Since I got my pro card after competing in the amateur division last spring, I was able to compete in the pro division this fall with the US Pole Dance Federation. This competition is a little different from all the others: there is a 70-90 second routine that must include several compulsory requirements: a reverse grab to shouldermount on static that must have at least 2 rotations before getting into the shouldermount, at least 20 seconds of consecutive floorwork, a twisted sister held for at least 1 rotation on spin with the top foot at least 1 foot away from the pole, an inside leg hang cocoon with both arms overhead, and at least 30 seconds of consecutive spin pole. I only got 1 rotation in my static spin – I was so worried about slipping that I applied too much grip! – so I didn’t score too high on this round: 9th out of 15. We were also provided an outfit by MilaKrasna and a pair of GlitterHeels! We were required to wear heels for this routine. Even though I didn’t score very well, I had a lot of fun in these 90 seconds.
After everyone had gone through their compulsory routine, we performed our “optional” routine in the same order. It’s called optional, but everyone has to do one; there just aren’t any requirements other than a length between 3 and 4 minutes. We can wear whatever costume we like and can be barefoot or wear heels. I LOVE heels, so of course I chose to wear them. I ordered this beautiful set from Gale Polewear and added rhinestones. I wasn’t sure if the heels would be the right color, but they matched perfectly!
I’d had this song in mind for a routine for a while now, but it never seemed like quite the right time. I was listening to songs trying to find the right one for this comp, came across this one in my library, and fell back in love with it. I originally tried to mix it with a dubstep remix and while it sounded kind of cool, it didn’t really work for a pole routine (at least, not one that I could make look good!). I put a few new moves – the upright elbow hold split thing at 1:26 and the illusion plank (no idea it’s real name; that’s just what I call it) at 3:19 – as well as some old stand-bys – the shouldermount flip at 1:15, the cupgrip handspring at 2:26, the drop at 2:46 – and some variations of my favorites, like the forearm ayesha at 3:30. Overall I’m content with this routine, but it’s not amazing to me, either in its choreography or its performance. I think I can do better in making a routine a PERFORMANCE, from the music to the style to how the routine is structured to the moves and flow. I’m looking forward to my next competition: I already have some ideas brewing!
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!
On August 14th, I competed in Pole Sport Organization’s National Championships in the Artistic Professional division. I qualified to compete in this competition by winning the Southeast Aerial Arts Championship way back in October 2014. The artistic division is different from the traditional professional division in that there is an emphasis on the dramatic and emotional aspect of the performance over tricks. All components on the score sheet are 5 or 10 points except for presence, which is 25 points, so I really wanted to focus on the story and emotion in this routine. I think I ended up neglecting the technical parts of the routine because of that though. I definitely see things I would change about the choreography if I were to do this over again, but overall I was really happy with this performance. I’m frustrated about the lights coming on after I started because I really think my opening shape is pretty, and going to black too soon as well, but I held that end pose for at least twice as long as I ever did in practice! I was determined to keep holding it until the lights came up because I wanted to show it off.
The event was zippered with the Men’s Professional competition, which means that every other person who went was in the men’s division, with a separate set of judges. I really liked this because it gave the judges a few more minutes to finish their numbers and comments, and I wasn’t going directly after a competitor. I also loved having the energy of the men backstage: there were SO many different styles of dancers and they were all SO kickass! Brandon Grimm’s winning performance was stunning, and Sai’len Jaeger’s second place routine had me completely transfixed while watching from the wings (2:43 is EVERYTHING).
I have some thoughts about the judging that took place, but I won’t address it here (maybe in another blog post, because I have LOTS of thoughts). I didn’t think there was a clear winner in the artistic division or women’s professional division – I saw all but two of the artistic performances and all of the women’s pro the next evening – but I thought Brandon pretty clearly won the men’s. I did enjoy Maggie Ann’s winning routine, but I thought Angela Nelson’s was absolutely breathtaking. It was sointeresting to see all the different styles: no two routines were alike and everyone had such unique themes. There was a Mad Max theme, a ninja girl in a full bodysuit, a ballet/hiphop/sexy pole dancer, and lots of props. I was pretty disappointed with the turnout both nights, but especially the night I competed: we’ve had bigger audiences at my studio’s showcases. It was insulting, not only to me, but the men, who deserved a bigger audience. I can understand people not being interested in the artistic division since it was new and not as hard to place in as the women’s pro since there were fewer competitors, but the men are all AMAZING. There were around 50 people in the audience; it was a little shocking to walk out on stage and see such an empty theater (it seats close to 1500 ).
