Author Archives: Danielle C

Ink-N-Iron 2014: Pole Performer Showcase and PCS Queen Mary Championship

This weekend, we spent a couple of days as vendors at Ink-N-Iron, a massive culture festival in Long Beach, CA. The festival has everything from tattoos, piercings, hot rod shows, and live performances, to burlesque, pin-up, and yes, POLE!

The event played host to the inaugural PCS Queen Mary Pole Championship, with Amateurs competing on Friday evening, followed by the Pros on Saturday afternoon. After each day of competition, there were also Pole Performer Showcases of some incredible polers, too!

Ink-N-Iron Pole Performer Showcase & PCS Queen Mary Pole Championship posters

Ink-N-Iron Pole Performer Showcase & PCS Queen Mary Pole Championship posters

The festivities were held inside the Queen Mary, on the M deck, which was kind of hidden away from the rest of the festival: you had to go up 3 floors, then inside the ship, then up another floor, then walk the length of the ship, where you’d then find the mid-sized Brittania Salon/Ballroom, home of the poles! The room filled up quite a bit for each round of competition, with the Pro comp being a bit more packed.

For the Amateur round, we saw 8 competitors take the stage, many of them performing in their first competition. The gals went out and did themselves proud. The routines included some impressive tricks, but as a pack, the gals were at a reasonable level for an Amateur Comp – no crazy fonji antics, just some great dancers performing mostly clean routines with strong tricks! Judges Jennifer Kim, Rachele Ribera, and Katherine Voorhees had a tough job! First place went to Sandra Guadiama with an emotional piece set to a remix of “Mad World”, Second was Nadine Young playing up the wild side with a routine to “Paradise City”, and Third went to Rea Kowalski, with another more-emotive piece and some impressive strength tricks.

In the Pro Division, we saw 11 competitors, all of whom were so strong and amazing, but each very different in what they presented and the stories they told! The crowd really enjoyed a lot of the performances, but in the end, judges Karol Helms, Sarah Jade, and Alethea Austin selected Sasj Lee as the PCS Champ (making this her third straight victory in a row). Her first runner up was Amber Wolf, with a sexy and playful routine that was both beautiful and strong. Second runner up went to Tiffany Rose Mockler, who also took the Audience Award, and Kerri Friedman rounded out the pack.*

PCS Queen Mary Championship Pro Division placeholders with hostess Tara Phillips

PCS Queen Mary Championship Pro Division placeholders with hostess Tara Phillips

As far as the International Pole Performers Showcase goes, each night was all about the sexiness! Katherine Voohrees opened the shows, displaying her signature style of sexy, bendy beauty, which the crowd loved. Her fellow performers included Jennifer Kim, who combined grace and sex appeal with an incredible connection to the crowd; Sarah Jade, whose bendiness and sexiness are intoxicating; Rachele Ribera, who impressed with powerhouse moves and sexy flair; Nadia Sharif, whose “Roxanne” themed routine was a phenomenal showstopper; Jamilla Deville, who seduced every last person with her showgirl moves and incredible grace; Karol Helms, who lived up to her Miss Sexy title; and Alethea Austin, who closed the show with drama, sex, darkness, and some special sidekicks.

The event was sponsored by X Pole, Bad Kitty (who provided the Pole Pixie costumes), and Glitter Heels, who also had a vendor booth. My company, Poleitical Clothing, was on site as vendors, debuting new items and selling some old favorites! There were some last minute changes to the rigging, with the poles moving from 40mm and 10 feet tall, to 45mm and 12 feet tall, but the performers and competitors took it in stride. The festivities began relatively on time and ran fairly smoothly, with only some minor hiccups along the way, like a shoe malfunction with one performer, and a brief lighting issue when an audience member leaned against some switches for the house lights. While there was no private dressing area for the dancers, the girls all seemed to be in great moods and take everything in stride!  All of the pole events were hosted by Tara Phillips, who is always cheerful, fun, professional, and eloquent when she hosts and event – she works hard and does her research on each dancer and company present, and it really shows when she gets on stage.

