As much of a pole fan as I am, you’d think I’d have taken a workshop by now, but no! I’ve taken a class from Natasha Wang at a local LA studio, but never an actual workshop taught by a pole star (by the way, Natasha is great, and you should always take classes or workshops from her).
Thanks to the generosity of a pole friend, I was able to attend my very first pole workshop last night…with Marlo Fisken.
Pause for extreme fan-girl reaction.
I was in shock. It was such a nice gesture, and I can’t even think of how to say thank you properly!
In preparation for the big day, I squee’d a lot and made my boyfriend watch multiple Marlo videos, like this one:
Marlo’s workshop was at Smoke and Mirrors Fitness in Orange County, which is about 20-30 minutes from my house depending on traffic. I had never been there, although I know some of the students – it’s a nice place! Super tall poles, very atmospheric. I hope to get to take one of their classes sometime! A few of my pole friends from LA came down for the workshop, too, and it was nice to have friendly faces.
Marlo herself is art in motion. She moves like liquid. Really hot liquid. The workshop was focused on her flow movement, so we worked on the principles of creating seamless motion and continuous movement in transitions. It was tough in different areas, for all of us, but some people got the tricks faster/easier than others. I was not one of those people. I struggled.
Our warm up was movement based, and while it was tough, it wasn’t impossible. I kept up for most of it, and my asthma kept itself in check for most of it, which was excellent. The movement was so foreign to me, so it was like learning choreography while trying to stretch and get warm. It was interesting while being challenging, which I appreciated. Marlo also had us do some conditioning and floor moves that were also interesting – cartwheel presses across the floor were tough, but the floorwork (shoulder stand/roll) was very cool.
She followed up the warm up/conditioning with spin instruction, and wow. She’s so pretty in her technique. She just floats. Her instruction was meant to teach us how to achieve that kind of flow, but I had a really hard time with the timing of the hand switch – I got it once, I think, out of all of the attempts I made. I ended up working on the three segments of the spin separately, in hopes I could tie them all together once I had the basics. It was tough to not get something I felt like was fairly simple, but it definitely spoke to my weakness at pirouettes – a simple transition that has always tripped me up. She taught a cool move out of a spin that landed on the floor, but it was tough for most of us – I hope to work on it some more in my normal classes.
Part of Marlo’s trick instruction was based off of aerial inverts, which are my nemesis. I would rather try a fonji (which I do not have the skills to do) than do an aerial invert. All of my pole friends and instructors tell me I can do one, and I am sure that I can, but I have failed at them for so long that it’s become a mental block. So, when Marlo included it in the instruction, I was immediately put in the position of having to suck it up. Which is good, because I NEED to suck it up, but it was a tough thing to do when I had just felt like rather a failure at the spin instruction.
How did I do? Meh. I ended up just feeling bad about the fact that I was sharing the pole with one of the instructors from Pole Garage, who ended up having to help me quite a bit (I felt like I was infringing on her learning experience, which is really just my brain being mean). She did an incredible job keeping up with Marlo, though – it was so fun to watch her do well.
Regarding my own work, I will say this: I did a few aerial inverts better than I ever have before. I usually struggle a huge amount, and I did okay – especially since they were on my non-dominant side. So, I consider those to be wins – the fact that I even got into the invert is a big deal. (It may not sound like much, but consider the fact that I was so under-conditioned on my non-dominant side that I couldn’t even invert from the floor a few months ago – and the fact that I can barely aerial invert on my dominant side.) In fact, I was so unaccustomed to aerial inverting, especially on my non-dominant side, that once I had gotten up, I was totally confused on what to do. I couldn’t sit up over it to continue the climb – it was like my brain shut down. It’s entirely possible that I have never climbed up on that side!
To end the class, Marlo gave us the challenge of stringing randomly chosen tricks together, with the aim of having there be the least amount of steps in between. It was really challenging, but in a fun way – we had to really think about it, and some of the success depended on our level of expertise.
Marlo is ridiculous to watch. She’s the most graceful person I have ever seen – she floats in slow motion, but still moves quickly. I don’t know how to explain it, but watching her was incredible. It was like taking an acting class from Meryl Streep. A really sexy, buff Meryl Streep.
I left the workshop and realized very quickly that I was up in my head. I was thinking, a lot, but was not immediately able to pinpoint what it was that had me so introspective, if not upset. I kept thinking that I should have been super elated and excited, but I wasn’t. I did not walk away inspired and energized, and it took me a while to figure out why, until I realized what the overall lesson was that I took away from the night:
My lesson learned was that of commitment. That to be excellent at this thing that I love takes a commitment that I have yet to show. A commitment that I’m not even sure that I have in me. It was a real wake up call. To even be a little better than I am – not even like Marlo or Natasha or any of the greats – but to just invert in a pretty way, to get my aerial invert, to not struggle so much to make things smooth…that all takes commitment. It was really daunting to realize. I was a little despondent to have that reality check, even though it seems SUPER obvious – OF COURSE it takes commitment and hard work! Um, duh? As of late, I had been feeling stronger in my pole work – like I was physically stronger than I had been (and I know it’s true), that I was getting things I hadn’t gotten before, that small things were getting better. So, I think I was just really surprised to feel so far behind, even though I know I’m not some great poler – I’m never the most advanced in any of my classes, by far. The simple feeling of being rewarded by doing a little better than I did a few months ago was kind of squashed when I saw the long road ahead. It seems so far away, to be so good. Or, to even be the kind of good I feel like might be attainable to me.
