Tagchoreography

Chair Dance

Since being away from my pole and a regular studio space, I have had more time to explore other aspects of my dance practice. Mornings start with at least an hour of yoga and stretching before breakfast. After some work or time exploring our new city I find that my desire to just move leads me to long floor work sessions and most recently choreographing a chair dance routine!

The processes involved in chair dancing has challenged my creativity, flow, and stage presence and has offered a new perspective on tricks and floor work. It’s a great foundation to strengthen your dance skill set too!

Many pole studios offer chair and lap dancing in conjunction with pole, or as separate classes. Training in Sydney, I joined chair dance for one term a few years ago. As a group of three we performed what we learned at a showcase. But aside from this class, my experience dancing on, with, and around a chair has been limited.

Creating a chair routine and recording my chair dance freestyles, I have become aware of three elements of chair dance that may compliment your pole practice.

Creativity
I have to admit that when I first chose to start working on a chair routine I was stumped. I had a song, and knew what feeling I wanted the choreography to take, but it was hard to know where to begin. I could not rely on standby pole combos or spins. I was also limited by the type of chair available, how it could hold my weight in various balances, and the space it offered for placement in poses.

Making shapes and coming up with something new is challenging. I was surprised though at how many of the tricks and shapes I was able to translate from my pole experience. A pike, a back bend, a dynamic transition from a closed shape to an open one. I was reminded about the quality of the movement that matters, not just a shape having a name.

Unpacking this took time and experimentation, but I’m so glad to have had these moments. When I do get back on a pole I hope to have such a larger repertoire of tricks and formulations to return with.

Versatility
Using a prop such as a chair, or an ottoman as you can see in my final routine, offered new angles to explore floor poses and transitions that I was familiar with. It also challenged me to think of new ways to move around the space. The ottoman does not have a back, so I had to make a decision to have it against the wall, or to be able to move around it from all sides. When working with a chair in conjunction with a pole you can also choose to have the chair rest in front of the pole or place it to one side.

I really enjoyed the process of discovering the wall and then working it in to my dance. As I recorded my freestyles and watched how my arms and legs responded to the space, I found a new sensuality in my movements. Touching the chair and wall could be a movement in itself in a way that is not always possible when dancing with a pole.

Engagement
Eye contact, facial expressions, and hand gestures, are all elements of chair dance that make it more intimate. The audience is right there with you and being able to captivate them is much more important. I have already written about stage presence and polishing your choreography, but there is a whole language of the body that can help you tell your story. This was perhaps one of the most powerful lessons I have learned from engaging in chair dance, and something that is probably more related to burlesque and exotic dancing. I’m excited to see how this evolves as I work on new chair and floor routines too.

 

My “What To Do When You Don’t Have a Pole” videos from my pole hiatus last year got some great air time. Chair dance has reminded me how much I do just love to dance. There have been many moments in the last few weeks where I warm up by just putting on my long socks and turning up the volume. A space to dance needs just a floor and your body, no props required.

I do, however, recommend a chair (or a footstool) if you are looking for ways to change up your dance practice and inspire new movements and inspiration.

You can watch my chair dance routine on Vimeo here.

Self Awareness

JDPS Showcase March 2014

Last month I saw a video of Jamilla Deville interviewed by The Pole Dancing Chronicles. Sharing pole tips is a fairly common Q&A, most pole dancers offering advice that falls into a few typical categories –

 

These are all very practical tips, some of which I have written about on this blog too! But Jamilla is not just a pole dancer. She is an artist and her entire lifestyle is focused on training, body practices, health, and performance.

So, what was her pole tip you ask? She states,

“Pole is all about being aware of what your own body is doing … the more you grow as a pole athlete or artist the more you become self aware”

Self awareness can take many forms. There is spatial related self awareness, involving the knowledge and feeling of where your limbs and body are in space. Upside-down, hanging from one leg, finding your foot with your hand behind your body, it is obvious why self awareness in this sense is important when pole dancing.

