Toxic – Britney Spears

This song was requested by a couple of my students, and I was honestly surprised I hadn’t done a routine to it before. Britney’s so much fun to dance to!

I do have to be honest though: this was one of the most discouraging classes I’ve ever taught. See how there are five students in the video? The class started with eight. Three students left during the course of the class because they were frustrated with the routine for various reasons. One comment I hear quite often is people dislike floor rolls: forwards, backwards, any kind. Some people’s shoulders take a beating when they roll, and I haven’t found a way to fix that problem yet (if anyone knows of one, please share!) When it came time for that “cartwheel” shoulder roll, as I like to call it, I made a modification that involved crawling and turning to face the same direction as the people who rolled. Even so, the students who struggle with shoulder rolls left the class before even running through the entire routine once.

As an English teacher, I spend a LOT of time modifying my instruction for students all day long. In each of the 5 classes I teach daily, I have at least 4 students with IEPs for whom the state requires specific modifications, plus I have learners of all different learning abilities, interests, efforts, and styles. I try not to leave any student in a class of 26 behind, but I know that it happens sometimes, because that’s life. However, when it comes to teaching pole, with a much smaller class, and I lose almost half of the students who have PAID to be there… that’s a different story.

I honestly don’t know what I would’ve done differently. I don’t think this particular routine was that much harder than any other routine, but it also doesn’t seem likely that 3/8 of my students were just having off days. One mentioned to me when she left that she would’ve gotten the routine if I’d “slowed it down 100x and had 3 hours to teach it”. Maybe it was too fast? Maybe all the direction changes threw some people off? Maybe they hate Britney Spears?

For next week, a contemporary song week, I’d already chosen a slower song before Monday night’s class. Perhaps more familiar pole moves, a slower tempo, no shoulder rolls, and fewer direction changes will keep students from leaving. I’m also teaching workshops (a simple chair dance and a sexy floor dance routine) on February 7, and I’m disappointed by the numbers signed up for those, as well. Perhaps I need to rethink my teaching methods? Is it my instruction, my pacing, my attitude, my style? I’m not sure, but I do know that improvement needs to happen somewhere.

Elastic Heart – Sia

The music video for this song hits me so hard. I like the song, though not as much Chandelier, but the music video… something about it just goes straight to my quick. I’ve watched it close to a dozen times by now and each time, I tear up. I showed my poleography class the video after class last week, and even cried then! Most of my students didn’t quite get my reaction, which is totally fine. Tons of people are lambasting it for various reasons, or just not getting it, and everyone is totally allowed to have their own opinion. For me, however, I interpret the video in a way that pulls at my emotions and forces me to confront things in myself and others that I don’t feel comfortable confronting. Maybe one day I’ll write it all out, but for now, I’ll let my dismal attempt at choreographing movement to this song take center stage.

Skin – Rihanna

This past Monday was the birthday of one of my friends, so I asked her if she had an song suggestions. One of the songs was Skin, which I thought I’d done before but probably didn’t like the routine too much so I figured I’d redo it. Well, after a search through my archives, I guess I’ve never used it! It was definitely time to dance to this song, so I put together a little sexy choreography with body rolls, heels, and slides. The more I put together routines, the more I realize I truly enjoy the slinkier ones more than the dramatic ones. However, not all of my students are into the sexy stuff (indeed, I have two teenage students who don’t take those classes with sexy routines), and it’s good for me to go out of my comfort zone. This routine, however, falls squarely into my comfort zone.

 

5 Things to Say to a Beginner in Anything!

This is part of The Pole Dancing Bloggers‘ January blog hop.

The prompt for January is 5 spirit crushing things never to say to a beginner pole dancer.  However, I’m not only a pole teacher but a high school teacher as well, and there are quite a few things I’ve learned that any teacher or influencer should always try to tell someone who’s a beginner in anything.

1. It might be hard, and that’s ok.
Learning a new skill, whether it’s when to use a semicolon or how to do a front hook spin, might be challenging. It often will be challenging, simply because you don’t know how to do it yet. But when you see that other people in your class already know how to do it, or are picking it up much faster than you, it can be really discouraging. Make sure beginners know that it’s ok for them not to get it the first time, or even the fifth, tenth or twentieth time. Depending on the skill, it may take months of consistent work to achieve it. The key is to not let the beginner give up just because it’s difficult at first.

