Tagfreestyle

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.

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.

Music to Pole to

Sometimes I’m busy working with a song for a performance.

Other times I just need a song that will drown out any background noise and lull me into a blissful state of dancing ecstasy.

Feel free to subscribe to this playlist for updates of what I’m dancing to lately. You’ll find everything from slow and sensual, fast and loud, atmospheric, hip hop, lyrical, and instrumental.

Pole dance seems to fit my every mood.

What to do when you don’t have a pole

This Christmas break my partner and I are cat sitting at a friend’s place down the road. It’s a lovely house with air conditioning which made the move an easy decision for this time of year. But I don’t have my pole 🙁

What’s a dancer to do?!

DANCE!

I’ve been watching YouTube clips of Merce Cunningham and revisiting some of the ballet technique I learned in my class. The back room of the house has amazing wooden floors so I indulged, rolled back the rug, put on my thigh high socks and flirty dress and spun around to Chino Merino’s new album. Bliss!

 

The nature of floorwork is changing in poledance, gaining influences from contemporary dance and hiphop. Working on carpet at home, it’s hard to come up with new things. The floor boards gave me real freedom to slip and slide and just flow, throwing a little bit of Marlo Fisken in their too!

It has been wonderful to have time to revisit my yoga practice too. I took my mat out onto the grass and down dogged with the ants and creepy crawlies.

The softer grass offered a safer lander for me to work on some freestanding headstands. At home I practice against the pole or the wall, but here wall space is limited. Learning to roll out safely and find balance away from the wall is challenging, but with so much time off on holidays, I was able to dedicate a whole afternoon to refining my practice.

The outcome? I haven’t missed my pole as much as I thought I would. We still have a week or so left here so I still might get withdrawals, but it’s been an enjoyable and productive break. If I had just been at home I probably would have focused on tricks and new transitions, but it’s been great to work on dance, floorwork, and balance. Hopefully I can bring some of this flow and headstanding, back to the pole when I return home.

How do you find ways to still train when away from pole?

Feel it, before you try and say it

feel itAs much as training for a showcase is fun, or prepping for a comp makes you incredibly motivated to smash your pole goals, sometimes I just like to turn the lights down and dance.

 

I have a pole playlist on my Spotify account that I return to again and again. A list of songs that I can put on and just flow. Some are fast, hip hop beats, others are slower, melodic, and sometimes instrumental. All of them ring true in someway, and reach a place in me, no matter how many times I hear them.

Last night I taped my freestyle, but didn’t really have any expectations that I’d be able to share anything from it worthwhile.

But then I really surprised myself.

Watching back, I saw a fluidity and grace that is often missing from my choreographed routines. A flow and sense of movement that comes from just being with the song.

There were no big tricks, I don’t even think I inverted. Just spins and floorwork that became amazingly cathartic and gave insight into how emotions could be represented in my dancing.

The pressures of a competition or performance night can shroud the flow and grace that comes from just moving and dancing.

Perhaps a way to overcome this is to freestyle to a piece of music for a while before laying down the chorey. To feel it before you try and say it.

Something to ponder.