There is also body related self awareness. How do you use your body to convey an idea? Showgirls and dancers have lots of practice in using their body to engage the audience. Hand gestures, facial expressions, eye contact, the poses and shapes chosen by a dancer, all support stage presence and the overall impact of a performance.

Let me also suggest that you may cultivate self awareness of the mind, through pole dancing just like any form of performance art or body practice.

Self awareness is defined as
“conscious knowledge of one’s own character, feelings, motives, and desires”

I recently shared some insight into my choreography process, explaining how I use material from my own experience as inspiration for concepts and performances. In this way pole dancing, and choreography creation, is like a reflection tool, helping you to unpack your thoughts and feelings about an event, reaching a resolution or a state of deeper understanding.

Embedding your dance with meaning and making conscious decisions about what to add or leave out, is similar to the process of any artist (painter, writer, photographer, sculptor etc) that fosters greater self awareness. You find a way to share a feeling, motive, or desire, through the medium of expression.

This process may also reveal broader ideas such as why you choose pole dance as your medium of expression. Does it stimulate a feeling or desire, or a character within yourself that you wish to express?

Asking yourself these questions can reveal some insightful ideas that may inspire a new performance piece, or a whole new direction in your training. For those seeking authentic expression and a sense of fulfillment, the act of fostering self awareness can be creatively satisfying too.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on self awareness or how pole dance offers you avenues for growth. Comment here or tag me on Facebook!

Time to Say Goodbye

Last month my partner and I landed in Cambodia, the beginning of an undetermined period of time abroad. Saying goodbye to Sydney was full of mixed emotions. I quit my job of over ten years, bid farewell to friends and family, and had to say goodbye to my home pole!

As pole dancers know, dance is therapy. So before taking down my pole and leaving my home studio I spent some time freestyling and revisiting flow, reflecting on the performances that were created in that space.

Each morning for three weeks before we left, I woke with the earworm Time To Say Goodbye. Responding to the call I began to choreograph a piece to the song. There wasn’t enough time to record it as a single take, but whilst wrapping up the lose ends of Sydney over the last month I’ve had time to work with the video, revealing snippets of emotive dance and favourite tricks that have come together for a kind of compilation performance.

There are no big tricks or funky floorwork, just me in my happy place, a bittersweet moment in the process of closing a chapter and preparing for something new.

Thanks for watching!

 

Inspired by Anais Nin – Part 3: Material

“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. This is the final post in a three part series that unpacked each of Anais Nin’s ideas and how it relates to artistic expression, including pole dancing.

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.


“The material from which I will create comes from living from the personality, from experience, adventures, voyages.”

As I begin to write this post I sit looking at a vista. The lake a calm blanket of blue after a few days of rough winds, the birds chirping and playing in the Spring time sun. It is so quiet, my tapping on the keys seems to interrupt the air in the room. A paradox of time and space, that I finally have time to sit and write, but the space is begging for me to just enjoy the view.
Wangi Wangi

My partner and I are house sitting, a stepping stone on an adventure of a life time. Last month I quit my job and we sold most of our belongings. We have been together for 12 years and although being attached to our routines and habits, and many pieces of furniture and knickknacks, it is time to take stock and see what else the world can bring. Sydney has been great to both of us. I have a strong supportive pole community and space to perform a few times per year. Lee has been able to create an amazing portfolio of photographic work and meet hundreds of inspiring models and artists. But Sydney is also draining our creative energy. The cost and lifestyle sadly no longer contribute to our vision for the future and so it is time to move on.

Anais Nin, the author of the quote above, was a writer. She traveled for a long time with Henry Miller, one of her lovers and a fellow author and artist. She says, “The material from which I will create comes from living from the personality, from experience, adventures, voyages. This natural flow of riches comes first.”

My choreography and performances also emerge from my personality, experiences, adventures and voyages. A few months ago I wrote a playful post using all the titles of the songs I have danced too. It was a humorous reflection on five years of dancing, but it really reminded me of how much each piece was an expression of a moment in my life.