2. This is how I do it, but here’s another way to do it, too.
Just because something works for you doesn’t mean it’s going to work for someone else. I learned this first in my education classes and in practice in my classroom. I understand perfectly how to grasp this concept with one explanation, and so do five of the students, but the other twenty? They might need it explained in a different way. Now when I teach my high school students, I try to have at least two or three different ways of explaining and practicing a new concept, because not everyone understands everything the same way. I also try to translate that to my pole classes: this entrance works for me and my body, but maybe this way will work for you better. Sometimes it’s just using different words: I’d been repeating a combination multiple times in a class once about a month ago and one of my students just wasn’t getting it, even though I knew she was capable of the moves. Finally, she said, “Oh, you mean ____?” Yes, yes I did, I was just explaining how to do the first trick into the next trick instead of saying the actual name of the first trick. Instead of trying to follow my directions, she just did the first trick and it clicked.

3. I really like how you did _______.
Encouragement is huge! I know that I will start giving up on something if I don’t get any positive feedback. When I’m teaching, especially when it’s a beginner, I always look for something to compliment. It could be a nice hand, beautiful point, their enthusiasm, their outfit… anything! I’ve always had something I could turn into a compliment, even if I’m annoyed by it: “You have great energy!”

4. It’s important to learn this because…
Most people aren’t going to be inspired to learn something new if they don’t see the purpose of it. For my students, I tie everything back to the state standardized test, and as much as I can to a real-life example. When I introduce a new concept, I show my students the state standard and what types of questions it can show up in on the test. When we’re practicing it, I either have a verbal or visual example of needing to use it in post-school life. Having to put together a portfolio to apply for Miss Pole Dance America was a FANTASTIC example of needing to write descriptively and clearly, as well as following directions, no matter what you end up doing after high school. As much as I wanted to, I didn’t use that example in class though!

When it comes to beginner pole students, I try to emphasize moves that are requirements for the next level up, or that will be used all the time later. Step arounds are simple, but I have them in almost every routine I’ve ever done, and there are tons of ways to do them to make them interesting, as well as nice transitions. Front hook spins build knee-pit strength, arm strength, and core strength, plus many competitions require a minimum number of spins. Sarah Jade ended her Florida Pole Fitness Championship 2012 routine with a gorgeous, simple, front hook spin.

5. Thank you for your hard work!
That student took the time to come to your class and attempt to learn something new. No matter how successful they were, thank them for it! They will be much more willing to work hard if their effort was recognized by the teacher. This is especially important for beginner pole students, though I try to implement it in my classroom as well. When I acknowledge the students who are working hard, or who have shown a particularly nice thought process (even if their grades aren’t the best), their smiles alone are worth it, but their classmates want affirmation too, and everyone takes it up a notch. (Ideally: this doesn’t always work, but it works often enough to keep doing it!)

I am so grateful for the encouraging instructors and classmates I had when I was a beginner: just listen to the supportive audience in this video of the very first performance I ever did, three months after my first class. At my first pole studio, we had to perform a routine with certain requirements in order to move up to the next level.

And a little over three years later, with plenty of supportive instructors and classmates, I got here!

 

Everyone was a beginner at some point, so remember the times you were a beginner (and will be!) and choose your words carefully. Definitely something we can all improve on!

Have something to say on this topic? Join in the blog hop HERE!

Scream My Name – Tove Lo

I’m not sure how I came across this song, but I think I was looking up the Mockingjay soundtrack on YouTube and heard it. I’ve already danced to one song by Tove Lo before and this song stuck with me, so I started moving to it. I came up with the first little steppy, twirly sequence and had to repeat it dozens of times to remember what I’d done. I always video myself from the very first run-through in case I do something awesome and then can’t remember what it was! I have tons of horrible videos where I have no idea what I’m doing and everything is a mess, but somehow through them I end up with every routine I’ve ever done. It’s how the creative process works.

YouTube blocked this video due to a copyright claim on the music the second it finished uploading, so I have it on Vimeo. Hopefully next week’s song will be more YouTube-friendly! I have a couple song suggestions from a friend for a sexy routine, so I’m going to move to them and see which one strikes me the most. I’m excited!