So somehow I failed to write about our 4 year anniversary showcase last November?! I went to see how I’d titled my other showcase posts and the most recent one is from last June! I’m not sure how I missed that one because we had a super fun group routine from the girls representing Palm Coast.
Anyway, we had our spring showcase last weekend and we decided to reprise a routine from our Tuesday evening sexy flexy floorwork classes. I loved getting a chance to show off one of our class routines to an audience, and it was so fun to dance with a group of students from Palm Coast! We were the only group routine aside from our silly animal routine that we closed the showcase with, so it was nice to show a different side of pole: both a synchronized group routine and a sexy routine.
I also performed a version of my USPDF routine (no closed outside leg hang!) and I feel better now that I actually did the elbow hold combo I was intending to do in New York.
Finally, we performed our Madagascar-inspired routine from Pole Con again. I forgot to do the grapevines – oops! – but it was still a blast and a great way to end the show. Our 5 year anniversary show will be in November, and we already have a great line-up of pole stars from around the country coming to perform, so I can’t wait!
I first attended and performed at Pole Con in 2013 (apparently I never wrote about the group performance, only my own!), and then wasn’t able to make it for a few years due to teaching and the location being inconvenient. This year it was held in Atlanta and my school year ended earlier, so I was able to go.
I’m not sure how we came up with this group piece, but we were dying laughing just talking about it, so we had to do it! We had a flamingo on stilts, a llama, a zebra, a bunny rabbit, a fox, a swan, and a sloth: quite the menagerie! I loved having fun on stage and being able to dance with my friends for an appreciative audience. Since Pole Con will be in Orlando next year – even closer! – we are already planning our group routine and how we’re going to top this year’s. I’d also like to be able to teach some workshops and perhaps perform a solo as well, so those are some things for me to work on. Enjoy our silly Madagascar-themed performance!
This show is SO MUCH FUN! I loved our performance from last year, but this year we decided to take it in a different (though still fierce!) direction.
I found this song and loved it, so I suggested it when our original plan was to do a showgirl-style performance. Our amazing dance teacher, Kasey, took the song and interpreted it as a King Midas situation, and I LOVE how it turned out! We got to smear glitter all over the boys, be obsessed with jewelry, and be as shiny and gold as possible! We put this whole thing together in two weeks, which doesn’t sound bad unless you know that we can only practice on the weekends. I only knew my part, so I love watching the video over and over to see what everyone else is doing throughout – everyone looks so good! This is definitely one of my favorite performances that I’ve been a part of and I can’t wait to reprise it in November at Bittersweet’s 5 year anniversary showcase!
I’ve competed in 10 (!) competitions over the past 5 years and performed in many showcases and shows: my best guess is that I’ve choreographed 17 entire routines just for myself. I also choreograph a new group routine (around 2 minutes) every week (obviously, since that’s the vast majority of this blog!), so I think it’s fair to say that I have experience with creating a pole routine. Bittersweet Studios is having our 4 year anniversary showcase in a few months and I have students working on a pole routine for the first time who have asked me how to choreograph a routine.
I won’t lie: it’s hard! But the good news is, you don’t have to start from scratch. Everyone has a different style and process for creating a routine, but here are 9 steps that seem to work best for me.
1. Know the requirements.
If you’re choreographing for a showcase or performance, it will likely look different than choreographing for a competition. If your showcase has a theme – Bittersweet’s coming up is 70s! – then consider that when following step 2. If you’re working on a competition piece, be aware of song minimums and limits as well as profanity or lyric rules. I’ve seen competitions that have strict time requirements with only 10 seconds of wiggle room, while others may have a whole minute range. Some competitions state that the songs must be radio edits – no profanity – while others require music without lyrics at all. Make sure you know what the rules are because you don’t want to fall in love with a piece of music and start working on it, only to find out that you can’t use it!
2. Find your music.
This is BY FAR the hardest part for me. I usually spend around 2 months listening to everything until I find that perfect song. Every now and then I’ll find a song I love when I don’t have something coming up, so I’ll save it for when I do but that’s pretty rare. Make sure it fits the time restrictions (or can be cut to fit, which is much easier than adding music!) I love Pandora for finding new music, but I’ve heard that Spotify is great too. Good pole music generally (but not always!) has some tempo changes, beats, and depending on the routine you’re putting together, a story. Everyone moves and interprets music differently though, so one person’s perfect song could make someone else immediately say “no way!” Whatever it is, make sure you love it, because you’ll be listening to it for hours on end!
These play counts are wildly inaccurate since this is just from the iTunes on my computer. I played the songs MANY more times from my phone while I was practicing (and driving. I always have my competition music on repeat while driving!). The “FPFC edit” version had the language edited out since it had a few inappropriate words.