Poleitical Clothing vendor table at Ink-N-Iron 2014

Poleitical Clothing vendor table at Ink-N-Iron 2014

As a pole dancer, it was interesting to see the reaction of the crowd to each of the performers. This crowd was not stacked with polers, but rather, stacked with people looking to watch women dance. The pole dancers present were there to support friends, but mostly from the Long Beach and Orange County areas – much the SoCal posse is from LA studios, and we saw very few familiar faces from LA studios, beyond those competing. The crowd’s lack of familiarity with pole beyond strip clubs was obvious at times, from the reactions of some of the drunker attendees, but on the whole, most of the audience appreciated the performers and stayed relatively respectful (save for one or two incidents). While the usual tricks that get mad applause at all-pole events did not get the same response with this crowd, they did scream for crazy flexibility and super sexiness, which was fun to see.

While we did not spend a ton of time at the rest of the festival, it did look like fun, especially if you’re into pin-ups, burlesque, and tattoos – some of the pin-up vendors had some to-die-for items available, and the tattoo room was incredible to behold: three floors of artists working on all manner of tattoos, from small pieces to full back art. The event organization left something to be desired, especially for vendors – for example, we faced arguments with parking attendants and having to pay through the nose for parking because we never received a vendor packet from the Ink-N-Iron office, which was disappointing and frustrating. The event itself is expensive (tickets, parking, and food alone will cost you a bundle), but there is a TON to do once you are there – you could probably attend all three days and still not see everything!!

The Ink-N-Iron pole performers and Queen Mary Pole Championship competitors held their own in terms of the entertainment available, and who knows, maybe they converted a few souls in the audience into thinking that pole is more than stripping and sexiness – and, maybe…just maybe…they inspired some folks to go take their first class!

*At the time of the announcement of the placeholders, Lindsey Green had been awarded 3rd Runner Up. She was given the plaque in the awards ceremony and was initially shown to be the 3rd Runner Up in photos online. The results were re-tabulated and placements changed after the event, moving Kerri moved up to 3rd. To my knowledge, there no formal announcement widely shared online, so I found out about it after writing this piece. I have updated this post to reflect the new placements. My apologies to Kerri and Lindsey for not correcting it sooner – I’m sure the situation was uncomfortable for all involved. ~DC 7/16/2014

 

Ink-N-Iron stage

I couldn’t resist playing on the poles after one of the showcase performances!

My New Home Away From Home

I am so excited to share that I am now a member of the blogging team over at the newly re-vamped Bad Kitty Blog!

20140422-004014.jpg

My first piece is now up and available to read, along with the posts from the other incredible writers. I took my ideas about how pole can challenge relationships due to a shift in personal empowerment and expanded on them – this will end up being a series, so keep an eye on the BK blog for my future installments!

Here is my first piece – hope you enjoy it!

http://www.badkitty.com/news/the-challenge-of-an-empowered-woman/

I won’t be re-posting the BK content here, but I will continue to blog on this site, with more personal thoughts and experiences. I have a fun possibility in the works for August, and I will know more about it in early May. If it happens, I’ll be throwing myself into choreographing again! I’m already energized and excited about growing!

Evolution

Last night on Facebook, Natasha Wang posted an old video of hers, circa 2009, as part of a Pole Throwback movement. It’s remarkable to see the evolution of her style – the video, which was shot at my pole home, shows a very different style than what she is known for nowadays, and yet, you can see the beginnings of where she was headed, I think. I found it really interesting to watch, being such a fan. Here is the video, and following it, a more recent performance:

One of the things I love about the comparison is that I feel as if I got to watch an artist discover their authentic voice, which is SO COOL. For fun, here is another comparison:

Michelle Stanek

For Michelle, instead of comparing a freestyle and a competition piece, I’m choosing to link to another video she has online, which is more of a performance piece than a competition piece. I think her style is still evident in her performance pieces, though. She’s got incredible elegance in her movement, but is still sexy.

I love this movement. Share your early videos!!! It’s so great to get to see how people evolve as artists and find their authenticity, while still remaining true to their core movement!

Poleitical Clothing Giveaway!

In honor of adding some new items to the Poleitical Clothing line, we’re having our very first Instagram Photo Challenge Giveaway!

Poleitical Clothing's March Giveaway on Instagram

Poleitical Clothing’s March Giveaway on Instagram

One winner will receive one of our NEW SWEATSHIRTS, which will be debuted at the Pole World News Awards on March 21st, in Los Angeles!!!

