Graduation season is upon us, and our 2018-2019 Scholarship year is nearly up. This year’s recipient, Darling Daniel came to us last year, having just moved to New York City, and ready to make a serious commitment to round out his performing skills. It has been so inspiring to watch him transform, finding new ways to express himself on multiple different apparatus – literally spreading his wings. Keep reading for more about Daniel in his own words, and what he discovered about himself through our Scholarship Program. And don’t forget to catch him performing at Schtick A Pole In It on May 24.

What is your background?

I started in pole and that’s how I got exposed to the aerial world. I’ve been doing it for about 4 years. I was originally a dancer – I started in ballet – I was a ballroom dance instructor for while, I was also really into African Modern style. I kept looking for something to satisfy me, but there was always something missing. In my hometown, there was a pole studio and an aerial studio, so I decided to choose between them. Pole seemed the most fun to me, and once I started it, I immediately fell I love and it gave me a way to express myself and my sexuality, to feel different and sexy. It also allowed my confidence to blossom.

Was it hard being the only guy in a pole class?

I was pretty fine being the only guy – I find comfort being around women. After taking classes for about a year or so, the owner asked me if I wanted to instruct – I love that I was able to help people build confidence and empower them. I taught there for about a year and half.

How did you find out about our scholarship program?

I had known about the Body & Pole scholarship prior to moving to NYC – I moved up here because I knew I wanted something more than what my hometown had to offer, and knew that NYC was a great way to launch my dream of being a performer. I came to NYC for the first time after winning a PSO competition and winning a Traincation at Body & Pole, so I was familiar with the studio when I moved here. It took me awhile to warm up to NYC life, but something inspired me to move up here. The first few months in NYC, I was really focused on getting a job, and was in a weird place mentally/physically/emotionally. I was in a rut, and during that rut, I happened to come across Body & Pole’s scholarship program and I just seized the moment and went for it. I started the program in September 2018.

What were you most hoping to get out of the program:

Having already done pole, I was looking to get well-rounded in the other aerial arts. I was wanting to get aerial silks and hoop under my belt, while maintaining pole. Body & Pole has been helping me audition and pushing me towards my goal of becoming a performer.

What is the most exciting part of the program?

I think it’s really just learning new skills. That’s the most exciting. Getting my hands on the new apparatus. Now that I am learning more advanced skills, seeing the progress that I’ve made physically and mentally—I’m really happy with the changes to my body in particular. I also feel that I have a better understanding of form and technique

What is the most challenging about the program?

Those moments when it feels really impossible, like during training (thankful for the instructors who push through the movements and give advice). Getting over the physical and mental hurdles is the hardest.

Is there anything you learned about yourself that you didn’t already know?

I learned that I am potentially capable of doing great things. I think for some people, it’s easy to underestimate yourself, and in that I’m no exception. But through the constant affirmation and support that the scholarship has given, I feel that my dreams are much more achievable and in sight than before.

What are your next steps?

My next steps are definitely to continue training using what I already know to further my career. Auditioning, Expanding my dance vocabulary (going back to classes and styles I’ve done before, and trying out new ones). Breakdancing is definitely going to be my next venture. I’ve rediscovered my passion and love for dancing and movement in any kind of form. I’ll put on my headphones on my way to the studio and just enjoy the fact that I can move anywhere, however and whenever I want. Maybe I’ll get a certification to teach at the studio, we’ll see.

Any advice for those looking to apply to the program?

Be ready to go through physical, mental, emotional rollercoasters, but it’s all part of the process, Show up on time, be gracious and grateful (I’m always gracious and grateful for everything I’ve received from the scholarship). Just enjoy the experience – it flies by, but it feels so good.

Any last sentiments?

Body & Pole itself is an absolutely wonderful studio to attend, and it has become my second home. Kyra is just a ray of sunshine – she has wonderful advice and always keeps me going. Phill always keeps me on track and updated and helps me maintain and set new goals. It’s a complete team effort, and I’ve treated it like a job and it is such a rewarding experience.

For more, follow Darling Daniel’s journey on Instagram at @darling.daniel