Monthly Archives: April 2012

Gratitude & Attitude

I was back in my normal class last night, which is such an interesting and inspiring place to be. The girls are SO tough – strong, willful, ballsy women who push each other to be better. They’re a tight knit group, and I joined late, so I do a lot of observation of the others. There’s so much support in the room – the girls usually have a chosen partner that they team with each night, for spotting, breakdown of tricks, even photos (there are a lot of photos in our class). I love getting to see the difference in what we can all do, and I mean that in the best way – how Casey has become a little pole monkey, or Kelly’s extension on the Flatline, or Beth’s super bendy back, how Morgan nailed an aerial ayesha, how Mary Grace is the picture of grace and fluidity, etc.

Most of all, I’ve been so grateful lately to have the guidance and support of my instructor, Drea – she’s given me invaluable tips recently, in regards to the competition, but she’s always been so wonderful to all of us. Especially being that this is my first competition, and I’m probably in over my head, she’s been really sweet about giving me suggestions and tips.

Last night’s class was excellent. I went home afterward, bouncy and hyper and obsessively chattering about pole. I can feel the difference in my strength since starting training – I was able to do things that have given me problems for a year, which is SO gratifying. I worked on the moves that Drea broke down for us, also taking time to work on ideas for pole runs, transitions and possible combos for the competition, coming up with one I like better than the one I was going to go with originally. I worked on the spinning pole during our freestyle, so I can get used to it, and by the end of class, had all but scrapped what I was planning on doing because it just doesn’t work on spinning. As much as I need to nail down the exact things going into the routine, it was also really good to realize, “Hey, this doesn’t work” NOW, as opposed to trying and trying to make it work and having to scrap it later on. Sure, it means going back to the drawing board today and trying to mentally work out where things will go for the next few days, but I think I can log in some good time to work it out.

I’m in search of a new practice space, as my current one is closed for a bit – my home pole isn’t the right height to really do a full rehearsal, but I can definitely do a good portion of it there, now that I’ve rearranged my living room and opened up the space. I’ll be working today on floor work ideas (rehearsing certain things over and over, including my opening choreo), as well as listening to my song and seeing where I think certain stuff can flow.

Can’t believe it’s only 4 weeks away! *faints*

Side note: each week in class, we all work on our aerial pencil (from twisted hand grip), and I am SO CLOSE to nailing it – I’ve gotten it a couple of times, but am not yet able to hold it for the full five seconds of conditioning without a spotter. But, I work on it every class, because someday soon, it will be mine. :-) Drea is spotting me in this pic, although she’s in the process of backing out of it, as I was so close to getting it on my own. Soon, pencil. Soon you will be mine.

Pencil, you are almost mine!

You don’t know what you don’t know.

After a few days off from rehearsal, I went in for a quick session today. My last rehearsal was on Wednesday, with my wonderful friend who is helping me choreography the routine. We worked really hard, and I was wiped out afterward – physically and mentally.

It was an illuminating experience, to say the least. I realized that there was so much that I didn’t know – and that I had no idea that I hadn’t known it. I had to really work to not beat myself up about all of the little things I wasn’t cognizant of prior to this rehearsal; I had to work to not think too hard or too far ahead. I kept thinking about how I simply didn’t know what I didn’t know – stuff that might seem glaringly obvious, but which hadn’t sunk in yet.

I spent the last few days decompressing, being in my life, doing other things, but also spent time listening to my routine song over and over again, working out ideas for moves that work with the music. I headed back in this afternoon to rehearse, doing and extended stretching session to start, then mapping out the measurements for the stage. I wanted to see what I’d be working with as far as distances to cover, etc. I ran through my opening choreo over and over, playing with musicality and where I needed to be during different moments, etc – I started playing with move ideas while the song ran out (instead of just skipping back to the start), doing climbs, trying different tricks or poses, all of which were helpful conditioning. I left pretty happy, so that’s good.

I am hoping to simply work at it a little at a time, bit by bit, building my stamina while I build muscle memory. Of course, it’s hard to not thinking ahead and worry about stuff, but I’m doing my best to take it day by day, acknowledging the achievements as they come. :-)

On a side note, you now have only 45 minutes left to get tickets at the discounted rate of $20!!! The price goes up after midnight tonight, PST!! Get them here: http://www.pacificpolechampionships.com/tickets-and-venue/

Here’s a fun video that has been making the rounds – Enjoy!