The Rules:

1) You don’t have to post a photo every day, but you do get only one photo per day as an eligible entry.

2) You may earn 1 bonus entry per photo by wearing your Poleitical Clothing gear in the picture – it must be visible to camera to qualify!

3) This giveaway is open to US and International entries!

4) This giveaway is open to men and woman of all sizes! (The sweatshirts are unisex sizing, so if you are plus size, we have you covered!)

5) Be creative with your choices! Video or photo is allowed.

6) If you cannot perform a trick, i.e. a Jade Split, it is permissible to do a variation as long as that variation is clearly from the same trick.

7) Contest runs March 1st, 2014 through March 31st, 2014.

8) Contest entries must be posted via Instagram. You must follow Poleitical Clothing, and you must tag Poleitical Clothing by their username and with a hashtag, i.e. @poleiticalclothing and #poleiticalclothing, for your entry to count. If you have a private profile, you must approve us as followers for your entries to be counted.

9) Prize value is approximately $50 USD, not including shipping. Sweatshirt will be shipped from Los Angeles, CA (shipping covered by Poleitical Clothing). Please allow up to 4 weeks for delivery – we will let the winner know when it ships. Not redeemable for cash value. Winner will be notified via Instagram and must respond within 1 week of notification with their contact info and size choice via email, or a new winner will be chosen. Chances of winning depend on number of entries.

Good Luck and Have Fun!!!

A Horse of a Different Color

As a kid, my favorite part of The Wizard of Oz was this scene:

I loved that horse. At the time, I suppose I would have said that it was because I liked horses, and look, it’s a rainbow horse, how did they do that?!

As an adult, I recognize something else about the horse: It is one of a kind.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how I tend to feel like I don’t always fit in when I am in class. Sometimes, it’s an ability level issue – I’ll go to a class and find that nothing is working for me, and that everyone else seems so far ahead of me – but a lot of the time, it comes down to size.

I’m not what most of the country would probably refer to as a big girl. I’m 5’6″ and probably around 160lbs. That’s dead average for the US. But…in pole? Not so much. At least, not in Los Angeles, where thin is a religion.

In most classes I attend, I am the biggest girl, or one of the larger girls. This isn’t always true – I’m not always the biggest gal, and it’s not something that upsets me most of the time, but…I am always aware of it. No matter how advanced I get, it remains a fact that things are harder for me because I have more ass to get over my head. And that’s really frustrating.

As of late, I’ve felt like I am at a pole plateau, where I am struggling to feel like I am moving forward with  my peers. I think that’s a big part of the reason why I have been seeking out other ways to be successful in this world, like taking the free dance exploration class and my lyra classes. That success is important to me. I feel more alive and inspired when I feel successful, and it makes the days where things don’t go right a little easier to release.

A few days ago, I read a great post related to all of this – if you haven’t read Pole Geek’s recent post about being curvy in the pole world, I recommend it. It got me thinking about feeling like the odd man out, as expressed above. And, for some reason, as I was standing in the parking lot of our building, watching my boyfriend park our rental car, the “Horse of a Different Color” song popped into my head.

Somehow, it all relates. Because, here’s the thing: maybe it’s not so much about being the odd man out, but maybe – just maybe – it’s about finding an authentic way to celebrate that which makes you different. It’s about making the choice to say that it’s okay, that it might even make you special.

In this week’s free dance exploration class, we had a partner exercise, where we worked with a partner to interpret and tell stories. After our last round, there were two compliments that stood out about me and my partner. For her, the compliment was about her legs, and how amazing they were (and they are – she’s incredible). For me, it was my gaze as I danced, and that it had an emotional impact on two individuals who were watching. I don’t feel that it’s fair to boil either of us down to just those things – my partner told a story through her dance, and it was gorgeous and emotional, and yes, her body is beautiful. But, it was of interest to me that the things that were highlighted about us were so different in context, and that maybe there was a lesson there about not being disappointed that you aren’t seen in one way, but instead, celebrating the positive ways we are seen. Would I have loved a compliment on my legs? Of course! But, it means much more to me that my expression during my dance was emotionally moving to people, and I think that is its own kind of special.