3. Chunk it.
Listen to your song approximately eleventy thousand times with a notebook handy. Listen for changes in music: choruses, verses, bridges, tempo changes, etc. These are good places to move from pole to pole. Are there any hard-hitting beats that you want to a cool drop on, or moments of silence that you want to hit a certain pose in? Write it all down. Most competitions have minimum requirements for length of time spent on each pole and some have time requirements or limits for floorwork or dancing away from the pole. Make sure you know the rules! Chunking makes choreographing SO much more manageable: instead of a 3:30 routine, you just have to come up with several shorter pieces and connect them!
Here’s what my two most recent routines looked like when I did this:
4. Think about moves and combos.
I usually have a couple of moves that I know I want to include in any given performance, often cool new moves I’ve learned since the last performance. Try to think of combos with those moves: can you put any of them together, or do you want to space them out? Will some only work on spin pole, while a few others should be done on static? I much prefer spin pole and could come up with 20 combos I love there, so I try to focus on static combos first since I’m much more limited with those moves.
How do you think of combos? This is where I am super thankful for Instagram: I look back at what I’ve posted, and usually I’ve forgotten some moves I’ve done! I also like watching videos of different moves in quick succession, because I’ll see transitions and ways to combine them that I don’t when I’m doing those moves days or weeks apart. If you don’t have videos of yourself to look at, you can always look at other people on your same skill level. Again, Instagram is incredibly helpful for this: search for any pole move with the hashtag prefix #pd______. Depending on the move, there could be hundreds or thousands of people posting videos of it, and some will have some great transitions or combos. For example, #pdayesha has close to 4,000 posts! I often see something another poler does and get inspired: “Ooh, if I put my foot under my hand instead of over, I wonder if I could go into a pegasus from there?”
Class is another good place to develop combos. Even if your instructor doesn’t explicitly teach combining moves, think about how you could put two or more of them together. If you learned a cool combination in class, feel free to use it in your routine! I don’t know any instructor who wouldn’t be excited to see something they taught you end up in a performance.
Don’t forget to write down everything you think of! I can’t tell you how many times I come up with something awesome in the car, think I’ll remember it, and then have no idea what it was the next day at the studio.
5. Organize your moves and combos.
Where will they all go? Does your ayesha require hand grip that you won’t have at the end of a routine? Do you want to get your strength moves out of the way at the beginning, and end with prettier poses that are easier to hold? Is there the perfect moment in the music for you to hit your jade split? Once you have an idea of what moves you want to include, try to fit them into the music chunking that you did in step 3. Your chunking might adjust some here – that’s ok! This might involve a lot of trial and error as you try combos with your music.
6. Connect your combos and chunks.
Ok, so you’re spending the first 35 seconds on the static pole with a great strength pass, then you have 10 seconds to move to the spin pole to start climbing on the chorus. How are you going to get there? How do you finish your static pass? If you’re on the floor, you might want to stay there as you move to the spin pole. Maybe you’re a dancer and you want to leap and twirl your way to the other pole. Do you have two passes in a row on spin pole? How will you connect them without just coming down and going right back up? This is the second most difficult part for me, so don’t get frustrated! I find that this is a good place to get input from other people: they can watch you and tell you what might work or offer some suggestions for movement.
7. Clean it up.
Ok, you have your music, your combos, and how you’re getting everywhere. Now’s the time to add the special little stuff: a reach with a hand here, a head roll there, a purposely flexed foot here, a shoulder shrug there. Make it your routine and make it entertaining: it doesn’t matter if your routine is for a studio showcase, a stage performance, or a competition, the audience wants to be entertained! Look for places where you can add emotion: will a little sink into the pole with closed eyes at a particular moment have a big impact? What about a hand running through your hair instead of just at your side? Those little things often have the biggest effect!
8. Run it.
Everyone is different when it comes to how many full run-throughs they do. I aim to do as many as possible, with my routine fully complete 2-4 weeks before the actual event. Once it’s done, run it with your music to make sure everything works timing-wise (though you should be trying your combos with music in steps 5 and 6). I try to run my entire routine at least once every day I’m in the studio (about 6 days a week) the 2 weeks before the event (especially if it’s a competition. For shows I do it less). I want my muscle memory to kick in if I get on stage and my brain totally blanks. I feel like almost every time I step on stage I completely black out and I never remember what I did, so I’m very thankful for muscle memory! Every time I watch a video of a performance for the first time, I see things that I had no idea I did. It’s kind of fun, but your body will only do what you’ve been training it to do. That means you need to be practicing how you’ll perform: don’t invert with bent legs and tell yourself you’re just practicing and they’ll be straight the day of. I know from experience that that doesn’t happen!
9. Relax, and perform!
You’ve prepared for your performance, and you’ve got it. Make sure you’ve had at least one run-through in full costume so you know if anything needs to be adjusted, like a skirt that’s slightly too long, a tie that comes undone, or a decoration that dangles annoyingly. The day of you’ll be confident that you know what’s going to happen on that stage and you’ll have put your best work out there. Enjoy it!
