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Beginning Aerial Fabric Instructional Manual – Review

For one of the most beautiful aerial arts, fabric, tissu, or silks, is one of the most complex. A student of aerial fabric needs to be strong in their upper body and core, similar to other aerials arts, but also needs to train their brain and spatial awareness skills to think about how the knots and fabric are keeping them safe and supported in the air.

Many students report that their initial instruction comes from a “monkey-see, monkey-do” class structure. However, for a student to excel and eventually learn to create and compose moves on their own, it is essential they work from a basis of proper technique and understanding.

Rebekah Leach, a pioneer in the aerial arts, has created a set of manuals for aerial fabric, aerial hoop. aerial yoga, and rope, to ensure students and instructors can do just this!

This review looks in detail at the Beginning Aerial Fabric Instructional Manual (4th Ed)  published in 2011. The Intermediate Part 1 and Part 2 versions are also available to purchase as paperback and digital download from her website and on Amazon.

What you need to know
The Beginning Aerial Fabric Instructional Manual contains

  • over 250 step by step photographs including close ups of knots
  • over 40 poses, tricks and transitions on the fabric
  • amazing explanations of knots and wraps using clear language
  • conditioning tips
  • teaching, spotting, and safety advice

With chapters based on moves and transitions from basic climbs to single and double footlocks, students and instructors can easily see how moves can be connected together and even begin to play with their own variations once comfortable in each position. The progression of moves also introduces the student to the hip lock (aka the hip key) and various climbs inviting students to develop strength and techniques that will support them in their aerial dance journey.

For students:
Although being a fan of aerial fabric dance for many years, I have only started training on the apparatus recently. My background in pole dance and lyra offered some familiarity in going upside down and being off the ground, but nothing prepared me for the complexities involved in tying knots with my feet and learning how to control my body as it spun and sway in the air!

 

Currently, my instructors (who speak only a little English) work from a modelling approach, completing the move or sequence themselves and then spotting carefully while each student in the class attempts the same pose. If your circumstances are similar, of even if you are learning on your own, you may find that this manual fills in many gaps in your training and understanding.

Rebekah Leach borrows language from ballet to clearly explain the direction of wraps – en dedans and en dehors – supporting the mind-body connection that pure modelling cannot achieve. Studying the manual outside of class and revisiting how knots and footlocks are created, offers essential theory to my practice. Her notes about weight distribution, exit strategies, and common mistakes, revise concepts taught in class and have even made great talking points for me to discuss with my instructor.

From a safety standpoint, the advantages of such an approach are obvious. To really understand what is holding you up and why, you need to learn how to see the knots in your mind and be able to follow the direction that the fabric is wrapped around your legs or body.

The clarity and quality of the photographs in the manual are really impressive! Each movement sequence used to create knots and transitions have been broken down with photos at every step. Close attention has been paid to make note of how to position your feet, or keep the fabric running along one side of your body, to support your progress in replicating the moves and ensuring the fabric ribbons don’t slip from where they are meant to be.

One of my favourite parts of the book is also how the author notes how to practice the pose on the ground first! If it’s just for balance, coordination, or to train strength and flexibility, this is such a great training tip for beginners, allowing you to feel what the move is like before attempting it in the air without all the nerves of danger and physical exertion. In a similar way, Rebekah Leach also regularly refers to the concept of “exit strength” making note of how important it is to have the strength to return to the ground safely as well as the technique. This idea may not come naturally to beginners who will also benefit from learning resting poses in the air.

 

For instructors:
Even if you are a seasoned aerial fabric instructor, each year or term your students will arrive to class with different skills and learning abilities. Rebekah Leach has laid out the Beginning Aerial Fabric Instructional Manual as a curriculum for a term of classes with references to how to know if your students are ready to progress or attempt certain moves.

Sharing her teaching expertise, Rebekah Leach offers instructors guidelines of how to structure the entire class, from warm up to cool down, and how to maintain the motivation of students who may not be ready for aerial poses or to go upside-down.