 

Reasoning

Someone posted this article on the Pacific Pole Competitors Facebook Group Page – thought it was worth reposting:

http://www.polefitfanatics.com/2011/07/so-should-you-enter-a-pole-competition/

It’s not that I forget that I’m actually competing against other gals…but, I kind of DO forget it. I’m more concerned with what I’m doing – improving my technique, getting stronger, having a routine that makes sense, not falling off the pole from 10 feet up, etc.

I don’t know how to say this and not sound negative, but I don’t really expect to place in the event. There appears to be a smaller group of competitors in my particular division, which I guess improves all of our odds – I even know one girl, from the studio – but I don’t underestimate anyone’s ability…nor do I overestimate my own. I’m more concerned with not looking like a jackass than I am with whether or not I take any prize home. Would it be nice? Have I occasionally gotten lost in the idea of it while sitting in traffic? Sure. But, in reality, I just want to be able to feel that I did well on my own terms. I’m not overreaching with my tricks or trying to cram in anything that I don’t think I can absolutely nail. I’m playing what I think are my strengths and committing to making those as strong as I can before I get on stage.

Doing what is yours to do is an important part of any endeavor that could place you in competition with others – you can’t control anything else, so spending as little time as possible worrying about it is the best plan.

I got into this thing to challenge myself. I wanted to be better overall and learn…and maybe lose a little weight/get in better shape as well. :-) Not gonna lie about that aspect. I’m trying to remain realistic about it. We’ll see how that goes…

Be Gentle

As one might expect, learning pole is a physical challenge. The further you go, the more you ask of your body. But what some might not expect is the emotional and mental challenge that comes along with it.

When I first began my journey, it was in a class that was a mix of erotic movement and life coaching. It was taught by a friend of a friend (who later became my friend), and I have to be honest – my first reaction to the idea of it was negative and judgmental. Each time my friend brought up the class, I would have this reaction. One day, one of the voices in my head (let’s face it, there’s a chorus up there) piped up and said, “Why are you reacting so strongly to this?” I thought about it, and it hit me: I was SCARED.

So, naturally, my next thought was, “Well, I guess I better do it, then.”

The class incorporated some pole – basic spins – but it focused more on recognizing personal blocks, moving through and releasing emotional trauma, and getting in touch with oneself as a woman – accepting ALL parts, loving ALL parts, celebrating ALL parts.

It was tough. It was scary. But it changed my life.

Some years later, I returned to taking pole classes at a new studio (my coach had long moved away), looking to feel more connected with myself and to get in some kind of decent shape. A recommendation from Natasha Wang brought me to my new pole home, The Pole Garage, where I started classes in late 2009. Over the last year and a half, I have found myself challenged physically in ways I couldn’t imagine, but I do catch that my emotional demons pop up from time to time.

I see it when I can’t get my mind around a trick that, for all intents and purposes, I should be able to do. I see it when I have a night where NOTHING seems to work – everyone is better, or thinner, or progressing faster, or more flexible, or whatever bullshit I conjure up as “truth” that evening. I even see my general aversion to commitment pop up from time to time.

And, what I often struggle with the most is the tendency to be really hard on myself. I am not gentle. I am not often kind to myself. I have to actively sit down and say, “Back up. What did I do well tonight? What can I take pride in?” I have to remind myself to reward myself for doing even the smallest thing. Because that is what progress is built on – the small things. At least, that’s how I see it.

Today, I went in to practice and felt off. Right from the start, something wasn’t working for me. I did an extended stretching warm up, then set about doing some conditioning, and nothing worked quite the way I wanted it to. The pole was slippery, or I couldn’t get the right grip, etc, etc, etc. I was frustrated. I began picking apart little things, like, “Why couldn’t I do this today, when I could do it Sunday? Oh my god, my stomach looks huge! I’m never going to be any good at this. What was I thinking?”

I stopped working on conditioning and set up a playlist to do some freestyle, figuring maybe that would snap me out of it. Um. Not so much. I was down some dark alley in my brain and no amount of Santigold was pulling me out of it.

After eating my feelings (Thank you, Wendy’s, for that delicious Frosty) and getting on with my afternoon, I realized that I was being an absolute shit to myself, and that it was old stuff coming up. I also realized that I had overwhelmed myself without realizing it, and the best thing I could do was start simply with a plan.

In my non-pole life, I’m an actress with a very specific way of working. I love my training – LOVE IT – and it works so well for me that I barely have to think about it anymore. However, when I started, I would take every scene and character and break them down in an almost scientific manner, based on our technique. I did it every time, and over time, it became so smooth that I no longer had to write it out, I could just think about it for a while, maybe make a note here or there. It’s to the point now that I can do so much with often very little because I’ve simply trained my brain to find the shortcuts. To say the least, I adore my technique (and my coach – miss you, Adam – he’s off in Africa right now, and we’re all impatiently waiting for him to return next year). I love acting. I love the feeling of being in a scene, of knowing and inhabiting and BEING a character. I’m proud of what I have the talent to do with it.

