Pole + Bellydance…

I had an awesome guest at one of my classes last week: my friend K. from Bellyqueen classes!

She invited me along to watch a former dance partner of ours do a set at Poisson Rouge, so we finally got caught up. That’s when I mentioned my pole classes, and she being the doll that she is, said that she wanted to take one.

Aww. I love my friend K. She is so awesome and supportive. But honestly, I didn’t expect her to come to a class. This is because I’m the worst salesperson ever. You could flat out ask me if you could take a class with me and I’d probably say something like “Omg, you should totally take pole, it’s so fun! But it doesn’t have to be with me! Just, like, in general. If you want to. No pressure!”

So imagine my shock when I got a call from her on Monday asking which class she should join that night, and how to sign up.

Ahh. I was freaking out.

Here’s why I was nervous you guys: MY FRIEND IS A GREAT DANCER.

Better than me, because she’s been doing tribal belly dance for about 10 years longer. I swear, this girl can move each of her ribs separately. Cray cray.

Our troupe after a show last year 🙂

So next thing I know she’s in my class and I’m turning red trying to explain a hip circle/mini grind, all the while thinking that it sounds like an omi’s lazier, sluttier cousin.

But a funny thing happened: my friend came up to me after class beaming. “I LOVED IT,” she said. She wanted to take the intro class all over again.

“But won’t you be bored?” I asked. “It’s the same lesson–just the three dance moves again, with transitions and the same spin. I was so worried you’d think this was baby stuff after belly dance.”

“The spins are so hard on your arms! I was just glad when we did something I recognized,” she said, popping a killer hip circle.

I should have known. It’s not boring to do moves you’re familiar with in pole–it’s a relief!

Since reading Chwenny’s awesome post about ballet, I can help thinking that knowing a form of classical dance could really help with posture and alignment on the pole, not to mention flexibility.

But for me, belly dance really helped me with the moves that usually embarrass people. No, not the hard stuff–the sexy stuff!

The undulations, body waves, rolls, hip circles, grinds–was what made me breathe a sigh of relief between spins and holds. FINALLY, a way of moving my body I’m familiar with! And it doesn’t even bruise you!

I’m not sure I’d go as far as spending the time or money to take pole AND belly dance classes, but I know my background really helped me. Having access to your muscles and being able to isolate them in the way that belly dance teaches you is extremely useful on the pole.

Really quickly, because I like lists, here’s now a belly dance background has helped me:

1. Doings lots of things at once

We call it “layering” in belly dance: combining moves at different tempos. For example: undulating your belly while “shimmering” (teeny, tiny shimmy all over your body) and slowly raising your arms.

It’s a lot like set drumming: you’ve got one beat for your bass drum foot, one for your snare drum, one for your hi-hat. And they’re all going at separate speeds.

Being able to multitask with body parts is suuuuper helpful in pole when you’re trying to remember to point your toes while changing your grip and hooking a leg… on spin mode.

2. Flexibility in “lady” places

I don’t mean flexibility to, say, do a split, but in having the ability to pop your chest way to the side, or push out a hip in a big way, while keeping other parts of your body still. The flexibility to really exaggerate your womanly curves (ew, that sounds gross, but hips/chest, you know what I mean) is what gets your movements to POP. Especially when you contrast it with the straightness of a pole. OH SNAP, T&A everywhere. Yes please.

3. Posture, Posture, Posture

One of the hardest things to learn–and most impossible to unlearn!–in belly dance is being totally mindful of your body alignment.

Since belly dancers are often juggling many movements at a time, we know our base posture needs to be in check. If you’ve got your arms AND your hips moving, your midsection better be stable and still, or you’re going to just look like a mess with no discernible, purposeful dance moves.

Here’s the science (not really): If you’re not keeping something straight and still, there’s nothing to contrast the movement against. That’s why a beautiful snake arm with lazy posture doesn’t really look like anything!

In a roundabout way, having this kind of full body awareness is really helpful when you start doing strength moves in pole, or even just more controlled spins.

Mentally separating yourself from (ouch) the pain of friction on your arms and legs and being aware of the big picture is what elevates it all to art–that arch in the back, the controlled, straight extension of the leg with pulled in abs. CONTROL. Janet Jackson. You get me?

And yes, pole is about digging in and getting sexy, but sexy turns into sloppy without discipline. That’s why belly dance is so sexy! It’s CONTROLLED.

Thus, you need to know how to lean in and get slinky with 60% of your body while keeping the rest of the movements straight and clean. Or that 60% is nothing. Nothing, I say!

4. Directing attention

Sometimes, it’s all about the small movements in belly dance. A single hip figure eight. A hand gesture. A tiny belly release. You might miss them if the belly dancer doesn’t know how to make you look–which is thankfully a skill of ours 🙂

Getting you to NOT look at things is another side of the same coin. This is super handy with pole, because, as we all know, getting into a move can be ugly as hell!

That’s why it’s great to know how distract people: big sweeping upper body movements as you climb (with nasty monkey feet :D)! Hair flips and back arches as we clumsily brace ourselves to stand back up in heels!

It’s all misdirection, and I learned everything I know about it from belly dance.

I could go on, but I’ll stop myself. I’m starting to miss belly dance 🙁

Any of you guys take another form of dance? I’ve found Salsa really helpful–especially for getting comfortable with dancing on offbeats and digging into hip movements, arching a lot, etc. Let me know what you’d recommend!

Intro to Pole is 3-4pm tomorrow, so I hope to see more familiar faces 🙂

Happy twirls,


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