Most importantly perhaps, the author’s notes on spotting and how to catch common mistakes, supports best practice in focusing on how the student entered a lock or wrap, how to verbally direct a student to unwind or de-tangle themselves, and where to support a student when physically spotting transitions and tricks.

I also love that Rebekah Leach has included reference to pioneers in the field, and innovators of certain poses, inviting instructors to broaden their knowledge base and find inspiration from other aerial artists.

One of my favourite quotes from the Beginning Aerial Fabric Instructional Manual is

“Each skill is like a word which builds sentences to tell a movement story”

Something that comes through in each tutorial, is the author’s passion for unique expression. From a solid foundation in understanding how the wraps work and support the dancer, one can then explore movement with the fabric as a form of self expression. The emphasis on proper technique is strong, but not without vision for what can be achieved even from students at the beginning of their aerial fabric dance journey.

Get your copy of the Beginning Aerial Fabric Instructional Manual from Rebekah Leach’s website and begin your own exploration into aerial fabric dance!

Saturday Laturday!

At some point, pole dancers and aerialists will begin to see their upper back and shoulders becoming stronger and larger. Racer back tops and sleeveless dresses are now the norm as we cater to our growing lats, shoulders, biceps, and traps. Our bodies are stronger because of pole, yet many women question if their growing lats are something to be proud of or something to cover up.

So, in the spirit of embracing strong women, it is with great pleasure that I introduce #SaturdayLaturday! Show off your lats to the world and support women growing stronger – inside and out!

Just like #sundaybumday, and in the spirit of training safer and stronger, let’s look more closely at our lats, how they work to support us upside down, and how you can keep them injury free.

In the diagram you can see that the lats are the muscles that wrap around the middle and lower spine, extending up through the armpit. They insert on both shoulder blades and the upper arm at the humerus.  Their full name is “latissimus dorsi” which basically translates to “broad muscles of the back” – latissimus = broadest, and dorsum = back.

The lats connect and support movement through the spine, ribs, sacrum, and shoulder blades. Every time you lift you arms above your head and engage your shoulders, sit tall with good posture, or twist and bend your torso, your lats are put to work. Having strong lats will stabilise your scapula and upper back and also aid in shoulder stability. The lats pull your arms down towards your body and help with rotation. Try this: hold our your arm out straight and make a “thumbs down” action rotating from your shoulder. You should be able to feel your lats working in this movement. If you are familiar with a twisted grip mount in pole dancing you will also see the similarities and how your lats work to rotate your arm and shoulder for you to turn your arm and grip the pole.

Bodybuilders use exercises such as chin ups, pull ups, and pull downs  to strengthen and train their lats. Your inverts, shoulder mounts, and any work on silks and lyra, are going to engage your lats as well. Hence, the surprise when someone snaps a pic of you at the beach and you realise how much your back has changed because of pole!

Aerialists and pole dancers spend lots of time pulling with their arms overhead. Having strong lats will help with these movements and will give you better posture. But if the lats are too tight, you may be at risk of rotator cuff injuries as your shoulder overcompensates. Tight lats also make it virtually impossible raise the arms full over head in a backbend, and may even reduce your ability to create a stable base for a headstand (ref).

If alarm bells are going off in your head as you realise tight lats may be stopping you from reaching your flexibility and aerial goals, then read on!

One way to counter tightness and care for your lats is to foam roll them. Lay on your side with your bottom arm outstretched and the roller perpendicular to your torso. From here you should be able to roll forwards and backwards as well as side to side, being careful to not roll over your ribs. Regular foam rolling will help soothe and soften the lats.

When stretching the lats, ensure that your pelvis and ribs remain stable. If you raise your arms over head from a standing position and you find your ribs popping and lower back arching, your lats will not be stretched effectively. “Stabilise the origins” of the muscle by keeping your pelvis and tailbone tucked under and your core engaged. When you raise your arms, you should feel a stretch at the back of the armpit.

