Tagcontemporary dance

Imagery and Visualization for Choreography

I have always been fascinated with the process of choreography, actively seeking out connections between pole dance and other forms of movement. For me, the elements of choreography for the pole, aerial, or floor routines, should overlap. Incorporating narrative is important, as well as including motifs and themes. These help the dancer communicate with the audience as well as tie the whole routine together so it is much more than just a sequence of clever tricks and poses.

I recently came across Wayne McGregor from his TED talk and hearing his ideas about choreography just blew my mind!

Dancers from the pole and aerial community talk about “combos”. Thousands of videos are all over social media, linking tricks together in familiar or innovative ways with the change of leg or hand or direction around the pole. Hundreds of questions flood pole discussion groups asking how to link poses – what do I do after a superman? – any tips for my leg hang to ayesha transition?

Creating smooth combos is an essential part of creating a routine, but listening to Wayne McGregor opened up an entirely new way of thinking about movement and what comes together to make a dance.

What struck me is that he didn’t talk about poses, but about movement. Rather than stationary shapes connected with transitions, he uses spatial language and direction to inspire dance. Sometimes he places an imaginary object in the room and asks the dancers to move around it, to trace it’s shape, go under it, or respond to it changing. The eventual dance may have familiar shapes and poses but how they were created and how they flow together becomes a unique collaboration between the choreographer and the dancer.

When we work on a spinning pole we are essentially holding a shape and allowing the motion of the pole to accentuate our movements. The language of pole dance can be limiting as we think about choreography as a sequence of poses – climb, straddle, scorpio, butterfly. Even for floor work, movements can also become quite static, one pose to the next, even if they are choreographed to the rhythm of the music. Naming poses is useful, especially to help us communicate choreography with other dancers, but it should be remembered that this is not the only way to think about movement.

What if there were other elements on stage to inspire your movement? Real props, or imaginary ones, can fill the space and will influence the way you can move around it. If there was a box in the middle of the room, you could leap over it, dance around it, or even pick it up and dance with it!

I first heard Kristy Sellars talk about giving the pole in your routines a character or status, which offers similar possibilities. Think of the pole as a lover, or an enemy, and explore how you might respond to it differently, in the way you touch the pole, walk around it, or dismount from it.

Using these ideas will change the way you enter a pose and move through it, or may inspire a new shape or movement all together. Rather than your combos looking like everyone else’s, your dance will become uniquely you.

I highly recommend watching Wayne McGregor’s TED talk and taking inspiration from his ideas about dance, choreography, movement, and expression. We all have movement habits and it’s easy to let muscle memory and familiarity take over. Adding imagery and visualization to your choreography will help you break these movement habits and dig deeper into your creativity. For those who also feel uncomfortable with freestyle, these exercises can also be a great starting point to exploring new movement and inspiring a new direction for a routine.

I created a simple dance flow with a scarf to explore the prop vs no-prop concept. A small dance was recorded with the scarf and then repeated without it, attempting to recreate the movements as closely as possible.

This clip could be worked on and polished for accuracy, however the point of the exercise needs no more clarity. What amazed me was how the eventual choreography would never have come about without the experimentation with the scarf in the first place. Sure, I could have danced and imagined I had a scarf in my hand, but the result is a completely unique flow that emerged from my body interacting with the scarf in the first place. My body learned “the dance” so to speak and could then repeat it for the second take.

These experiments may never become a final dance, but they do teach us something about the way we move in relation to our environment, and how to inspire new movement through the use of props, imagery, and visualization.

I’d love for you to share your experiments too! Tag me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram with your videos!


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!


Dance Makes you Bigger than Yourself



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.

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.