Overall, however, I enjoyed the evening and had fun on stage. I really wanted to place and trained all summer with that goal in mind, but I placed fourth. It happens. I understand the judges’ comments and wish I’d changed some of my combinations and choreography, but I don’t think I’ll ever be 100% happy with a routine. I’m not sure what my next competition will be, but I already have some ideas for music and themes, so I’m eager to start training again!
On April 25th I competed in the 4th Annual Florida Pole Fitness Championships for the fourth time! Yep, I’ve competed every year since the competition’s inception. I’ve never placed though (and I don’t think I’m moving up the ranks either), so I’m not sure this is the competition for me.
I didn’t have the best run-through, but it wasn’t the worst either. One of my angles was severely off: instead of being to the side for the audience, it was a straight crotch-shot in a split! Not what I wanted. I also fumbled a little in my floorwork, and the ending wasn’t very clean, but overall, I’m happy with my performance. The judges, however, were not: I scored pretty low and the only comment I got was that one of them didn’t love my song. Oh well, you can’t please everyone! I had fun practicing for this routine, and it was the first one I’ve ever had a prop in, which I’m still not sure was a good idea.
Overall though, it was a good experience, as have been all my Florida Pole competitions!
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!
After a lot of hard work, help from my fellow Bittersweet competitors (Jane, Summer, Heather, and Kristin, who all placed second in their respective categories!!), and some last-minute fine-tuning from the incredible Pole Sport Organization National Champion Shaina Cruea, I finally placed in a competition! This was my fifth competition, and while I’ve been very close to the top three in several other competitions, this is the only one where I’ve actually placed. And not only placed, but WON! It’s been over two weeks and I still don’t think it’s quite sunk in.
It was an incredible experience, and it really taught me the importance of not performing to win, but to perform. I’d started that realization process with this past Florida Pole Fitness Championship, where I really thought I’d had a chance at placing. I got so in my head and focused on competing that I didn’t think about performing, and it was a mess. I didn’t do well, I stumbled through moves I’d done tons of times before, I felt and looked stiff… it was just not good. When I got into National Aerial Pole Art, I knew I had no chance of placing, so I had zero expectations on myself and I had one of the most flawless run-throughs of any of my routines on that stage. I wasn’t nervous, I was just there to show the audience my performance. And of course, I did well!
The biggest thing for me when it comes to competitions is convincing myself to not think about it as a competition, but as a performance. I LOVE performing, and unless I think I’m being judged by a pole star, I have no nerves when it comes to getting up on that stage and dancing. But the moment I know I’m being judged and ranked, I get all flustered and it shows. I really had to work on forcing myself to think of the SEAAC as a performance, a chance to show the judges what I’d been working on, rather than a competition where I was being compared to everyone else.
It’s not something where I can say, “Yes, I’ve achieved this and now I don’t have to think about it anymore.” I’m going to have to work on making myself consider every competition as a performance every single time I compete. But hopefully it will get a little bit easier with each competition.
Now, I have the Florida Pole Fitness Championship in March to think about, and then the PSO Nationals in Los Angeles in August! I’m already looking for music and ideas, and I can’t wait to craft something new and exciting.
And for making it this far, here’s the professional video from Alloy Images of my PSO SEAAC winning routine!
I’ve been thinking lately about pole and how we describe it to people unfamiliar with our discipline:
“It’s like cirque stuff, you know the aerial silks and hoops? I do aerial pole.”
“I pole dance, but I’m not a stripper. It’s a great workout!”
“I love to dance, and pole is another form of dancing, with tons of contemporary influences.”
I’m in the middle of an internal debate about what to do regarding pole and my Facebook, since I just started a new professional job. I don’t necessarily want my coworkers to see videos or pictures of me in skimpy pole outfits, but at the same time, I know I’m not doing anything wrong or morally questionable. Should I create a separate Facebook page for my “pole persona”? Do I make it another person, or a page? If I were to make it a page, what category would I put myself under? From there, I started wondering about how pole stars categorize themselves.
I used BadKitty’s Brand Ambassadors page and the Pole Expo Workshop list of teachers, plus whoever I could think of on my own to compile a list of pole stars, their public pages, and what category they decided they were. This is not an exhaustive list, by any means, but it’s a lot of the big name pole stars. I admit there’s a lot of assumption going on here: that all categories were available when they made their pages, that each pole star did indeed create their own page (as opposed to a manager or even just a fan), that everyone defines each category the same way, that they had to choose something and couldn’t define it themselves.
