I was interviewed recently, by Rowena Gander from Pole Purpose, and one of the questions she asked was about the psychological benefits of creation and dance. I answered,
There is an old saying, “if I knew how to say it, I wouldn’t have to dance it”. I think this relates to many art forms. Because dance is so linked to music, the creative process also allows the dancer say something about the intention of the music, enhancing or adding another dimension to their own personal story. All this leads to a better understanding of emotions, feelings, and the self.
Many pole dancers have come to the practice for it’s cathartic and healing properties. The history of dance itself has roots in movement therapy and the flushing of energy. Even if you want to stay in the realms of science, you cannot disagree that dancing and exercise release endorphins that make you happy!
Sometimes it feels like there is a place you go when you dance. Somewhere outside of yourself, or maybe deep within, where all your problems cease to exist. Dancers refer to this place as “in the zone” or “in the moment”, and it can often feel like you have let go, giving away control to some other force. Your brain no longer leading your body, you simply surrender to the flow of energy.
In a contemporary dance class the other day, our instructor was describing the quality of movement. As well as relating each movement to the breath, he didn’t just want us to raise our arms with the inhale, but to reach, to extend, to “brush our fingers against the sky”. To extend beyond the boundaries of ourselves.
The vertical nature of pole dance, does allow us to be bigger than ourselves, in a very literal sense. We can climb high on the stage and embody a space of flight, defying gravity. The pole can be an extension of our body, but we should also think about the quality of our movements being larger than that.
This way of thinking adds a deliberateness to the movements. You can’t rush in that space, each articulation and gesture is a big as the next, and needs to reach that completeness before the next one can begin. Working with slow movements, will allow you to focus on this technique before bringing them to a faster tempo.
Physical movements aside, this idea of “brushing your fingers against the sky” also relates to the psychological process of dance allowing us to reach outside of ourselves.
Perhaps this is part of the reason why dance is such a liberating practice. Confronting, but liberating. In many people’s lives they may feel they have to hide inside, shroud their true selves, as obligations and responsibilities get in the way of their own personal journey. I see women all the time come to pole dance classes and even just walking into the studio is a huge breakthrough in prioritising time for themselves.
Pole dance is also a practice of breaking down negative thinking about what you can and cannot do. The confident glow from learning how to invert, shoulder mount, or even an ayesha can last for weeks, boosting your mood and enthusiasm for other aspects of your life.
Take these thoughts with you next time you begin to dance, or when you are thinking about choreography. At the least you will come up with some creative flow, but more likely you’ll find a place where the dance begins, a space that is as big as the sky.