I’m not saying anything earth-shattering, or even anything new, but what I am trying to do is to coax myself around to making this a practice for myself, instead of saying, “Oh, yes, totally!” and then going back to how I have always done things. I think that shift makes a difference, perhaps not in the quality of what one does, but in the quality of what it brings to their life.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Nadia Shariff, who was kind enough to grant us an interview for our Poleitical Clothing Newsletter that came out around CPDC. In the interview, we asked her, “Is there one trick that still eludes you?”

Her reply? “I’m not one of those pole dancers that is good at everything; I’m good at what I do. ;)

I think this idea is so important to remember, as we get frustrated with our differences, and as we celebrate what makes us, us:

Do what is yours to do.

Dancing at The Pole Garage

Free Style at The Pole Garage

Power & Pole: Some Thoughts

A note about this post: I’m working on a theory about pole that I have not fully fleshed out, but this post is my attempt to get some of it out of my head. I apologize if it is not fully formed, or does not make sense, but I hope to eventually get it all put together in a coherent form.

When someone asks you what you’ve gotten from pole, or how it has changed you, what do you say?

  • It’s fun
  • It makes me happy
  • I have made great friends
  • It’s an awesome work out
  • I’ve lost weight/gotten in shape
  • I have more confidence
  • I feel sexier

Do any of these sound familiar?

I think all of these are common expressions of the types of things that people enjoy from pole. One of the great things about this activity is that it can bring so many great things to so many different people. What I am curious about, though, is how these may fit into a larger picture.

I have a theory that pole brings one thing to the majority of people involved in it, which manifests itself in all of the ways I have listed (and more).

Pole brings Power.

I think that the reason that pole is so challenging for some people to accept – especially in those they love – is that the power that comes with it is scary. When people who were not previously empowered begin to change and grow, it challenges those around them. How their community responds to them is interesting to me.

If you think of a person as part of a whole community, and the idea that the community reacts to them in a certain role, think about how a change in that person can challenge how the others in the community see and know themselves. (It’s related to Gestalt Psychology.) If you are an insecure person when you begin to pole, and pole inspires you to have more confidence in yourself, what happens to those around you who knew you – or even relied on you – to be insecure? This isn’t to say that people be aware enough to know that your insecurity was something they relied on…but…think about it. If the change in you causes a shift in you, and a shift in the balance of your relationship with others…wouldn’t that be considered a threat to them?

Why am I talking about this?

A friend of mine recently spoke with me about the reactions her significant other was having regarding her journey with pole. The reactions range from pouty when she goes to class to demanding (if not borderline controlling) regarding the amount of time she would like to spend with pole. In chatting with her about how she has changed since the inception of their relationship, and particularly since pole came into her life, it made me wonder: was the new insecurity expressed by her partner a result of the shift in her personal power? Or, does it have nothing to do with pole, i.e. the fault lying only in the insecurity of the partner in question.

I would love to hear about the personal journeys of those of you who read my blog, particularly in terms of pole and your own empowerment. How have others responded? What changes have you noticed yourself, and have those changes heralded changes in others in your circle? It’s certainly something to think about.

Free Dance Pole and Floor Exploration: A Class Review

If you follow my Facebook page, you’ll know that I recently began taking class with the lovely Sparrowhawk (Iris) here in LA. She teaches a class at Metamorphosis: Mind, Body, and Pole called “Free Dance Pole and Exploration”…and I am in love!

As of late, I’ve been feeling really disconnected from pole. Taking time off over the holidays did not help, as my strength and endurance took a hit, which causes me to feel even more at odds with the movement. So, I found myself gravitating more toward dancing. Not throwing in many tricks, but just working on the floor, or around the pole. It helped me feel the joy I had been missing from my trick attempts.

Iris’s class is based in that very element: moving away from the drive to be so trick oriented, and focusing on the freedom that can come from letting go within the movement. However you choose to express it is fine, because your movement is yours. She sets parameters for each guided exploration, and you explore within those parameters. It’s incredibly freeing in a weird way – whenever I dance in her class, I find myself being aware of when I am not lost in the moment. I know when I am in my head, and I then have the opportunity to choose to let go again. I get to explore things organically, see where I bump up against challenges, see where I open up to certain things, and more. Most of all, I get to move and enjoy the movement without the feeling of needing to nail whatever I am doing (or, related to that, feeling so bad that I am not nailing anything).

