Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Men on the Pole: Tavon "Jungle Cat" Hargett

Men in Pole Dance has been a hugely popular subject lately.  Recently, Shelly Lamb asked me if I had talked to Jungle Cat about being in my blog.  I had Twittered him but hadn't followed up.  The very next day, Jungle Cat messaged me!  I was so excited...and it was such random timing.  In case you haven't met him, meet Tavon "Jungle Cat" Hargett!!

"Men on the Pole" has become a popular subject.  How did you get interested in pole dancing? 

It's actually a strange story about how I got into pole dancing.  I'm going to attempt to make it short.  I've tried various types of workout equipment, TV gimmicks, and gym memberships over the years in order to get in shape.  Needless to say I never got the results I wanted.  I could never stay interested in anything consistently enough to feel any effects.  One piece of equipment that I used the longest was called a Fluidity Bar (Portable ballet bar that you can fold up and put under your bed).  I really loved it but wasn't getting a challenging enough workout from it.  So one day just out of the blue I had a strange thought in my head. 

"What kind of workout would I get if this horizontal bar was vertical?" 

At that particular time, I wasn't even sure there was even any such thing.  In my head, I could only conjure up images of people doing crazy flips and wild stunts on the parallel bars in the Olympics; which of course, someone as out of shape and scrawny as me, would never ever be able to learn to do; especially on my budget.  But the Librarian in me likes to do research so I opened up a Google search engine and typed in 'Vertical Dance Bar'.  The very first link at the top was  I clicked on the website and the first thing I saw were photos of the world class instructor KT Coates in plain workout gear and leg warmers performing incredible feats of deft defying gravity!  I was in awe.  I scrolled down further and saw a huge heading that read, "What's the Difference?" and underneath were two photos side by side.  One photo was someone doing gymnastics and the other photo was someone doing an aerial pole move.  Underneath the photos was the subtitle, "None as far as we are concerned!!"  And I couldn't have agreed with them more.

But I have to admit; at first I was highly intimidated. I thought, "Oh my God!  She must be from a circus or be some kind of acrobat or something.  I'll never be able to do that!"  Thinking back it was only something simple like a butterfly but to people not knowing what in the world it is, it leaves you with your jaw dropping.  Now I find it quite hysterical when people in the audience gasp and scream at the simplest things you can do in your sleep; excluding pole dancers. Nothing hardly impresses them anymore. haha  But I digress...I had never seen pole dancing before and I was immediately struck with the athleticism, beauty, and skill of what I saw and as I continued to peruse the site I became more and more convinced that pole fitness was something that I had to at least try.  And when I found that I could get a fully portable pole in my own apartment that was affordable, it sealed the deal.

Two years later and now I'm performing, competing, judging competitions, giving workshops, teaching private lessons, and small group instruction at Pole Pressure in Washington, DC. 

What is your fitness background?

Other than trying to learn all the hottest and latest dance moves from music videos in front of my dresser drawer mirror in my youth and practicing yoga and Pilates at home on occasion, I’m never had any prior formal dance classes before pole dancing and unfortunately I was never good at any form of sports. I grew up in the sticks of North Carolina so there weren’t that many options I had available to me in an area that rural. I always wanted to get into diving and gymnastics but my school did not offer either of those extracurricular programs.
What is your fitness routine (on and off the pole)?

I wish I could say that I did.

What kind of diet do you follow?
If by special diet you mean "no diet at all" then yes! Otherwise, I pretty much eat whatever I want. I do try to make healthy choices more often than not but I am not above eating a whole medium pizza or a whole cheesecake at one time. I don't do it that often but occasionally I like to chomp on bacon cheeseburgers and fried chicken, but I'm a very moderate and temperate person. I always have been. So if I eat a burger for lunch, then 9 times out of 10, I will only have a salad for dinner. But I may have a piece of cake after the salad. Hey I'm human! :-P

How do you describe your pole style?

There are different sides and emotions that make up The Jungle Cat.

