Tagpole community

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

A post shared by MelNutter_Baudelaire (@melnutter_baudelaire) on

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.

Pole Dancing at Home

Small pole roomA few weeks ago I was asked to contribute to an article for Cleo’s Rock N Pole blog. Ebony, who I know through Sydney Pole, is a regular Cleo author, choosing topics that are accessible to the everyday pole dancer.

 

 

 

Setting up a pole at home can require some creative problem solving, ingenuity, and money. But if you are able to create a dance space that you love and that is easy to use, your dance practice will improve immensely!

For the article I offered some extra advice on how to make the most of your space, including tips for multipurposing furniture.

Mel Nutter uses the walls to practice her Iron X!

8. We’ve kicked the furniture more times than we care to admit
Despite our best intentions of finding enough room for the pole, something in our space always seems to bear the brunt of a high kick or flying stiletto! Ceiling fans, lights and anything with sharp edges are particularly dangerous to collide with, so take them out first before you set up your pole! If you have limited space where stuff can’t easily be moved, Mel Nutter suggests this tip: “Use furniture to your advantage! Handstands in the hallway, large cabinet for barre work etc. If your pole area is small, use it to help you keep your transitions tight!”

 

Read the rest of the article here!

Happy dancing!

Everyone is Talking About Sexy Pole

 

Everyone is talking about sexy pole. Maybe it’s because Valentines Day is tomorrow, and every studio is putting on a special Chair or Lap Dance class. Pole dance and being sexy go hand in hand with it’s background in stripping and many women acknowledge that the context of pole dance itself helps them get in touch with their sexuality. But there are many different styles of pole dance and this variety and creativity sets pole dance apart from other classical forms of dance.

Bad Kitty and Pole Freaks have both published articles about how sexy pole dance is viewed by both dancers and those watching.

For some dancers they may live and dream sexy pole, donning heels and skimpy costumes and drawing in their audience with come-hither eyes and sensual flow. For others, dancing sexy is a style they might only explore in their lounge room with the lights turned down. The body rolls equally as empowering but something they keep for themselves.

Holly Munson, blogger from Pole Freaks, suggests that sexy pole dance should be part of your “skill set”. Therefore giving it just as much significance as learning strength based tricks, contemporary flow, and training both spin and static pole. This comment also recognises that sexy pole is something you will need to train and practice. It may seem like some dancers are just able to ooze sex appeal, but what seems to come so naturally is also a result from hours and hours of training and dancing that way. Just like those who have contemporary dance training, pointing their toes and having graceful lines is something they have learned.

Over the last four years, I have tried to explore a range of dance styles in my choreography. Last year at Solotude 2, I took on a dark, sexy edge, contrasting to my Miss Summer Trick Star routine which was fun and goofy. With an emphasis on creativity and a constant strive to break out of the mould and try something new, I feel that pole dancing has the freedom to encompass the range of dance genres. Exploring each style in different routines is an essential part of my practice as a dancer.

There is probably a time in everyone’s dance journey when dancing sexy, dancing strong, or creating flow feels right for you. If you are using dance as a form of expression, and relating honestly to emotions, ideas, or events that come up in your life, your style of dance will change over time. Dancing as a response to pain, stress, happiness, grief, success, and failure, will look different. A strong trick can bolster the need for strength facing a challenge. A sexy dance can build up your self esteem after a week of feeling low. A loud song and dynamic moves can be just the therapy for releasing heartfelt pain.

Pippi Parnasse who writes for Bad Kitty adds,

“Coming into your sexuality can be very empowering for a woman. But sexuality is far from the only power women have”

In line with the author, I believe no one can tell you how to dance. All dancers possess limitless creative potential and should be able to express themselves in ways that feel right for their body and state of mind. There is no one size fits all. Your dance is as unique as you are.

In my opinion, the best dancers are those that offer an expression of themselves. When watching dance videos of sexy dance, contemporary, lyrical, floorwork, or trick battles, one element brings them all together – confidence. Regardless of what they are expressing, their confidence in how they are expressing it shines through.

And as the saying goes, confidence is sexy.

It’s sexy because it’s a sign you believe in yourself. Dance that self and you can never be wrong.

Choreography Workshop

Choreography intensiveHave you ever dreamed of taking the stage for a solo performance? Do you have a list of songs that you would love to dance to, but don’t know where to start? Would you like to share your vision in a supportive environment with fellow polers who can help you refine your ideas?

Join me for a Choreography Intensive at Sydney Pole on Sunday 27th December!

Learn how to unpack songs, sequence your favourite tricks and combos, and put the finishing touches on your routine!

The workshop will consist of two parts, 45 minutes each. Using a song of your choice, I will lead you though a step by step process that will teach you to listen to and identify thematic and musical elements of a song, and use them to enhance your performance concept.

During the second half of the workshop I will teach you floorwork and pole exercises that will help you connect to your music and ensure your routine is as unique as you are. These techniques will be useful for choreography to any genre of music and will help you find movement and expression in your own body, revealing the dancer within.

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Ok, yes! It’s a shameless plug for my workshop! But I’m so excited to be able to give back and help inspire others to get up and dance! I believe that I have a strong appreciation for musicality, clean lines, and genuine expression, and would like to offer a productive and supportive space to help others bring their performance ideas to the stage.

If you’re in Sydney or know a dancer who might be interested, let them know!

Book in through Sydney Pole

Open to all skill levels and dance experience!

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!