It didn’t make me want to give up. It just left me distressed. If you haven’t read Sparrowhawk’s wonderful new post about comparing yourself to others, do yourself a favor and read it – it totally applied last night. I left that workshop upset with myself, and while I was able to see the small victories in what I did, I was also afflicted with a heavy dose of “NOT ENOUGH”-itis. And, really, that’s a mindset. It’s an opportunity to recognize it for what it is (a cognitive distortion) and to be forgiving and gentle with myself as I lead my poor, bruised self out of the dark alleyways of my mind.
As for what to do next: I want to work in more classes, to fix the things that are not pretty, to master those things. I would say that I don’t know how, but the HOW is to just do it. How is a road block for most people, myself included. The how is to go to class whenever I can, to work on those little things in between the lessons of class, to work on the conditioning at home. To allow myself to recognize the small wins along the way, and to look at the next step in front of me, not the entire staircase to the penthouse.
I might never be Marlo, but I can be a better version of me.
A while back, I came across a company called Soma System via Facebook – I think Marlo Fisken posted about them on her fan page? – and I was really intrigued by what they offer. It seems like an incredible practice for pole dancers looking to do body work! What is Soma System, you ask? It’s a holistic bodywork practice that you can do on your own, which allows you to blend massage techniques and meditation in order to release tense muscles and minds (among other things):
Now, I am all about finding new ways to not have shoulder tension, so I was really interested when I started poking around their website. A while back, I purchased a Trigger Point Massage ball, which I use occasionally – while it’s easy to use, and it does help me to work out terrible knots in my shoulders/back, it’s not a comprehensive self-massage option. I find it difficult to use on anything other than my back, and while Trigger Point does sell a couple of other tools, they don’t have a the selection that Soma System offers.
With Soma System, you may purchase individual items, but they also offer packages, which I love. And which I drool over every time I see them pop up in my Facebook feed! I get caught up in fantasizing about how I could be so loose and bendy if I used their system regularly.
Looks fun, right?!
So, how does it all work? I grabbed this handy-dandy screenshot from their website:
Sounds incredible, yes?!
On their website, you can also find info on how to use their products, which is SO helpful. You can choose the product you wish to learn about and view PDFs containing descriptions of exercises you can do with each tool. I think this is great, as it allows you to really learn and be able to use the products at home, instead of struggling through by guessing.
Soma System has been doing workshops on the East Coast for a while – they even offer teacher training! I was invited to attend a workshop by Roman, the Founder & Master Instructor of Soma System, but being in LA, I couldn’t make it to a workshop based back east. I did ask if they ever come to the west coast, though, and Roman told me that they’ll be at Pole Expo 2013!!!
Which means, YOU ALL HAVE TO GO AND TAKE THEIR WORKSHOPS. I currently do not have plans to attend Pole Expo – we were hoping to go with Poleitical Clothing, since we have some new items, but it looks highly unlikely we’ll make it this year – which means I won’t be able to do the Soma System workshops. BUT, I WANT TO KNOW ALL ABOUT THEM!!!
The Soma System Workshops at Pole Expo are offered at these times:
- Friday, Sept. 6th from 10:35-11:15AM
- Saturday, Sept. 7th from 10:30-11:15AM
- Sunday, Sept. 8the from 10:15-11AM
You can find more info here: http://poleexpo.com/palms-ballroom.html#.UfVggW0k_px
The best part? ALL WORKSHOPS IN THE BALLROOM ARE FREE WITH YOUR EXPO PASS!!!!! This means you have no excuse to not try one of their three workshops over the weekend!
Soma System is looking to expand their workshops across the West Coast, so if you are interested and you think your studio might want to host an event, contact them! I’m hoping they’ll be in LA sometime soon!!! *UPDATE* Here’s a little interview, talking more about what to expect from a workshop:
I tried to teach myself the Titanic tonight – it might also be called Ship’s Bitch, I really don’t know. I’ve seen it done mid-air, on spinning pole, which is jaw-dropping and gorgeous…but, I tried from the floor, which is also really pretty when I’ve seen it in performances. Since i had no breakdown on which to go on, I worked it out as best I could just from having watched Sergia Louise Anderson‘s stunning USPDF 2012 Amateur Championship performance. Watch the entire video – so worth it, her musicality is amazing, and she’s such a beautiful dancer – but the move (whatever it is called) starts at the 2:28 mark:
This seemed much more reasonable to learn than trying to go whole hog and learn it mid-air, especially since I don’t have a particularly flexible back (like, at all). However, if you’d like to take a look at it mid-air, check out my favorite Marlo video – the move starts around the 3:15 mark, and it blows me away every time I see it:
So, while I do not have the back flexibility or gracefulness of either of these ladies (yet!), I figured it was time to start learning something new, and even if I don’t have it yet, that’s why we train and make goals, right? Here’s my breakdown of how I got into it: standing with my back to the pole, I bent over and put my hands on the floor while backing the pole into my butt, putting my right foot just to the side of the pole – parallel to it, toes facing forward – and then positioned by left leg on the other side of the pole, but using it as the lock by sandwiching the pole between my thighs and crossing the left leg slightly behind the pole. Then, because I don’t quite have the strength or balance yet to sit up without help, I used my right hand as a brace on the pole to pull myself upright. Once I found my balance, I was able to let go and pose, although I can’t yet arch back far enough to get my ear/shoulder close to the pole – I did manage to reach up over my shoulder and snag the pole with my hand once or twice, pulling myself closer, but it wasn’t easy. I don’t have a ton of shoulder or back flexibility, so it ended up being more of a stretching exercise when I did that (and less of a pretty move). I noticed that my anchor foot (right foot on the ground) would scoot back the more that I did the trick, I think partially for balance, but also because I was tired and slipping. I did find that it was easier to balance the trick initially if I kept my anchor foot pointed, rather than flat.
I’ve been out of town again, but wanted to update with some recent videos.
First up is one of my new favorite performances, from Marlo Fisken – I seriously keep watching this over and over. She brings so much fluidity to her performances – and she’s a sterling example of what it is to pole DANCE. She’s also a powerhouse. I’m in awe, always. Stunning.
Next is a recent video from USPDF Champ Michelle Stanek – it’s a gorgeous mix of sexy and athletic, proving once again that there is room for both in the pole world. They can co-exist, and the results are beautiful.
This video – damn. This guy is amazing. Incredible strength and moves – he’s got some sick combos and Chinese pole skills. He’s earning some crushes from my fellow pole girls.
I’ve got some new post ideas in the works, and I’m thrilled to share that I’ll soon be reviewing the MostFit Suspension Strap, to see how it helps with conditioning for pole and aerial! Once I receive my test sample, I’ll figure out what kind of exercises to do with it and if I can work out a program for use, based on what they suggest, and I’ll pass along that info on my blog!
I’m looking forward to heading back into Lyra this coming weekend (side note: my mom is coming to a class with me, later in the month – that’ll be fun!) – in our last class, I got to go to the top of the hoop for the first time! I’m excited to keep adding on to what I’ve learned. I have someone tape me in each class, so I can see what I’m doing – how far I’ve come, what tricks are working, what needs to be polished, etc. Right now, I seem to be so focused on tricks and making sure I’m solid that I’m not really minding my musicality, so that’s my next goal. Also, I want to smooth out my inverts. Anyway, here’s the video from my last class!
Well, somebody likes me! A very special thank you to Pole Moves for including my blog on their list of Pole Dance Websites. It’s nice to feel the love! And, thank you to anyone who submitted me for the list! I went to submit myself and found out that they already had me down! *blush*
If you haven’t seen this video yet, it’s been making the rounds, and it is GORGEOUS. I was a little thrown by the editing at first – not used to seeing a performance edited – but it quickly won me over, not only for the sheer beauty of the dance, but also because I love the storytelling aspect of it. Coming from acting, it’s something I really appreciated and enjoyed about the clip. Huge fan of this creation – I have no idea how many times I’ve watched it, but the song is now downloaded, and I’ve sent the video to Drea for trick breakdowns.
Stunning, yes? I adore Marlo. I had never seen Kyle before, but he’s wonderful.
Been back at it in my own class, doing some review (thanks for the bruises, Teddy Bear), as well as working on some newer stuff – we learned a spin that was spotted in an Oona routine, which I shocked myself by getting fairly quickly, even if I’m not quite as graceful about as Oona. Keeping up the work on my aerial…slowly, but surely…and working on my reverse shoulder mount. My regular shoulder mount seems to have up and left me, which I’ll post about soon. I have stretch & flex class tonight, and two lyra classes over the weekend, then pole and stretch & flex next week…then, vacation! Hrm, maybe I can get a decent urban pole photo while I am gone!
My pole-related business venture is inching closer to fruition – I promise to post all of the info as soon as we’re set up! I was also convinced to start work on a creative endeavor related to pole, so once I have more done on that, I’ll share some specifics!
And, finally, some photos from my last lyra class – I am loving it! I can tell that it’s helping cross-condition me, too! Certain pole stuff has been smoother for me, and in general, I’m a little more interested in trying things than I was for the past few months (pole plateau, anyone?). I need to get some new pole pics, but never seem to get around to it.