There is The Kitten. Kitten is the child-like and playful side of me. He's the jokester of the bunch. So he prefers silly funny songs and does comedy routines. Then there is Siamese. Siamese comes out on the rare occasions when I'm actually concerned about being very critical and technical about how I look. Siamese focuses very heavenly on pointed toes and full extensions. He likes slow and fluid type pieces such as performances to classical music. There's Lap Cat. Lap Cat is my softer, sensitive side. He's the old school hopeless romantic of the bunch. He likes love songs and soft sappy ballads. Opposite him is The Bengal Tiger. Bengal Tiger goes hard, rough, and exciting with dangerous and often very painful tricks. Cheetah goes fast and furious with quick tricks, transitions, and very fast spins. Jaguar is the sensual one of the gang. He doesn't come out that much because he's a little shy, but starting to explore him more and more. The most dominant one is The Lion. The Lion is the spiritual one. He’s the king of the jungle. With a quiet reserve and wisdom beyond his years, he keeps all the others in check. All of these pieces together make up the Jungle Cat.
Which competition(s) do you like to do? Do you have any title(s)? 
Well I prefer the competitions where I don’t have to send in the moves I’m going to do ahead of time. I’m more of a freestyle pole dancer and trying to memorize moves for a routine drives me crazy and starts to feel too much like work. Then it stops being fun. I’m not the competitive type and I really only compete to get the opportunity to perform. 
So far I've competed in both East Meets West 2010 Pole Events which were Polarity:Trixpert Category and Tri-Pole Challenge: Bi-Poler Category; the American Pole Fitness Championships 2010& 2011, Polesque2011, a few other small time local spins and tricks battles, and will be competing in the upcoming National Aerial Pole Art Championships 2012 in Las Vegas in February. However; I wouldn't necessarily say that I compete per say. Technically they are officially sponsored competitions but I'm really not a competitive person by nature at all. Winning a competition is the furthest thing from my mind. So I just do it for the experience of it. I do it for the love of performing, expressing myself through pole, and getting to meet all the other beautiful members of the pole community from various parts of the world. I'd much rather perform than compete because, at this point in my life, unfortunately I don't really have the time and energy needed to fully dedicate myself to rehearsing consistently and putting together routines and choreography for judging. That's probably just an excuse. Actually, I'm just to easily distracted by PS3 video games and too busy lounging around being a couch potato watching DVDs from Netflix after work. (HAHA) The truth is that I'm not a conditioned athlete, a contortionist, or anything like that. I don't even lift weight lifts. I'm really just an average Joe boring Librarian who just likes to express different emotions via pole or get a good fitness workout while listening to various types of music whenever I feel up to it. I wasn't in any kind of shape other than doing yoga at home before starting pole fitness and I have no formal dance training so it is quite an honor and shock that an amateur like me, who can't even do a split and can barely touch his toes, would be on the same stage with people like Zoraya Judd, David Owen, Bad Azz, Takeila Fox, Marlo, Amber Richard, Skittles, Fiyastarta, Flying Laura, Phoenix Kazree, and Felix Cane. It’s a very humbling experience and I’m so grateful for the opportunities.

Where do you train? Do you have your own pole studio?

I’m affiliated with Pole Pressure of Washington, DC in the United States. Jessalynn Mediary is the owner of the studio. She is a world renowned master pole instructor and performer, and she is solely responsible for putting together the largest and most popular annual pole event, the International Exotic Dance and Pole Fitness Convention.

Do you have sponsors you'd like to acknowledge?
I don’t have any sponsors who have officially picked me up yet, *sad face*, but for the most part they have all been extremely nice to me. If I had to acknowledge anyone specific it would be X-Pole and Tinu Ola, the organizer of American Pole Fitness Association and the American Pole Fitness Championships. Ty from X-Pole is always extremely nice to me. He’s a very cool and down to earth guy and even though he’s not my official sponsor or anything, he sent me a free pole after I performed at the International Exotic Dance and Pole Fitness Convention in 2011. He didn’t have to do that. He just offered it. I was so thankful because I really needed a new pole. I was so humbled by his generosity that after talking to him I hid in the bathroom and shed a few tears. Tinu Ola on the other hand doesn’t cut me any slack. From the moment I first met her she was hard on me and didn’t cut me any slack. She’s a very smart, classy, and elegant business women but she’s always very strong and tough. She let’s me have it when I need it and she’s not above fussing me out when I need to get on the ball. She’s like family and I love her dearly!
But mostly my biggest sponsor is my family at Pole Pressure and YouTube supporters. [Check out Jungle Cat's YouTube page HERE.] Other instructors and students are always pushing me and helping me out by offering to share their hotel rooms with me when I compete out of town, critiquing my practice routines, and helping me with my wardrobe. My YouTube supporters send me kind and encouraging words and take up for me when I get negative comments on my videos. Without them I wouldn’t be where I am today. I owe everything to them.

