Our studio is run by instructors who love pole and aerial and wanted to share a life changing way of moving, playing, and training. Demetra Lykidis, Monika Deviat, and Robin Buriak have been Aradia Fitness Calgary co-owners since 2017. The trio came together because of the studio, which Demetra opened in 2015. All of their pole and aerial journeys have been different – from reasons for starting, continuing, goals, styles, and more. They share a passion for their respective apparatuses, teaching, students’ success, and a dedication to the community that has come together in the studio. Kicking off the stories of their journeys is Monika Deviat!

Pole dancing changed my life, and not just in a health and fitness way. It’s the reason this introverted physicist who did no activities at all, turned into an aerialist and instructor, started climbing mountains in the dark, and…public speaking. I built strength, got fit, and developed a lot of confidence. Aside from pole and aerial, I constantly found myself being the only woman or one of a handful of women in mainly male-dominated industries. It was embracing my oddities and the benefits of pole dancing that turned me into a visible “force of nature” as my friend and mentor Dave Brosha noted.

I took my first pole dancing class because one of my university physics friends asked me to take a class with them. If something piqued my interest even a little, I would be willing to give it a go. I had no dance background and no real experience in sports and fitness. Well, I did not enjoy my first session. We didn’t do much on the pole, and the class vibe was not for me. After our first multi-week session, neither of us returned to pole until my friend found another studio for us to try out. The second round was better, and we stuck with it a little longer. What motivated me to dive into training was seeing Dominic Lacasse do a human flag – I had to get strong enough to do that, too!

Girl in baseball hat and white t-shirt holding a book and a pole on a beach
Apparently, I started pole dancing quite young. I always had a book in my hand, wherever I went.

My physics friend was also the driver for me getting into aerial arts. I started with silks and lyra (aerial hoop). The first aerial apparatus I really fell in love with was corde lisse (rope). It was such an interesting apparatus and great for people who like strength skills. When I found a coach who would teach me aerial straps, it hooked me and I dove deep into training. I actually had to convince coach to take me on. I used convincing diagrams and graphs to get my way.

Woman performs a human flag iron x on a pole on a beach in mexico
Many years later I found myself a pole on a beach again. Less book more muscles.

I have always been drawn to the strength side of pole and aerials, and my body type likes to build muscle. Flexibility came slowly to me. Sometimes it was difficult to make myself stretch and put time into that aspect of the training. Eventually, I found ways to train flexibility that I loved and would make progress through.

Pole dancing for fitness was still relatively new when I began my journey. I kept pretty quiet about it outside my friend groups. When I worked in the Oil and Gas industry, I didn’t hide my pole and aerial life (google would tell you everything), but I never brought it up myself. Alberta is a very conservative area, and I heard enough stories of people’s jobs being in jeopardy because of something like pole dancing that I played it safe. This was always something that made me a little bit mad. I would be judged for something that had nothing to do with my work life, but “professional businessmen” could do some questionable things while out with clients, and there would be no judgment.

The industry has changed so much since I started. One important aspect is that the origins of pole dancing are embraced and discussed more openly now, and credit is given to the actual people who inspired and started the pole fitness classes you see now. There is more education available for instructors. Some sports medicine doctors, physios, etc., are researching and spending more time understanding pole and aerial athletes’ movement and needs. Curriculums have been developed in thoughtful ways (ours is kickass if I may say so).

I used to travel quite a bit for work and to photograph concerts. During those trips, I would try to visit a pole studio or circus studio if I could find one near me. Learning from a variety of instructors helped my development so much. In California, I tried flying trapeze for the first time. Fun fact; I was more afraid of climbing the (stupid) ladder to the platform than jumping off the platform. My first Chinese Pole lesson was in San Fransisco. I learned so much about spotting and teaching dynamic tricks and how to develop and maintain foundational movements. While in Montreal photographing a heavy metal festival, I had the opportunity to train at Cirque Éloize with its 40ft ceilings. Imagine trying to climb silks more than twice the height of our studio’s. Everywhere I went, I learned skills for myself, and I would also ask for teaching tips, favourite drills, favourite stretches, etc. Collecting information and constantly learning is essential for an instructor.