On Thursday, it happened to be just myself and Iris in class, so we taped our exercises for the purpose of watching them after each dance (in a larger class, we do rounds and watch each other, although taping is permitted). I gave Iris permission to post it, so she created a supercut of the work we did, along with some info about the class and each exercise. Here is the video:

This class is beyond yummy. I love it. I love getting to MOVE and DANCE in a way that is expressive. I miss acting, and this is a way for me to explore that sort of expression again. I love getting to move in a way that allows me to feel confident, as opposed to feeling so down about not nailing tricks, or about feeling so tired after taking time off. I love the idea of exploring exercises, even when I run into something confronting.

I think what Iris is doing is so important, and I also believe there’s a place for it in our community. I suspect it is where we are headed next, too – a return to the organic nature of dance and a celebration of movement for each individual, as opposed to feeling like we have to fit into some box of This Is Good or What Is Acceptable.

If you’re in LA/SoCal, come check out Iris’s class sometime. It’s well worth it. The class is currently on Thursday nights at 6pm, in Studio City, but the time/date may change in the future. Full details can be found on the Meta website. And, if you aren’t, watch the video above and think about some of the explanations she has included. Consider playing these explorations on your own. Even when I am not in her class (because I can’t always make it), I have begun to try to incorporate the ideas into my free styles. Below is one that I recorded today, at The Pole Garage. All I focused on this time was not being in my head, following the movement where it lead me, and including one inversion on the pole. So, you see, you can set whatever parameters you want for yourself. The most important thing is to allow yourself the freedom to explore without judgement. :-)

Pole for Charity

I’ve been gone for so long! Aaaaaaaaaaaah! Busy life stuff. I even missed a few weeks of classes…total bummer.

BUT! This weekend I participated in a Pole for Charity event, which was a lot of fun! LA has so many polers, and we’re all connected through some degree of separation, which is how I ended up hearing about the event: a social media friend asked me if I was attending, I looked up the info, invited some other friends, etc.

So, on Sunday, my friend Amanda and I showed up at a home in Sherman Oaks for a pole photo shoot that benefited victims of the recent typhoon in the Philippines. Each dancer chipped in a certain amount to get some photos taken on a pole – there were also some fun pole-related raffle prizes, so we got some raffle tickets as well (I’m hoping to win the custom drawing from Leen Isabel!)

I love the idea of pole events for charity. I would love to be savvy enough to organize a big one to benefit pet rescues in the LA area!

Anyway, I was really nervous about the shoot – I’m curvy, so I wasn’t sure I wanted every curve on display, and I wasn’t sure what poses would look pretty on me. We had some technical issues because one pole was stuck on spin mode, and the other stage wasn’t usable because the rental company gave us the wrong connector piece for it, so the only option was to work on the spinning pole. I don’t do much on spin pole, so it was a real challenge to feel at ease (and to just get into stuff). We had some issues with shadow from the house, so most of the gals were climbing higher to get into the light…but since aerial inverts are a nemesis of mine, I wasn’t able to do much until later – I *fought* for that invert at the top of the pole, so that I could do a jade/pike. The entrance wasn’t pretty, but the photos turned out well. Our photographer was encouraging us to free style, so she could capture moments in the flow, but since I rarely use spin pole when dancing, it took me a while to do much of anything.

It was a good lesson in what to think about for any future shoots – warm up A LOT, be prepared to be open to new challenges, and be willing to have fun. If you’re scared, or uncomfortable, it’ll come across in photos (which I know from headshot sessions). Anyway, , here are some of the photos, which were taken by Roselle Photography:

Photo by Roselle Photography Photo by Roselle Photography Photo by Roselle Photography Photo by Roselle Photography Photo by Roselle Photography Photo by Roselle Photography

And, here are two “behind the scenes” photos, from my phone:

Pole for Charity

showing off my Poleitical Clothing shorts

Pole for Charity

Behind the scenes

 

Product Review: Soma System

A little while ago, I posted about the Soma System workshops that would be happening at Pole Expo 2013. I really hope that you’re all going to take advantage of their FREE offerings!!!

