Almost as important as doing your routine as many times as possible before competition day, it’s very important to watch footage of yourself. Video playback is a great tool for catching all the little details you might not even be noticing as you’re running your piece.
During training for my last competition, I discovered that YouTube is a FANTASTIC tool for this. Too many times while watching I had to take mental or physical notes to remind myself of certain things like my hands, to point my feet in certain places, to go slower, etc; which I would then forget, mostly because I’m a visual learner.
You can add notes to your video real time and play them back using Youtube’s annotation tool (the interface is in the featured image if you get lost). To do this, load up your video’s page and click the handy little annotation icon beneath the player to load the annotations page. Put your notes up and mark the times, play them back, and press save. Best of all, you can do this on a private and unlisted video.
Personally, I like to make a private playlist of all my rehearsals for a performance. All the videos in that list are annotated so I can see my progress in context. This is also great for sharing with friends and teachers so multiple people don’t point out the same mistake in your videos.
If you’d like to see an example, check out one of my rehearsal videos for Pacific Pole Championships 2013. Feel free to laugh at my annotations (ESPECIALLY 2:20), they get more specific after the 0:57 mark. If you’d like to see the final result, check out my PPC video!
Murphy’s Law: Anything that can go wrong WILL go wrong. It may not be on competition day, or it might be. The best you can do is prepare well in advance for the unspeakable to happen. Here’s a list of things that commonly go wrong during a competition program and how you can avoid them.
If you’ve found a top and bottom but are in need of inspiration to dress it up, I highly recommend building a pinterest board with makeup, hair, and costume ideas. It’ll help you get an idea of what you can do within the limitations.
Be mindful that some competitions have specific rules about how short your bottoms can be and if you can remove excess clothing during your routine.
Costume malfunctions are heavy deductions at some competitions. Even with all the checks in place—on competition day, take a roll of double stick tape and line the inside of your costume. That way, you can focus on everything else going on. The costume should be the least of your worries!
Hair up or down? That is the question! If you are deciding to compete with your hair down, be sure to train with it down to get used to it. Hair can sometimes obstruct your view, cockblock a move, or even get pulled (I’ve gotten my hair stuck in my armpit in an Allegra before. It sucked!).
If you’re planning to perform with your hair up, hairspray and bobby pins are going to be your friend! Preemptively plan for a secure hairstyle. French braids rarely come apart, as do double pony tails, and cornrows. If your hair does come apart, ROCK IT (If Nadia Shariff can do it, you can too).
In the weeks leading up to the competition, you should be able to run your piece multiple times a week without getting too tired. You may also want to try training with a pair of ankle weights on so that you get used to the endurance necessary to run the routine.
Before you go on stage, try your best to calm down and get your heart beating at a normal pace. Take a deep breath give your hands a small massage and do some jumping jacks. It’s important not to go on and hyperventilate.
Maybe you went too hard during the first half of your routine and now you’re completely tapped out of energy. To finish strong, remember all the points in your music that you took to breathe and use them. They can be moments where you’re looking at the audience or during a pause. Move slowly and thoughtfully and try to inhale as large as you can. Remember that your routine is only 3-4 minutes long! You can make it!
Say you blank on stage and forgot what you were supposed to be doing. First of all, DON’T FREAK OUT and look at the audience. They’ll know because they will sense your panic.
If you think you can recover because you will catch the choreography at another point in the music, your options are to either freestyle until that point happens or go into a “time suck” move. Time suck moves are safe moves that you can use to hold the audience until the right moment that your choreography comes back to you. For example, a nice long pole sit while extending your arms and legs full out can save you a good 5-10 seconds.
If you’re really lost and definitely will not remember your choreography, freestyle it. It’s important to take away the key points in the music and still make them look big. The audience won’t know you’ve forgotten anything if you keep them entertained!
Every big trick you do should have a bail out move. For example, if you feel slippery on your extended butterfly, bail safely into your inside leg hang. This may already happen for you unconsciously!
The audience won’t know when you mess up, only you will. An often cited example is Jenyne Butterfly’s performance at Pole Sport World Fitness Championships 2010. Many argue that it was a terrible fall while most say that it was a dramatic ending to the piece. She keeps the tone of her performance and smiles super bright. No one will ever know besides Jenyne!
