Where are you from originally?

I was born in San Francisco, CA, but grew up in Boise, Idaho. I returned to San Francisco for college, and moved to NYC 10 years for my master’s program.

What is your dance background and how did you discover dance?

My mother was a dancer so she introduced me to dance. I’ve been dancing since I was six years old, mostly studying ballet, but also trained in jazz and Graham and Limon modern techniques.

How did you discover aerial dance?

In 2010 I bought a Groupon for an intro to pole class at S Factor. The instructors performed a freestyle at the end, and I remember being blown away that they were able to hang upside down at the top of the pole. After that one class I didn’t start training regularly until 2011 when I bought another Groupon for NY Pole Dancing where I took classes steadily for a year, and then become an instructor shortly after. I also trained aerial silks, rope, and lyra at the former Trapeze School of New York tent space along the west side highway. But my focus has primarily been on pole, because of the ease of linking floor based movement and aerial dance together, with an apparatus.

What are some of your accomplishments/favorite shows/performances that you’ve performed in?

I always enjoy being a part of the monthly Schtick a Pole in It show, which is a pole and stand-up comedy show that’s been running for over six years now. In 2013 I was a part of a large AERA Dance production, “Covered Sky”, which was such a rewarding experience because I was able to work with an incredible group of aerialists and dancers. Aerial is such a solitary skill, it’s a pleasure to be able to collaborate. My favorite competitions have been the USPDF championships here in NYC, one of the first official pole competitions, as well as the Asia Pole Championship in Singapore. Both are well-run, and produce such beautiful shows that are enjoyable to participate in, and also to watch as an audience member.

What is something that you’re most proud of as an aerialist? 

I’m constantly amazed by everything my body manages to do! I never imagined I’d be able have such strength and facility in my body. I think I’m most proud of my perseverance and recovery through injury though. In 2014 I tore my labrum in my right shoulder, and it was difficult to envision my future growth with this first reality check of vulnerability. With consistent physical therapy, I was able to regain strength and now feel like I’m even more capable and secure than I was before. I was a good “learning moment” for how to train smarter and for sustainability.

What is your favorite move/trick? 

I love the “eagle,” which is a back bendy move where you’re wrapped around the pole and grab your leg over your head. I also love anything spinning; on static or spin pole. It’s so much fun!

 How do you stay motivated? 

I love to move so that’s always my source of motivation. Regardless of how enthusiastic I’m feeling on a given day, I’ll just move how I’m feeling, which brings me satisfaction. I’ve also always been a bit of an extremist when it comes to testing my limits, so it’s enjoyable for me to work hard.

 What are some of your favorite songs/artists to play in class?

I love Glass Animals; the sounds are such a perfect mix of sexy, gooey, wild, and quirky. Some days I choose themed playlists, some of my favorites are 90’s themed.

How long have you been teaching at BP?

 I’ve been teaching at B&P for over 5 years, and teaching pole, flexibility, and movement for over 7 years.

What is your favorite thing about teaching?

I am SO inspired by my students’ successes! I love the energy in the room when people are connecting the dots and having micro and macro epiphanies to accomplish their goals. To be able to help people unlock their physical abilities moves me deeply.

What is your teaching style or how you would you describe your classes?

I tend to be analytical; meaning I believe in freedom in structure. With effective technical training, you can transcend the “managing to execute” level of performance and unlock more of what you actually want to share in your movement. I know this comes from my ballet and classical music background! My ultimate goal is to teach my students to be able teach themselves. If they know the “why” of what they’re doing, this will serve them best in the short and long-term. When I take class, I love understanding the “why” of a new move, whether I achieve it or not. I wish that joy for my students as well. That’s when you get to really play and have fun!

If you had to pick a quote or motto to define your attitude, what would it be?

 Do your best and forget the rest!

Fore more about Lara, follow her on Instagram at @misslaramichaels

Photo credit: Paul Park