You can see how tight your lats are, and have a great lat stretch by trying this exercise on the floor:

Lie on your back on the floor with your arms by your sides. Feel where the back of your rib cage touches the floor, taking special note of the point of contact that lies closest to your waist. Turn your palms up, then lift your arms up and overhead to the floor, or as close to the floor as they will go without you bending your elbows or separating your arms wider than your shoulders.

For most people, this movement will make the lower ribs lift off the floor in back and jut out in front. Now return your arms to your sides and repeat the same actions, but this time, as you reach overhead, press the lower rib cage—the point closest to your waist—firmly into the floor to prevent it from lifting up at all. This will probably create a sensation of stretch on the outer sides of your armpits and make it harder to reach the floor. The stronger the stretch and the greater the restriction of movement, the tighter your lats are. (ref)

Here are some simple stretches to include after your pole dance or aerial session to balance out your training and give your lats some love –

1- Assisted Squat – Use stall bars or a high bench to offer resistance as you hold on with your hands. Start with a neutral pelvis (pictured) and then sink your hips down towards the floor. Tuck the pelvis and feel free to let the back round and relax, gently swaying from side to side to increase the stretch.

2- Elbows on chair – Use a rolled up towel or something to hold on to, to keep your arms from rotating back in. Sit on your knees in front of the chair and rest your elbows on the chair edge (roll up a blanket or yoga mat to make this more comfortable. Sink your hips down and lower your chin to your chest to feel the stretch.

3 – Eagle Pose – Doing this pose seated on a chair will ensure that you keep your pelvis and ribs in alignment, focusing the stretch on your lats without arching the lower back. Wrap your right elbow inside your left and curl your wrists around so your palms are facing each other (or as far as you can go). Lift your elbows towards the sky until you feel the stretch behind your armpits. Take a few breaths and then change sides.


With all the technical talk out of the way, it’s time to show off your lats! Join the #SaturdayLaturday movement, show off how strong and proud you are of your body and give your lats some love for all they do in your dance practice!

Use the hashtag #SaturdayLaturday on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and lets share the love for our lats!

Cross Training For Pole – Part 7: Push Ups

It is one of the oldest and most traditional exercises out there – Push Ups! Do you know why the humble push up has stood the test of time? Because push ups simply work! Push ups target your arms, chest, core, glutes, and many stabilising muscles, and they can be tailored to any fitness level. They are one of the most efficient body weight exercises that you can do.

So many pole dancers ask about strength training and are seeking advice to nail their nemesis moves. If you are looking to invert for the first time, do a one handed spin like Emily Laura, or smash out a handspring on demand, I highly recommend adding push ups to your cross training program. Even just a few a day, when performed with proper technique, will support your progress in achieving your goals.

Below I outline a few push up variations and explain how they target different muscles in your upper body. I tried to gather information from as many sources as possible – personal trainers, physios, yogis, body builders, crossfitters, you name it! If you are trying out these at home, please film yourself or watch your form in a mirror to ensure that you are completing the exercise correctly. Just like any other exercise, doing push ups the wrong way may put your body at risk of injury.

Standard Push Up Guidelines
The aim of a push up is to lower and raise you body as an entire unit. If you cannot hold a plank position and maintain stability through your core and lower back, it is highly recommended that you perform push ups with your knees on the floor. You can also start with push ups standing against a wall (facing the wall and pushing out), or with your upper body raised on a table to allow you to begin to train without your entire body weight involved in the exercise.

When performing a standard push up, on your knees or planking on your toes, the position of your wrists under your shoulders should not change. By stacking the joints you increase stability. As you lower down, your elbows should track close to you body. Think about this like entering Chaturanga in yoga, don’t let your elbows wing out to the sides. Alignment is key and learning to do a push up properly will ensure you don’t injure yourself later on.

If you experience pain, aching, twinging, or otherwise, during a standard push up, you may like to read Eric Cressey’s article about changing the position of the feet to alleviate stress on the shoulders.