An event put on by the absolutely incredible Sarah Jade? Yes, please!
I got the chance to be a part of a group routine for her showcase, Bad to the Chrome, with some lovely ladies (and gentleman) from Bittersweet Studios in Jacksonville, and we had a blast! The whole show is rock-themed, and Voodoo is a pretty classic rock song. We were inspired by the definitive sexy-rock group routine, Miss Pole Dance Australia 2012’s opening number. We are no former showgirls, but we tried our best! Even with some last minute changes (we had been practicing with the lyra behind the poles, not in line with them) I definitely think we rocked the creepysexy look.
We’ll be doing a slightly modified version of this routine for Pole for a Purpose in just a month, so stay tuned for that post!
Bittersweet Studios has a showcase about every 6 months, and each time they get bigger and better! The most recent one was held on June 4th, and much like the last one, I had two performances: a group chair routine and a solo. My goal was to have most of (if not all) of my students from Palm Coast do the chair routine with me, but only two ended up learning the routine and they didn’t want to perform it with such a small group. Luckily, I convinced some students and instructors at the Jacksonville location to learn it with me, and I screamed out the directions as we performed it! We’d only gone through it once or twice beforehand, and very quickly, so most of the people were definitely still trying to listen to me tell them where to go next. It was a challenge for me to remember what came next and yell it out in time for everyone to follow along while still performing the choreography. I do it every week in my sexy flexy floorwork classes, but usually not to this extent. If anyone were to say that teaching a group routine class isn’t difficult, I’d point them to this video! I was exhausted by the end of this routine, both mentally and physically. Thankfully, this was the opening to the showcase and my solo came near the end so I had plenty of time to recover.
I performed my Pole Sport Organization Southern Pole Championships routine as a sort of dress rehearsal before the real deal the following weekend (post about that to come as soon as I get my video from the always-amazing Alloy Images!). It’s not the best run-through, and I changed a few minor things the night of the competition that looking back, I’m glad I did. For example, I did two of what I call sexy inchworms at the beginning here, and at the competition I just did one slow one, which I think was a good choice!
On May 28th and 29th I got the chance to perform at the Orlando Fringe festival with A Pole Dance Revue put on by Dawn Humphries, and it was so much fun! The revue was a look at all the different styles of pole dance, from Chinese, to circus/contortion, to dramatic, to burlesque, to sexy. I represented the dramatic aspect (the sexier side of dramatic…) so I picked this song, which I’ve been listening to for a while now and love its weirdness. I just freestyled to it, and while it could have been better had I choreographed a routine, I’m pretty happy with this freestyle. There were a few previews of my Southern Pole Championships routine in there – gotta make sure I can hit those moves anywhere, even on a wobbly stage pole!
Almost exactly one month ago, on February 26th, I competed in the United States Pole Sports Federation Women’s Professional Division. I actually started writing a post a while ago about my process preparing for this competition because it was grueling – and not just physically – but I was so busy with life that I never finished it. The rules are extremely complicated and it took me several hours just to fill out the compulsory move and technical bonus sheets. Part of the requirement is music without any lyrics, and while I liked my music well enough, I wasn’t super excited by it so I was never particularly motivated to practice. I had many required moves to include in my routine, and while some guidance is definitely extremely helpful, I felt like all I was doing was trying to fit puzzle pieces of moves together, not create a performance. This competition is PERFECT for people like former gymnasts or ice skaters who like having points assigned to particular moves though!
Just 4 weeks before the competition, I couldn’t make it past 1:30 of my 3:56 routine. I could do the first part (which was all static), take a break, and then run my spin pass, but I couldn’t put the two of them together or add the last static pass on until just 2 weeks before the competition. While I know my cardio abilities aren’t great, I’d never had this much trouble just making it through a routine! I honestly wasn’t sure if I was going to make it through the performance, especially since I was almost never hitting one of my compulsory moves (I didn’t during the competition, either), and another one was happening maybe 25% of the time (I nailed that one!)
For me, the training process for this competition wasn’t as enjoyable as it has been for others. There was a LOT of studying involved, and math, and figuring out how exactly to follow all the rules, and I just really didn’t care about it that much to put forth the effort. However, I did end up winning my division! I have some thoughts about the level of competition – namely, that most of the competitors did NOT do a very good job of self-selecting their level – but I don’t want to focus on that. I had a gorgeous costume created by Carolina Elaine Grundstrum and my hair was done by one of my students at Bittersweet Studios Palm Coast: she incorporated the gold tinsel into the crown braid beautifully!
