings (and horrible stage fright), I went on to win several national and international titles, performed across China and on television, taught Whoopi how to pole dance on The View, taught in over 30 countries and now run an on-demand pole platform called Poletica Movement.
When I took my first pole class in 2005, pole as a career wasn’t even on my radar. I was working as a publicist in a boutique entertainment technology PR company — a career that lasted almost a decade. For severals years, I took one class a week, and eventually several a week, and before you knew it, I was spending as much time at the studio as I was at work.
I won my first pole competition in 2010, and within a year I had quit my publicist job and started traveling full time – some years upward of 70% of the year. I’ve taught at pole camps in Dubai, Tenerife, St. Martin, Corsica, France, Germany, Austria, Hawaii, Costa Rica, Guatemala, South Korea, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Australia, studios all around the world, and judged most of the major pole championships.
Pole dancers who were competing and performing at the time will remember that the style popular back then was very heels-focused, with lots of sensual movement set to rock music. While I admired that aesthetic, every attempt to emulate it failed miserably. My body wasn’t right for it, I was clumsy in heels, and my music tastes tended to favor bands like Sigur Ros and Shoegazer rock — not exactly mainstream crowd pleasers.
I didn’t intend to create a new “contemporary” or “artistic” style of pole dance in the US, but that’s what happened in 2011 when I won the US Pole Dance Championships. Pole has evolved so much that my routine is embarrassing to watch today, but it sparked a new trend in the US that favored barefoot movement and a more story-driven style inspired by contemporary dance and circus arts.
The popular pole style today has veered back to heels, which is great! But plenty of pole dancers still embrace the more emotional or “artsy” style of pole dance that resonates for introverted, introspective types like me.
It made sense that as a Taiwanese-American daughter of immigrants who grew up in a predominantly white community in Austin, TX, that I never felt like I belonged. That outsider mentality ended up serving me well as I carved a niche in the pole world for myself. You can’t copy style – you’ve got to create your own.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Friday: Morning hike at Los Liones Canyon Trail before a relaxing beach day at Ginger Rogers Beach in Pacific Palisades. We’ll swing by my old Venice standby Gjelina for dinner on the way back
Saturday: Brunch at Met Her At A Bar before getting lost in the curiosities at meta-museum The Museum of Jurassic Technology in Culver City. We’ll have popcorn and pizza for dinner while catching a movie at the Mission Tiki Drive-In in Montclair.
Sunday: Brunch at The Farmer’s Market, shopping at the Melrose Trading Post, walk through the overly manufactured, yet comfortingly quaint The Grove. If we have any energy left, catch a sunset hike at Runyon Canyon followed by dinner at Gracias Madre.
Monday: Morning caffeine fix at The Coffee Commissary before spending a few hours at LACMA. Dinner at my favorite vegan Italian, Pura Vita.
Tuesday: Brunch at Home State, where I can satisfy my Austin, TX roots with some down home breakfast tacos. We’ll then make the drive out to Malibu Creek Park to check out the M.A.S.H. film set. Swing by my favorite vegan Vietnamese place Vinh Loi Tofu on the way back to town.
Wednesday: Grab a coffee at Go Get ‘Em Tiger before morning Ashtanga Mysore with Jodi Blumstein. Recover with ice cream at Salt & Straw. Hit the vintage stores on Melrose (both the street fashion side and the designer end) before dinner at Nic’s on Beverly.
Thursday: It’s a beautiful sunny day! We’ll pack up a cooler of hard Kombucha and head to Zuma Beach to spot the whales. Swing by Moonshadows in Malibu on the way home for dinner under a canopy of stars.
Friday: The sun continues. We’ll head to the Santa Monica Greens and practice handstands with the movement nerds. I’ll teach her how to go upside down on the rings. Then she’ll soak up the last rays of SoCal sun before heading back to my neighborhood for one last dinner at Crossroads on Melrose before taking the red-eye home.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I’d like to give a shoutout to my virtual training crew who kept me sane during the year-long studio and gym closure in Los Angeles – Arloa Reston, Chris Sea, Tiffany Jane, Monica Kaye, Tiffany Rose Mockler and Carly Childs. When we could no longer physically come together to share dance and movement, we created a safe virtual space that continued even when studios re-opened. I am grateful to these women for reminding me of the power of community and dance.
Jimmy Brown LanLy Jaka Vinsek Bartek Michalak Tuula Ylikorpi