The results surprised me, to be honest. I wasn’t sure how I would categorize myself in a public space like Facebook, but I quickly realized my feelings when I caught myself being excited when someone ended up having a Dancer page, and somewhat letdown when someone had a Sportsperson page. Based on my reactions to my research, I would create my pole page under the Dancer category.
Here are the results in chart form:
Below I listed each person I looked up and which category their Facebook page fell under. Some of them were no surprise: of course Alethea Austin is a Dancer, and I expected Zoraya Judd to fall under Sportsperson, but quite a few of them were unexpected to me: Leigh Ann Reilly, Pink Puma and Karol Helms are dancers to me. Once I realized that some people had categorized themselves under Entertainer, I wondered why more hadn’t. Felix Cane, Jenyne Butterfly, and Nadia Sharif are some of the best examples of entertainers I can think of. And then there are the artists, which is one of my favorite categories, and I think the people there really put themselves in the right one, especially Phoenix Kazree. But aren’t Natasha Wang, and Sergia Anderson, and Michelle Stanek all artists too? I think that’s where the problem begins: there are several options that all fit for polers, dancers, athletes, anyone who moves their body for a living. Every dancer is an artist, an entertainer, an athlete.
Perhaps there should just be a Facebook page category called Poler.
Cleo the Hurricane
Jamilla Deville (Arts & Entertainment)
Josiah “Bad Azz” Grant (Arts & Entertainment)
Leigh Ann Reilly
I finally got Marion Amber consistently! Just hitting a trick once or twice doesn’t count as getting it in my book, so over the course of a few days I did Marion Amber over and over and over until I figured out how to get it every time. (Guess what? It’s all in my hips. Go figure.)
Video proof! I’m not going to include all the videos of me trying and failing, though they may show up in a practice video compilation I’m… compiling.
The lovely Pole Dancing Bloggers decided to remind us all the year is over halfway gone with July’s blog hop. What? How did that happen? I hate how time seems to go by faster the older I get.
So it’s time to revisit my 2014 goals. Yikes. I don’t think I’ve made much, if any, progress at all. Let’s see:
1. Right splits
No progress. I just hate stretching my right side SO MUCH! I know I need to though.
2. Middle splits
Getting better. I’m consistently just an inch or two from completely flat and can fake a roll-through.
3. 10″ left oversplits/easily opening into flat splits in the air
Well, my left oversplit is looking pretty good (I think three yoga blocks equals 12″?). I haven’t taken a recent picture of my aerial splits, but I’m hoping they’re flatter due to my easier flat splits and oversplits.
4. Regain back flexibility to the point where my right foot can touch my head again
I don’t think my right foot is quite there, but my back flexibility has definitely improved.
5. Marion Amber
I haven’t tried it recently. I’ll have to try it and take a video to see what’s going on there.
6. More comfortable with off the pole dancing/floorwork
I think I’ve gotten better? I still gravitate to the pole but I’m pretty comfortable rolling around on the floor. Now I need to focus on other dance moves besides forward rolls, back rolls, and writhing…
7. Aerial handspring
I have it if I totally cheat and push off the pole with a foot! While I have made a teensy bit of progress, this one is going to take a lot of work.
The hardest ones for me are my right split (why? why is this so hard to get anywhere close to flat when I have a foot of oversplit on my left?!), my back flexibility (stretching is just so uncomfortable), and my aerial handspring (I just don’t have the strength). It’s time for me to really focus on those three in particular and suck it up!
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I have had the great fortunes of being naturally thin and growing up in a family where it was more important what your brain and heart were like than your body.
Never once growing up did I worry about my body shape or size, and while some of that was due to me being genetically lucky, a large part of it was my parents NEVER, not even once in my memory, say anything about not only what me, but anyone else, looked like physically. My mom has struggled with her weight for years, but she never said anything disparaging about her looks. Neither parent ever mentioned anyone else’s weight or body shape to me, whether it was another family member, friend, or stranger. It didn’t matter to my parents what our bodies looked like, as long as they were healthy and our minds and hearts were in the right place. I am very thankful that there was no pressure on me, from ANY angle, at home for my body to look a certain way (other than modestly clothed!)