This was also the first time my mom had ever seen me pole. I’d shown her some videos of me in the past, but since my parents live in a different state, she’d never seen me pole in person before. It was so awesome having her there when I won! She didn’t have much to say about the whole experience: I think she was still processing a completely new-to-her way of thought and life, but she was definitely proud of me and appreciated the art and athleticism that pole can exemplify, particularly Dmitri Politov and Pink Puma’s stunning doubles routine.
The Florida Pole Fitness Championship was my very first competition, less than a year after my first pole class. This year will be my 5th time competing in this competition, and I thought it’d be interesting to look back at the videos I’d submitted each year to gain entry. My first one is incredibly awful, but I’m glad to see how much I’ve improved since then! It was filmed almost exactly 9 months to the day after my first pole class.
FPFC Submission Video 2012 – Amateur Division
I filmed this at a friend’s house because the studio I was attending at the time had short, semi-spinning poles that couldn’t be made static.
I put together this routine for this video (though I used the song for my first-ever performance 6 months earlier) and never did it again, which is a good thing.
Why am I smiling the entire time to such a depressing song?!
Why is this filmed vertically?
My angles are awful!
At least my chopper inverts are smooth and graceful.
Why did I think it was a good idea to put in back-bendy moves when my back isn’t bendy?
FPFC Submission Video 2013 – Professional Division
Aw, look how bare Bittersweet Studios was! This was filmed just two months after it opened.
Why did I just walk into the video at the beginning?
Oof, that jade split and the subsequent drop to the floor out of it were really bad.
There’s some random taking-up-time movements in there…
What was that floorwork?
That last invert was… not good.
Just hanging out in that superman, clearly waiting for the “grand finale”: a dove drop!
I choreographed this routine specifically for this submission, but then I dilly-dallied around that year and never came up with anything better, so I used a very slightly-modified version of it for the actual competition, and it was definitely one of my worst. At least I still love the music!
FPFC Submission Video 2014 – Professional Division
Huh, I’m wearing a purple top and black bottoms again.
This routine was also created specifically for this submission video, though I had used the song before for a showcase with a completely different routine. Apparently I thought this was a better routine than that one?
I wait WAY too much for musical cues to move instead of moving with and through them.
I’m facing backwards for a lot of moves.
There’s some cool stuff in there that I should probably revisit.
Ha, I remember when I was obsessed with that shoulder mount pop into split catch. I really should’ve had a better angle for that ending.
FPFC Submission Video 2015 – Professional Division
This was a run-through of my PSO SEAAC routine, and it’s not too bad!
It’s funny to see the little things that were changed between this run-through and the day of the competition.
That vertical split is still really, really, cool-looking.
Woo, appropriate eye contact for once!
I haven’t done that thread-through to brass monkey half-split move in a while: I definitely want to try that again soon.
This is one of my favorite submission videos!
FPFC Submission Video 2016 – Professional Division
Yay, my first full-length routine recorded in the new Bittersweet Studios Palm Coast!
Huh, purple again. I never thought I had that much purple, but apparently I like it.
A lot of my submission video music is slightly dark music with heavy beats and male singers, which is usually not the same kind of music I use for competitions. Interesting.
I like that first spin pass. This whole thing was mostly free-styled just for this video, and it’s fun to see what I came up with off the top of my head…
… except that downsplit move, which really should not have been done in this routine. Not looking like that, anyway.
I kind of like the obvious switch of feet on the static climb, but I needed to make it more dramatic.
That ending floor stuff is pretty bad, but oh well.
So, that was interesting. I hadn’t watched most of those videos in months or even years, and it was interesting to see how my style has changed and what has stayed the same. I definitely tend to repeat a lot of the same things, but I guess it’s because they work for me. I’d like to work on better audience engagement and more floorwork/dance moves for sure. While I like the general fluidity of my movements, I’m kind of bored and I want to have more little, surprising moments throughout my routines. Lots of stuff to think about as I work on my routine for this year’s Florida Pole Fitness Championships!
I can’t believe that it’s been 3 years since Bittersweet Studios opened! I was there for the beginning, and so much has changed since then. Two more locations are in the works, and the studio has grown in students and instructors. I had the chance to put together two routines for the showcase party we had to celebrate 3 years in business: one group chair routine and a pole solo. I’m so glad I got to do a group routine since I love both participating in them and watching them, and it’s so fun to be able to dance with your friends! I wanted anyone to be able to do it with me, so I made it relatively simple, but it ended up being mostly my regular poleography students. It was SO much fun!
I also somehow put together a solo pole routine in two weeks! I started working on it the evening of October 25th and practiced it three more times before the night of the showcase, so I’m pretty proud of how it turned out! I’m super in love with the ending pose, an upward-facing pegasus, but I feel like it might be time to move on to more moves. We’ll see…
All in all, it was a great night and I’m so excited to see all the new talent develop! The spring showcase is going to be mind-blowing if this one is any indication!