Good Man – Devour the Day

goodman

Pole dancers tend to focus on tricks: the craziest, most death-defying tricks that require the most strength or flexibility. We watch Youtube videos and pick out a 3 second segment that we watch over and over again, trying to figure out which way that hand goes, and where the bottom leg goes when the top hand switches positions. I love learning new tricks, but as I’ve been learning, especially when it comes to competitions, it’s not always all about the tricks. Most competitions have a required floorwork element to them, and depending on the studio you come from, you may not be very familiar with how to move away from the pole. I wanted to focus on the floor and using the bottom couple feet of the pole to move, instead of having to climb for each move. Some of my favorite videos to watch are Eva Bembo, Olga Koda, Sarah Jade, and Alethea Austin, so I knew I wanted to play with my legs and slide around on the floor. I think we did a great job of achieving that goal!

Partition – Beyonce

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This routine was so much fun! The song was a request from several students, and while it wasn’t the easiest song for me to choreograph to (and I was worried I wouldn’t be able to do it justice), I think it turned out pretty well. I loved everyone’s enthusiasm and excitement for the dance. I was a bit nervous about jumping from the chair to the floor in heels (visions of twisted ankles kept going through my head), but it wasn’t as bad as I expected it might be.

There’s no groundbreaking movement or unusual combinations in here, but I did like the fan kick to kneeling on the chair: I hadn’t seen that anywhere before. I like trying to put in at least one new (to me) move in my routines, even if it’s something simple.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Talk Show Host – Radiohead

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I’ve been looking for music for my NAPA piece and was listening to different movie soundtracks for inspiration. I was listening to the 1996 version of Romeo and Juliet and heard this song. I knew I wouldn’t use it for my routine, but I liked it and thought it would be perfect for an Alethea-inspired piece for my pole performance class, which is very similar to the poleography class, except at a higher level of moves. My poleography class is for students in Pole .5 and up, while pole performance is for students in Pole 1 and up. Students start inverting in Pole 1 so I can put in some more advanced moves for my pole performance class routines.

There’s nothing ground-breaking or super exciting about this routine, but I wanted to focus on control and intentionality of all movement. I didn’t want any falling into or out of moves, whether it was a simple step or coming down from up on the pole. I think it’s harder to move slowly and purposefully, but I think it’s a good exercise in thinking about movement.

I loved that the boys made make-shift wigs for hair tosses and took the idea of the piece seriously. Tyler, the boy on the left, had never taken a choreographed class before and I like that he continued bicycle legs throughout his freestyle after the choreographed part finished at 2:23. Paul put his own spin on the moves, as always. The girls were beautiful and controlled in their heels, which isn’t easy, and had some great freestyle combos. Everyone did such a great job in this class!

Let It Go – Frozen (sung by Idina Menzel)

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I didn’t have a lot of time last week to put together a routine for Monday’s class since I was focused on the FPFC, but I did have an idea of where I wanted to go with it. I choreographed just a tiny bit at the beginning to get things started, and then I wanted to freestyle to this song. I think it has a wonderful message, one that everyone needs to actually listen to and experience. We constantly have things we need to let go: it can be as small as something hurtful a coworker or boss said to you, or as big as a significant relationship. I can think of multiple things off the top of my head that I need to let go of: being hard on myself is one of them. Expectations of how I thought life would go, expectations others have of me… I need to let go of expectations that can no longer be met. In sixth grade I wanted to have a book published by the age of 25. I’m 26 now, and no manuscript even exists, so I think I need to stop seeing myself as a failure for not having achieved that expectation for myself, however unrealistic it may have been. There are TONS of expectations everyone has for themselves, and that’s not a bad thing. It’s when you hold yourself to a high level of accountability that is difficult to reach and then you berate yourself for not reaching it that they become a problem.

So anyway, I’m not good at talking about feelings (as my wonderful fiancé knows all too well), so I’m sure I didn’t get the point across in class, but for me, dance is the best way to sort out my feelings. I wanted everyone to pick something they needed to let go of, and dance it out. I feel best with my eyes closed, so once I started freestyling, I closed my eyes unless I ended up away from the pole and needed to find my way back to it. The video is nothing exciting, but it’s nice to see what people come up with without too much direction.

(P.S. I just noticed the thumbnail image: how hilarious is that?! I love the different shapes and suspended animation happening in it.)

Florida Pole Fitness Championship 2014

Sigh… So I wish I’d done better on Saturday. I had multiple run-throughs that were much more on point and it’s so frustrating to know I could’ve had a better performance but I just didn’t. I somehow didn’t get a trick that I’ve done dozens of times with no problem: it wasn’t even one of the moves I was worried about. Other moves I just had the wrong angle on, or they looked a little unstable.

Here’s a video I took of a run-through more than a week before the competition:

I’m so much happier with that performance than I am with Saturday night’s, which is more frustrating than anything. I don’t know if it was nerves, or slightly slippery poles, or what, but it just wasn’t that on point on for the actual competition. Here’s the video of my performance:

Sigh… again. I see so much room for improvement. My eye contact, facial expressions and emotion were all better – during the movement part in the middle I found the judges and stared directly at them – but the actual pole part was disappointing, especially falling out of the move at 3:15. GAH! I’ve done that so many times!

The good thing is I used the practice routine to submit to National Aerial Pole Art and I got into the Neo division! That competition is in Los Angeles on May 18th, so I have two months to come up with an awesome routine and nail a great performance of it. I’m excited for the challenge and hope I can make myself proud up on that stage.

Other than my disappointing performance, the FPFC was awesome! It was better-run than the past 2 years as Allison Sipes, the founder, gets into the groove of heading a major competition. Everything was on time, even a little ahead of time at points, and I didn’t experience any negativity from anyone, either event organizers or other competitors. I’m a bit annoyed that one of the competitors walked offstage after slipping out of several moves and was given a chance to go again later: yes, the poles were slightly slippery that night. Several people slipped out of moves, but that’s competition for you. I think that if you give up a minute into your routine because you were slipping, that should be it. I’m sure other competitors would’ve liked a second chance as well, but the one who was given a second chance (after a thorough pole cleaning with a different cleaner), ended up winning second place and most athletic. That situation is my only gripe with how the competition went. The competitor absolutely deserved second place with her routine and abilities, but the fact that she gave up and walked off during her first run-through means that she couldn’t work through the same difficulties that other competitors did, even though they didn’t place.

It was wonderful meeting some of the other competitors I hadn’t met before, since the professional and men’s divisions were open nation-wide. The winner of the women’s professional division, Anna Elise Bowman, is from North Carolina, and the third place winner, Shaina Cruea, is from New York City. The winner of the men’s division, MoNika Ell, is from Oregon. I will see MoNika again in May for NAPA, and I’m excited to meet a whole new group of incredible performers there!

Tomorrow!

I’m competing in the 3rd annual Florida Pole Fitness Championship! I am both super excited and incredibly nervous at the same time. I feel pretty confident in my routine, but I want to do it proud and give a great showing, with all my angles just right and my facial expressions on point. I need to perform this piece! I can’t wait to see everyone and be a part of this incredible opportunity.

Here’s a sneak peek via screenshot at a move in my routine from a run-through the other day:

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Talk Dirty – Jason Derulo ft. 2 Chainz

Time for another upbeat, hip-hop-y, booty-shaking routine! I have to admit these are usually my favorite, in part because they’re generally easier for me to choreograph and in part because I have so much fun doing them. While I definitely see a place for emotional lyrical and contemporary dances (and will do them for both class and personal routines), I am naturally drawn to fun, flirty, somewhat sexy routines that call for pink and sparkly costumes. I like being able to smile at and flirt with the audience since that’s the easiest way for me to engage with the audience. It doesn’t come naturally for me to be able to draw an audience in with raw emotion: definitely an area I need to work on!

I fell in love with this song when I first saw Sarah Jade of Buttercup Pole Dance post that they were using it for a Butterbooties class. I heard it on the radio several times after and couldn’t get it out of my head, so when it came time to put something together for class, this is what happened!

We definitely needed some kind of covering for our knees: kneepads would’ve been best, but only one girl had them, so the rest of us suffered through with legwarmers. Remember last week’s post about everything coming from the hips? We weren’t inverting at all in this class, but the reverse spin definitely required us to lead with our hips and, obviously, the rest of the routine was quite hip-centered!

We will be doing a softer, more lyrical routine next week, so keep an eye out for that one! I have some ideas, but I’ll have to spend some time in the studio to see what will actually work out.

It’s All In The Hips

No, seriously.

Kind of like this.

It’s one of those things that I’ve known, but didn’t really know until recently. When it comes to pole (and aerials, and dance, and probably other things too…) your hip positioning is one of the most important aspects of getting a move. Think about it: your hips are at the midpoint of your body, and they’re probably the biggest part of your body. It would make sense that they would control where your body ends up.

For example: in a basic chopper invert, the most important thing to think about is getting your hips up. We always hear “Put your head back!” to invert, but that’s really just a way of ensuring that your hips get up, because your hips generally go in the opposite direction of your head. Any invert requires your hips to be in control:

1) You can’t keep your hips low in a shoulder mount or you’ll never get up there.

2) Your hips have to be the body parts driving the power in a handspring. If they’re not and they get left behind, you will fall out of your handspring. Is it easier to hold yourself sideways if your weight is closer to the pole or further away? What makes holding an extended flag position so hard is how far the hips are from the pole. Look at the amazing Carlie Hunter:

carlie flag
See how far her hips are from the pole? That’s insane strength right there.

Now, the vast majority of us do not have her incredible strength. (Yet.) So for us, we want our hips way up closer to the pole. I teach beginner handsprings by focusing on getting the hips up as high as you can at first. It doesn’t matter what your legs are doing: the easiest position is a nice little ball, or tuck. The weight of your legs splayed out can cause you to lose your balance in a handspring, either back or to a side, so just bring them in at first and focus on your hips. You want your butt to be the highest point of your body, so tuck your knees in to your chest (I like to think of it as attempting to knee myself in the chin) and get your hips in the air. After you feel comfortable in that position, you can extend your legs to another position, most commonly a straddle. Don’t forget: the balance still comes from controlling the position of your hips.

3) In an aerial invert, especially while spinning, think about your hips leading the movement.  If I lift on my right side into a pull-up spin, I want my left hip to lead over and then up to invert.

4) For a nice, wide fan-leg/fan-kick, lead with your hips. It’s not really a leg move at all, it’s a hip move. If I’m standing with the pole on my right side, I turn my hips into the pole, right hip back, left hip front, as my left leg swings in, across, up, and over. Then I switch my hips so my right hip ends up in front as my right leg swings out, up, over and across. If you’re not twisting your hips, it’s just a hitch-kick straight up and down, not a fan-kick.

5) In a cradle hold, your hips should be even with or maybe a tad bit higher than your head. Everything that’s holding you on to the pole in that position revolves around your hips: your hands are positioned so that your hips are able to be held completely sideways. If your bottom hand is too high, your hips can’t get enough of a turn into the pole to get into the correct position. I like going into a side superman variation from a cradle – I’m not sure what the name for it is, but this:

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My head is still too high, which is causing my shoulder to scrunch way up by my ear. But let’s focus on my hips.

Here’s a similar video to the one that screenshot came from:

The trick to getting into the pictured position is to roll your hips up and over into the pole. It’s all about the hips! A lot of times we focus on getting our legs into the right position, thinking that if our legs are there, our body will follow suit. I’ve found that almost always, the legs are the last things to get into position. Your hips should start getting into position before anything else: hips are up before you straddle in any invert, hips are rolled before you fan-kick, split, passe, straddle, whatever. I was talking about the tumble-down from a sit into an aysha with a friend, and we both had the same problem of randomly falling out of it even though we have the move down pat. It was all a matter of our hips getting too far away from the pole.

A successful tumble-down.
FAIL.

The second performance was one month after the first. I have the move down, but I wasn’t controlling my hips and I fell away from the pole. The same friend I was talking with about hip placement (the conversation that inspired this post: thanks Jane!) has been working on falling from a handspring into a shoulder mount, like this (I don’t know this person, but she’s doing a great job of illustrating the move):

I haven’t tried it, but she’s got it down, except for the random falls out of it, just like the tumble-down. Again, it’s where her hips go: if they drop too much, it’s game over.

I’m working on the Marion Amber, demonstrated here beautifully by the ridiculously limber Sarah Jade:

I cannot get it. I know it’s a matter of getting my hips up in the air, but I’m just not getting there. I know that one day I will, even if my split looks nothing like Sarah Jade’s insane oversplit.

So if you’re having trouble with a move, whether it’s an invert, a strength hold, or a pretty pose, think about what your hips are doing. Are they leading the movement, is that where your power is coming from? If they aren’t, if it isn’t, try focusing on where your hips are and see how much of a difference it makes. If it’s not your hip placement that’s the problem, it’s probably your head. But that topic is for another post…

True Affection – The Blow

I try to mix it up and not do two booty-bouncing routines in a row, or two contemporary/lyrical routines in a row. Since last week’s routine included a fair amount of rump shaking, I wanted to do something a little different this week. I heard this song on my Lorde Pandora station (I think she and Lana Del Ray comprise a good 25% of pole music now!) and was immediately drawn to the beats. I realized after listening to it multiple times while choreographing that the song can get quite annoying after a while, but it works for one routine. I probably won’t revisit it, partly because the dun-dun-dun, dun-dun-dun  got on my nerves after a while and partly because I wasn’t particularly inspired by that routine. Oh well, you win some and you lose some. I still challenged myself by playing with some different shapes and moves around the pole, so I’m glad for that. At least I wore a skirted bottom that makes everything more fun!

I already have next week’s routine done, and I love it! It’s super fun and requires knee pads or legwarmers. 😉