I used to listen to Kito ft. Reija Lee songs on repeat, and I choreographed to another of their songs, Sweet Talk, almost exactly two years ago. I always try to add in at least one new or somewhat complicated move to every routine I teach: this one the repeated fan kick at :26. It’s surprisingly difficult to go back in the direction you just came from, but that particular little combo gave me so many good ideas for an upcoming competition. The ending pose was also pretty tricky as it involves a fair amount of bend in the lower back, but it’s such a cool shape – booty up and showing off the heels!
We’re all working on routines for Pole Sport Organization’s Southeastern competition August 26th, so students are more focused on learning and perfecting their performances for that than taking a routine class, which is totally understandable, but it makes me a little sad to have such small classes for my favorite class to teach!
I’ve taken and taught hundreds of pole classes over the past 6 years, and one thing that drives me crazy as both a student and an instructor is seeing a student standing around in class, not doing anything because they “already have the move”. Whether the instructor was teaching a move they already knew, or the student was able to do it after just one or two tries, no one is EVER “done” with a move! Pole is a constant work in progress. There are tons of things you can be doing to improve yourself as a poler even if you “have the move”.
1. Do your other side.
Of course this one was going to be first! Every instructor teaches differently – I tend to teach a move on one side and students work on it/repeat it on that side until we, as a class, move to the other side – but not everyone explicitly teaches both sides. When I first started learning pole, I was definitely taught moves on whichever side was more comfortable for me, and that hindered my progress later. ALWAYS do moves on both sides: you don’t want your strength or flexibility to be uneven, and you never know when you will want to connect it with another move that you are truly limited to doing on one side for whatever reason.
I love switching this move from side to side because it transitions so nicely!
2. Make sure your legs are straight and toes are pointed
OK, so you’ve done the move on both sides now, so you’re good, right? No! Go through the move again on both sides, and this time make sure you have energy going through your legs at all times: are the legs supposed to be straight? Bent? They’re almost always purposefully one way or the other; rarely does a move have just a slightly bent leg as it often looks like it’s just hanging there. And as always, point your toes! Tons of people have pointed feet when their legs are away from the pole, but flex them in knee holds. Be aware of what your legs and feet are doing. Feel free to spend as much time here as you need, until it becomes second nature.
3. Think about your arms
This depends on the move, of course. If you’re holding onto the pole with both arms for the duration of the move, then you don’t have too many options. But say you’re in a nice armpit hold: what is your outside arm doing? Hanging limply? Curved in front or up like a ballerina? Reaching towards the audience? If you’re in a leg hang or hold, what kind of shapes can you make with your arms? Try to find different positions and see how changing arm shapes can totally change the look and feel of a move.
A lot of times I do moves that require both arms on the pole, but they were free here. I definitely could have done more with them, but I like how my arm mirrors the angle of my legs in that move near the end.
4. Change the tempo
Go through the move at different speeds. If there are several movements into a final pose, try doing a couple of them fast and really milking one of them, then switch up which one(s) you stretch out. If the move is a dynamic one, try doing it slowly and controlled. If it’s a flip or something that can’t be slowed down, try entering and exiting the move at different tempos. You never know if at some point in the future you’ll want to put that move in a routine with a song that requires a specific tempo!
This is an example of both tempo and genre change – I want to do more of these in class!
5. Change the genre
Go through the move like you’re dancing to a classical song, then like you’re dancing to a Metallica song, then a Halsey song… you get the idea. Change the style of your movement to fit different genres of music, even if the move (or name of the move) doesn’t seem to fit. Ballerina spin to Godsmack, anyone?
6. Connect it to another move*
How are you getting into the move? What about getting out of it? Are you just inverting or climbing directly into it and falling out of it? See what moves you already have under your belt that you can connect to the new move to make a combo. Explore different entries and exits.
~See pretty much my entire Instagram library: I try really hard not to post just one move, but put whatever I just learned with at least one other move in a combo.~
7. Do it backwards…*
How did you get into the move? Can you reverse it to come out of it the exact same way you got into it? This is a great way to find new moves and transitions! It’s not the same thing as trying it on the other side, but it’s usually a reversal of movement. Is a thread-through involved? What happens if you thread through the opposite direction?
8. … Or upside down*
This is definitely not possible for every single move, but if it’s upside down, try it right side up and vice versa. I also think this makes for a particularly symmetrical and cool looking combo, plus you might find out that it’s actually easier (or you prefer the shape) the other way around! I’ve seen several right side up moves that I knew would be difficult, so I took them upside down to learn something new.
I think I originally saw this pretty shape upright and wanted to try it upside down, too.
Finally, never stop moving! You should never be bored in a pole class, no matter what level you are or what level the class is.
*always make sure the instructor is ok with this! Sometimes instructors don’t want you trying other moves while they’re teaching a specific one, not necessarily because you can’t do it, but because other students in the class may not be ready for it yet and want to try after seeing you rock a new move or combo!
I can’t believe this is the third little notebook I’ve completely filled with pole routines! (You can read about the first one HERE, and the second one HERE). The first notebook started on April 21, 2012, one year and a few days after my very first pole class, and ended on July 21, 2014, exactly 27 months later. The second notebook began on July 28, 2014 and was completed on September 28, 2015, exactly 14 months later (it was a smaller notebook). The third notebook began on October 5, 2015 and filled up June 20, 2017, 20 and a half months later. I teach one pole routine a week, but I also often use a few pages for each competition routine I do, as well as other routines like twerkshops.
