Tagcombo

Flip it and Reverse It

Bouncing off an article I wrote last week about flipping tricks upside down, I was so excited to hear about Natasha Wang’s training tip!

“take a combo you’ve been practicing and reverse it”

For ease of explanation let’s refer to a simpler combo.

Usual Combo In Reverse
straddle inside leg hang
outside leg hang push to butterfly
butterfly outside leg hang
sweep to inside leg hang straddle

Already just from word choice (sweep to as opposed to push to) it can been seen that the technique components and flow are different. Working with gravity and the spin or working against it, challenge your strength and possible contact points.

Just like trying things on your goofy side, certain combos are going to feel completely whack when reversed!

Similarly, some transitions in reverse are going to look smoother than others, but in terms of creative choreography this would be a great way to spice up a routine and surprise a pole familiar audience.

I gave it shot this week during my home practice.

Forwards…

 

and in reverse ….

 

Tag me in your videos on Instagram and Facebook! I’d love to see what you come up with!

Upside Down, upside down!

Mr squiggle

United Pole Artists recently released an article recently about learning pole tricks from the floor. I am a huge supporter of this kind of training especially as a home poler who doesn’t always have a spotter. By working out the contact points and body position of a trick from the floor you can focus on technique without the risk of falling. Floor based straddles and shoulder mounts are also great conditioning exercises!

A conversation online about the pole trick Crescent Moon got me thinking about extending on this idea.

Crescent Moon

The Crescent Moon comes from a layback, and requires some pretty amazing shoulder and back flex to reach around under yourself, forming an upside down Nike tick shape. Sadly, I have seen girls fall while attempting this trick as when you push through your arms and shoulders to arch you back, you can lose grip in your thighs and tumble off the pole in a crumpled mess 🙁

 

Sharing ideas about how to train this move as part of the online discussion thread, I was surprised that I was the only one who suggested trying it from the floor – and upsidedown!

flippedConsider the Crescent Moon shape and now flip it. Mine is not so bendy but you will get the idea. It’s much like a cobra pose in yoga, up the pole this is known as a Dove. But could you make the same shape on the floor? Legs along the floor and arms up and over your head back to the pole?

It’s also interesting to think about tricks as upside down version of other tricks.

A Ballerina is very similar to a inside leg hang.

A Russian lay back and a Seahorse have similar leg positions.

A Superman and a bottom hand plank.

Even a figure skater and a brass monkey.

See them for yourself, lock your screen rotation and scroll through your Instagram feed upside down!

I challenge you! Enhance your pole training and challenge your brain as you consider what other moves might be possible inverted, or right way up. Tag me in your posts on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. I’d love to see what you come up with!

*For those not privy to the Mr Squiggle reference, this charming puppet was the character in a kid’s TV programme aired in Australia from 1959 – 1999. The man controlling the marionette was leaning over a shelf off screen, which meant all of his drawings were “upside down upside down” now a loved catch phrase along with the line from the grump blackboard – “Hur-ry up!”. Essential viewing.

Choreography for Pole Dance

by Stills By JacquelineChoreography and creating your own performance can be daunting. I was racked with nerves for my first solo, not just because it meant getting up on stage in a bikini, but because I was about to share something of me …with you…out there. An idea, a feeling, a story. The act of expression is still something that opens me up and leaves me vulnerable. It’s an art however that I’m attempting to hone as I learn what different movements and body language can mean. Beyond body rolls and hair flicks I want to tell a story with my dancing, take the audience on a journey and leave them breathless.

After committing myself to my first solo performance in 2011, my instructor asked me to come along to a practice time in the studio. I showed her my song and she gave me tips about how to match my movements to the tempo and feeling. She encouraged me to use familiar combos in the chorus and work with spins and floor work in the verses. A simple format that offered me structure and direction as a beginner.

At the time I had only been dancing for about six months and my combos were easy to choose from – climb to sit, layback, hangback, dismount. My repertoire of spins was also small – an angel, chair spin, ankle spin, and lots of forward and back hooks.

I fleshed out a routine and used my most impressive move at the time (a bat AKA ankle grab) for the big climax. In retrospect I can see that the dark, melancholic song was the perfect match to allow me to hide a little on stage, close my eyes and pretend the audience might not be there. The familiar combos got me through, but this style of dancing is a long way from my preference and my current goals that I try to achieve in my performances today.

Over the years, I’ve found new ways to choreograph routines. A standard process involved choosing a song, then mapping out the lyrics, changes in tempo and feeling, and standout musical elements and then going from there, adding combos that emphasize the feeling or character I wish to portray and connecting all the pieces with dance elements and floorwork ideas. This process offered a consistent approach that lent itself to over 15 different solos. Relying on the music to set the tone contained my ideas to 2-4 minutes yet still offered scope for me to begin to develop characters and story telling techniques.

Recently however, I became addicted to watching Merce Cunningham on YouTube. Cunningham died in 2009 but his legacy and contribution to modern dance continue through the Cunningham Dance Foundation.

One element of his approach suggests making the choreography stand on it’s own aside from the music and he often asks his dancers and composers to work separately. Intrigued by this idea I started experimenting with movement, both on and off the pole, without a song in mind. A concept evolved and a connection to a story. Gradually I had a sequence of movements, a flow, a pole combo, and floorwork and it had no music.

When I found the song that I wanted to dance to, it was fascinating how it suddenly came together. I pressed play and taped my choreography so I could watch it back. Small movements hit beats and expressed a musicality I could have never imagined. It wasn’t perfect, and in many ways it was disturbing as I watched my body out of sync, so to speak, with the rhythms of the song. But as I continued watching there was a new meaning that emerged from those inconsistencies.

Now reaching the end of the choreography process and having a finished routine, it looks different to the original musicless flow. I have made adjustments for the sake of musicality and narrative. However the thread from those initial experiments is still there, and I doubt I would have such an unique performance if I had stuck to my previous choreography methods.

On a side note, the way I record my choreography has also evolved to account for this change. In my pole journal I have pages of documented moves, matched to lyrics and musical annotation – rise, fireman spin, land, right hand high, turn under, angel. Or even simpler notes related to combos – straddle, outside leg hang, cupid, butterfly.

Changing the way I think about movement, and seeking inspiration from Merce Cunningham and other contemporary dancers, I have had to find new ways to explain what I am doing when I’m dancing. Researching how best to do this I came across Labanation . This dance notation blew my mind with it’s complexity and attention to detail. It was way to in depth for me to adopt for my current needs but it has influenced my recording process, inspiring a more visual diagrammatic record.

Choreography diagram

 

This is just one of the images from my current choreography, a small but poignant window into what’s been going on inside my head and inside my body.

 

 

If you’re looking to create a solo performance or would like advice for your routine, I’d love to help! I am also available to take bookings for workshops related to choreography. Click here to contact me directly.

Learn from the Best

 

I have been blessed on my pole journey to have had the opportunity to train with many pole superstars. My first introduction to pole dance was from Jamilla Deville, who personally ran the eight week beginners course from her then studio, Art of Pole.

Additionally, I have taken workshops with Natasha Wang, Michelle Stanek, Amy Hazel, and Kristy Sellars. Sydney Pole is also well decked out in terms of instructors, including Mr Pole Dance Australia himself, Chris Talbot, Mr Pole Dance Australia runner up David Aeon, and professionals Missy, Bailey Hart, Ryder and Cynthia Xu. Local superstars and now owners of their own studios, Dallas Dee and Elle Lacroix were also involved in the beginnings of Sydney Pole.

I understand that everyone does not have such access to such an array great dancers, choreographers, and inspirational people. Home polers, especially can find their practice isolating, needing extra motivation some days to get up and dance.

BUT…..

Instagram and social media can be your friend! Most of the Instagram accounts related to pole dancers are personally managed by the dancers themselves. And in my experience, every single one is absolutely lovely! They respond to your questions, reply to comments and will support you in your dance journey.

Just the other week I tried out a combo from AerialAmy, who also trains in her own home! After watching and re-watching to work out all the points of contact and technique, it was not only rewarding to have nailed a new transition, but it made it even more special to hear from AerialAmy herself as she commented on my post.

Most people in the pole community are supportive of collaborating and trick sharing too. Just make sure you credit the name of the trick/transition and share the love. Dirdy Birdy even has a second account that is purely focused on sharing work from other dancers.

The monthly pole challenges that lend themselves to the Instagram format are also great ways to connect to the pole community, learn some new tricks, and locate inspirational dancers.

There’s no more excuses! Start watching and start dancing! You may even find you inspire someone yourself!

Turning Towards Fear

Today was a moving day. To tell you about today I need to start this story in the past. Writing this was as much cathartic as the Epsom salt bath I had afterwards. For anyone experiencing fear and anxiety while trying new moves, I hope it is as worthwhile for you too.

 

Last year I fell off the pole, two metres up, attempting to windmill/body swap through a Tammy. Landing on my head I suffered a concussion and have unintentionally yet clearly avoided the move ever since.

In class with Bailey each Sunday, she has been throwing challenging moves at us all term. Many have been based around this Tammy transition. For seven weeks I’ve avoided it. Using excuses that my elbow grip is not steady enough to land after the transition. Or, it’s on my goofy side. Or I just kind of make myself look busy until we move on to something else.

I’m not sure what changed today, but something in me wanted to try it properly. I was open about it. I started to share my difficulty with classmate Oryx, “I just can’t turn around into the pole.” Immediately pinpointing the problem, she asked, “how do you feel in your tammy?”

Boom! There was no hiding now!

Revisiting the story of falling, Oryx knew, she was also in the class when it had happened. She smiled and talked me through the motions of the transition.
I try again and Bailey offers pointers. Stumbling I pull out, a half arsed attempt really, and tell her about my fall. She shares a knowing glance and then gets straight to the point.

I’m jittery, angry, tears well in my eyes.
“Bring that circling leg around. Point it to the floor it will squeeze you in and hold the top leg on.”
I hear her but my body is flooded with fear.

She stands an arms reach away and waits for me to try again.

Deep breaths. I try to shake off the fear. Bailey does a jump and shake too. Let’s do this!

I step into a slow spin going backwards. Straddle to an inside leg hang and stretch my inside hand down the pole. My outside leg begins its circle to close over the pole in the tammy position. Every spin I see Bailey’s toes and I can hear her voice.
“Pull that leg down, toes to the floor, yes yes… ”
And then ha! My stomach is facing the pole! I’m so low my bottom hand is now on the floor but my legs aren’t going anywhere. It’s stable.

Woooosh!

The blood drains from my head from being upside-down and plays on a scale with the adrenaline rising in my body. I must look a bit dazed and confused but I have more focus than ever. Maybe I can do this?

Up again, a controlled reverse spin, gemini hook, I hear Bailey, leg is down, stomach to pole I’ve closed off … rolled in, hooked the elbow … holy shit … Bailey talks through the rest of the combo, “get the pole into your trap, catch on the ankle, thread the leg through”, extend……. dismount.
Ha!

I’m too excited, pumped, zoned out, or something, and not sure how to react. Bailey’s excited “YEAH! Jump up and down, shake that shit out!”

Exhale!

There is only five minutes until the end of class. I set up my phone to record the combo, and so next time I get the jitters I can watch myself succeed and prove this fear wrong.

You can see me psych myself up in the video. Bailey is not an arms reach away this time. It’s just the sign of confidence I need though. To really overcome this I need to do it on my own.

Breaking down the pole moves into stages I work through the combo slowly. First attempt – success, but a bit low making the dismount clumsy. I can do better. Second attempt I add a half climb further up the pole.

Slow and steady, it’s not time to get carried away.

View this post on Instagram

Part 2: actually doing the combo. The part I was most fearful of is the Tammy, closing in to the pole. After falling out of a tammy last year and giving myself a concussion this brought up a lot of anxiety. Big shoutout to @oryxart and @ibaileyhartyou for helping me with this. Pretty sure you showed us a similar combo to a brass monkey about seven weeks ago that I've just casually avoided all this time for the same reason. I should have hugged you today! This meant a lot! #polelove 💜 #pole #poledance #faceyourfears #poleproblems #sydneypole @sydney_pole #danceitout #polecommunity #combo #pdtammy #pdinsideleghang #pdelbowgrip #pdcheebasplit #workinprogress #alwayslearning

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Fear is something that gets talked about a lot in the pole dance community. For women and men, breaking out of their comfort zone and even attending a pole class for the first time can bring out a lot of fear. Anxiety about their body shape, sense of self expression, and failure.

There are even some funny memes about pole dancing fears but humour is usually the last thing on our minds when we are really in the grips of fear.