Soma System very graciously provided me with their Full Body Complete Soma System Package, and I have really enjoyed testing each of their items!! I think that we, as pole dancers (and aerialists) are pretty used to being sore: whether it is the latest bruise or burn, or our knotted shoulders and tight hamstrings, we are almost all in some state of physical disrepair. And that totally impacts your ability to perform at your best level!

You can read a little more about Soma System’s philosophy here: http://somasystem.com/our-philosophy/ The great thing about Soma System’s tools are that they allow you to work on your body at home. Through using their products, with their guidelines, you can begin to work out the knots that are robbing you of your full strength and ability. I would LOVE to get the chance to take a workshop in person, but Soma has some really helpful videos on YouTube, as well as great written tutorials on their website. Below is a breakdown of each of their tools and how they can work for pole dancers!

Individual Tools

The Roller Squad:

Roller Squad by Soma System

Roller Squad by Soma System

The Roller Squad is this mitt-like tool that is used for massaging tension out of areas like your pecs, quads, soles of the feet, trapezoids, calves, and more! The tool fits well across the palm of your hand – the silver balls face outward and are used as the massage points. They roll as you move the tool around!

I used this on the tops of my shoulders to help work out the super stubborn knots that I have in that in my trapezoids, and I have also used it on my forearms to loosen them when they start to feel locked up. It’s a nice feeling to rub it in long strokes, like down your arm, and if you put pressure behind it, you can really feel it in your knots! The plastic holders for the metal balls can be a bit scratchy on the skin sometimes, so I would recommend either not pressing too hard as you make your strokes, or wearing clothing that covers the area when you do the massage.

You can find some excellent exercises for this tool here:

http://store.somasystem.com/image/data/Excercises%20PDFs/Roller%20Squad%20Special%204.pdf

Double-Track Roller:

Double-Track Roller from Soma System

Double-Track Roller from Soma System

Oh, my. I LOVE the Double-Track Roller This bad boy is soft on the outside, firm on the inside, and makes a great tool to work on the muscles on either side of your spine! My boyfriend and I have used it to help massage each other when we’re both feeling achy, and it’s his favorite! This is a great one to use on your own, too – you can lay on the tool and move around to manipulate it into the right areas. I love it to help release my entire back.

Soma System has some great exercises in their written tutorial section, with options for your neck, back, forearms, and even legs! You can view those here:

http://store.somasystem.com/image/data/Excercises%20PDFs/Double-Track%20Roller%20Special%204.pdf

You can also check out their helpful video, too, which shows some exercises being done through a glass surface – it allows you to see how the tool works on the specific areas:

(note: the tool in the video may be an older version – the one that I have is entirely coated in the orange foam)

Big Orange:

Big Orange from Soma System

Big Orange from Soma System

The Big Orange is an ideal transition tool between softer massage options and firmer options. It’s inflated, so it has some give to it, and it’s larger than the other items. You can use it on hips, feet, shoulders, pecs, etc. I find it easier to use on my own, i.e. trapping it between the floor and my body, than to use with a partner, but that’s me.

Here’s a quick little video on one of the uses – the technique shown can be applied to other areas of the body, too:

And, here’s another video, which has a series of exercises (featuring some assistance from a yoga block – or maybe it’s a brick, I can’t tell): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j04GooBG-ik

This is one of those tools that can hit some of the most neglected areas for pole dancers: hips and hip flexors! Sure, we work to strengthen them, but how the heck do you STRETCH them?? There are some great examples of exercises on the Soma System website:

http://store.somasystem.com/image/data/Excercises%20PDFs/Big%20Orange%20Special%204.pdf

Myofascial Five Pack:

Myofascial Five Pack from Soma System

Myofascial Five Pack from Soma System

Oooooh these make me squeal! The Myofascial Five Pack is made up of five plastic balls in different sizes, which allow you to really pinpoint areas of need. Holy crap, do they work! I use them to work out stubborn knots, and while they generally elicit terrible noises from me, they do help! My boyfriend has used them on me, when I ask for his help on working out knots, and it’s sweet, sweet torture. You can also use these on your own, obviously.

