Today was a moving day. To tell you about today I need to start this story in the past. Writing this was as much cathartic as the Epsom salt bath I had afterwards. For anyone experiencing fear and anxiety while trying new moves, I hope it is as worthwhile for you too.
Last year I fell off the pole, two metres up, attempting to windmill/body swap through a Tammy. Landing on my head I suffered a concussion and have unintentionally yet clearly avoided the move ever since.
In class with Bailey each Sunday, she has been throwing challenging moves at us all term. Many have been based around this Tammy transition. For seven weeks I’ve avoided it. Using excuses that my elbow grip is not steady enough to land after the transition. Or, it’s on my goofy side. Or I just kind of make myself look busy until we move on to something else.
I’m not sure what changed today, but something in me wanted to try it properly. I was open about it. I started to share my difficulty with classmate Oryx, “I just can’t turn around into the pole.” Immediately pinpointing the problem, she asked, “how do you feel in your tammy?”
Boom! There was no hiding now!
Revisiting the story of falling, Oryx knew, she was also in the class when it had happened. She smiled and talked me through the motions of the transition.
I try again and Bailey offers pointers. Stumbling I pull out, a half arsed attempt really, and tell her about my fall. She shares a knowing glance and then gets straight to the point.
I’m jittery, angry, tears well in my eyes.
“Bring that circling leg around. Point it to the floor it will squeeze you in and hold the top leg on.”
I hear her but my body is flooded with fear.
She stands an arms reach away and waits for me to try again.
Deep breaths. I try to shake off the fear. Bailey does a jump and shake too. Let’s do this!
I step into a slow spin going backwards. Straddle to an inside leg hang and stretch my inside hand down the pole. My outside leg begins its circle to close over the pole in the tammy position. Every spin I see Bailey’s toes and I can hear her voice.
“Pull that leg down, toes to the floor, yes yes… ”
And then ha! My stomach is facing the pole! I’m so low my bottom hand is now on the floor but my legs aren’t going anywhere. It’s stable.
The blood drains from my head from being upside-down and plays on a scale with the adrenaline rising in my body. I must look a bit dazed and confused but I have more focus than ever. Maybe I can do this?
Up again, a controlled reverse spin, gemini hook, I hear Bailey, leg is down, stomach to pole I’ve closed off … rolled in, hooked the elbow … holy shit … Bailey talks through the rest of the combo, “get the pole into your trap, catch on the ankle, thread the leg through”, extend……. dismount.
I’m too excited, pumped, zoned out, or something, and not sure how to react. Bailey’s excited “YEAH! Jump up and down, shake that shit out!”
There is only five minutes until the end of class. I set up my phone to record the combo, and so next time I get the jitters I can watch myself succeed and prove this fear wrong.
You can see me psych myself up in the video. Bailey is not an arms reach away this time. It’s just the sign of confidence I need though. To really overcome this I need to do it on my own.
Breaking down the pole moves into stages I work through the combo slowly. First attempt – success, but a bit low making the dismount clumsy. I can do better. Second attempt I add a half climb further up the pole.
Slow and steady, it’s not time to get carried away.
Fear is something that gets talked about a lot in the pole dance community. For women and men, breaking out of their comfort zone and even attending a pole class for the first time can bring out a lot of fear. Anxiety about their body shape, sense of self expression, and failure.
There are even some funny memes about pole dancing fears but humour is usually the last thing on our minds when we are really in the grips of fear.
Your body has natural fear instincts that alert you to be careful when in strange situations. Even though it’s fun to hang out upside-down, when you’re asked to let go of one hand, or hold on with just your ankles, it’s understandable that your instincts flare up and say WTF!
I’ve seen girls have fears about many pole moves, simply the idea of it scares the shit out of them. When you fall out of a move, this fear is compounded. Yoga philosophy talks a lot of holding fear in parts of your body. The release of this energy is sometimes just as overwhelming as the fear itself, further compounding the emotional response to confronting the fear in the first place.
After pole class today I went to my usual weekly yoga session. I was still jittery and had a conflicting feeling of tension and release that comes from your body reacting to a high dose of adrenaline. Across the hour and half my yoga teacher chose some new and challenging poses. By the time were reached Shavasana I was more than ready to let the energy slow to a trickle. Easing into bliss I was buzzing but with less adrenaline and more joy. Joy and love that pole dance did that! That I faced a fear and came out on the other side, unscathed, alive!
It had been a roller coaster of a morning and a hell of a learning experience. There is a chance the fear related to this Tammy combo will resurface and ask me to turn towards it again but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. For now, I’m ready for an Epsom salt bath and some down time to let the feelings of the day settle.
If you are working through a pole combo/move and find yourself gripped with anxiety, here are a few ideas that might help you.
- Visualise yourself accomplishing the move: if all you can imagine is yourself falling in a heap on the floor or cracking your head open, then that is probably going to effect the result.
- Break down the move into it’s smallest components: thinking conscsiously about what your hands, legs, arms, knees, head, and toes are doing, even for the most basic elements will help you isolate the part that you feel most unsteady in. Identify the contact points and how to engage your body to work through the move safely. Even see if you can add a contact point by leaving a hand on for the first few attempts.
- Ask for a spot: From an instructor or a trusted friend. Share your fear so they know what to expect when you’re upside-down
- Talk about why you might be so frightened: Are you scared of falling on your head? Have you fallen out of a similar move in the past? Maybe you’re scared of success and this amazing pole move challenges your image of yourself? Sometimes just verbalising it and talking it out can be the first step in helping you let go.
- Walk away from the move, for today. Some days it’s just not going to work. Sleep on it, try it again tomorrow, it’s all a learning process.