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Every Artist Was First An Amateur

Next week, I will walk on stage at The Vanguard for the fourth time – fifth if you count being pole monkey for another show.

December 2011- Art of Pole Christmas Showcase

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April 2015 – Glam Rock Cabaret (Pole Monkey)

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June 2015 – Solotude

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November 2015 – Solotude 2

Solotude 2 - The Vanguard, Newtown - November 2015

June 2016 – Solotude 3

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I have been incredibly lucky to have had so many opportunities to refine my performance skills. Over so many years, of course my tricks have improved, but I have also been able to work on my stage presence and fluidity, and forge out my own style. Looking back at photos from 2011 I am blown away by how much pole dancing has shaped my growth as a person as well as a performer.

Ralph Waldo Emerson is famous for saying,

“Every artist was first an amateur.”

The journey from amateur to artist requires the support of a strong community. It requires determination, persistence, and passion. It also requires space to grow and evolve. In the case of a dancer, it also means a space to perform and people to watch.

I am so grateful for Solotude and the Vanguard for providing that space. And I am grateful to you for being that audience.

Come along to the show next weekend and support the rising stars! Find me in the crowd after my show and say hi and let me thank you in person for supporting all of the amateurs who are growing an artist within.

Tickets available here.

Stage Presence

Stage PresenceThe X Factor. Engaging the audience. Capturing the crowd. Having “It”.

There are some dancers that just seem to own it. From the moment they step onto the stage you are drawn in. It might be a walk, a look, their costume. The dancer might not have even moved yet, or be on stage, but their choice of music and/or pose has you mesmerized by their mystery.

These are the shows I want to talk about. The ones that stick in your brain for years to come. The performers that you can watch again and again. They are the shows that make your dinner go cold as you sit there frozen, moth agape, unable to turn away.

A few years ago I joined a small group to train with Jamilla Deville as part of her Extend Yourself training program. Over two days we learned some great pole tricks and cross training advice but we also talked extensively at this elusive “it” factor.

Like many abstract concepts, it was easier to describe what it wasn’t then to truly grasp what it was. No one could put quite their finger on it.

One thing was for sure, however, we knew what it was when we saw it!

If you are seeking to understand stage presence and begin to learn how to capture it yourself, my advice is this,

1) Start studying dancers who you see have it.
Short Instagram videos are great for mini tutorials and finding new tricks, but you are going to have to watch entire performances to begin to understand stage presence. You can find many full clips on YouTube of pole competitions and showcases. Pole Ranking offer live streams of the larger comps too. Add your favourites to a short list so you can return to them again and again.

2) Go and see a live performance.
It doesn’t even need to be a pole performance. Check out some local plays, or head to a burlesque night out on the town. Small intimate venues will let you be close enough to the action to see their movements and get a feel for how they are putting on the show. Larger venues, like Miss Pole Dance Australia at the Enmore Theatre, will give you the chance to see how great performers can dance in front of 1000s of people while giving the impression that they are solely dancing for you.

3) What elements make these performances the same?
Aside from the fancy pole tricks, sensual body rolls, and legs for days, ask yourself what else are these performers doing.

  • Are they making eye contact with the audience? When? As they walk out on stage, during pole tricks, during floorwork?
  • Are they telling a story? Contemporary and lyrical pole performances can be particularly enthralling when done well.
  • Are they using props that help you understand the story? Your narrative is only worthwhile if the audience knows what is going on.
  • Do you notice the soundtrack or is the music working seamlessly with the choreography? Everything doesn’t have to be on the beat, but a sense of musicality goes a long way to helping a performance look polished.
  • How long are they holding their poses for? Even with a fast song, a good performer knows how to draw out their pole poses and floorwork so the audience has time to see and understand what they are watching.

If you can start incorporating these elements into your own routines, you will be well on the way to a brilliant performance. Begin working on these ideas as you are writing your choreography too, then they will be ingrained into the routine just as well as your pole tricks.

For extra tips about feeling confident on stage and developing your performance skills I recommend reading, Feel It, before you try and say it and Everyone is Talking About Sexy Pole. Or if you are on the look out for some inspiration, I have linked to my favourite dancers here.

Miss Summer Trick Star – The Debrief

MSTS - Canberra, November 2015

A fortnight ago, I was in Canberra for Miss Summer Trick Star. An amateur pole dance competition organised by Trick Fitness held each year.

 

 

Previous winners include Miss Nikki Anne, who I met at a training workshop earlier this year. The support of having a familiar face at the comp encouraged me to sign up. Traveling interstate for pole turned in to quite the big deal, and if anything, it was amazing to be able to represent my studio outside of Sydney.