(Remember at the beginning of this series where I said that pole dancers shouldn’t be afraid to take themselves seriously? yeah, that)

In 2012 I was training with Jamilla Deville at the Art of Pole Studios in Sydney. We were preparing for a showcase and I was with just one other student and Jamilla in an open play practice time. After running the combos and reviewing my choreography on my own, Jamilla asked if I would like to dance the whole piece while Donna and her watched. My dance was full of nerves and not very polished but the song offered time for pauses and allowed me to stay inside myself. My final pose was a swan, a kind of pole sit where you lean your torso around the front of the pole, laying over your legs. The music finished and I reconnected with Jamilla and Donna who were smiling and praising my efforts. Before I had even dismounted the pole, Jamilla said, “Thank you for sharing your dance with us” – a statement acknowledging the intimacy of the moment while also acknowledging the exchange – “sharing your dance with us” – sharing a part of me with you.

After Solotude 3, I had a few people ask about my inspiration for my choreography, wondering where my sometimes ‘out of the box’ ideas come from. The answer was simple, but probably deeper than most want to realise. It comes from the same place that Anais Nin talks about.

amelie hermitude duo

I have danced to French composer Yann Tiersen (J’y suis Jamias Alle) pictured left,     choosing the piece after returning from a trip to Paris. Frayed by Hermitude, pictured right, was a routine that came together while I was working through some personal issues, in addition to having torn a hamstring. Pole dance was healing.

Sometimes a piece works in a cathartic way, while other times a dance is simply an unpacking of thoughts about an experience. Next time you are creating a dance piece consider your intentions behind your movement. You may have lost someone recently and that may inspire a whole new way to express your emotional energy. You can find inspiration in new relationships even those as fleeting as a snippet of conversation from waiting in line for coffee. Isadora Duncan used nature, her observations of palm fronds swaying in the wind, inspiring new movement possibilities.

When I choose a song for my choreography I find an artist who has also created something that will compliment or emphasise what I am expressing. The eventual choreography is then an interplay with what I feel I need to convey and how the song already says part or all of it.

“The material from which I will create comes from living…”

And so my partner and I have started a process to keep on living. Moving away from the squeeze of Sydney we are setting off to Cambodia, landing in Phnom Penh at the end of September.

I will still be dancing and writing, but the form it takes will be inspired by our new landscape, friends, adventures, and all the riches of an ancient culture. I have goals to work on my flexibility, hoping the weather will work in my favour to always be warm enough to stretch. I am also open, however, to see what happens! I’ve been working full time now for more than 12 years am excited to stop the snowballing effect of debt and obligations, and open my mind to learning new things.

What will pole dance look like in Cambodia? I’m not sure yet. There are multiple studios in neighbouring Thailand and Vietnam which I am excited to be able to drop in to, but it’s an exciting prospect to be able to see what comes up and find new inspiration in another culture, a new lifestyle, and a new community.

ស្នាក់នៅបត់បែន

🙂

Dance Makes you Bigger than Yourself

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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.

Beach Pole

 

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.

Solotude 3 – Video!

You have seen the pictures, heard the rumours, and now you can watch the video!

Solotude 3 was such an amazing event! The feedback that has been flowing in about my routine has been wonderful. Thank you to all my followers and supporters, in real life and online. It has been wonderful to have such regular dance opportunities to grow as a performer.

This routine had been in the works for about six months. I usually work with a quicker timeline, however I think the overall performance benefited from my sustained practice. The extra time also offered me more space to reflect on the movements and how they related to the story and my intentions.

I like to work with narratives and pole drama, so this routine was based on the story of the Gemini constellation. Driven by the narrative of Pollux and Castor’s tragedy, I invited the audience to engage with elements of loss, connection, reunion, and shared identities. I love working with props, and the mask was a simple way to help the audience engage with and follow the story.

Photos of the night were captured by Lioness Photography and Ash King. I love how they used close ups and unique angles to compliment my performance, not just capturing my tricks.

If you like my performance, feel free to share it online! I am also available for choreography workshops, for studios and classes, or to help you with your own solo.

Send me an email at mel@melnutter.com and let’s start dancing!