What is your favorite product to help you stick to the pole?
I love Dry Hands; it’s just that it leaves a white residue all over my body and doesn’t photograph very well. My two favorite products are this white powder grip called Control Grip and a moisturizing spray that still gives you grip called Dew Point. It’s a necessity for people of color but works well on other skin types too! :-)
What did you do before competing and/or opening your pole studio? 
I think this question means what did I do regarding pole before I got recognized as good enough to get accepted into competitions? Basically for the first 9 months of my pole fitness journey I was really on my own. I could not for the life of me find a pole studio that allowed males. So basically I was simply limited to trying to figure things out on my own by watching other pole dancers YouTube videos.
By the grace of God, one of my pole friends I have made acquaintances with online referred me to her friend who (at that time) was about to open a new pole studio and open it to men as well. So I emailed her and introduced myself. She invited me to come into the studio the week before the grand opening and we just hung out and poled in the studio together. We immediately hit it off! That young lady is Jessalynn Medairy, the owner of the studio I’m currently employed at as an instructor. She took me under her wing and trained me like I was family. She gave me a chance when no other studio would and she put her trust in me and allowed me to teach classes. I’m extremely grateful to her for giving me this chance that exploded into more than I could ever imagine.

What is your favorite song to dance to (at this moment)?

Very interesting question! Right now I’m actually in love with Adele’s “Set Fire to the Rain” (Moto Blanco Club Remix). The bass beat just drives me to shake my booty! I’m pretty sure I’ll be posting a YouTube video of me grooving to it on the pole very soon! HAHA

Do you have any other upcoming events/competitions you'd like people to know about?

At this time the only things I’m aware of that I will be participating in is the Miss/Mr. Pole Pressure Competition, the DMV Tri-State Competition, the National Aerial Pole Championships 2012, and I’ve also been invited to do another solo performance at the International Exotic Dance and Pole Fitness Convention 2012.

What else would you like people to know about you and/or your studio?
I'm mostly inspired by spiritual, gospel, and uplifting music and I love to express those feelings through spiritual pole art. I'm not deeply religious in the sense that I go to church every single Sunday. But I do read all types of spiritual literature daily including, the Bible, the Koran, the Bhagavad Gita, Daily Bread, etc. Where ever I find truth and love. I also pray, meditate, and practice self hypnosis every single day. I try my best to live by Krishna's and Christ's teachings because at their root they hold the ultimate truth. I'm also currently 7 years celibate. I do listen to secular music but I listen to gospel music the majority of the time.

Pole dance to me is art. Gospel and spiritual music also to me is art. So it only felt natural for me to put the two together but I can understand how it is perceived as controversial. As far as pole dancing goes for me personally, I would love to be an entertainer but unfortunately I don't know how to purposely entertain; if that makes any sense. You see, good entertainers actually study the art of entertaining and work to actually perfect that craft. Be it painting, singing, acting, dancing, or what have you. I study pole dance and I do extensive research about the best stretching techniques or what not, but I can't honestly say I work on the craft of entertaining. I just do it because it's fun, it's some kind of exercise that gets results, it helps me to relieve stress, and express emotions. So no I don't always point my toes, and I don't always follow through with my body extensions. I don't shop around for fancy costumes and now how to put on elaborate face paint. I'd like to one day. I think it would be fun. But I don't really have a creative eye for putting together clothes and things like that. Maybe someone will offer to help me one day because I could use it! HAHA But if not then that's okay too.
I just know what it's like to have the weight of the world on your shoulders and deal with all the issues that affect every single one of us. Financial problems, relationship problems, family problems, poor economy, physical and mental illnesses, being abused by society and carrying that with you for the rest of your life, etc.
What helps me get through life with a positive outlook is the basic truths behind gospel and spiritual music. It very hard to convey those feelings in words sometimes and a way that I can express those emotions are through pole dance. So that is my main inspiration. Either to express thankfulness to the Creator, to re-energize and encourage myself when I'm feeling weak emotionally and mentally, or to encourage and uplift others. It's also nice to be doing an activity that your loved ones are proud of. It's a good feeling to have your friends and family pass around your YouTube videos and say, "Look, this is my son, daughter, brother, sister, cousin, mom, dad, boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, aunt, uncle, friend." It really means a lot to someone who's constantly struggled in the past to fit in and just be accepted for being you.


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