Training for a pole dancing competition is exhausting mentally, physically and emotionally. You wonder if your choreography will be exciting enough, if the audience will cheer, whether or not you’ll be able to add in that trick you’ve been thinking of before it’s time. You may be asking how do I start, simply put, “doing the damn thing”?
Find your music
Deciding on your music should happen within a week. This is the easiest part of the whole process besides picking your outfit. If you can get it out of the way quickly, you’ll have that much more time to start training.
I’ve written a post previously about how to choose your music. Crack open Spotify and get to listening!
List your strongest and best tricks
Get out a pen and paper or a stack of index cards. Write out your 10 strongest or best tricks that you could practically do in your sleep. These include transitionary tricks and combos. Got it? Good. These are going to be your tricks for your routine.
You may retort with disgust and say that “I want to do an Iron-X for this competition! I can’t now, but I will then!”. Don’t do it. A competition is where you showcase your best and if god forbid anything goes wrong (slippery pole, bad timing) you want to be able to SAVE it. Your 10+ month old elbow grip Ayesha may not wow you, but there’s no way you’re going to recover if you fall out of a Janeiro on competition day if you learned it two weeks prior. Save yourself the added pressure by cutting out anything too risky.
Now comes the fun part. With your index cards or piece of paper, you’re going to play out your music and arrange the tricks in an order that makes sense to the music. Use this as the construct to your routine. If you can run the tricks to the song in the order that you determined, CONGRATS, you’re a third of the way done with choreography!
Start training as soon as you can
I started training in December for a competition that was in March. That may seem like overkill, but it really helped me. I stopped taking regular pole classes or going to parkour sessions because I was at such a high risk of injury in both sports that I couldn’t afford a setback. If you start early enough, you won’t have to worry about getting sick the day of from stress or sleepless nights or if you tweak your shoulder one day.
Start running your routine in your head all the time. Even if it isn’t choreographed, run the parts that you’re excited about over and over. If you visualize that you can do it, you WILL do it.
Mark it, Run it, Now Full Out!
Make this your mantra. When you’re practicing in the studio or at home you can practice in this order.
It’s important to run or do your routine full out (even if it’s in pieces) as many times as you can, as often as you can without wearing yourself too thin. Therefore, I recommend that you run your piece twice a day for three days a week every week until the competition. If you start 3 months before your competition, that means:
12 weeks x 3 days a week x 2 times a day = 72 total runs
Can you imagine how foolproof and EASY your routine will be after 72 runs? That’s untouchable. Even if you mess up on stage, you’ll know exactly how to fix it when it happens and it won’t faze you at all!
I knew I was going to need help when I first started training for Pacific Pole Championships but I wasn’t sure how to go about asking for it. I’m shy and very nervous when someone asks what my strengths in pole dancing are. Thankfully the pole community in Los Angeles is large and very tight knit, making it the best place when training for competitions — even for timid folks like me.
Professional pole dancers train in a variety of styles - Alone, online, with a partner, or in a group. Luckily I’ve had a chance to try out most of these methods this season! Let me give you a brief run through of each:
Alethea Austin confessed on Facebook after USPDF 2012 that she had only taken two weeks to prepare. She lived intensely with her piece, working, breathing through, and rehearsing intensely throughout that time.
Working solo is great for dancers who know how to choreograph and have a good knowledge of their strengths. I found that while training by myself I often got the most done since there was no one to distract me. It was also very comfortable to find new poses or movements that would’ve looked silly to someone else. Training solo is not without an immense amount of outside research; I watched at least an hour of different dance and pole videos everyday to keep my ideas fresh.
Training Partner or Coaching Privates
I trained with my lovely doubles/triples partner, Janet. We woke up everyday Saturday leading up to the competition at 8am to have the studio to ourselves. Working with a partner is fantastic because you build a great relationship of trust — they’re the first person you show new choreography to, will spot you in a move you’re thinking about adding in, and will tell you straight away when something isn’t working.
Also, when training with a partner, you can exchange “trade secrets”. I split my time between parkour and pole, chinese pole moves come easily to me, and I’m a big fan of any sort of power or strength move. Janet was especially great to train with because she’s a trained ballet/jazz/lyrical dancer. She takes her time in her movements and extends feeling from her fingers to her toes to her face. Our dichotomy worked well — opposites do attract, I suppose?