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There were 16 competitors on the night. All had different styles, some sexy, some cute and funny, some sporty. Some of my competitors were older too, not seasoned pros, but mature age women who’s confidence and self awareness came through in their stage presence. Great motivation to be be poling when I’m 40 too!

 

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My routine was to Intergalactic by the Beastie Boys. I nailed the crowd appreciation factor for song choice and prop!

 

 

 

I didn’t place, and looking at the video of my routine I can see where it went a bit pear shaped. I still have lots of excuses in my head for why, including having to take two weeks off training in October while being sick. As much as it’s important to want to enter a competition and think you will win, instead of sulking, it presents valuable learning opportunities for myself and for my progress as a dancer.

The girls at the beginning of the show, myself included, were all pretty much of the same skill level. We had some key tricks both flexi and strength based and some standard floor work. My routine had more of a story and I included a number of drops, a pegasus combo, and off-the-pole floor balances that I thought could set me apart.

The girls who came on after intermission were in a league of their own. Hand standing and splitting all over the place, these girls were amazing! They were all Canberra locals too, nothing like batting on your home turf!

We all were quick to see that they were winning material. My cheer squad knew it too as their supportive comments about my routine were soon overshadowed by their awe of the performance on the stage and their mental notes of new transitions to try next time they are in the studio.

If I had nailed my central combo I may have been in for a chance, but the feedback from the judges has also helped me unpack what went wrong.

Firstly, it was a Trick comp – Miss Summer Trick Star. I had some cool tricks and made sure to include both strength and flex, but if I choreographed it again I would have included more. It would have sacrificed a bit of my story (always a balance) but reflecting on it now, the judges were expecting more tricks.

Secondly, nerves! The judges commented that “my nerves got the better of me” and although it didn’t feel like it on stage, I can see in the video why it would come across that way. It wasn’t as relaxed and smooth as some of the other routines, and after my mess up, I composed myself but the it did shake up the ending.

Thirdly, something I’ve always been trying to work on, engaging with the audience. The judges pointed out that during my floorwork I did this well (hooray!) but when I got on the pole, I missed opportunities to make eye contact and maintain that engagement. I was too introverted and focused worried concentrating on getting the tricks right, that I couldn’t just relax and show I was enjoying it too. Which may be telling that I didn’t know the tricks as well as I could have, but it’s definitely something to think about for future performances.

I didn’t get much feedback from peers or instructors before the competition. I was time poor and most of the people that saw it were just full of compliments and support. I wonder if these things would have come out earlier if I showed it to more people and polished it with more time to spare. All things to remember for next time.

12366273_823379814442314_6295897550700074880_nA consolation prize … photos! I’m so pleased with them you could almost forget that I messed up a combo!

I hope this post gives others a way to move forward after a competition. When things don’t go to plan it can be hard not to lose motivation. The points outlined from my feedback are applicable to everyone’s dancing too. So if you are prepping for a comp, keep them in mind, especially how you are engaging with the audience.

 

Happy Poling!

Miss Summer Trick Star

poster croppedNot quite sure what I’ve got myself in for but I’ve entered Miss Summer Trick Star – a pole dance competition held in Canberra each year.

I’ve entered two other pole comps in the past (PDA Secret Life and Sefton Pole Dance Comp). As much as I love showcase and the space the perform without the pressure of a comp, there are a few useful insights I have gained from throwing myself at the judges.

1) Feedback – Unless you attend more than one studio it’s likely your main audience are always the same people. And in true pole family fashion, they are endlessly supportive, encouraging and complimentary about your pole talents. I don’t make this point to suggest that your pole family are lying to you, but it is sometimes very difficult to find someone who can give you constructive criticism. In a competition scenario, the judges are most likely seeing you dance for the first time, and their feedback can offer valuable insight into areas for improvement or to highlight things that you might not know you were doing so well.

2) Motivation – Training for a competition is hard work. But once you commit, you’re locked in. With enough time to prepare you are more likely to nail that trick you’ve always wanted, or polish that transition. You’ll be more focused and more motivated to succeed.

3) Networking –  Once again, unless you train in multiple studios, it is sometimes hard to meet other pole dancers. Your competitors, despite also wanting to win, are generally super friendly, and already love pole as much as you do! They might also be able to teach you a new trick, let you in on the latest grip aid secrets, or let you know of other performance opportunities and workshops coming up.

4) Photos – who doesn’t love professional shots of yourself dancing! Many competitions have a photographer to shoot your routine, and the cost of the shots is often included in the competition fee.

So I’ve got about 10 weeks to prep before the comp. I’ve already chosen my song, now I just need to train some new tricks and get creative with the choreography.

Watch this space!