Do you speak through movement? Are you interested in learning how broaden the scope of your pole dance choreography?
I have previously shared some of my research into different forms of dance and how it influences my choreography and dance practice. As much as pole dancing shares it’s roots with stripping, exotic dancers, and Chinese pole, I believe it has the scope to stand up as a form of contemporary modern dance. Ideas from Merce Cunningham, Martha Graham, Isadora Duncan, and many pioneers in dance, can be applied to movements on or away from the pole, and their theories about movement and how to convey meaning with the body are just as valid for pole dance as they are for lyrical, contemporary or ballet productions.
So with this is mind, you can probably see how excited I was to come across Pole Purpose: Speaking Through Movement by Rowena Gander – a publication specifically aimed at helping pole dancers with their choreography.
Rowena Gander is an internationally recognised dance artist and a BA Hons graduate of Dance Practices. Her dance background and knowledge of how to integrate concepts, improvisation, meaning, and story telling into choreography has been such an asset to my own dance practice.
Her ebook, Speaking Through Movement, is super affordable and accessible to every pole dancer. The book is laid out in parts so you can work through each stage of the choreography process progressively. It is also really easy to to flick through to refer to during your rehearsals to keep you motivated and on track.
Aside from Kristy Sellars’ publication Key to Choreography, most of the media surrounding pole dance is fixated on new tricks, increasing flexibility, and capturing the sexuality of dance to empower women. Rowena acknowledges that sexuality and sensual dancing is tightly interwoven with the history of pole dance, however she asks the questions “where is this going?”
“When using the pole with a deliberate sexual intention, regardless of how the movement is executed, you will pull the attention of the audience. That’s easy. The real challenge is keeping them engaged like any other dance genre could. Ask yourself; where is this going?”
I don’t want to get shamed here for shunning sexy pole dance. You can read about my opinions about sexy pole here, and I have dipped my toe in this style with many routines. I do find I have a personal preference for story telling performances that are grounded in contemporary dance.
Chatting with a friend Richard a few weeks ago, I shared with him my latest choreography. Richard is my yoga teacher but also an accomplished dancer. Working constructively, he asked about my intention related to my movements, and about the character I was portraying. To me Rowena is asking the reader to also consider these points, “where is this going?” Who are you dancing for? What are you trying to say?
Rowena Gander recommends using improvisation and freestyle as a way to explore movement. Freestyle is often something that scares many pole dancers. It’s a space that makes us vulnerable and the limitless potential can be daunting, causing us to freeze up. However, practicing freestyle is a great way to find new movements and learn what feels natural for our own bodies. Rowena suggests taping your freestyles and experiments and reassures those dancing along at home that “there are no rules” – don’t be afraid of making mistakes.
In line with my own philosophy about dance, I believe if it feels authentic to you than no one can tell you that it’s wrong. Owning your movements and your expression can be scary, but often this is where the juicy bits of the choreography come from!
In addition to her advice on the theory behind the dance, which I could muse over for hours, Rowena also offers really practical ideas for working with music, movement, props and the pole. From how to begin mapping out your ideas, to how to refine your choreography to best convey your intention. Rowena’s words are relevant to both the beginner and professional pole dancer.
I don’t want to reveal too much about the content, but couldn’t write this without sharing some of my favourite quotes.
When talking about choice of pole tricks and transitions, Rowena guides the reader to refer back to their intentions and keep things simple. She states,
“The thing about tricks is that it can sometimes cripple the creativity of a routine.”
“A simple arm gesture is much more effective than a false back bend that has no relevance to the artistic intent. “
I have watched, and been tempted to choreograph, many routines that end up just be solely trick based. As hard as it is to let go of a combo you feel like you’ve been working on for months, but it is sometimes to the benefit of the entire work and the synergy of the routine to find something simpler.
I am so excited that Rowena Gander has contributed this book to the world of pole dance. As we find ourselves in a field that is growing quickly in so many directions, I find it reassuring to hear from someone who shares my sentiments about pole.
Let’s keep the dance in pole dance.