I had the honor of participating in Sergia Louise Anderson’s first Choreo Feedback class series in addition to my training with Janet. First and foremost, I want to say that she did not choreograph my piece for me. As a seasoned champion, Sergia was able to translate my aspirations for the piece into small dance exercises aimed at exploration. I found that by using her method, my choreography always felt genuine. I wasn’t forcing myself to move in ways that didn’t feel natural to my body.
She also taught me about breathing through my movements and making eye contact — oh so important details that make or break a performance. Breathing through a movement means that you’re actually holding it and breathing, taking a moment to look at the audience and make a gesture rather than breezing by and going to the next thing.
Say a bunch of girls you know are training for the same competition for the first time. Instead of keeping your choreography and tricks a secret (which I see a lot of) — share them! A candle loses no light by igniting another flame. You may find ideas in something that a friend did by accident. Groups are also great because you get a lot of feedback very quickly.
Something special about group meets that you won’t get by training solo or with a partner is the discovery of when the big “moments” happen in your routine. These are the moments in performance where the audience goes nuts and cheers. Sure, you can choreograph these moments in yourself but you won’t be able to gage a reaction without an audience there. If those big moments aren’t happening yet, someone will tell you, and you’ll have time to fix it!
The picture above is me with my Choreography group. They’re rad :)
I have yet to try out We Fly but I have only heard tremendous things. The gist is that for $24.95 you get the best feedback possible from a professional pole dancer. Their roster of gurus include USPDF champs Natasha Wang and Michelle Stanek, and Rebecca Starr and Tracee Kafer of Body & Pole fame. They’re there if you need technical, artistic, or musical advice and give you expert tips on how to take your dancing to the next level.
Alright ladies and gents, It’s about time where the tough get going: Two months until Pacific Pole Championships! I’ll be blogging about my competition training, tips I discovered along the way, and random thoughts leading to March 15th.
I thought I would blog today about music selection for competitions. It’s one of the most important choices you can make before you begin, but how do you do it?
My mindset went through these phases in the four days that it took me to choose a song.
There’s a billion songs out there and you’re only allowed to use one! It’s enough anxiety to leave you guilty for every day that you haven’t reached your decision. What I discovered was that all the thoughts that I had, both positive and negative, were all valid. Your song must:
And a bonus if
Above all, make sure you love your song. You’re going to be listening to it again, and again, and again. It’s very important that you have a good time dancing to the song as well as tolerance for its repetition.
Enjoying the song will make your smile that much bigger when you perform, and the audience will feel it!
A lot of my students have asked me what I do when I’m not pole dancing. Besides designing for a living, I very actively try out different sports and disciplines in hopes that they’ll supplement my pole training. I think cross-training is a great way to “mix up the pot”, so to speak. You’ll be surprised at the reinforcement and unique translations that your chosen sport will give you.
I’ve compiled a list with my experiences for your curious minds, complete with video reference material. Enjoy!
I train in parkour and gymnastics and it’s been great bringing over all the agility from these sports back, it’s helped particularly with all the Chinese pole moves I’ve learned (fonji, reverse fonji, etc).
I encourage all pole dancers to go out there and try something different. When you bring it back to pole, you may find that your body will move in ways that look very distinct from all your peers. This is one step you can take to developing a unique style. Good luck and keep dancing!
Let’s straighten a few things out here, because I know there are so many opinions on this out there and I want to throw in my two cents.
I am a dancer, and my chosen medium is a pole. The pole is simply an apparatus. There is nothing inherently sexual about a steel pipe. Sometimes it’s used to…
She gets it and I completely agree with all the points made in this post. Please don’t decry strippers or anyone for that matter. We don’t need any more shaming in our industry/sport/art.
“In the Defense of Pole Dancing in Heels” aka ”Day 28: Shoes or no shoes? Why?” of The 30 Day Pole Challenge.
I’ve been putting off this post for awhile because I have a lot of opinions on the question, but I want to say both are great. I believe that it’s good training try and use both in practice.
And in the defense of heels:
It really is a bummer to hear that so many girls in the “pole fit” community hate heels because they “cheapen” the look of the dance. I do believe in fitting the look of a performance to the music. This goes right down to footwear. If the song calls for it, don’t be afraid to whip out the shoes to add an extra oomph to your peformance. I myself would never have the confidence to dance to a rock/alt/metal song without the aid of my heels.
