One Doctor’s Journey to Becoming A Pole Champion: Anna von Rossum

The love of pole is not discriminatory and the sport embraces a diverse mix of people from different backgrounds and professions.  Anna von Rossum took her first pole class in the summer of 2012 and her life changed forever. By day she is a Doctor in Immunology and by night she's both a pole champion and teacher at Tantra Fitness. In 2015, during the same week, she won first place at the BC Pole Fitness Championship plus received her Ph.D. in Immunology. She's also authored several articles in top-tier scientific journals, works as a full-time scientist in immunotherapy and has won numerous pole championships throughout her pole career.

Image: Marianne Rico Photography

Q: What made you interested in pole dance?

A: Dance has always been a big part of my life. I started ballet classes when I was 3 years old. Throughout my childhood, I also tried many forms of dance including jazz, tap, contemporary, flamenco, hip hop, and salsa. But ballet was always constant. When I was 12 years old I was accepted into a professional ballet program at the “Escuela Superior de Musica Y Danza” in Monterrey, Mexico (where I lived at the time).

After high school, I was accepted into the University of Victoria’s science program, and I graduated with distinction at the top of my class with a co-op major in microbiology and a general in biology. I was accepted directly into a Ph.D. program in the molecular biology and biochemistry department at SFU with an entrance scholarship which is only offered to the top three entering students that year. The first year of my Ph.D. was super busy with courses, much like undergrad. But after that first year, I only did research which left me with free evenings and weekends. That’s when the itch started; I needed something to fill the void!

My first instinct was to go back to ballet, so I started taking adult ballet classes. That filled the void for a while, and I actually ended up auditioning and getting a small role in Goh Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker.”  I was one of the original cast members in 2009, and I played the same role again in 2010.

But after a while, I needed something more stimulating, something that would keep me motivated. That’s when I got it in my head that I wanted to try aerial silks. I didn’t even know what they were called, I literally Googled “dancing on fabric hanging from ceiling” and eventually I figured out that they were called “aerial silks,” and found some classes at one of the circus schools. I took classes there for about a year and a half, including silks, trapeze, and lyra. Trying out pole dancing was a very logical next step. One summer evening my best friend and I decided to sign up for a class just for fun. Little did I know, my life was about to change forever.

Q: Why Team Tantra?

A: It was a no brainer for me. It was clear that they produced the best pole athletes, and I wanted to be a part of that. The Tantra teaching method is extremely focused on proper technique and safety. Sometimes when we teach a skill, we will talk about the proper way to execute it for half of the class. We never just show a move in class, we tell you exactly what muscles to use.  Anyone can grunt their way and force their body into a move, but it’s the finesse and smooth transitions in and out of moves that really set the top pole athletes apart. We really emphasize safety, proper warm-ups, proper stretching, and how to train the body so that you don’t plateau or get injured. Having a good foundation makes all the difference in how you will develop as a pole athlete. I could go on and on about this but the real proof is in the pudding.

Also, the people at Tantra Fitness have become my family and my best friends.  I could not have found a better group of people to surround myself with. Everyone is so wonderful, interesting, and unique. It is truly an open, welcoming, and all-inclusive community.

Q: What is it like taking classes at Tantra Fitness?

A:  I knew that if I truly wanted to be a competitive pole athlete, I would need to train at Tantra Fitness. All of the champions came out of Tantra and were instructors there.  In November of 2013, I was informed that the studio I trained at previously would be closing its doors for good and that’s when I knew it was time to join Tantra Fitness. My first class at Tantra was Pole 303 class with Canadian Champion Crystal Lai.  I was totally starstruck, but her teaching style was amazing. I went back the next day and took a 404 class, and I remember being in awe of everybody. I looked around me and everyone seemed so skilled and very advanced. And there were guys in the class! I had never taken a pole class with any guys in it before.

Everyone was incredibly welcoming and curious to get to know me. After a couple of weeks, I really felt I had been welcomed into a new family. Taking classes at Tantra Fitness is probably one of my most favourite things to do. It’s an amazing workout, alongside your favourite people.

Q: What is the best advice you've received for your pole training?

A: To take rest days! It’s so important to let your body heal and recover. Especially when training for competition, I never train more than three times per week. I could try to train more but when your body is fatigued, your muscles feel weak, you likely wouldn’t have a productive training session anyway, and you run a higher risk of injury. Overtraining is a common problem among pole athletes. One day you get to the studio and you try to do the moves you always do, and all of a sudden you realize you can’t do anything! That’s when you have to think, “wait, how long has it been since I’ve given myself a few rest days?” Even if your muscles don’t feel sore, they can still be fatigued.

Q: After competing do you see the sport differently?

A: Yes! Absolutely, competing is a whole other ballgame. When you are taking classes, you do a skill or a combo and then you can rest before trying the skill again. It’s very different when you have to do the moves to music cues for 4 to 5 minutes, endurance is a very big hurdle. Usually, you want most of your difficult moves at the beginning of your routine when you are still fresh. Toward the end, you’ll put in moves that don’t require as much strength but that are visually appealing. It takes a lot of training to be able to run a full 4-minute routine. I usually start running quarters and eventually build up the endurance to run halves. I am only able to do full runs about 2 weeks before the competition and it takes me a lot to get there. Before competing, I had no idea how much endurance plays into the sport, not only cardiovascular but muscle endurance as well. You have to adjust your diet and how much water you drink, as well as when you shower and moisturize your skin. Competitive pole is an incredibly demanding sport.


Photo Credit: Alloy Images

Q: How do you get ready for competitions?

A: I usually start training 2—3 months before the competition date. I change my diet and figure out a training schedule. It’s also very important to partner up with training buddies who will motivate and push you to train hard. I make sure to schedule rest days. I stop all other training and if possible, I try to find a sub to teach my classes. Training for competition is really hard on the body. In the last few weeks before a competition, I have to get a deep tissue massage twice per week and do physio at least once per week. Competing is a terrifying ordeal for me. I have terrible stage fright and in the weeks leading up to competition, I battle with awful anxiety. This is kind of a trick question as I don’t think I or anybody truly ever feels “ready” for a competition.

Q: What competitions have you participated in and how did you finish? 

Northwest Pole Fitness Championship 2016 – 1st place – Dramatic Lv 4.
Seattle, Wa – November 5, 2016

BC Pole Fitness Championship 2016 – 2nd runner up – Pro division.
Vancouver BC – June 4, 2016.

BC Pole Fitness Championship 2015 – 1st place – Semi-pro division.
Richmond BC – June 6,  2015.

BC Pole Fitness Championship 2014 – 1st place – Amateur division.
New Westminster BC – September 20, 2014.

BC Pole Fitness Championship 2016 - pro from Anna von Rossum on Vimeo.

Q: What is your next goal for pole?

A: For now, I think I’m going to take a little break from competition. I need to let my body heal, I have several injuries in my rotator cuff, wrist, hip, and knee. I want to take some time to recover, take classes at Tantra Fitness, and learn new skills. When you train for competition, you end up practicing the same tricks over and over and only on the side you do them in your competition piece. It really takes a toll on your body. In the next few months, I hope to take classes and do conditioning on both sides to re-balance my body.

Q: What advice could you give to someone who is just starting, or going to their first class next week?

A: I would tell them that everyone’s journey is different, so don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Enjoy your own journey and find what works for your body.

Photo Credit: Alloy Images

"That is one of the beauties of pole, that you can be very accomplished in pole, and also in other careers. I am very fortunate that my Team Tantra supports me in my science career, and my team at CDRD supports me in my pole career. What more could one ask for?"