The largest ball has more give to it, but the smaller ones are all harder and provide more focused pressure. They’re amazing for addressing deep tension in a variety of areas. There are some diverse exercises on Soma System’s website, including a rotator cuff massage!! You know that’s perfect for pole and aerial!

http://store.somasystem.com/image/data/Excercises%20PDFs/Myofascial%20Five%20Pack%20Special%204.pdf

Soma Foam Support:

Soma Foam Support from Soma System

Soma Foam Support from Soma System

The Soma Foam Support is a small foam roller, about a foot long and 4 inches in diameter. It’s used as support while working with other tools, but you can use it as a traditional foam roller, too. It’s just not as large as most rollers (but, hey, that’s great for travel!!). Like all foam rollers, it can help you to stretch and increase mobility, which is WONDERFUL for pole dancers and aerialists! Foam rollers can open up your quads like nothing else, for example! I love it for that.

Here are a handful of exercises for the Soma Foam Support (of the foam roller variety):

http://store.somasystem.com/image/data/Excercises%20PDFs/Soma%20Foam%20Support%20Special%204.pdf

Focus Roller:

Focus Roller from Soma System

Focus Roller from Soma System

The Focus Roller is a nifty tool that helps to pinpoint areas in need of release. I found it easiest to use with my boyfriend – he would use it to apply focused pressure along my back and neck, but they recommend using it on the chest, too! Unfortunately, there are no videos or tutorials yet for this tool.

The Spiky Life Mat:

Spiky Life Mat from Soma SystemSpiky Life Mat from Soma System

Spiky Life Mat from Soma System

Okay, so this one is unusual and intense! The Spiky Life Mat is pretty much what it sounds like: a mat covered in tiny, spiky points (over 6,000 of them!) – I wasn’t sure what to think of this, especially when it came to how to use it – there aren’t any clear tutorials available online, but the Soma System store explains that it’s to help release tension in the areas where your body is in contact with the mat. You can lay on it in different positions and allow the points to work their magic. In my tests, I wasn’t quite sure how it was working for me, but it seems to increase blood flow to the areas in contact with the spikes – or maybe it’s simply increasing energy flow in the area! Here are a couple more sample photos, as examples of positions you can take with it:

Spiky Life Mat example

Spiky Life Mat example

Spiky Life Mat example - cobra

Spiky Life Mat example – cobra

Spiky Life Belt:

Spiky Life Belt from Soma System

Spiky Life Belt from Soma System

This is a smaller version of the mat above. The Spiky Life Belt is used like the mat, but on smaller areas of the body. You can also use it in conjunction with other Soma tools, like the Soma Foam Support. Again, for me, it seemed to increase a flow of something to the areas it touched – whether it was blood or energy, I am not sure, but the spikes can be a bit startling at first – you just have to go with it.

While there are no written tutorials on this tool, there IS a video!

You can pair this with the Soma Foam Support for a number of exercises, including a great one for your lower back!

Package Options

In addition to selling tools individually, Soma System also offers kits and packages, if you prefer to purchase more than one item! Here’s a breakdown of each option:

Roll & Go:

Roll & Go from Soma System

Roll & Go from Soma System

Roll & Go is Soma’s smallest kit, with just two items. According to their website, it was originally designed for tennis players – and you know that’ll translate well to pole dancers, with all of those sore forearms! It pairs the Roller Squad and the larger, squashier ball from the Myofascial Five Pack, into a combination that can help you restore circulation and release your tight areas (respectively). There is no exact tutorial on how to use the kit together, but by checking out the earlier, individual tutorials, you can work some stuff out! And, the website lists some info on the shopping page for the kit!

The Basic Soma System Package:

Basic Soma System Package

Basic Soma System Package

This is an excellent option for people who want to invest, but may not be able to afford the full package! The Basic Soma System Package includes the Big Orange, the Roller Squad, the Soma Foam Support, the Myofascial Five Pack, and TWO of the Double-Track rollers. It’s recommended for all levels, and specifically for athletes (or anyone stuck in an office).

Full Body Complete Soma System Package:

Full Body Complete Soma System Package

Full Body Complete Soma System Package

The Full Body Complete Soma System Package is the comprehensive package of ALL of Soma’s tools! If you’re super into the system and have the cash, it’s totally worth it! It contains 10 of their tools: the Spiky Life Mat, the Spiky Life Belt, the Focus Roller, the Big Orange, the Roller Squad, the Soma Foam Support, the Myofascial Five Pack, and TWO of the Double-Track rollers. Mine came packaged in a cute little orange duffle bag, too! Makes for very easy transportation of everything!