But I was involved in ballet and swimming for my entire childhood, two activities in which you wear very form-fitting clothing and one of which places a great amount of emphasis on what your body looks like. I never thought twice about my body until freshman year of high school, when I hit puberty. In comparison to a lot of teenagers, I had a pretty easy time of puberty, though like all teens I was a bit weirded out by the changes going on. I hit puberty at the same time I started weight-lifting for my high school swim team, so it seemed like in just a few weeks I’d gained 20 pounds. I went from a training bra to a B-cup, and got some hips as well. It wasn’t a huge physical change, but enough to make me start thinking about what my body looked like in various stages of undress.
Again, I am very thankful that none of the places where I took ballet placed an emphasis on our bodies. I did take classes for a while at a ballet school in a larger city than the one where I lived, and there was more of an emphasis on training future professional dancers. After a year there, my parents decided for various reasons that it was better that I didn’t continue there. I did have some classmates very concerned with daily calories, though that was a completely foreign concept to me.
I was quite happy with my body and its abilities all throughout high school. I wasn’t the best at anything, but neither was I anywhere near the worst. I was above average, and comfortable there. Then I went to college and stopped all physical activities. I wasn’t dancing anymore, and I wasn’t on a swim team. I was hanging out with new friends and taking full advantage of the amazing food my university serves. (Seriously, the best food ever!) My freshman year of college I gained 15 pounds and grew to a C/D cup bra.
I had a pretty awful summer after my freshman year of college and ended up losing a fair amount of weight by eating very little. It was not a healthy thing to do, but I looked great! I gained all that weight back and more my sophomore year by eating TONS of junk food during what has been the worst year of my life thus far. Just in case you don’t already know this, don’t try to fix your emotional state with food, either by eating too much or not enough. It’s not a good idea.
I ended up at a happy comfortable weight for the rest of college and beyond, and was generally pleased with my body and thought about it very little until about 3 years after I graduated from college. I was taking a ballet class because I’d really missed dancing. It’s hard to find adult ballet classes that aren’t for total beginners, so I was in a class with a bunch of teenaged girls. They were built like teenaged girls, and I was built like a 24 year old. We’d stand in a line facing the mirror, and I couldn’t help but notice that my hips stuck out further than everyone else’s, that my thighs had more meat on them than the beautiful thin 15 year old legs beside me. I got discouraged with my body’s looks and abilities (6 years off from ballet takes a major toll on your flexibility), and drove home from almost every single class in tears.
A couple months before the ballet school year ended, I took a pole fitness class with a friend who had been going and convinced me and another friend to join her. I was so giggly and unsure, because I’d been raised so conservatively: what was I doing twirling around a pole?! But I took one introductory class and was hooked: I went home that very night and bought the unlimited membership to the studio. I’d go to my ballet classes on Monday and Thursday afternoons, change in the dressing room and race to the pole studio. I felt SO comfortable there. I found out my body could do amazing things, and it didn’t matter so much what it looked like. No one at the pole studio cared if my butt stuck out while standing (something I was constantly being corrected on in ballet), or if my thighs were muscular (on the contrary: even better in pole!)
This is mortifying and I cringe watching it, but here’s the video of my very first ever pole performance, almost 13 weeks to the day after my first class. The studio I went to at the time was heavily focused on the sexy side of pole, and I loved it. I hadn’t gained too much muscle at this point.
I went to pole class four days a week and was obsessed with it. On Monday nights, the same day my ballet class used to be, I would still drive home crying though: that night was the tricks class and I felt like I was never going to be strong enough to get those moves. I would get so frustrated with myself for not learning as fast as I wanted to. Eventually though, I got those tricks, and I drove home in euphoria instead of tears.
Since I’ve started pole, there have been so many INCREDIBLE things I’ve found out my body is capable of. Yes, I’ve gained about 10 to 15 pounds since starting pole, but the vast majority of that has been muscle, and I’m proud of my muscle.
Pole has opened up my eyes to what the true definition of having a great body is: it’s not having a body that looks nice sitting around posed in clothes. It’s having a body that can hold itself upside down with two hands, it’s having a body that can hold a split in the air, it’s having a body that can flip in the air. It’s not what your body looks like, it’s what your body can do that makes it great. And even if your body is not like Marlo Fisken (whose is?!) or Anastasia Skukhtorova or whoever you’re comparing it to, if you can walk and dance and swim and run, you have a great body. Enjoy it!