After a loaded day of stress from school and the stress of recovering from a flooded home, Amber Griffin relies on pole tricks to recollect her tranquility.
This 5’1’’ pre-physical therapy graduate student sprays her hands with rubbing alcohol before she grips the silver pole that is twice her height.
She lifts herself up and smoothly curves her foot near the dangling purple and pink sheered fabrics on the ceiling. As she spirals down, the tips of her feet gently place on the wood floors.
Her striking twists and turns intertwine with her thoughts of how far she has come despite her setbacks.
As Amber and her mother were at work, concerned with their patients, Amber’s neighbor called her mother to tell them that their home was about to flood.
45 minutes to hurry and save as much as they could before the water poured through the walls.
Since their home is in the valley of flatlands of Monroe, the water ran towards their home.
Clothes. Shoes. TV stands. Scattered pictures.
All floating in brackish water.
“When I came in and the water touched my knees and stuff was floating everywhere…my boyfriend had to keep me from crying,” Griffin said.
“My mom and I, our entire life [was] just floating in water.”
After waiting a week for 3-feet of water to drain from their home, it was hard to find a place to start. Three weeks ago, they received an answer to their prayers.
Amber recalled a Christian-volunteer organization from Arkansas coming to help them clean out their house, but they weren’t the youthful faces they usually saw around town.
“These were men who at least 50 and up…gutted out our house in no time,” Griffin said.
Through constant hope and support from one another, Griffin and her mother have never been closer. Actually, it was her mother who encouraged her pick up pole dancing.
Her mother Julie Comack was searching on the Groupon mobile app and found a dance opportunity she could not let go to waste.
“We were always joking with her…and I told her to look at this: a two for one deal,” Comack said.
Even though she did not attend the first session, she remembered the second session as an uplifting experience.
“I obviously struggle with fitness…[but] I got myself up and I got myself around that pole and I was so tickled that I was able to do it one time,” Comack said.
A joke became a reality when Amber told her that after trying out, she was hired on the spot as a new instructor.
“It’s opened up a new way to connect with people and encourage women to feel sexy without feeling negative about it,” Griffin said.
Griffin’s undergraduate years in cheerleading played a role in her flamboyant flexibility. From flier to base spot, Griffin always proved her adaptability to a new challenge.
Pole dancing is, often, seen as inappropriate because of its relation to strip tease. Though instead of taking the side-eyed glances and bulging eyes to heart, Comack encourages the naysayers to give it a try.
“I tell ‘em… don’t worry about what everybody else thinks. Once you go try it… you’ll understand that she’s not out there on the corner taking her clothes off swinging around a pole,” Comack said.
According to Nikki Moore, one of Amber’s regular students, Amber’s easygoing and encouraging instruction is the push she needed to get back on the pole.
In fact, Moore used to be an instructor six years ago. Since picking up the pole “gymnastics” again, Moore lost 10 pounds and gained more confidence.
“Amber is always encouraging [me] when I’m frustrated…and want to give up. I can just tell she is genuinely interested in helping me to my full potential,” Moore said.
“For other women skeptical of pole dancing, I would say just try it twice. It is a little intimidating the first time, [but] by the second time you are much more confident.
Pole dancing is a fairly new chapter of Amber’s hyperactive life. Basketball, swimming, track, karate, and cheer are just a few of the sports she’s done since her younger years.
Despite her niche for hitting every pitch thrown at her, it was her grandmother’s near death experience that inspired her to major in kinesiology.
“My grandmother had a serious brain tumor that almost killed her. [It] wrapped around her spinal cord and the base of her skull,” Griffin said.
“The nerves died in the back of her head so she lost function on almost the entire half of her face.”
After years of physical therapy at Melanie Massey PT clinic in Monroe, she regained almost full function of her face. During her grandmother’s visits to therapy, Griffin walked around the clinic to see where she could help.
“They would let me follow them around and tag along and assist with therapy with the other kids,” Griffin said.
However, it was not too long afterwards that Amber transitioned from helper to patient. Amber had delayed hand-eye coordination, but thanks to the PT clinic, she was able resume the responsibilities of a young child.
“I was one of the first kids in Monroe to test the Metronome System. It is the only reason that I can play things like video games or catch,” Griffin said.
Griffin hopes to be a pediatric physical therapist focusing on children with special needs. She also wants to run her own gym with various sports for them to play.
“People don’t stop and think about opportunities like that. There’s few places that have special needs parks and other things for them to do,” Griffin said.
She hopes to include sports such as country-heat line dancing, PiYO (a combination of Pilates and yoga) and pole exercise.
Griffin teaches pole dancing every Tuesday and Friday evening at iSweat n Stilettos in West Monroe. For more information, visit isweatnstilettos.com.