What I realized while sitting in traffic today was that it might behoove me to go about breaking down what I need to do each practice and follow that list when I go in, so I feel less adrift and more goal oriented (in a positive way). I’ve had general things to work on, i.e. hold this pose for 30 seconds, but I think that having a list to work from may help me feel more rewarded in the end. I’m a big list maker. I love crossing things off my to-do list for a day. Reminds me that I got stuff done. I think taking that route might help me be less critical of myself during this training period. I also think that, just like acting, breaking it down into the simple elements will help it add up to a whole that could be pretty impressive.

For the moment, while the goal is obviously to work hard, train hard, and get better, I have another goal that is related to my emotional and mental well-being: to be gentle with myself. I gotta stop being a dick to ME. Instead of focusing on all the crap I didn’t do, I have to really make the extra effort to recognize when I’ve done something well and acknowledge it. Even if it means coming home and writing down every good thing I did in a practice (or even in the day), so I can see it in black and white. (For what it’s worth, I found that writing down positive achievements on index cards – no matter how small – and putting them on a cork board is a wonderful way to have a constant reminder of the fact that I don’t actually suck at life.)

As far as practice went, like I said…not my best practice. But, I am working on “dancer hands” and doing better with remembering that type of poise/those type of lines. I hit one shoulder mount, after trying off and on – and I did it with my eyes closed, oddly enough. :-)   also broke down some of the things I need to clean up with certain moves, so that’s good, too – gives me things to be mindful of for tomorrow!

By the way…obsessed with this song right now. :-)

Shoulder Mount…and GO!

For at least the last nine months, the shoulder mount as been my nemesis. Well, I have a few – keyhole, I’m looking at you – but that fucking trick…ugh. I would try for a few weeks, then give up and revisit it a month later…nothing. I think I got up once in six months and surprised myself so much when it happened that I almost fell. :-)

Each week recently, I’ve been trying it, just to condition my poor shoulder to take the hit. And…I’ve been hitting it. It ain’t pretty, but I’m doing it. I usually only have one, maybe two in me per day, but I hit three today!!

This might not sound like much, but it’s a HUGE deal to me. It is a sign that I am getting stronger, which is SO important to my progress with pole. AND, I did the twisted handgrip pencil without major spotting (someone holding me) – it wasn’t super clean and wasn’t for very long, but it’s progress. Such important steps!!

Not much else to report for tonight – had a good class today (did a make up class), with a rockin’ freestyle. I had soooooooooo much fun with it – was just really feeling the song I chose and let go with it (see below). Letting go is ideal for freestyle/floor work. I did a ton of floor work during it, then threw in a demo of something that might be in my pole run for the competition, just to work on it. It was SUCH a work out – definitely going to be throwing more freestyle into my training, for stamina and endurance purposes.

No new bruises tonight, other than the usual one of the top of my foot – it was really worked hard by the transitions workshop I did the other night, which was mostly climbing variations and tricks that come as you climb…

climbing bruise

I was beat by the end of it – Drea really kicked my ass – but was still able to demo the Cupid’s Bow for the other girls (I was the furthest along in the curriculum of the studio), so that was a nice moment – reminded me that I’m getting better with my endurance. However, I did go home and slather Ben Gay on my forearms. :-)

Speaking of…I have some freaky new muscles on those forearms!! :-)

Pedicures and Ice Packs

It’s a well known fact that pedicures don’t fair well when subjected to pole dancing. At least, not if you’re doing any kind of floor work. I’ve never managed to keep polish on my toes for long, but while trying to replicate a spin that I saw in a video of one of Oona Kivela’s performances (a spin I do, but not nearly as well as she does), I left polish – and skin – and picked up a lot of dirt. Which made me laugh – I took it as a sign I’d been giving it my all. :-)

This is the video in which the spin appears at the 2:26 mark (ps – she’s amaaaaaaaazing!):

Um. LOVE.

I practiced for a little over an hour this afternoon, just running through a series of tricks and holding some of the ones I plan to do in the routine – for conditioning, I get into the tricks I want to do and hold them for a while, usually a count of 30. It not only requires me to lock the trick and nail it/be solid, but it also ups my endurance, which will help me overall. I also ran through a transition that is new to me, so I can start to build the muscle memory for it – the pole was super slippery, despite the incredible amount of product I layered on it over the course of the practice, so I had a hard time doing certain things (lots of sliding going on).

