As a Palestinian immigrant to the United States, Mathilda Nassar has searched for the feeling of “home” for most of her life, finally discovering it in the most unexpected place. Three years ago, while living in Ukraine as a Peace Corps Volunteer, she found her home in pole dance. Since then, she has realized that home is not a place or even a person, but a feeling of safety and of community.
When Mathilda arrived in South Bend to pursue her M.A., she began to seek out that same sense of community and at the very least a studio to practice her craft. Unfortunately, there was nothing established within a (generously) reasonable driving radius, so she had to make do with a solo living room setup - which turned out to be necessary regardless, due to COVID.
The plan was to compromise while she finished out her studies, but the thought of living long-term in a city without a pole studio and associated culture was out of the question. All until her partner accepted a local job opportunity, which made the 574 home for the foreseeable future. This is when the idea to start her own studio first presented itself. After lots of contemplating (and tons of crying), Mathilda decided to go for it! Soma Pole Studio will open in the first week of January 2021 in South Bend at 218 Sycamore St.
If you’ve seen Mathilda’s Instagram (@tee_poles), filled with videos of her doing awesome tricks like the one above, it might be surprising to learn that just a few short years ago she was learning pole for the first time in a Ukrainian studio, taught in a language she didn’t speak. She didn’t feel strong or capable and would shyly gravitate to the poles in the back corner of the class. Today, she feels like a totally different person, with every pole session being another chance for growth. She has developed her skill and fitness to the point that she is now pursuing competition at the professional level, but what she speaks most passionately about is the mental growth that’s come along the way - allowing her the confidence to teach (something she was doing out of her home before COVID) and now take on the challenges of becoming a business owner.
Mathilda wants people to know that, although it takes determination to learn how to pole dance, anyone can do it. The transformation and fulfillment from the sport/art are well worth the bruises, frustration, and vulnerability. She hopes to build a community that supports the growth that pole has the potential to foster, while providing a home for those searching for that feeling, as she was.
Soma Pole Studio will open January 2nd with strict COVID guidelines while offering classes for complete beginners, as well as more advanced. Class descriptions and more info can be found at Soma's Website. Here's an example of a beginner move you might learn after getting warmed up and acquainted with the pole:
Thank you to the "I'm a Pole Dancer" Podcast for providing great background info on Mathilda and Soma Pole Studio before we met with her. You can listen to Mathilda's interview here to learn more about her and the process of opening up a studio in South Bend during COVID: