Recently, I had my first experience being a judge for a pole competition. The experience was awesome and educational in more than one way – I’ve written two blog posts about it for Bad Kitty and Pole Sport Organization, but I wanted to write a third, from a more personal place.
Having been a competitor in the past, as well as a performer who has received feedback from professionals, I have some experience with judging notes. On the whole, I would say that most of the ones I have received have been…lacking.
I think most judges mean well. But, what I have found that I crave – and this is true of most of the competitors I have spoken to – is not only flattery (duh), but constructive criticism/feedback. Yes, we as performers and competitors want to know what we did well! But, we also want to know what to work on, and if possible, to have a clear explanation of it.
These types of notes give us workable goals to think of for our next competitions or performance, but also for our overall growth. As such, my goal as a judge was to give strong, positive, constructive feedback to each competitor. My advice for any person who is going to be judging a competition or feedback showcase would be:
Remember to be kind
This is especially important for competitions that include amateurs, but I also personally believe it’s important for the pros, too. Everyone wants to be told they did well and to be recognized. Even if their routine needs a lot of help, picking out one or two small details or moments and celebrating those in your notes can make all the difference in encouraging the recipient. Remember that people thrive best in pole when they feel validated for their hard work. We all love getting the stuff that we couldn’t get the week or month before, and this is similar – and, that sometimes, competitors don’t know they did something cool. They may just be focused on some mistake they made. Let them know that they are seen and recognized for doing something well!
Even when I watched someone who clearly struggled, I tried very hard to find something positive to say. People often know when they struggled. And, this doesn’t mean you have to overlook that, but…try to find something positive. An example for you: I watched a competitor who truly had a rough time with their routine and connecting to the audience, but they had a couple of small moments that shone through – a spinning climb on static, and the joy on their face on their spinning pole pass. So, I took a moment to mention those at the start of my notes. It’s a small, kind gesture that can encourage someone to keep going with their pole journey.
Be constructive in your criticism
Based the feedback I heard from my friends regarding their judging notes, the ones they appreciated the most were the ones that gave them clear ideas of what to work on. I tried to do this with every competitor, even the ones that were awesome. Constructive criticism can be anything from “remember to point your toes” to things like audience connection, costume effectiveness, pacing and energy, an increase in difficulty of tricks, and any host of other suggestions to improve the strength of a routine. Always try to find eloquent ways to express these criticisms. Some of my favorites were, “For next time, I would like to see you do [insert constructive note]” and “For the future, I would like you to work on [constructive note] to strengthen your performance.” Framing it as “something to work on for the future” can help a competitor really see it as a workable goal, instead of just a critique. If you do need to make a deduction, check to make sure you have it correct (at PAAC, I was personally deducted for something that was NOT correct, but the judge either did not listen, or was not informed). Ask the panel assistant, or your fellow judges, if you aren’t sure.
Also, remember that many competitors will suspect what they need to work on, but still want to hear it from someone else. When I did my PAAC routine, I knew I didn’t get enough momentum in my spin, and that I did not have a high difficulty level to my tricks, so it wasn’t a shock to me when those notes came up. It just reinforced that I needed to work on those things!
Take your time
Yes, you generally have a time limit within which you must finish your notes and scoring, but…don’t rush it just to beat the clock. Say what you want to say, and take that extra 30 to 60 seconds to let the competitor know your thoughts. Providing fuller notes only enriches the experience of the competitor, but also, it gives YOU more experience. I don’t think I got any notes done in under 2 minutes, and I would say that I was under 3 minutes maybe 50% of the time (maaaybe), and nobody cared. It doesn’t take all that long to say something of value.
Sometimes, people do need the truth put to them. I will admit to having given a few notes that were terser than others, particularly in moments when I felt the competitor was sandbagging (a pet peeve of mine), or when they had potential and did something that I felt took away from the performance. An example would be a competitor I watched who started out super funny, but who – in my opinion – did nothing to sustain it. Without the dynamics and hard work that I saw from other competitors, their routine felt boring, as if they were relying on one gimmick to get them through, instead of having put in hard work to create a full routine. Keep in mind, that is MY personal opinion of what I saw, and my notes reflected it. I know another judge on the same panel absolutely disagreed with me!
Which brings me to this…
Judging is very subjective. Just because your neighbor loved something, doesn’t mean you have to. One thing that is interesting to me is the issue of handling deductions. During my pole panels, we generally didn’t chat much amongst ourselves about the performances, save for when there were some obvious deductions. But, in the lyra panels, there was A LOT of talking amongst the judges about the deductions – everyone consulted each other, and in general, the judges were a little more critical about what they saw. Again, if you ever aren’t sure about a deduction, ASK! On a side note: There were definitely some issues this past PPC with judges not being informed of when competitors had gotten moves cleared ahead of time, so they were adding deductions for things that had been okayed by PSO, which upset me – I do hope they fix that issue soon.
As a competitor, you must be prepared that some judges will love you, and others…not so much. Case in point, in my PPC 2012 routine, one judge gave me the highest score on the board – a good 20 to 30 points higher than most of the others. I still don’t know WHY, though. I got very few actual notes back. Just try to not take it personally!
Remember that part of your job as a judge – as I see it – is to help these competitors be better! Providing excellent notes helps – it really does. So, if you’re thinking about judging soon, or you plan to in the future, keep these tips in mind. It might make all the difference to someone you watch.
For the last year or so, I have been regularly taking lyra classes at an Aerial & Pole Studio in North Hollywood, CA, called Aeriform Arts. Over that time, I have struck up a friendship with the owners, Lea & Allelon, who sponsored me for Pacific Aerial 2014. They’re great folks, and I adore my class – I feel quite lucky to have found it!
The vibe of the studio is unlike a lot of others in LA. Everyone is welcome, and there’s no clique-ish-ness. I see people of all shapes, sizes, ages, looks, and backgrounds whenever I go. I got curious about how the studio came to be, so I asked Lea if she’d be willing to sit down to answer some questions about it!
Poleitical Diaries: How were you introduced to aerial arts?
Lea Walker: I have a fast paced career in TV, and I started having serious health issues that forced me to slow down a bit. I ended up bedridden for weeks and realized that the surgery had not only stripped me of my physical strength, but also my sense of body confidence and power. My scars became a symbol of how my body had failed me. I came to the conclusion that maybe I needed to finally slow down and do something for me. After I healed, I started taking pole lessons and then branched out to aerial yoga, which I found really helped improve some back disc issues I was having as well. At that point I was hooked!
LW: Aeriform Arts offers multi level, co-ed classes in Aerial Yoga, Hammock, Silks, Pole, Lyra, Trapeze & Aerial Cirque Conditioning (with stretch & dance workshops as well). We really pride ourselves with having an easygoing yet knowledgeable staff that works hard towards helping our clients explore and achieve their maximum potential. We like to have fun and encourage or clients to as well!
PD: What do you feel sets Aeriform Arts apart from other studios?
LW: I truly believe we are a studio that embraces all levels, ages, sizes & sexes. We really try to make it a fun learning experience for everyone, where everyone is part of the cool kids club. We do not allow any cliquishness and want everyone to feel important and cared for.
PD: What are you most proud of in regards to the studio?
LW: I love the fact that we are co-ed across the board and that we embrace both sexy and strong aspects of pole/aerial in the studio. Two great tastes that taste great together!
PD: What are some of your favorite studio-related memories over the years?
LW: Wow – there are so many. All of the friendships we have made, being ecstatic when we hit our 1 year & 2 year anniversaries (our 3 year is coming up in Nov), our last student showcase was amazing – I was so proud of everyone. Every time there is a full pole class and all I hear are squeals of giggling, any feelings I have about the energy that it takes to run a studio melt away. But I think the best memory I have is when this one woman crawled out of an Aerial Cirque class, literally crawled – in the middle of class I might add! She was a disheveled, sweaty mess, pooled on the front lobby floor and I leaned over the desk and asked “Um are you okay?” she looked up at me and said “NOOO that shit is HARD” then she tossed her credit card to me and said, “Can I get a 10 pack, and can you sign me up for the next 5 weeks? I love this shit – thanks!” Then she smiled and crawled back into class.
PD: Is there a class you wish you could add?
LW: Vertical Wall Dance or Bungee Assisted Dance – I am dying to learn it!!!! I would love to offer it but would need the height & instructors to even begin to think about it. Seriously though, I am looking to make a trip to England to take a workshop or two with Wired Aerial Theatre want to go?
PD: What’s on the horizon for Aeriform?
We have some new class offerings in the works! We just added in a Trapeze class, and Candice Cane [is slated] to be joining the studio in January teaching pole, and we’ll be adding a bunch of new workshops, starting in January 2015.
You can find more about Aeriform Arts and their classes at www.aeriformarts.com. They have some excellent aerial offerings, from silks, hammock, and lyra, to pole and aerial yoga, as well as special classes like aerial cirque. Thank you to Lea for taking the time to chat with me!
I think it’s fair to say that most pole dancers are hard on themselves. We look at our photos or videos and only see the negatives – the things to work on. I think we strive for perfection a lot of the time, which tends to mean that we miss the little victories. Something isn’t pretty, so it’s not perfect.
I was chatting with a Pole Unbound friend about why we tend to post videos or photos and apologize for them:
- I was tired.
- It’s messy.
- I don’t like this part.
- This isn’t my best.
Admit it: you’ve probably said something like that in a post online. If you haven’t, that’s AWESOME. Seriously, good for you! But, for the rest of us, I think I’ve figured out a couple of reasons why we behave this way:
- We’re trying to beat critics to the punch. It’s an admission of, “Hey, I bet you’re going to judge me for not being perfect, so let me tell you up front that I know. I know I wasn’t perfect.”
- We’re looking to be better and selecting the things we know we need to work on.
I tend to think the first reason is the most common reason, but the second one is also absolutely valid. I know that’s why I do it! I do also make a note of things I want to work on, too, but it tends to be more the former than the latter.
So, I wanted to take a moment to talk about pride. Not stupid, ego-driven, I’m so fucking awesome it hurts pride, but genuine appreciation for the work you’ve done and how far you’ve come.
It’s really hard to watch videos of yourself (for most people). It has been hard for me for a long time, but I’m getting over it. Freestyle exploration as helped me IMMENSELY in this regard. One of the tenets of freestyle exploration is to move away from being self-conscious about your movement (whether it’s pretty or ugly or weird or graceful).
I try hard, nowadays, to look at videos of myself and seek out the good moments. I’m not always successful (I deleted an entire video today without even watching it because I just felt so off during the dance), but it’s a mindset to practice.
In that vein, here are three recent videos of mine that I am proud of:
My Northern California Pole Presentation Performance
This was my first public pole performance since PPC 2012, and I worked hard on it. I chose my song because I loved it (“Nearly Midnight, Honolulu” by Neko Case). I loved the simplicity of it, I loved the story of it, I loved that it moved me. It was not any easy song to “dance” to, but I didn’t really care, because I had a story I wanted to tell.
I am proud that many of my moves are clean. I am proud that I stuck to my story and my movement, even when the audience’s initial reaction wasn’t what I expected it to be. I am proud that I kept going when I had a grip issue (I used too much grip and got stuck). I am proud that my self-made costume looked pretty. I am proud that the emotion I wanted came through in many moments.
My Pacific Aerial Art Championship Performance
This routine came together in less than a month, because the original song I chose just didn’t work for me. I was training for the NCPP routine for the month prior to PAAC, so I didn’t work on my PAAC routine until NCPP was done. I had ideas and a song and a concept, but when I went into the studio for the first time to work on it, I couldn’t get it to work. So, I had to choose a new song and start from scratch. Because I was unsure about what our rigging would allow, I kept my routine safe by using mostly intermediate moves and worked to make those clean and to make my transitions work.
I am proud of my energy in this routine. I am proud that I did something totally different from anything I have done or anything I usually do. I am proud that I took a chance and went with it, despite being scared. I am proud that most of my moves are clean, and more importantly, that most of my transitions are clean – that I was able to dance/move through them smoothly. I am proud that my costume came together and looked awesome – the same is true of my props. I am proud of my story – I really loved it. And, I am proud that my twerk
My Finding Your Freestyle Challenge video
I shot this at the end of Pole Unbound, to fulfill a FYF challenge from my friend Tiffany. I used the prompt of “hair” for the dance (a prompt that was given to me by a partner during a freestyle workshop earlier in the PU weekend, which I LOVED).
I am proud of this because I had never heard the song before dancing to it. My friend Jamie, who was also at Pole Unbound, chose it for me. I am proud of my movement. I am proud that I stuck with my prompt and explored it. I am proud that my focus was just my prompt and the movement to explore it, and not that I didn’t know the song or how I might look, etc.
My Handspring Practice video
These clips were shot today. I went to an open pole practice, initially to work on some freestyle and work from Pole Unbound, but ended up feeling really self-conscious about it in the presence of people I didn’t know (and in an unfamiliar studio). So, I started working on tricks, and to my delight, my TG handspring from the floor came back!
I am proud that I tried my handspring again, despite not really thinking I could do it today. I am proud that I kept at it. I am proud that I’ve gotten stronger and can see it – and feel it. I am proud that I have 4 different handspring variations in this video: my TG from the floor, my TG ayesha from caterpillar, my forearm handspring, and my elbow grip ayesha from caterpillar. I am super proud of my elbow grip and how solid it feels. I am proud that I did my elbow grip last and was still able to hold it well.
So. Now, I challenge you to watch your own videos and find the moments you are proud of. It doesn’t have to be much. It could be a few seconds. But look for the things to celebrate. The little victories are a big, big deal. Trust me.
Until recently, I had never taught pole or lyra in an official capacity. I had always been a friend who shows people new stuff I have learned in class or in pole jams, and I’ve given private lyra lessons to friends, but I had never been contracted to teach my own class. I had never had a chance to create curriculum.
Over the weekend of 10/10-10/12, I had the amazing opportunity to participate in Pole Unbound. The Pole Unbound Retreat was conceived and organized by Aerial Amy. The central conceit was that everyone has something of value to contribute to the pole world. Therefore, Pole Unbound was established as a community pole retreat and jam, meaning that the instruction would be crowd sourced. As part of the retreat, each of the chosen attendees had to submit two possible options for workshops they could teach to the other attendees. At first, this was a little daunting, as I wasn’t quite sure what I had to offer, but I boiled it down to: what do I like to do and what am I good enough at that others may not be able to offer? The answers were freestyle exploration and lyra (since not all polers do lyra). So, I set about crafting two descriptions and basic curriculum, then sent my pitches off to Amy.
As a group, we voted on the workshops anonymously (it was double blind voting), and the top vote earners were selected as the overall curriculum for the weekend. My freestyle exploration workshop was chosen! It was such an awesome and validating feeling! And, also, a bit overwhelming, because it meant I really had to be detailed in my curriculum and come up with something I felt good about teaching.
I set about writing down ideas for possible prompts and sections, taking into account my own experiences in other classes, as well as my training in acting. What I wanted to create was something that melded freestyle exploration and my acting training, so I created a curriculum that was largely partner based.
Being me, I decided that I wanted a test run of the workshop, so I arranged to run it for some friends the weekend before Pole Unbound. I wanted to see if there were any timing issues or other problems that came up with the curriculum. The test went really well, though! I had to do some squashing of elements for time’s sake, but I was prepared for that. It was such fun to see everyone participate!
For me, it was a little unnerving to have to be the leader, especially in a group that contained a few girls that are teachers in classes that I attend. Running a warm up is an interesting art that I am not sure I have fully mastered, but I felt like the other sections went well!
Teaching the workshop at Pole Unbound was different. The class size was doubled, and the circumstances going into it were different: my workshop ran at the end of a very long day, and everyone was exhausted. It was hard for me. I knew people were tired, which made them distracted and less interested in participating. I struggled to find my footing early on, and then struggled to keep some students engaged due to the content of the workshop. Not everyone likes freestyle exploration. It’s very challenging for some people, and between that and the exhaustion of the group, I ended up losing about 1/3 of the participants by the end of the hour and a half.
I’m not going to lie. I was hurt. It felt really disrespectful to me, especially since I had stayed in the room for all of the other workshops, even when I wasn’t able to do the content being taught (i.e. I can’t do a back bend, so doing walkovers isn’t something I can participate in). Once I had processed everything, what stuck with me was not being pissed about how people left (valid reasons or not), but instead, being really overjoyed at the results from the people who DID stay. They were incredible. They gave so much to the work, and each person had such gorgeous, unique movement. I was blown away by what I was lucky enough to witness from the participants. It was such an honor.
Not long after I got back from Pole Unbound, I was asked to sub a lyra class at an area studio. I said yes, excited to get the experience, and it was interesting. Being a sub of someone else’s class is different than hosting your own, I think. Much like subs in high school, I think subs in pole classes are met with some amount of skepticism. I had actually been in class with some of the gals I was teaching in the subbed class, but nobody seemed to be that bothered by a fellow student moving into the teacher role (thankfully). What proved to be a challenge for me was teaching in a different way than the usual teacher.
I chose to run the class a little more like my usual class that I attend, which meant that the curriculum was based on learning elements of a routine. With 8+ students, it was a large class to control, and tough for me to bounce between two hoops to make sure everyone was spotted correctly and shown how to break things down properly. With only an hour of class time, i did a super short warm up, then launched into teaching. I also chose to ignore the trapeze, because I barely know any moves on it, so I didn’t feel comfortable teaching anything. I did allow students to use it if they had experience on it, but I offered no actual instruction (which I had told them would be the case beforehand).
Some of the challenges of this class included the fact that a number of the students were teenagers. The teens pick up stuff pretty well, but keeping their attention can be tough. I ended up teaching the first 8 or 9 moves of my Pacific Aerial Art routine (which includes the same moves I usually teach to friends who are new to lyra), and everyone seemed to pick them up pretty well – the last move was one they really seemed to like. I also showed them one advanced move, which everyone was able to try.
Overall, I think it went okay, but I did feel like it was disorganized. I wasn’t sure if that was my fault, or just that there were so many students. I don’t know if the students liked the class, but I hope some of them took something good away from it.
Coming up in November, I’ll be taking an intermediate/advanced pole instructor training course. I’m interested to see what the content will be and how it will work. I genuinely don’t know what will be covered. I was planning to take a beginner/intermediate, but the company doesn’t have one until next year, so the owner suggested I do the int/adv because my personal skill level is suitable for that level of instruction.
In the meantime, I’ve got teaching on my mind: how to improve, how to work with different types of students, how to create curriculum for new workshops. I really want to have more opportunities to teach freestyle exploration workshops.
Some things I am considering:
Confidence – Through observation and experience, it can be tough to remain confident, both in your own abilities, but also your curriculum. One of the things that was great about Pole Unbound was that we got the chance to see that everyone can contribute. We all have value. It’s just a matter of owning what it is that is ours to do. One of the things I want to work on is feeling confident that I am worthy of being a teacher of others and being confident in my choice of curriculum.
Teflon – Realizing that some people may not like you, may not like your teaching style, or may not like what you teach, but that you don’t have to take it personally. I don’t mean ignoring solid, constructive criticism, because I think it’s valuable to self-assess and reflect, but taking things personally when they aren’t meant to be personal – when they are more about the other person than they are about you – is damaging.
Flexibility – While getting off topic can be really easy (“hey, can you show me this?” can bring you pretty far from your lesson plan if you aren’t careful), it’s also important to be flexible about the structure of class, especially when you have a student having difficulty.
Compassion/Empathy – With difficult students, sometimes it is hard to remain calm. Some people are toxic. It’s a fact. But, instead of being reactive, I think it’s valuable to take a step back and see if there is an empathetic approach possible. There won’t always be, but sometimes, you can find a way to create an encouraging, safe space for people to explore and move through their fear. And, if you can’t, it’s okay to wish them well and let them go. Just try to not carry that with you and let it impact your other students. This is a great lesson that I am working on for myself.
No Nonsense – On the flip side of empathy, I want to learn how to effectively shut down nonsense. Not being a bitch about it, but just silently demanding the respect that is deserved when instructing others.
On a final note, about Pole Unbound: the next retreat has been planned for May 2015, in Toronto. If you are interested in joining, use this form to add your name to the list of potential attendees!
Something to consider before applying:
What can you teach? Pole Unbound is founded on the idea that everyone has something to offer. This is not a “pay money to be taught by pole celebrities” retreat – it’s an “everyone teaches each other” retreat. With that in mind, consider your strengths as a poler and what you can teach to others in a workshop setting, because you will be asked for what you might be able to bring to the table in a workshop setting.
Everyone has something that makes them unique as a poler. Find yours!
Note: this sign up page is not binding, and the registration application process closes November 15th.
If you’ve been reading my blog, you may have noticed that I occasionally talk about my wrist pain from pole dancing. I wanted to take a minute to share one of the things that I believe has helped me lessen the pain! Sometime last year, a pole sister of mine (one of my pole “sponsees” – a gal I got into poling) mentioned that she’d been using wrist wraps while poling to give her wrists added support. I thought it was an interesting idea, but because of my ADD, it pretty much leaked out of my brain five minutes after the conversation. A little while later, I happened to come across a giveaway on Pole Dancing Adventures, offering up the wrist wraps from Vertical Swag. While I was not the winner of the giveaway, I did end up buying a pair of my own. You may have seen me sporting them in various photos:
In all of these photos, I have on my zebra striped Vertical Swag wrist wraps. I do think they’ve helped me stabilize my wrists, especially since I’ve been working to move into more aerial/twisted grip moves. TG is hard on my right wrist, which is my “pull” wrist (the hand that is “up” in all of my TG moves). After taking two weeks off from class because of the holidays and my busy work schedule, all it took was one class filled with twisted grip moves and handspring work for my wrist to be in a ton of pain – and, of course, I had neglected to take the time to put on my wrist wraps before that class, which was not smart – I think it would have helped a lot if I’d put them on! Since then, I’ve been keeping my wrist wrapped a good portion of the time that I am not in class (depends on the day and what I’m up to), and I went back to using my wrist wraps, even in Lyra, which is normally not that bad on my wrist. I think the wraps have helped with the pain!
I do think that some of my wrist pain would be better if I a) was better conditioned in my wrists and forearms b) lost a little bit of weight. Now, don’t think I’m complaining about being fat or something – the simple fact is that less weight on a sensitive wrist would be a good thing. I’m asking my wrists to support 157ish pounds, and while conditioning would CERTAINLY help that, I’m sure my wrists would love me for laying off junk food for a bit.
The wrist wraps, however, are a great, affordable little helper! They add stability, but also keep the joint warm, which is nice. They’re 100% cotton, easily washable, and simple to use. Here’s a great little demo video of how to put them on and secure them:
Vertical Swag offers a number of colors and styles – my zebra print is no longer listed, but there’s a cute teal version! I love that they’re made for pole dancers, BY a pole dancer, so you get to support a fellow poler AND a small business by purchasing them. You can purchase your wraps at http://verticalswag.com/wraps/ – the front page of the site says that there is currently a New Year’s sale going on, so you can save 25% off right now! They also offer other products for polers, like shoe and grip bags. You can check them out online at www.verticalswag.com and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/VerticalSwag
I’ll have some more fun updates again soon! Happy Poling!
Just a quick post with a couple of videos for you.
First up, a performance from Sarah Scott that blows my mind – she’s SO strong. Like, beast strong. It’s AWESOME. I met her briefly at PoleCon 2012, so it’s neat to finally check out her performance style. She’s got a couple of aerial and shoulder mount sequences that are incredible, and I like some of her other moves – she’s got a shoulder stand floor move that I’d like to breakdown, and I actually brought one of her pole sequences into class late last year – it’s a combo from an odd spin into a series of grip poses, then some planks from the floor to pole. (I’m not explaining it well, but I have no idea what any name of any trick in it would be.)
And, then there’s little ol’ me, trying my best to learn a new sequence at my last Lyra class. I’ve been struggling a bit the last few weeks – more tired than usual, and it could either be that I’ve been sick (especially the last two weeks) and run down, or it could be that the difficulty of the tricks has finally caught up to where my strength level is. Not sure yet. This week was tough on me, though – the sick factor really took more out of me than I realized (which is not a fun thing to discover when you’re in a single knee hang). I’m struggling a bit in this video, but Leigh is walking me through each new move patiently, since I didn’t get a chance to string them together before this moment – I’d tried one of the tricks twice successfully, one of them once successfully, and one of them once rather unsuccessfully, so the entire thing was pretty new to me, except for the knee hang portion and the mermaid. The one I’m working with near the end is called The Dislocater (not sure if that’s just Leigh’s name for it), and it lands into two pretty tricks, but getting into it is awkward as hell (as you can see). Hoping to have it down a bit better next week!
I’m back in class tomorrow and Thursday – hoping my body doesn’t put up too much of a fight – and am tentatively scheduled to finally head out with a pole friend to play with my Most-Fit suspension strap. Between being so sick, it being my busy season with my pet sitting business, and the weather acting up every time I made plans to go outside to use it, I haven’t been able to test it properly yet. Excuse, excuses, I know.
Still no word on whether I’ve got a spot in the PPC 2013 showcase, but I do think I have my song/theme if I get in! Also, we’re working on getting new merchandise ready for Poleitical Clothing – hope to launch it at Pole Show LA, if we end up getting a vendor booth.
Or, I’ve been sick for a week and a half and swamped with holiday work for even longer, so I haven’t been writing or in class…
I may be performing a lyra routine in February – a basic one – which would be both cool and a real challenge, since I definitely have been wanting to strengthen the dance in my work (I feel like it is all very trick-pose-trick right now). I may also be doing the showcase for PPC 2013 – waiting to find out if there is a spot for me or not. Considering using the same song for both routines, because I love it and have ideas for both dances. We’ll see.
Once I am back to full health, I will be back in pole class – I am going to be trying out some new classes, in addition to my usual class, to see if it will help me jump start what I have been working on. But, in honor of the new year, I am going to jump on the Pole Goal bandwagon: twisted grip handspring from the floor, by my birthday (March).
A couple of weeks ago, my incredible friend Claire of The Pole Story wrote a great entry over at the Bad Kitty Blog about having Respect For Pole Class. I loved what she had to say (despite the fact that I’ve definitely been guilty of being late!), especially in her closing remarks:
“I’m going to say something that is probably controversial (surprise) but that I think it needs to be said: There is an overdeveloped sense of entitlement in parts of the pole world – a kind of low-level narcissism in which things like respect for your teacher, your fellow dancers and a sense of service to the studio is missing. Now, I realize that certain studios may contribute to this attitude by proclaiming that “It’s all about YOU YOU YOU!” and/or by charging exorbitant amounts of money for classes. And I firmly believe that if you pay for a service, you are entitled to a positive experience. But at the end of the day, you are a student. You are there to learn, as is everyone else in the classroom. So show respect for the rules of the studio and for your classmates and teachers.”
Claire’s piece came to mind during my most recent lyra class. Our class has a max of six students – some days, it’s full. Other days, there are maybe three of us in attendance, but we tend to see the same faces. We’ll have new people drop in now and then, or some faces will be absent for a couple of weeks, then back at it (I’ve been in that group, due to travel). I’m getting to know some of the girls a little better, becoming a little friendlier. It’s a mixed level class, and our teacher runs it in a great way: each week, we get on the hoop and run through the sequence of tricks we’ve learned since the beginning as a warm up, then she’ll teach everyone something to add to it – in our final turns, we again run through everything we’ve learned from the beginning. The tricks we learn as add-ons vary depending on how advanced everyone is in the class, but with the mixed levels, she’ll usually break everything up so that the newer gals are learning the same things, while the girls with more experience are trying harder sequences. She’ll challenge the girl with the most experience with harder stuff and make her review things she isn’t yet teaching the rest of us, but she gives everyone something new to do on top of reviewing their previous tricks.
I happen to love this way of teaching – progressive curriculum is great for truly learning the moves, building strength and endurance, and – something I’m finding to be really important – learning how to string the moves together into a sequence for the purposes of a full dance/performance. It might not be for everyone, but it is how the class works. I love getting to see more advanced moves, and while there are times when I think, “Aw, I bet I could do that!”…I also know that I’ll get to it eventually, so I don’t push to do it now.
Which brings me to my story…
In class this week, we had a newer student that I couldn’t remember if I’d seen before. She had been to one class, and it may have been one I missed – there was also a sub for the class, so the teacher hadn’t met her yet, either. The class was made up of one advanced girl, two intermediate gals (including me), and two new gals. Our teacher has us warm up individually (after a group warm up on the floor), starting with the more advanced students and working back to the newer gals. It gives the new students a chance to see what comes with time, since there’s generally just one hoop strung up (occasionally two, but we warm up one at a time – the second hoop is for throwing in some extra practice while others are going through their tricks later in class).
After having the more advanced gals warm up, our teacher went to instruct the two newer students on their initial moves. Now, I can’t quite recall the sequence of events, but throughout the class, one of the newer gals – the one with one prior class under her belt – kept asking to be taught more advanced moves. She would pipe up while watching the rest of us and say, “I’d like to do that.” Each time, firmly but politely, the teacher would say, “No, I’m not going to teach you that today.”
I totally get wanting to learn the hard tricks – believe me. I also get that some gals have that need for validation that drives them to throw themselves into the hardest stuff they can find. But, here’s the thing: if you’re throwing yourself into advanced tricks too quickly, you probably look like shit in them, aren’t doing them correctly, and are more likely to be injured. And, speaking from experience, you probably aren’t really retaining anything you’ve learned.
The thing that bothered me about this girl’s requests was the energy surrounding them – like I said, it’s not that I don’t get why someone would want to learn something advanced sooner than they should. But, the way she requested it was rude. Her tone was demanding. When she was told no, her energy curdled the air around her. She allowed our teacher to continue teaching her the basics, and – not surprisingly – she struggled with those moves. I’m not sure she realized how much she struggled with them, but it was among the most struggling I’ve seen in the class. I don’t say that to be mean, but more to highlight the importance of having respect for your own limits.
This isn’t to say that you should diminish yourself or not believe in yourself. It’s to say that you should know your body. Learn your limits and challenge them in a smart way. Build steadily and safely. You’ll learn how to trust yourself and what you can do, while still also learning when it’s time to challenge yourself. AND, you’ll find that you surprise yourself, too. With a great teacher, you can grow and push your limits safely, retaining what you’ve learned and building on it to be a better dancer and a more well-rounded performer.
Beyond having respect for the limits of your body and abilities/knowledge, there’s also the issue of having respect for the teacher and the rest of the members of your class. This girl was disrespectful to all of us with her requests, particularly because she made them repeatedly and in a tone that implied an overdeveloped sense of entitlement. (And, lest you think it was just me feeling this way…it wasn’t.) Now, this might offend some people or be controversial, but it’s my opinion, and I am sticking to it: I hear about pole classes where they teach people to invert on the first day, and where they throw people into complicated tricks without ensuring that they a) are strong enough/conditioned enough and b) understand the mechanics of the move. I cringe when I hear about those classes. They’re not only irresponsible in regards to safety, but they’re breeding an obnoxious kind of pole dancer. Of course, I can’t say for sure that this student came from one of those classes, but the level of aggression in her desire to progress made me wonder…
The other new girl in the class? She was like most of the new students: a little scared and intimidated, but game to try things, picking it up more as she went along. She looked so happy to get what she got and satisfied with her success. It was a marked difference from her counterpart, who didn’t seem to even take joy in learning the moves she was actually taught. Our teacher doesn’t care how much experience you have in pole or any other sport – she doesn’t care if you’re an Olympic athlete or an out of shape school teacher – everyone starts in the same place in our class. Everyone learns the same few moves on their first day. You’re learning a new apparatus, and while you may bring in a level of strength, flexibility, or athleticism that helps you learn faster, you still are on a new apparatus. And, sometimes taking it back to the beginning is good. You get to discover the joy again. Pole can be so hard when you get further along – the tricks get harder and require more, and the successes seem further and further apart (at least, for me). Why not take the opportunity to enjoy learning something new, instead of pushing so hard to jump ahead right away? Why not take the chance to learn and have it stick, so you can be better overall? These are things I’m going to try to keep in mind as I continue in my pole and lyra classes. Because, let me tell you: class without joy is a waste. You’re less likely to succeed if you aren’t happy.
(My longest dance yet! My arms were like jelly afterward – that’s A LOT of work on my grip – but I’m happy with where it’s all going. I wasn’t able to get the full new trick we learned – unholy pain – but hoping it comes soon. Going to continue working on smoother inverts and transitions, too.)
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!
How has it been a month since I last posted? Oh, I was busy, that’s why. I haven’t been to my usual pole class in a couple of weeks, because of travel and work, but I did hit up lyra this week, and I had a drop in class at a studio in Illinois – which I’ll post about separately. I’m currently debating whether or not I want to compete again next year in PPC. If you haven’t read my post on what my experiences were like when I first competing, I do recommend it – not just because I wrote it, but because I really tried hard to present the experience clearly and to be really honest about what it took to do it. It was exhausting and expensive, and while I ultimately had a good time at the competition itself, I don’t know that I’d do it again.
However, I keep thinking of ideas for routines. I get ideas while I’m driving, I hear songs and think of movement, and I generally find myself still mulling it over. It’s such a commitment, though. The money, the time, the wear and tear on your body…registration opens in December. Maybe I’ll figure it out before then…
Lyra was fun this week – smaller class, so more time up in the hoop. We’re working on stringing little mini routines together, which has been a good challenge. It allows us to build on what we’ve learned already while still cementing it. I had three weeks off from class, so I was happy to see that I remembered everything, even if my grip was exhausted pretty quickly. I wish I could go to lyra twice a week. The bruises are terrible, though, soooo…maybe it’s better that I keep it to once a week! Anyway, here’s a new video from class – I was working on holding each pose for a 2 count and smoothing transitions. I stopped my own spin, unfortunately – Leigh pops in at the start to spin me, but I accidentally stopped it when I did the pump to get momentum to go up into the hoop (that move is allowable for now – it allows me a smoother transition once I’m up, instead of fighting for it right off the bat). The hoop still spins during the routine, but not as much as it could. I have to work out how to transition into other moves that I know, too. We’re focusing on this sequence a lot right now – but, that’s almost 2 minutes, which is great! It didn’t feel like 2 minutes at all while I was doing it!
I have other stuff I want to post this week – hoping the holiday gives me some free time to do it!