I did manage to do another shoulder mount alone, which is awesome. I still don’t seem to have much in me to do more than one completed one, but even one is a major improvement over none. :-) It’s also a sign that I’m getting stronger, which is great! I also was able to do my signature transition between my two strongest tricks, which is still shaky because of the change in width of the pole (going from 50mm to 45mm) – I couldn’t manage it last week, so this is a step in the right direction.

In reading through the competitor packet, I found a requirement that I was unaware of until now: I must incorporate the spinning pole in the routine. Inner Monologue: “Fuck.”

Spinning pole is so beautiful. I love to watch it. I’m not a huge fan of working on it, mostly because I don’t have much experience and haven’t mastered the art of controlling the spin speed of the pole. I don’t plan on putting many tricks on it, but since I am required to do something over there, I have to choose one or two things to throw on it. There’s a great spin that I can do as a hold pose on the static pole…but I’m so scared to do it on spinning!! It requires me to drop very close to the ground. I tried to get into the pose near the ground today on the static and found it so hard that I ended up getting on the ground and positioning my legs from there. I could hold it, but it hurt like a bitch. So…maybe I’ll choose another trick?? :-)

Unfortunately, at the end of my practice, I landed funny on my foot and felt a sharp pain in the ball of it. No idea what I did. I’ve had it wrapped for a while (had to go into work and be on my feet), and it didn’t bother me that much while I was there, but really hurt on the drive home. I’ve got it iced and have been elevating it since I got home, and it’s sore, but I can move everything – toes, ankle, am able to point and flex. I have no idea what I did, but I’ll have to baby it the next few days and see where I’m at. Other than that, I did fairly well with the practice – I worked up a sweat, I free-styled a bit and played with character tells during random songs, I hit most of my tricks well and stuck them. I think that, with time invested working on that pole, as well as in class, I will get stronger and be able to nail what I want to do. I think I’m meeting with Kat to work on the choreo again next week, which I’m excited about! I’ve been continuing with research into costumes and have some ideas…mulling over if I should pay for professional hair/makeup at the event…seems crazy that it’s 5 weeks away!!

This and That

I had an amazing class on Monday night! Kelli, one of our brilliant teachers at The Pole Garage, was subbing for our usual teacher (Drea, owner of the studio and our pole dancing guru), ran through our usual breakdown of tricks, but also took us through a flow-through exercise on the poles to start class, as well as an extended freestyle period at the end of the class. The result was a more intensive endurance work out for me (yay!) AND the chance to freestyle to my song for the competition. I was able to throw in a trick combo that I am hoping to include in the final piece, which was great practice! I also was able to shoulder mount alone again, which is AWESOME – been working on that bastard for ages. It’s still not pretty, but hey, I get up, and that’s what matters!

I do have a fancy new bruise from trying the Butterfly into the Keyhole into Gemini, which blows. I hate that trick. I’ve never been able to do it, but wanted to try it again. Ended up frozen in it and aborted the mission halfway through; on the second attempt, I threw myself into it and dropped down on the pole too quickly, resulting in a janky looking move and a brand new bruise on my inner thigh. I’ve found that certain tricks work really well with my body, but that one…not so much. I seem to have such tight shoulders that I have some trouble with tricks where you have to manipulate your shoulders into turns quickly. However, I can make up for that in some other way – and, who knows, maybe it’ll just work one day. Pole is funny like that – one day, you’ll find something impossible; two weeks later, it’s doable.

I’ve sent in my song for the competition, confirmed my place/registration, and am one step further along! I’ve also put out feelers for costume elements – I think it just hit me that I’ll be in very little clothing, and while I do that once a week for class, doing it on stage for an audience feels different. It probably won’t once I’m in the moment, since I’m used to it for acting (see: short film in which I’m in my underwear the entire time, which is on the internet with 15K views). I’m a little concerned about the costume, but it’ll work itself out, I’m sure.

I also went to my first aerial silks class tonight! I was given a Groupon for a class at The New Cirque Studio from my friend and fellow poler, Amanda – she made it into a fun little belated birthday party by inviting another friend as a surprise! We had a lot of fun – the class integrated some of the basic movements we use in pole, so the breakdowns made a reasonable amount of sense, and I did fairly well with what we learned, even earning a comment about my strength from the instructor (love that validation!). I’d love to take more classes in the future, but pole comes first for now. :-)

I hope to get some training in tomorrow, and I have a transitions workshop on Friday, so fingers crossed that this week continues to be strong with movement! I’m definitely coming upon blocks that hold me back a bit, like my diet (I eat like crap and love crappy food), as well as some mental/emotional blocks on things, but I’m trying to let go of stuff that is worrying me and reminding myself to deal with each thing as it comes along, instead of getting overwhelmed.

