Video: This New Yorker is the National Pole Champion

Shaina Cruea is the 2014 U.S. National Pole Champion, known for combining her signature contemporary dance style with the beauty of fluid strength and grace. But she wasn't always so confident.

She still gets emotional when reflecting on her winning the competition. "It felt crazy to get off the stage and be like, I literally left that piece of me on the stage," she says. "It felt amazing."

A full-time instructor at Body & Pole (115 W 27th Street), a Chelsea pole dance studio, Cruea, 32, was a contemporary dancer with over 20 years of training. After college, she moved between cities in pursuit of a traditional dance career but didn't find the right opportunity. In 2010, she took a class at Body & Pole after doing a random Google search, which later led to her career as a professional pole dancer.

She enrolled in a work-study program, mopping floors and cleaning toilets in exchange for free classes.

"When I started pole, I realized nobody judges," Cruea says. "It's amazing."

Only a year after she started her first pole class, she was already placing in major pole competitions.

Contrary to the strength and confidence demonstrated in her performance, Shaina says she is shy and reserved in person. She suffered from eating disorders when she was a dancer and does not like sharing feelings even with her friends.

"That's OK with me [because] I have my partner who will always be taller than me," she laughs, referring to the pole. "And it will never leave. It will never hurt me but that might make me sound crazy."

Cruea's goal in pole is to win competitions and be able to travel around the world to teach workshops. "I've never worked so hard for something," Cruea says. "It's gonna open a lot of doors. It sounds so cliché. But it's literally like a dream come true."

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