Your introduction to pole dance was probably very similar to mine – beginner classes tend to focus on spins, walks, some poses, some pole sits, “sexy” time – but all you really want to do is start flipping upside down, hold yourself by one joint, and generally be a badass.
Many of us got into pole with a limited background (or no background at all) in dance – maybe the last class you took was the preschool “ballet” class where you spent most of your time with finger in your nose (you know who you are….). Maybe you took dance through middle school and high school, but stopped because there’s not a whole lot in your area for adult dance classes. One you find pole, it’s fun to gain that strength and power with spins and climbs and inversions; there’s always a new crazy trick or move to find on instagram and I’m certainly not immune to getting caught in the cycle of trick, trick, trick, trick.
But then comes a showcase, a performance, a competition – and you can’t just trick, trick, trick your way through 4 minutes of a song. Well, strictly speaking – you CAN – but, in my opinion, you shouldn’t. A routine should be a balance – your own balance – but a balance nonetheless. It should highlight your strengths but should also be well-rounded. (It’s also exhausting!) My new favorite saying is that pole dancing should be just that – pole and dancing. Being a stronger dancer makes you a stronger pole dancer.
This particular post is more geared towards instructors, but students should also find it useful. As an instructor, it is naturally much easier to incorporate dance and dance elements into your classes if you have a fairly significant dance and choreography backgrounds. But what if your dance ability is roughly at the level of Billy Crystal in ‘When Harry Met Sally’?
Here are a few hints and tips that I have found helpful as I’ve started incorporating more dance elements into my own classes.
- Start small. Don’t think that you have to choreograph an entire song. First of all, you won’t be able to get through the whole thing in one class. Start with 2 or 3 moves that you have been working on with your students and build the dance-y parts around it.
- Focus on the little things. It’s something that we notice in those amazing routines – the eye contact, the acting all the way to the fingertips, expressing emotion. These are often hard things for students to just naturally turn on. Practice makes better. Try varying the speed of the routine; focus on hand and foot extension; video yourself doing the routine and look at the shapes your body is making. When explaining the dance-y things to students, have a variety of verbal cues – not everybody will react the same way. If they don’t look the same way you do during the routine, it’s not a bad thing – let your students start to feel comfortable with their bodies and their styles.
- Instagram and Facebook are wonderful resources for pole, as we all know. And not just for the latest crazy flippy/contortiony trick! My personal favorites to look at to develop your own style: Jeni Janover (Liquid Motion – for that smooth sexy style); Nadia Sharif (for the acro/b-boy/yet somehow amazingly fluid style); Phoenix Kazree (for that just effortless beautiful pole work!); and one of my own favorite instructors from DC, Sarah Hill. But explore! The downside of IG is that 15 second video limit, but more often than not, polers will post a full version on Youtube or Facebook, so follow your favorites on more than one platform!
- Lastly, switch it up. Your routine was great to a slow song – so try a fast one! Sad, romantic Adele song? Try AC/DC!
- Really lastly – have fun. Really, have fun and let loose. Not every combo/routine you teach in class has to be competition worthy – find the things that work for you and your students!
- “OMG STOP DOING THAT, or things this instructor wants to hammer into your head (but realizes you have to figure it out for yourself)” - November 25, 2016
- “Shake it off”: How to Start Incorporating Dance into Your Pole Class - January 1, 2016
- What Happens When Your Routine Gets Messed Up… er REVAMPED—Part 2 - October 30, 2015