Heels work your body harder since they will add weight to your inverts and will force you to point your toes. Your calves will look AWESOME after dancing in heels since you’re actively lifting and lengthening your legs. Floorwork will be a piece of cake in heels, as you will have both the heel and the toe of the shoes to slide around on. If you have time, I would definitely advise you to watch an Alethea Austin video. Watch her floorwork — it’s as smooth as butter. Shoes add a wonderful element of slinky and sexy that is difficult to achieve without shoes.
However, bare feet is also beautiful. There is a versatility that is unmatched in working with bare feet; the power of a pointed toe and a flexed foot are really just awe-inspiring to see on stage. A pointed toe is literally what it sounds like, pointing your to accentuate the arch of your foot. A flexed foot is the look of a foot when the balls of a foot are stretched back with toes and arch and pointing towards your face. Have you ever watched an aerial silks or hoop video? Dancers will fluctuate between the two because of their function, whether it be climbing or holding.
A pointed toe at all times is what every dancer wants to be actively practicing towards. It shows that the dance is encompassing all of your body parts — from the movement of your fingers to the tips of your toes.
But remember, a flexed foot is also powerful. It can act as grip aid or add a strong visual line to a pose. Can you imagine a V-spin or Spinning Straddle with a flexed foot? You’re probably like: “Gross, I would never do that! That’s RAUNCHY!”, but if you were playing a character in your dance — say you were pretending to be the Big Bad Wolf dancing to Another Brick in the Wall by Korn, it would be approriate!
Train in both and your dance will get stronger. Being a versatile dancer and performer means mastering all mediums, and this includes shoes. Try to be open minded about the types of movement shoes or no shoes will bring to your dance and what opportunities will present themselves. Finally, be proud and revel in your accomplishment! You’re dancing in 6 - 8” heels that most people would sprain their ankles just trying to walk in!
Photo credit to Poleagraphy
Be open minded and positive. Leave your attitude at the door.
When you start pole dancing you may convince yourself that you’re “in it for the fitness” and you frown on strippers or exotic dancers. You could even have been dragged along by a friend who wanted a go at pole. The first few days will be the hardest for these folks. You’ll have to get used to moving your body in ways you may not feel comfortable, wearing clothes you may find too revealing, or heels that are sky high. I promise you, it’s worth it.
Pole dancing is for everyone, from extreme athletes to girls who just want to have a good time. Learn to embrace everything, from gymnastic tricks that you thought you’d never be able to accomplish to the raunchy floorwork. You came to pole seeking something exhilarating and different, don’t be scared!
You’ll learn to love and even contribute to the positive environment at pole class. These will be the girls who will gladly spot you, lend you grip aid, willingly watch you freestyle, and be your shoulder to cry on if you ever fall — all without ever judging you. The least you can do is return the favor, and you’ll be glad you did.
Join along and blog with me: The 30 Day Pole Challenge
STOP THE SLIPPAGE! A 4-Point Pole Dancing Checklist.
Can’t hold on for the life of you? Slipping all over the place? Ripped callouses?!
Every pole dancer has had this problem at one time or another; with the exception of people who don’t need grip aids, curse them. There are many things that factor into slippage on the pole but some of the known ones are:
Depending on the humidity and temperature of the place you live in you may have the weird experience of having great grip some days and horrible grip during others because of the weather. There’s definitely a Goldilocks Zone of hot/cold/moisture/dryness that is key to an awesome grip.
Quick ways to remedy this:
Winter time: Turn up the heat, put on a pair of sweatpants to warm your body up, and take a blow dryer to the pole.
Summer time: Air conditioning and a fan. There are fewer options available to you if you don’t have air conditioning, but I find that a cold pack wrapped around the pole for a few minutes will help alleviate a pole that has become too slick with heat and oil. Make sure to really wipe down the pole with alcohol since your body tends to secrete more oil and perspiration during summer months.
Different finishes react very differently to skin types, but the general opinion I’ve gathered is this (listed in most tacky to least):
Powder coated > Brass > Titanium Gold > Chrome > Stainless steel.
Hold your horses before you go out saying you’re going to buy a powder coated pole. Remember that while a pole may have AMAZING hand grip, it’ll be practically impossible to do drops or certain moves. Your skin can rip or burn from the friction.
There’s a dynamic trade off between the size of the pole and the limbs mounting them, especially if you’ve got small hands or thin legs or prominent knees.
