So, who has a pole? Raise your hand!
Now, who actually USES this pole? Twice a week? Once a week? Once a month?
Until very recently, the most contact I’ve made with my pole this past month has been crouched over, looking for a lost earring. I hit my head on it.
Which is a shame, because I’m always annoyed at myself for blanking out during freestyles. Whyyyy do I keep visibly pausing can’t I think of anything to do? Why are my transitions so rocky? Why do I space out and do the same moves over and over when I know lots of of other stuff (that I need to practice!!)?
The reason, obvs, is lack of practice.
Don’t get me wrong–I’m on the pole a lot. But, teaching. Stop and start. The same moves every class, for the most part. It’s great for refining technique in general, but not so awesome for stringing together an inventive freestyle.
Here’s what I’m working on–I think it might help you guys too. Even if you just spend 20-30 minutes on your pole once or twice a week, I think if you stay focused, you’ll get a lot out of it.
Elements of a productive practice session:
1. Attempting to do the stuff I hate and can’t really do yet (5-10 mins)
It’s really tempting to just to the fun, easy stuff, but there’s only one way to have more fun, easy things to do: master the hard ones you hate now.
If I can’t fully get into a move, I get as close as I can and hold it for several seconds, a few times.
This can mean holding an invert move with your hands still on the pole (or maybe testing one hand off… then maybe the other… just for a second), trying push pulls just for a second before grabbing the pole again with your feet, or holding a pole crunch if you’re not choppering yet.
None of us are going to wake up magically falling into fabulous tricks we’re lusting after, so pushing our boundaries (safely!) in increments is the only way to get there.
2. Inventing combos (10 mins)
I try to dream up two or even three move combinations per session. Maybe a fan kick into a pirouette, into a fireman? A chopper into a one leg hang into a superman? A dip into a back hook spin into a showgirl?
Do this expecting only a few to work, but stay creative and keep trying. You might hit on some really cool new ways of transitioning what you know—and at worst you’ll be practicing staples. Find something you like? Drill it so as to commit to memory for a freestyle.
3. Building strength and control (5 mins)
Try modifying a few movements you usually do while dancing to make them harder–voila, EXERCISE! But like, specific to the muscles and moves you’re going to use while dancing, which means better pole-results than boring old push ups and crunches would get you.
For example, you can try an arm-only climb. (It’s just like the transition you make from a climb into a sit, but over and over–with straight legs and straight arms, you pull yourself up the pole from a sit and then immediately clamp your legs, all the way up). Sound hard? Yes, it is. But dang is it effective. You’ll notice an improvement in your control pulling into aerial moves, and also form: I’m finally kicking my bent knee habit with these, in addition to building upper body strength. (I CAN DO A PULL UP YOU GUYS).
Death lay crunches are good too (just, ya know, close to the ground and with a rounded back and tucked chin, because your neck looks sexier not broken), and so are straight leg choppers, which I’ve been working on to hopefully make my regular choppers a lot stronger.
4. A “Just Keep Moving” song or two (5-10 mins)
The best way to keep from blanking out during a freestyle: freestyle regularly. You hate me, don’t you?
Every practice should include freestyle time in which stopping is not allowed. It doesn’t matter if you forget everything and body wave for two and half minutes, just keeping moving until something comes to you.
The point of this exercise in frustration and fear is discovery–you might find yourself flowing new moves together that work especially well, or hit on a pose or transition works great for a dramatic moment in the music.
It’s also good preparation for this Oh Shit moments in pole when you mess up and have no choice but to recover, or completely ruin your dance. Dancing through awkwardness and mistakes (like botching a pirouette) and not stopping, in my opinion, makes the difference between the dabbler and the Dancer with a capital D. Freestyle a lot. Be a Dancer.
5. Strictly business (5 mins)
Pick 2-3 tricks per practice that you’re going to drill, the simpler the better. Do a set number on both sides, in a row. Make the transition into the moves as clean and consistent as possible, aiming to improve extension, control, and overall form each time you repeat the move. This is “make everything look better” time. Use it wisely and be strict with yourself. If you mess up the move, do it again, maggot! ARMY/POLE STRONG.
6. Floor work/stretch
I use floor work to trick myself into stretching. If I do a few hair tosses or kick my feet around, it makes it a lot easier to do boring old flexibility training. But yes, this is important, because, like everything else in pole, splits are not magically happening for me. No one is exempt from those annoying floor lunge things.
What do YOU do every practice? What do you want to work on? What’s your current archnemesis? Do you have a pole at home, and if you do, are you kind of scared to do hard stuff on it in case you break your neck and then starve to death because you can’t get to your phone and you live by yourself? (This is my new fear. Thanks mom).
Anyway, I have so many questions. Fill me in!
New schedule on classes! My 4-week is filling up fast so grab a spot! Schmedule here.
Happy twirls for the new week!