I first started teaching at Aradia Fitness Calgary in 2015 and became an owner in 2017. In 2015, I needed somewhere to train pole after taking almost a two-year break due to a car accident. Demetra and I had met years before when she came to do a pole photo shoot with me. We kept in touch over the years and developed a friendship. Demetra had recently opened the studio, and I thought it was beautiful and well put together. Robin became an instructor shortly after I started teaching workshops at the studio. Eventually I transitioned to teaching regularly. Through our love of pole and teaching, the three of us became friends, colleagues, and co-owners of Aradia Fitness Calgary.

What I love the most about Pole Dancing is that you can make it your own. You don’t have to stick to a specific style – there are so many options, and you can mix styles. You can decide to strength train and learn tricks, or take it easy on the tricks and work on choreographies and staying close to the floor, or put on a set of 8-inch heels and go for sexier or more sensual styles. And you can pole dance to any type of music you want! We try to offer as much variety as possible in our studio so everyone has an opportunity to try many different styles or stick to what speaks to them the most.

As a metalhead, I, of course, incorporated this into my repertoire (have you joined me for one of my heavy metal choreography classes yet?). For my first competition, I did a routine to a Sepultura song. I performed at many metal events and even a festival where my favourite band Venom, was headlining. The song choice? “Dead Skin Mask” by Slayer. At some point, I realized competitions weren’t really for me. I did not like feeling even the slightest bit of pressure to conform to song choices, styles, moves, and so on. Performing was fun, though. I did corporate gigs, including one for an Oil and Gas company! I had moved on to being a full-time photographer at that point, but what a change in perspectives and openness.

Two women and a man in circus themed outfits pose for a photo
Aradia Fitness Calgary pole dance instructor Monika Deviat performs a cup grip ayesha on a stage pole at a heavy metal festival.
Two pole dancers in black dresses hold up gold medals while standing with arms around each other.

Currently, my passion is teaching. A combination of COVID and my love for mountains, adventuring, teaching photography workshops, and becoming a Nikon Ambassador made it so that I did not have time or space to train as a performer. I think being able to prioritize and accept your choices and paths is important in anyone’s journey. We can’t do everything, and sometimes when you try your body and mental health pays the price. Teaching brings me so much joy, and I love problem-solving and helping students succeed in their training. Our community, instructors, and students at Aradia Fitness Calgary are amazing. Everyone is so supportive of each other regardless of goals, apparatus, or backgrounds. Pole and aerial will challenge you, take you out of your comfort zone, provide a self-care strategy, and give you space to develop you for yourself. I have always felt like I could be myself in the studio, with my students and my fellow instructors – no matter how “odd” that might be.

Oh, and the public speaking point. I used to do everything possible to avoid having to speak in front of a crowd or give presentations. Now speaking and presenting is an important part of my photography business. While pole dancing never had anything to do with my presentation topics, my version of the Superman Pose was to remind myself I could do a Human Flag/Iron X and no one else in the room could…and that I usually had the biggest shoulders in the room. Speaking to and teaching groups of students was consistent practice, too. I even MC’ed an Aradia Fitness Calgary Showcase once! I think the studio providing the space where I could be myself helped a lot, too.

Pole dancer, Monika Deviat, performs a shoulder stand in an ice cave wearing a red puffy jacket, black leggings and boots with microspikes.
Just being a weirdo pole dancer doing shoulder stands in an ice cave after navigating crevasses (and rescuing someone who fell in) and avalanche terrain.

Thanks for taking the time to read about my journey! I hope it might inspire you to find your own path and figure out what works best for you. You don’t have to be a [insert a comparison of choice here], sometimes it’s about getting out and doing something for yourself that brings you joy.

– Monika Deviat