50mms and thicker
Pros: Generally, a thicker pole (50mm+) will produce more secure leg and forearm hooks. Your Jade split will be a breeze, Gemini and Scorpios will be extremely easy because you will have more skin on a larger surface area. Although the 5mm difference between a 45mm and a 50mm may not seem like a lot, it is.
Cons: Not many dancers have hands large or strong enough to complete a one-handed spin, twisted grip, or a lift on these poles.
These poles are now the standard competition size as most girls find a good balance between hand strength and leg security at this size.
Pro: You will have the hand grip of gods. Deadlifts, Handsprings, one-handed spins will all be extremely easy.
Cons: If you’ve ever done Lyra/Hoop before you know how painful it is to have a small metal rod behind the backs of your knees. Any sort of leg hangs or variations will be extremely painful, you may even rebruise in areas you’ve already worked so hard to strengthen.
How much oil and sweat your body secretes can be managed.
If you have dry skin:
Moisturize the night before. I recommend Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Body Lotion and I DO NOT recommend any of the Nivea lotions. There are also pole dance specific moisturizers out there like Pole Physics, which leave a non greasy finish and locks in moisture. Other non-greasy finish products include Aloe Vera Gel and Corn Huskers. Grip aids that will work for you include Dew Point Pole, which moisturize first, then lock in grip (these need to be applied at least 10 -5 minutes before class).
If you have normal skin:
Don’t apply lotion right before class, that’s a spell for trouble — especially if your skin takes awhile to absorb moisture. Use a grip aid like Dry Hands, iTac, Mighty Grip Powder or X Grip to supplement your grip.
If you have oily or really sweaty skin:
Use Tite Grip or another form of antiperspirant. This product needs to be applied before class (like 20 minutes to an hour before) or a session and prevents you from sweating. It is NOT a grip aid.
You may find that you’ll need a grip aid on top of this if you’re extremely sweaty and oily. If you’re in a pinch try spraying or dabbing rubbing alcohol on your hands and limbs and wiping with a clean cloth to give you a clean slate and then applying a grip aid.
If you’re having a really hard time finding a good product in the pole realm, don’t be afraid to try out weight-lifting solutions like Firm Grip or Firm Grip Paste. These are really excellent if you need a ton of grip to feel secure. You may also want to purchase a set of Grip Gloves for days where your skin is too raw or oily. Mighty Grip also carries a variety of products for your ankles, hips, etc so that you can keep on dancing!
Remember there can be instances where you can have TOO MUCH grip. If conditions are right, you may have that perfect storm and what will happen is a tear. Your skin can burn raw or rip completely off if there’s too much going on.
If a rip does happen, clean it off with soap and water, take a clean pair of clippers and cut off the flap of skin, bandage and keep it clean. It sucks and may prevent you from dancing for awhile, but stay strong!
All these 4 points are interrelated, you may or may not have a hard time finding the right combination for you but keep trying!
If you have ANY questions, don’t be scared to message me. I will respond and I can do it privately if you ask me to :) Keep on dancing <3!
I think for most people, it’s overcoming stigma — being open and honest about your own sensuality and how that is perceived by others. I think sensuality, and having it in your dance is a powerful thing to both know and feel. Pole is a wonderful outlet that allows you to be unapologetic about being sexy.
At it’s very core, it’s being comfortable with yourself and the movements that you make. It isn’t at all like ballet, which focuses on all dancers in the room replicating and imitating a motion perfectly; or like gymnastics which is about technical execution.
In my personal experience, the hardest thing to overcome was being comfortable with sexy movements. I was interested in grace and fluidity, not in feeling sexy or raunchy. It wasn’t until I saw Alethea Austin perform that you can still make beautiful lines and extensions while still moving like butter. I’m trying to incorporate more floowork and slow, sensual movements into my dancing because of her shining example.
This is Day 6 of The 30 Day Pole Challenge.
Prompted by a question in my inbox earlier, I decided to write out a nice lengthy entry on when you should decide you’re ready to “go up a level”. Here’s my take of the typical progression of a pole dancer:
Please keep in mind that although I only listed out 4 stages, I’m not saying it’s impossible to progress without meeting one of the things I’ve listed. I’ve definitely met girls who have been dancing for years and still hate doing a side climb. Part of pole dancing is also realizing your weaknesses and body limitations (and hopefully overcoming them!) while playing to your strengths.
If you have any questions, inbox me! Let me know if you want me to respond privately as well :)
and keep on dancing!