HOUSE OF CHAMPIONS
by LORI MYERS PHOTOGRAPHY by AMIE NICOL
As soon as we entered the back of the old building, through a huge sliding warehouse door, in a seedy Hollywood neighborhood, we had a suspicion that BeSpun may be different than other pole studios. The poles were hidden behind a magical pink door that whisked us away from a very serious MMA training facility.
BeSpun recently moved into a new location, but that doesn’t change their desire to produce champion pole dancers. In fact, it is all part of their rebirth. BeSpun was recently recognized as one of the best in the industry, and was named International Pole Championship’s 2012 Pole Studio of the Year at the event held in Hong Kong.
BeSpun, which opened in 2006, is the brainchild of Leigh Ann Reilly. Leigh Ann was a child actor who spent 13 years in front of cameras. She learned at a very young age how to put on a great show.
Leigh Ann has trained many of the top pole stars including Alethea Austin, Estee Zakar, Naasha WAng, and Josiah”Bad Azz” Grant, among many others.
Leigh Ann is a champion herself – taking second place at the US Pole Dance Federation (USPDF) West Coast regional finals and competing in the USPDF Nationals in 2010. She also placed third at USPDF in 2011.
BeSpun is managed by Amy Guion, who is also a pro competitor. Amy most recently took third place in the California Pole Dance Championship (2011) and was the runner-up in the USPDF Amateur Nationals (2011).
Leigh Ann built BeSpun from the ground up, gearing the training and atmosphere toward professional performers. This is no casual pole studio. Memberships are set up specifically to allow dancers to train every single day. Each instructor is a champion in their own right. BeSpun has an impressive list of regular instructors, including Amy Guion, Alethea Austin, Natasha Wang, Tiffany Hayden, Amber Richard, Lindsey Kimura, Jennifer Kim and Josiah Grant.
Leigh Ann understands, not everyone in the industry agrees with BeSpun’s theory on teaching tricks. They focus on fundamental physics – how to best work with gravity, not necessarily how to perform the trick in the safest manner. At the same time, they know that building a strong foundation and understanding proper technique is important. Free dance and improv is also a main focus. Clearly, this formula works for them, as BeSpun has helped shape many top competitors and champions, including Alethea Austin (USPDF Champion in 2010), Estee Zakar (USPDF’s Miss Trixter in 2010), Natasha Wang (USPDF Champion in 2011), Amy Guion (USPDF Amateur runner-up in 2011), and, of course, Leigh Ann Reilly herself.
Natasha Wang credits Leigh Ann and BeSpun with helping her perfect her tricks prior to her USPDF win. Natasha joined BeSpun in 2008. She saw Leigh Ann’s videos and initially started taking classes three days a week. The studio quickly became her second home. Natasha remembers her first competition at BeSpun, where she says she literally spun off the pole and into the audience during her free dance. Barely a year later, Natasha applied to compete in the USPDF competition. With Leigh Ann’s help developing tricks and Kelly Yvonne and The Choreography House helping her build a story, Natasha now has quite a résumé. She is the East Meets West AM 2010 Champion, the California Pole Dance 2010 Champion, and the USPDF 2011 Champion. In addition to touring the world and teaching workshops, Natasha occasionally performs in Kelly Yvonne’s Girl Next Door ~ A Pole Dance Soirée.
Alethea Austin initially joined BeSpun in 2008 to help rehabilitate a neck and shoulder injury. Within a year, she was the runner-up at the USPDF Championship and won the Miss Sexy title (2009). Alethea also took second place in IPDFA’s Pole Fit category in 2009 and went on to win the USPDF Championship title in 2010. She believes that, because BeSpun is housed in the Legends MMA training facility,
where champion fighters are trained by Leigh Ann’s husband, Chris., Leigh Ann naturally filled the role of coach. Alethea also appreciates that Leigh Ann can push her into bettering herself without changing her personal style. Alethea is known for her Sexy Flexy style and also teaches workshops all over the world. She is inspired and motivated by all of the girls she meets during her travels. She says she loves meeting the wild card – the girl with passion and style who blows her away.
BeSpun is also known for its showcase, Pole Show LA – an event that attracts champion pole stars from all over the world. In 2012. They began offering Pole Camps, inviting competitors and performers to learn BeSpun’s unique training techniques. They also offer a myriad of classes to compliment pole training, including cardio kickboxing, core conditioning, cycling, stretching and contortion. They are not currently interested in adding any other aerial arts to the line-up. At BeSpun, they are concentrating on what they do best and that is developing competitive pole athletes.
Don’t get the wrong idea. Just because some of the top competitors have come from BeSpun doesn’t mean they don’t embrace brand new pole dancers. Their beginner and intermediate pole sessions last eight weeks each, and will help build the foundation later required should any of those dancers decide to dance professionally or competitively.
One might think that the competitive nature of this business would breed ugliness and create a stressful atmosphere. However, Leigh Ann promotes an environment where dancers support each other – much like a family. BeSpun is not just a factory churning out robot pole dancers. It is home to many different and amazing performers who are all striving to better themselves and the sport. BeSpun is not just where competitive dancers are made; it’s where champions are born.
Find Lori Myers @ /lolorashel.blogspot.com/