Office Worker Sequence Tutorials

In addition to the tutorials on the Soma System website (which I liked in the relevant tool breakdowns), they also recently posted this great set of exercises specifically for office workers! It gives 11 tutorials, utilizing different tools, with office workers in mind, but you could easily use them at home, too!

http://somasystem.com/office-worker-sequence/

There are also two videos on their YouTube channel, which breakdown the tutorials for the Office Worker sequences – the first is almost 15 minutes, and the second is around 5 minutes:

In summary, I think Soma System is a great set of tools for pole dancers and aerialists dedicated to doing self-body work. With regular practice, you can really work out the knots, increase energy, strength, and circulation to promote healing! I have found their tools to be really helpful, and I think that if I were more disciplined about using them every day (or after every class), I would have remarkable results. At the moment, I’ve been using them when I feel like I need them, but I think my results would improve if I create a regular routine with them (this is something I need to do in a lot of areas, not just with these tools).  I also like that the items are mostly pretty easy to transport on their own – makes them great for those of us who travel! I’m excited to see Soma System add more tutorials, especially video lessons, online, too.

As I said at the beginning of my review, I also would REALLY love to take their workshops – I feel like it’d give me a better sense of how to do each exercise and get the most out of them. So, pole studios in SoCal: please bring them in for a workshop! If anyone attends their Pole Expo workshops, please let me know your thoughts!

Split Stretches

As some of you may know, I got my split somewhat recently. I was looking back through old photos and actually found a photo of my split from a few months ago, which my boyfriend took at my request – I think I had wanted to chart my progress, but then never followed through on progression photos. However, I do have this side by side comparison:

left split progress - approximately April 2013 to July 2013

left split progress – approximately April 2013 to July 2013

I still have a lot of work to do: I want to get my hips squared and have an easier time with getting into the split overall, plus work on my right split and center splits. Right now, I can get into my left split with A LOT of warming up in class. It takes the right combination of stretches, plus some heat in the room, and probably some other factors (hydration, energy level, etc) to get my front leg to the floor. I am not super flexible in general, so to even get this far is a HUGE deal for me!

Since a few people have asked me what stretches I was doing to help with my progression, I put together a quick video of part of the warm up that we usually do in my Monday night class. (A good number of these are stretches from other classes, too – I’ve just found that Monday’s sequence warms me up the best.) Our usual warm up is 30-45 minutes long, and we go through exercises, movement, and stretching for the entire body – it’s the longest of any warm up, in any of my classes, but I love it – I feel more prepared and conditioned by it than some of the shorter, strength conditioning based warm ups that I do. I think this warm up works because of my specific body – I take FOREVER to warm up, even when I am not doing pole, and my asthma doesn’t play well with cardio-based warm ups. Not only do I have more split flexibility from this warm up, but my shoulder flexibility is noticeably better. I can’t hit a Scorpion stretch fully quite yet, but I can now roll through my shoulder in one part and reach across my chest in a twist to grab my foot, neither of which I could do before joining this class.

The video is made up of stills of the different stretches we do for legs. It doesn’t hit all of the movement we do in the warm up, nor does it show some of the other moves we do that I believe help with hip and lower back opening, but I think it’s an excellent sequence for leg stretching. I only work on my right side in the photos, but we repeat the sequence on the left (and the photos may be out of order from how we do it in class, I can’t remember). This is really for overall leg/hip stretching and conditioning, with a focus on side splits – I don’t hit everything we do for center splits – since I don’t have mine yet, I felt that focusing on the split I have gotten was more important when talking about my journey and progression.

We hold the stretches for longer than the video, obviously – it is a quick overview with basic directions. Please note that I am NOT a pole instructor or a personal trainer, so you assume responsibility when you try these on your own – do them at your own risk and only do what feels comfortable for your body. Not everyone has the same flexibility, and doing new stretches without proper guidance can be tricky, so ultimately, BE SAFE!

(And special thanks to my patient boyfriend, who is ever supportive of my crazy pole obsession – he served as photographer.)

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 991 other followers