It needs to be remembered that a push up is a whole body exercise. Yes it will strengthen you arms and chest, but a successful push up requires you to think about your entire body. Squeeze your glutes and keep your back flat by hollowing your abs, keep your eyes focused ahead of your hands, not looking down. You are aiming to form a straight line from your head, through your neck, along your back and to your feet.

If you are on your knees, your abs and legs are working less hard, but it is still no excuse to let them sag! Your entire body from your knees to your head should move as an entire unit, with no dipping, curling, or sinking through the back.

 

 

Lastly, remember to breathe. Standard practice says to inhale on the way down and exhale as you push the floor away from you and rise up. Going down is often easier than coming back up, but working with your breath will help you engage your muscles and find strength to straighten your arms. The quality of the push up is way more important than how many you can do. Start small and with proper technique and you will be able to do more reps in no time!


Push Up Variations

– Wide Arm Push Ups
When done correctly these types of push ups will target your pecs and chest, rather than allowing your triceps to the bulk of the work. Place your hands wider than your shoulders and lower down until your elbows reach a 90 degree angle. Be wary of your elbows reaching over your wrists which will place unnecessary pressure on the joints. I like to put my focus on my chest, and think about my whole torso lowering and rising up within a box made my elbows. You can perform these on your knees as well, with the same emphasis on keeping a flat back and neutral neck as outlined above.

– Single Leg Push ups
Taking one leg off the ground, even just a few cm, will greatly increase the load on your abs and stabilising muscles. The temptation with these types of push ups is to rush. Take it slow and pause between changing legs so your form does not diminish in the transition. A good tip is to place your feet a little wider than you would normally to help with balance.

– Single-arm Medicine Ball Push Ups
You can use any prop like a yoga block or kettle bell to do these too. The change in angle will allow you to target you arms, pecs, and shoulders and may offer insight into how one side of your body is stronger than the other. Try not to allow the torso to rotate or twist during the exercise, remaining stable in the core and lower back.

– Elevated Push Ups
If you are looking to increase the challenge, try placing your feet on the edge of a couch or a bench. Your body will be angled down towards your hands, increasing the amount of your body weight involved in the exercise.

– Spiderman Push Ups
Start with a normal push up set up. Lower down keeping your elbows tracking close to your body. As you rise up raise one knee towards your elbow on the same side. Place it back. Lower down again, and on the next rise, lift the other knee. You will find that this exercise engages the core in a new way and will also work the legs as you balance through each knee lift.

– Dolphin Push Ups
From a downward dog position, bend your elbows to lower to your forearms to the floor.  The aim is to lower and raise both arms at the same time. Focus and breathe, it’s harder than it looks! If you find this too intense on your legs, feel free to bend your knees but try to maintain a long line from your hips through to your neck.

– Diamond Push Ups

Place your hands close together directly underneath your chest, making a diamond shape with your thumbs and forefingers. Watch your form and make sure that you are not leaning back which will make the exercise easier. Keep your elbows tucked and lower slowly until your chest touches your hands. This exercise will target your deltoid muscles (pictured in the diagram) and also engage your core as you balance over a smaller base. When performed with correct technique, this variation is also said to have best results for training your triceps.

– Superman Push Ups

From a standard push up position, lower down keeping your elbows tracking close to your body. As you rise to the top of the movement, lift your right arm off the ground at the same time as lifting your left leg. Aim to raise them straight out, front and back, at the same level. Pause at the top and maintain stability through the core. Replace the hands and feet to reach a plank position and then repeat a push up and superman on the other side. Be wary of your hips and torso wanting to rotate at the top of the movement and focus on keeping your hips stable.

– Tiger Push Ups
Think about the two positions, downward dog and upward dog. If you are familiar with yoga you may already flow from upward dog to downward dog during a Sun Salutation. A tiger push up is doing this in reverse.