In the post about my second notebook, I included a photo of the first blank page of my third notebook, so here is what that once-blank page looks like now:
This was a fun routine and I got all my girls to wear pink for the class! I’m pretty sure this was the last Britney Spears routine I did, which means I’m long overdue for another one!
This was the first thoughts for my third place Florida Pole Fitness Championship 2016 routine. I almost always start choreographing my own routines by breaking down the song into sections for spin pole, static pole, floorwork, and the transitions between poles before I start figuring out what the pole passes are going to be. Since I’m not a fan of static pole, I usually try to get it done first so it’s out of the way and I can be free to spin as much as I like!I don’t have the times written out for my winning 2017 Triangle PSO routine, but I started with static pole again, then had my spin combos (though the first spin combo written out ended up being my second because I was too tired to get through the shoulder mount full circle at the end of the routine!)
And here’s the last routine in the third notebook! I think it’s fitting that I ended with a Halsey song because I’ve choreographed to so many of her songs. I’ve already started in my fourth notebook, and the first routine in it is for PSO Nationals! I’m so excited (and SUPER nervous) to compete in Los Angeles among the best of the best in just a few weeks, but I hope to do myself justice. With almost all of my competitions, I’d rather be happy with how I performed than happy with how I placed (of course, ideally I’d be both happy with my performance AND how I placed!). Even though I placed third at FPFC, I was so happy with that performance, and even though I won at PSO’s Triangle Pole Championship, I was quite upset with my own performance of that routine. I’m really hoping to be happy with my performance at Nationals, and if I place, even better!
My notebooks are definitely put through the wringer: carted around in a messy pole bag, thrown around the studio when I grab it to look at what I’m doing next teaching class and then toss it aside, used to angle my camera the right way, and slid around in sweat and Dry Hands. I kind of love it though: it’s a good representation of the hard work put into those pages.
One of my regular students, Toni, requested this song months ago and I just wasn’t feeling it until recently. That’s a catch-22 of teaching a routine to a new song every week: it’s hard for me to find music so I love it when I get student requests, but sometimes I just can’t move it: sometimes I can later, but sometimes I listen to it, and I’m just like, nope, my body will not be able to move in a pleasing way to that song. Which is frustrating! I want to be able to dance to different styles of music, to be able to create movement that fits with a song, and of course, to choreograph to a song that students like to hear. But sometimes it’s difficult. When I first heard this song, I was very “eh” about it. I half-heartedly tried to choreograph for it, but didn’t make any progress. Then a couple weeks ago I was going through my music and ran across it again, and loved it! Sometimes it just takes the right time to be able to work with a song. I know there are songs I’ve use for competitions in the past that I would NEVER use today, and vice versa. I just chose a piece for an upcoming competition that I don’t think I would have chosen even a year ago, so I’m excited to see what comes of it. Yay for new music!
I know, this is SUPER late! I competed in the amateur division of the US Pole Dance Federation on March 31, 2017 and I was not happy with how I did. I used so much grip on my hands that I couldn’t slide down enough to transition to a move and I ended up falling out of it – not an actual fall, but coming to floor out of a move that I was not planning on! It didn’t hit me until I landed what had happened, so I had to quickly scramble to figure out what I was going to do to fill the time until my next spin pass, and it was the most basic, blah little spin pass ever. I’m so frustrated that I didn’t do better – the top 10 out of 24 won their pro status, and I was 11th – and I wish I could have had a better showing in my first New York competition.
The interesting part is that a few weeks after the competition, I received an email from Wendy Traskos, the organizer of USPDF, inviting me to accept my pro card upon reconsideration of my performance. Of course, I accepted! I’m not sure why I was extended this opportunity, but my guess is that the compulsory scores were accidentally left out of the calculations on the night of the competition. Our scores were posted publicly the next day, and there were just the three judges’ scores, with no compulsory. I assumed they had been averaged in and thought nothing of it, but when we got our full breakdown of scores (which is seriously the best thing ever: I LOVE that about this competition!), it had our compulsory scores. The cool thing about our score breakdowns is it shows our scores compared to the average of everyone else’s scores, so I could see that I received full points for every compulsory move while not everyone else did.
I know I made sure to do every compulsory move correctly and hold it for the required length of time, but I knew that I also didn’t have a very good performance overall, so I was not surprised with my placement. Either way, I am very thankful for the opportunity to submit next spring for the pro competition, and I plan to work my ass off to a) get in, and b) have an awesome performance!
Below is the video from the competition, which I can hardly watch I cringe so badly at my spin pass mistake (at 1:27 ). I know I need to improve my back flexibility, as evident in my closed outside leg hang, but I’m pretty proud of that much!
I posted this video in the showcase post, but I did this same routine (minus the closed outside leg hang) again a few weeks ago, mainly to prove to myself that I could do that silly elbow hold combo. No problems this time, thank goodness!
I really loved this routine, and for several reasons: I like the leg twirl thing at :54 and 1:55, and the reason it’s in there twice is because the choreography repeats, but everything’s on the other side/going the other direction. I definitely tend to choreograph moves on the same sides (the comfortable ones for me), so I know I need to work being more even and doing all moves, even floorwork, on both sides. I love the beats in this song and the different shapes the music takes throughout. There are points and sweeps and a lot to play with! I’m doing a similar song (at least, I always conflate them in my head) next week, so I’m curious to see how similar the choreographies turn out to be.