“too great an emphasis on technique arrests naturalness. The material from which I will create comes from living from the personality, from experience, adventures, voyages. This natural flow of riches comes first. The technique is merely a way to organise the flow, to chisel, shape; but without the original flow from deep inner riches of material, everything withers”
The Journals of Anais Nin – Volume Four.
There is so much I love about this quote! Anais Nin is not a dancer, but her words speak to every artist. Over the next few weeks I want to break down this quote and talk about it in relation to pole dancing – to pole practice, to performance, to training, to choreography, and to expression.
I think sometimes pole dancers forget to see themselves as artists. We’re told by the media and social memes that we are strong, empowered women. That we are athletes, stronger than our counterparts. We need sass, attitude, and if people don’t listen we’ll just bust out a move and prove them wrong.
Just like other creative endeavours pole dance is a form of expression, in your lounge room or on the stage. Just like a painter, photographer, writer, or singer, a pole dancer is expressing part of themselves. It feels good and that’s why we keep doing it! At the heart of the matter, we are not in it for the likes, nor to show off in the gym when we can do more pull ups than the guys. Our intentions when dancing come from within. We are artists and dancers, and shouldn’t be afraid to take that seriously.
What first stood out for me in this quote was the line,
“The technique is merely a way to organise the flow”
To articulate this I’ll use an example from a pole class. In the studio our instructor was teaching us a combo – inside leg hang, through tammy, to elbow grip, to some kind of elbow grip split thing that we couldn’t decide if it had a name. It is an advanced move and required lots of trust through your elbow grip and commitment to the momentum of the spin. But many of us trying to learn the move kept breaking down into it’s individual components, and we all became stuck at various points unable to complete the combo.
Our instructor reiterated,
“it isn’t move, move, move, move, hold. Your arm and leg come around at the same time, hook the elbow as the hips sink out, bring the leg down, split. It’s all one action”.
She made it just flow. It wasn’t the final pose that she wanted us to achieve, it was the entire movement.
This instructor has impeccable technique. She even did the combo on her other side, always a good training tip! Back to the quote, her “technique is merely a way to organise the flow”. In other words, her solid technique allowed it flow, and our failed attempts at the move highlighted gaps in our own technique. For me, I lack trust in my elbow grip.
The individual tricks had become so natural, that our instructor could focus on how they flow together, creating a seamless progression with no stop-starts or jerky moments of uncertainty.
So what do we take from this? How do we find that place of “organised flow”?
I think it starts with trust, in our bodies, our skills, and our strengths. It takes persistence and determination to ensure our technique is solid and not just a series of happy accidents. It also takes intention. Our intention as pole dancer should not be just to nail the latest trick and move on. Our transitions, combos, poses, and tricks are just part of repertoire we use to create art.
Read on ….