Mmkay, off to bed, because I suck at going to bed at a decent hour. :-)

Two Quick Things

Tickets for the competition are currently on sale, and they apparently will be going up in price as the event gets closer. If you’re interested, here is a link to the ticket page:

http://www.pacificpolechampionships.com/tickets-and-venue/

Also, I wanted to share this recent video of one of my favorite pole dancers, just ‘cuz I think it’s cool. I love that Natasha takes her time in moves and between moves – it gives her movement a fluidity and (in my mind) sensuality that is subtle, but artistic. I love being able to see the movements, as opposed to having no idea what’s going on because the poler is moving so quickly (which is impressive in its own right – just not my favorite to watch).

I have lost my damn mind.

Hiya. My name is Danielle, and I’ve just entered my first pole competition. Which pretty much means that I’ve lost my damn mind.

I’ve been doing aerial pole dancing classes for about a year and a half, and I am at the level of intermediate/advanced – I am just starting to do aerial work, which is exciting and exhausting at the same time. For months now, I’ve been talking about how I want to do pole more than once a week, how I want to get in better shape to be better at pole, etc, etc, etc. So, when I found out about a new pole competition that was broken down into levels (Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced), I mulled it over…and mulled it over…and mulled it over some more. I wasn’t sure I was good enough, or that I could come up with a great theme (I was thinking about the Artistic Dramatic category, as opposed to the Artistic Entertainment, Freestyle, or Championship categories). In the end, I sucked it up, paid the entry fee and committed.

And promptly freaked out.

No, really, what am I doing?! There are some things I’m good at – certain tricks, like the pike and the superwoman – and I have decent flow in my freestyle dances, but I am not a trickster. At the end of class, I’m so wasted by the energy it takes to do our rigorous warm up and the aerial tricks that I usually just end up doing floor work instead of pole tricks (which is at odds with 90% of the rest of my class, who are all manic pixie monkeys). While I am an actor – and a good one (I have no issue stating that as fact and do not care if it makes me look like an ego freak) – I’m not necessarily a born performer in the way that a dancer needs to be. I’ve worked for years to keep things internal, to keep it small on camera. Telling a story through dance is new to me.

Anyway, with the help of a really amazing dancer friend – who is also being so generous with her time and energy to help me – I think I have a theme/character established. I chose a song that I loved ages ago, for a “someday” dance, and am using it for this competition if we stick with this theme. We had our first rehearsal to discuss everything and choreograph parts of it yesterday, and it was fun – a little intimidating when I realize exactly how much pole I will have to do in the dance itself – but overall, I left excited, despite being a little nervous. I went today to do some conditioning work on the pole, since I need to be in way better condition to perform, and I need to learn how to perform on a 45mm pole (I’ve only ever used 50mm).

Let’s just say that it was humbling.

The 45mm is tough – I have to learn how to climb, invert, hold, etc, with new grips because of the smaller size. So there is that adjustment, which is natural. Then…there’s just the physical conditioning issue. As strong as I am, I lose my strength quickly with repeated tricks. My lines aren’t clean like they need to be in competition. Mostly, I ended up feeling like I had slid backward, instead of recognizing how far I’ve come since I started. I had a few bright spots: before I left, I set about doing a few of the pose tricks that I plan to do (two of which are my stronger tricks) and holding them for extended poses to build endurance. When training for aerial, we started by holding the initial grip in an invert for 5 seconds each time, until it was easy for us. Then we moved to 10 second holds until it was easier. Then, we were able to progress to the next portion of the hold and start again at 5 seconds. It’s all conditioning to be able to go further. So, I took that principle and applied it to what I am working on for the competition. I got up into three poses and held them each for a 30 count (probably 15 seconds or so). It was at the end of what I was doing, so I was tired, but I committed to doing it anyway. So, that’s good! There’s so much more to do, and I am struggling with not overwhelming myself with it all. That’s where this comes in.

I’m starting this blog to help myself track my progress in the preparation for this competition (and possibly beyond). Because I will need to remember that it takes work, and it’s gradual, and to be gentle on myself, in addition to being able to look back and see that what I couldn’t do one week, I could do two weeks later.

So, here’s my “before” body picture…let’s see where I am at in six weeks!

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