Your body has natural fear instincts that alert you to be careful when in strange situations. Even though it’s fun to hang out upside-down, when you’re asked to let go of one hand, or hold on with just your ankles, it’s understandable that your instincts flare up and say WTF!

I’ve seen girls have fears about many pole moves, simply the idea of it scares the shit out of them. When you fall out of a move, this fear is compounded. Yoga philosophy talks a lot of holding fear in parts of your body. The release of this energy is sometimes just as overwhelming as the fear itself, further compounding the emotional response to confronting the fear in the first place.

After pole class today I went to my usual weekly yoga session. I was still jittery and had a conflicting feeling of tension and release that comes from your body reacting to a high dose of adrenaline. Across the hour and half my yoga teacher chose some new and challenging poses. By the time were reached Shavasana I was more than ready to let the energy slow to a trickle. Easing into bliss I was buzzing but with less adrenaline and more joy. Joy and love that pole dance did that! That I faced a fear and came out on the other side, unscathed, alive!

It had been a roller coaster of a morning and a hell of a learning experience. There is a chance the fear related to this Tammy combo will resurface and ask me to turn towards it again but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. For now, I’m ready for an Epsom salt bath and some down time to let the feelings of the day settle.
If you are working through a pole combo/move and find yourself gripped with anxiety, here are a few ideas that might help you.

  • Visualise yourself accomplishing the move: if all you can imagine is yourself falling in a heap on the floor or cracking your head open, then that is probably going to effect the result.
  • Break down the move into it’s smallest components: thinking conscsiously about what your hands, legs, arms, knees, head, and toes are doing, even for the most basic elements will help you isolate the part that you feel most unsteady in. Identify the contact points and how to engage your body to work through the move safely. Even see if you can add a contact point by leaving a hand on for the first few attempts.
  • Ask for a spot: From an instructor or a trusted friend. Share your fear so they know what to expect when you’re upside-down
  • Talk about why you might be so frightened: Are you scared of falling on your head? Have you fallen out of a similar move in the past? Maybe you’re scared of success and this amazing pole move challenges your image of yourself? Sometimes just verbalising it and talking it out can be the first step in helping you let go.
  • Walk away from the move, for today. Some days it’s just not going to work. Sleep on it, try it again tomorrow, it’s all a learning process.

Train Both Sides

2016-02-02 21.23.39Last year I made a conscious effort to train both sides. I even went back to basics in the studio, joining a lower class to work on inside and outside leg hangs and simple combos.

And I can finally say, that it’s starting to pay off!

If you’re an advanced pole dancer you will know that many combos at higher levels require you to interchange with both sides. To land on your good side split, you might need to start on a goofy side leg hang. Or to make sure your strong arm is in the right place in your ayesha, you will need to hook your goofy leg at the beginning of the sequence.

Essentially, you should have no good and bad side for the fundamental moves. Super human pole dancers seem to be able to do everything on both sides, but let’s stick to the basics for now.

The list of moves I was working through for both sides is as follows:

  • floor spins (chair spin, angel, back grab, front hook etc) – left hand high, right hand high
  • climbs – left leg in front, right leg in front
  • straddle – both sides
  • layback – left leg on top, right leg on top
  • hangback – cross knee release and cross ankle release
  • hello boys / wrist seat – left hand high, right hand high
  • inside leg hang – both sides
  • outside leg hang – both sides
  • cupid – both sides
  • pike – both sides
  • butterfly – both sides
  • shoulder mount – both sides
  • brass monkey – both sides

 

I’d also like to add that training both sides for these fundamental moves also helps you remember the contact points and important components of their technique. Sometimes we have learned a move so long ago we’ve filed it in muscle memory and are less aware off what our bodies are doing to hold on. Relearning the basics was also a great mental exercise in discovering what my body was actually doing in each pose.

I’d like to add jade split, ayesha variations and allegra on both sides this year. Especially after seeing the fruits of my labour for the list above in the last few months.

Surprisingly my shoulder mount on both sides was easier than an outside leg hang and cupid. Even my goofy brass monkey seemed to stick more often! It’s taken a long time to feel secure hanging by my goofy leg. But then today .… break through!

Cupid on both sides, so secure, no hands! Success!

So please persist! It hurts, there are bruises, but you will get there! It will help your body feel more balanced and it will make advanced combos so much less scary when you are asked to land in a goofy leg hang!