Start in a downward dog pose. While bending your elbows and dropping your upper body towards the floor, push forward with the chest and rise up to an upward dog position. You may or may not need to roll over the toes also. In the upward dog position, imagine a string pulling from your tail bone to bring your torso back through your arms and then up to starting pose. Try not to let the elbows flare, maintaining stability for your shoulders, elbows and wrists.

 

If you feel like each of these variations are easy, you can move on to handstand push ups, one arm push ups, and dynamic variations like clapping in between reps! There should be more than enough to keep you moving and motivated each day.

The great thing with push ups is that you will improve and see results very quickly. One week you might only be able to do 3 or 5, but very quickly you will find yourself doing 8 or 10, creating moments for feelings of success and motivation! Try one of the variation above and then return to your standard push up in the next training session and see the results for yourself!

Floor Flow Drawings

A new space inspires new ideas. At home, my dance space is a few square meters on the floor in front of the kitchen bench, stretching out towards the couch. Our floor is polished concrete, slightly too hard on the knees, but amazingly slippy for wearing socks and doing some slinky floorwork or chair dancing. Sessions of yoga often flow into dance sessions as I let my body move with or without music.

The nature of the space creates boundaries for my movement, but I’d rather think of them as creative limitations. I can’t move the fridge or the cupboard, but I can find a new way to slide under myself or turn around, reaching the boundary and bouncing off again.

One morning, I had an idea of being able to draw my floor flows. Inspired by other artists and dancers, I was curious as to how a movement, or a series of movements, would translate to a 2D field of lines on paper. My eagerness grew as I slowly collected the materials to complete the project.

Sourcing charcoal here was a challenge, so for my initial attempts I strapped together six 8B pencils and held them in each hand. Finally getting lines on paper was immensely satisfying, yet I craved to be able to smudge the lines as I rolled across them. Three drawings later, however, I already had a new understanding of the process and output that I was creating.


The freestyle drawings gave great insight into the way my body was moving on the page. It tracked the path of my hands but not my feet or legs. For a long time I have struggled with knowing what to do with my hands when dancing. Body waves, and leg sequences flow quite naturally, and as a pole dancer I could always just hold on to the pole. But now it was the movement of my hands and arms that was in focus.

After a few more pencil freestyles, and a run through with charcoal I took a step back and reflected on the shapes that were appearing. The boundaries of the paper had to be respected, but in the same way as the walls of my lounge room and furniture had to be creatively avoided, I was confronted with almost endless opportunities of how to move within the space of the paper.

Watching the videos of my freestyles, I began to isolate movements that offered shapes and lines that I found aesthetically pleasing. Breaking these down there were sixteen sequences. I made notes of these sequences and shapes in small drawings, numbering each line to recall how my body moved to create the shape.

Just like the process of creating choreography for a dance, my body and mind formed a relationship around the language of movement. My body had showed my mind a new way to move. But this new language needed translating, my mind breaking down the patterns to something more understandable. I am now at the stage where my mind is retelling these ideas back to my body. With a greater understanding of how my movements are reflected on the page, the process is now less of a freestyle and more a choreography.

My small sketches speak to me and tell me how to move. Without words, the lines and shapes ask me to pirouette, turn, thread through, and extend. Some of these dances were seemingly endless repetitions that lasted for 20 minutes or so. Others existed in the boundaries of a song, inviting me to stand up and look back at what I created as the music moved back in to silence.

As much as I am so excited to share these drawings as themselves, I am also curious as to how a pole dance or floor routine could be choreographed with similar symbolism and design. Last year I wrote about Merce Cunningham and how his theories about movement and dance influenced my choreography, and how these thoughts inspired a new way of recording movement. Reflecting on these ideas, the drawings seem instrumental to the evolution of my thinking about movement and dance.

