We sat down with our co-founder, Kyra Johannesen, to chat about the origins of Body & Pole and the concept of “Owning Your Unknown” – something you may recognize from the studio, our social media, and this very website (and if not, expect to see it more often!). It’s the idea that through your hard work and sweat in our classes, you push boundaries – both physically and emotionally. And in doing so, you learn so much about yourself that you didn’t know was there. It’s a discovery process, and one that makes you stronger in every way. For us, it’s what makes Body & Pole so special.
Q: When did you know that dance was your calling?
When I was a junior in high school, a guidance counselor called me and my father in, with a big concern: I was doing so well in school – breezing through all my classes – except I had no interest in college. But my father wasn’t worried – he knew I had other plans in mind, and he believed in me. Even as a young adult, I decided that I was going to follow my heart’s lead, not what society or the pursuit of money expected of me. That brought me to Los Angeles, where I lived the insanely demanding life of a professional dancer and choreographer.
Q: How did dance help you to discover your unknown?
While enduring grueling training classes at Hollywood’s Edge Performing Arts Center, I discovered a life-changing class, so challenging that each week, I would sit outside the studio crying, knowing full well what was ahead of me, and the emotional and physical endurance it would require. It was a brutal class – over 90 minutes of intense bodywork, holding precarious positions for minutes at a time, challenging the human form in ways that seemed nearly impossible, and led by instructor who pushed me even when I felt like I had nothing left. As grueling and exhausting as it was, like a magnet, I was drawn back each week. And I noticed something interesting happening: the harder it felt, the more I appreciated its benefits – on the emotional and physical levels. This wasn’t just a workout or a community– it was something so much more – I was using my body to create art and express myself, claiming my own space, and learning to overcome all sorts of fears. Looking back, I now realize that in the process, I developed a resilience to keep moving forward no matter what — whatever I was dealing with in my life at the time, I came face-to-face with in this class – there was no escape, I had to work through it. It helped shape me as a person.
Q: How did this lead you to co-create Body & Pole?
I’ve always been led by a love of what I do and who I do it with. When I moved to New York from Los Angeles, I craved this same intense class experience – one that offered the same mind-body expression, but I just couldn’t find anything like it. I never once imagined I would own a studio, but when I met Lian, we were such natural partners that when the opportunity to open a studio presented itself, I had no choice but to take it. It was the only way I could recreate the same demanding, addictive and unique class experience I loved so much, with an intimate setting and personalized instruction from some of the industry’s top talent.
Q: How does this concept of “owning your unknown” inspire the experience at Body & Pole?
My goal is to share this deeply personal experience with everyone who takes a class at Body & Pole. It’s the reason why our classes are designed to push you – if you don’t have to work for something, you won’t achieve finding the deeper sense of self that helps you overcome physical and emotional hurdles. You don’t know what you’re missing in your life until you feel it – you believe in yourself more, you feel your worth. It’s inside you. We want everyone to dance and allow themselves to appreciate their bodies and move and enjoy their surroundings in a safe space with an instructor who will push you beyond what you thought were your limits. But at the end of it, you feel more alive. You can face the other shit a little bit better. All you have to do is show up for yourself. #OwnYourUnknown