The following video is a floor flow drawing routine I created with choreography with charcoal. This sequence was choreographed based on the sixteen flow shapes I discovered through my freestyles. It was a whole new learning curve discovering how to link the flows together so I didn’t have to get off the paper during the song. After the rehearsals though it was exciting to find that the dance felt similar to my early freestyles where I just let the music move me. I love those moments when the dance takes over, and even though this sequence was mindful and choreographed, it was wonderful to let go and just flow.

 

 

I’m so grateful to my husband for letting me take over the space and helping wash off the charcoal for so many days in a row! I hope you enjoy and are inspired to work creatively in your own space. I’d love to hear your feedback or share in your own ideas for new work!

Everyone who has subscribed to my newsletter will receive exclusive access to the behind the scenes videos of these floor drawings, including the small sketches, process notes, and outtakes! Don’t miss out! Sign up before April 19th to share in this new venture into creative movement.

 

The Spin City Aerial Hoop Bible – Review

How many times have you dreamed of a having a reference book of all the pole moves ever created? Or all of the lyra poses? You could bring it to class, write notes next to the moves to help your remember how you transitioned in and out. You could date and star the moves that you can do, visualise your goals, and have a step by step curriculum for your learning and progression.

Well, dream no longer!

Aerialist Kate Edwards and her fabulous team at Spin City Aerial Fitness have created the bible of our dreams! Now in their 4th edition, The Ultimate Pole Bible and The Ultimate Hoop Bible are going to become your most favourite training companion. For everyone with partners you can also now purchase The Ultimate Doubles Pole Bible and The Ultimate Doubles Hoop Bible.

I got my hands on The Ultimate Hoop Bible last week, and it has already been such an asset to my training. I was a pole dancer for five years in Sydney, but now living in Cambodia I only have access to silks and lyra. My experience on pole has allowed me to progress rather quickly with lyra, however The Ultimate Hoop Bible has really opened my eyes to the variety of artistic expression and dance possibilities.

 

What you need to know
The Ultimate Hoop Bible contains:

  • Over 800 clear, professionally photographed lyra poses
  • Spotting techniques, with photographs
  • Poses grouped into families based on contact points and difficulty
  • Glossary with pose names (and other common names) with page numbers
  • Combo ideas, combining moves from each section
  • Strength and conditioning tips and techniques
  • Dynamic moves and transitions for more advanced aerialists
  • Break down of transitions with photographs of the start, mid point, and finishing positions
  • PDF, soft cover, and hard cover version available

The authors of The Ultimate Hoop Bible have been incredibly thorough. The book begins with a series of Core Hoop Moves progressing from beginner to advanced. The next 200 plus pages are then filled with families of poses, grouped together based on –

  • contact points with different grips (hand, knees, elbow, armpit, hip hold),
  • specific positions on the lyra (top vs bottom bar, in front vs behind the bar, or using the strope)
  • advanced strength and flexibility poses

For students:
Keep in mind that The Ultimate Hoop Bible is not a manual. The authors make note at the beginning of the book,

“This book should be used as a memory aid for the moves you have learnt from a qualified instructor, rather than to teach yourself new moves.”

There are no step by step instructions of how to get into or out of each move. Despite the fact that so many pole dancers and aerialists use Instagram and social media for inspiration and learning new tricks it is important to be reminded of the mantra “do not try this at home”. Learning without a spotter or instructor increases the chance of injury and also puts you at risk of adopting bad habits that make it difficult to learn more advanced moves down the track. I personally think it a positive aspect that the authors have created the book with such ethical training principles in mind.

I am convinced that The Ultimate Hoop Bible will compliment what you are learning in class. I am in a situation where my instructor has limited English language skills – learning lyra in Cambodia has its pros and cons! The language of dance is universal and modelling and repetition go a long way, however, The Ultimate Hoop Bible has been an amazing asset in bridging a communication gap between myself and my instructor. I can show her moves that I want to learn, and she can suggest variations from the book that are more or less suited to my current skills. Even if both you and your instructor speak the same language, it is so valuable to have a common point of reference, including pose names, removing those moments of trying to explain a trick, “you know the one that Bendy Kate does with her leg up here and her arm is kind of wrapped under and then she does the splits?”

For instructors:
Over 14 aerialists feature in The Ultimate Hoop Bible and worked with the author Kate Edwards to produce the book. For this most recent edition, poses and transitions were also inspired by renowned aerialist and trainer Rebekah Leech, who’s research into movement, safety, aerial dance, and expression have fostered innovation in the field. Rest assured, that as an instructor or studio owner, the advice, techniques, and poses in The Ultimate Hoop Bible come from industry professionals.

Throughout every chapter there are notes on shoulder engagement, hand grip, spotting, and body awareness, that you can share with your students as you explain and model each pose. I was particularly impressed at how the depth of the authors knowledge comes through in the organisation of the book and also through the notes. Kate Edwards has an extensive understanding of body mechanics, anatomy, and safe training practices that will support your own training and instructional techniques.

For example, in the section titled Splits Based Moves, there is note made about the difference in the quality, and safety, of the move when using active flexibility rather than just external resistance. Keeping this in mind when teaching certain split based moves, will allow you to make adjustments for each of your student’s current skill set.

Overall, The Ultimate Hoop Bible will make a great teaching aid, offering options for structuring your class, and supporting safe teaching and dance practice.

For a sneak peak of the Ultimate Hoop Bible head over to the SpinCity YouTube channel.

Or if you are already convinced of the value of this product, head over to the SpinCity website and grab your copy now!

http://www.spincityinstructortraining.com/shop

Pole Dance Stories

Novelist Willa Cather once said, “There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before.”

Then again, it has also been said that there are seven foundation stories from which every successful narrative known has been made.

Choreography can start from many places. You may have heard a song that you just have to dance to. Perhaps you’ve just invented the best combo, and you can visualize it on stage as the climax to a routine. Alternatively, I have often felt with no place to start but a competition or showcase on the horizon that requires me to put something together. In each of these cases, choosing a focus on a story, rather than just a theme or character, may help you construct a fluid routine that has the potential not just to impress but to take your audience on a memorable journey.

If you are looking for inspiration for your next routine, perhaps some insight into the structure of stories could help you. Before or after you choose your song, adding story elements to your performance will ensure that you are engaging the audience from many angles. In my experience, pole dance routines with stories also tend to be appealing to non-pole dancers. The performance becomes more of a show and offers the audience something to understand and relate to when they are unfamiliar with the nature of pole dance.

I outline each of the seven plots below (as described by Christopher Booker in his book The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories, 2004) with reference to pop culture examples to help you understand how each is different. Under each example are some points about how the plot could form a container for a rich and meaningful pole dance routine.

1. Overcoming the Monster – The protagonist sets out to defeat an antagonistic force (often evil) which threatens the protagonist and/or protagonist’s homeland.

Examples: James Bond, Attack on Titan, The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, and Shrek, David and Goliath.

This can work well as a doubles or group routine, allowing for dynamic interplay between two or more characters. Costumes and characters here can be diverse, ranging from simple contrasting colours (white vs black), to actors based on real stories themselves.

2. Rags to Riches – The poor protagonist acquires things such as power, wealth, and a mate, before losing it all and gaining it back upon growing as a person.

Examples: Cinderella, Aladdin, Jane Eyre, A Little Princess, Great Expectations

Such a narrative may require props and effective costuming to help support the messages conveyed to the audience. When done well, and with familiar characters, it is possible for the props to “fill in the gaps” allowing you to emphasise just one part of the story over another, avoiding the trap of feeling like you need to fit an entire fairy tale into a 3 minute routine!

3. The Quest – The protagonist and some companions set out to acquire an important object or to get to a location, facing many obstacles and temptations along the way.

Examples: Iliad, Watership Down, The Lord of the Rings, The Land Before Time, One Piece, Indiana Jones

Consider how the music could add a sense of struggle followed by triumph. The poses and shapes chosen by the dancer would also emphasise challenges and then success. When telling this story, the obstacles and temptations would form the bulk of the routine, while the final success would offer the audience a sense of relief. How could the audience feel like they were on the journey with you?

4. Voyage and Return – The protagonist goes to a strange land and, after overcoming the threats it poses to him or her, returns with experience.

Examples: Odyssey, Alice in Wonderland, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, The Hobbit, Gone with the Wind, Chronicles of Narnia, Apollo 13, Labyrinth, Finding Nemo, Gulliver’s Travels, The Wizard of Oz

Try to choose one perspective when telling these types of stories. Or if you are in a group or performing as doubles, keep the elements simple and cut back. I’ve previously shared how much I love Kristy Sellars’ Alice in Wonderland routine. By adding the video projection she was able to share so much more about the journey and the narrative. We might not all be able to be so ambitious, so consider how less is more.

5. Comedy – Light and humorous character with a happy or cheerful ending; a dramatic work in which the central motif is the triumph over adverse circumstance, resulting in a successful or happy conclusion. Booker makes sure to stress that comedy is more than humor. It refers to a pattern where the conflict becomes more and more confusing, but is at last made plain in a single clarifying event. Most romances fall into this category.

Examples: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Much Ado About Nothing, Twelfth Night, Bridget Jones Diary, Sliding Doors, Mr. Bean

 

Pole Comedy can be hard to accomplish. There are many moves, tricks, and poses that can be dramatised in a funny way, but make sure your performance also has a sense of triumph over struggle so it is more than just goofy dancing.

 

 

6. Tragedy – The protagonist is a hero with one major character flaw or great mistake which is ultimately their undoing. Their unfortunate end evokes pity at their folly and the fall of a fundamentally ‘good’ character.

Examples: Macbeth, Bonnie and Clyde, Anna Karenina, Madame Bovary, Romeo and Juliet, Breaking Bad, Hamlet

This could be a simple as a lyrical or contemporary based routine that captures the emotion of the tragedy. This story line can be a good starting place for those wishing to put more meaning into their routines, or who find energy from an event that has happened in their personal life.

 

7. Rebirth – During the course of the story, an important event forces the main character to change their ways, often making them a better person.

Examples: Beauty and the Beast, The Snow Queen, A Christmas Carol, The Secret Garden, Despicable Me, How the Grinch Stole Christmas

In my mind, this is a more refined version of the “Comedy”, “Voyage and Return” and “Rags to Riches” stories. However, the turning point of the story may happen earlier so within the performance you have more time to express the ideas of the rebirth.


Hopefully these story ideas have inspired you to consider a new routine or have helped you flesh out a previous idea to turn it into a full show! No matter what story plot you choose, remember these key points:

  • Your story needs to be understandable to your audience, which may require that you use props or settings to help them follow the plot.
  • Think about how your costume can also work as a prop to help convey your story. Do you take off something, reveal something new, or change entirely as your character evolves?
  • Many of the familiar fairy tale stories have been done before – think Alice in Wonderland, Snow White, Cinderella. This is not to say that you should avoid these topics, they are done again and again because they translate so well! Perhaps think about how you can add to the story, or present it in a different way. Instead of playing the character of Snow White, how would the story look from the Evil Witch’s perspective? Maybe you are the prince, searching for Cinderella after she loses her shoe?
  • Your performance does not need to tell the entire tale. In three to five minutes this would be a huge undertaking. Choose part of the story that is manageable, and add on with props and costumes that fill in the rest of the narrative for your audience.
  • Make sure you sustain your character throughout your floorwork, transitions, and pole tricks. If you can’t do the trick in character take it out, and choose to maintain the mood and integrity of the performance as a whole. Pole champion Irmingard Mayar warns, pole dancers “can be 100% engaged when off the pole, but as soon as they take their movement into the air they shift to robotic trick-mode” which jars and stops the flow of the story.

 

I’d love to hear your thoughts about pole dance and story telling. Comment below, or tag me in your ideas on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!