I know how to do “X” but now what do I do with it?

Anyone who pole dances (notice I didn’t refer to pole fitness, that’s a different thing entirely) knows that it’s not about the tricks you can do, but how you incorporate them into a dance. And that, my friends, means you need to work on transitions.

For me, transitions often come as a result of problem-solving. I get pretzeled up in a move and, in figuring out how to extract myself, I suss out a transition for it. For example, when I was working on my aysha, I normally used an inverted crucifix as my emergency exit. One day I was tired and only managed to hook one leg on the pole …. and I discovered that aysha to shooting star is both simple to do and (once cleaned up) looks nice. Yay!

Accidental transitions are great, but at some point you’ll probably want to actually think about how to get into and out of things, and you’ll want to try out your ideas. Here’s how I do it: start with a keystone move, let’s say outside leg hang. Think of all the possible ways I can get into an outside leg hang. These include (but certainly aren’t limited to) regular invert, inverted V, aysha, side climb, hood ornament, back hook, hip hold, etc. Pretty much any one of the “into”s can also be considered an “out of” — so there are my ideas for transitions/combinations. Now I think about where hands will need to go, where my contact points will need to be, where I’ll need to be looking, all those crucial elements.

Then I start trying things. Sometimes they work. Sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they’re close and I could see them working with something in between to bridge them.

Experiment! And if you come up with anything awesome please come back and post, I’d love to hear about it!  🙂

 

 

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Posted in Expression, Kitchen sink | 3 Comments

Silly, sweet, and true (le sigh) cartoons about pole dancing misadventures

If you don’t already subscribe to

http://pole-dancing-adventures.blogspot.com/

You should.  It’s awesome.

 

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Trickin’ out the teddy

Moves fade into and out of vogue–one that has seemed to get a lot of requests of late is the teddy, aka teddy bear, aka bicep hold, aka armpit hold. Most dancers will agree that until you “get” it, this move will HURT. It will make your inner biceps burn and bruise, and you will want to cry during and after practicing it. But here’s the good news: once  you get it, it’s actually a fairly simple move that looks 100% BADASS. It will look like magic is holding you in the air. Hooray!

So how do you get it? Try these tips:

  1. Back skin is important when you’re first doing the teddy. You want pretty much your whole back available for gripping, from just under your bra to the top of your outer glute. (Note: that may require you to pinch your shorts down a bit from the top.)
  2. Keep your hips in front of the pole. The pole will be close to the middle of your butt longitudinally. Get as much back skin onto the pole as possible.
  3. Twist/tilt your torso and shoulders slightly in order to get your shoulder and arm behind the pole. Don’t let the back skin come away from the pole!

Now.  The bicep grip.

  1. When you first learn to set up for this grip, bring your arm all the way up and around, rotating your shoulder in the socket like you’re pitching a ball. You’ll start to make contact with the pole somewhere on the middle of your inner bicep. As you continue to move your arm down, that skin will catch the pole and start to grip. Yes, it will hurt. Be brave.  🙂
  2. As your arm comes around and down, it also needs to cross over your body. This will lock the grip in, and you should feel your entire body raise up slightly. That tells you that your grip is solid.

Finish it off! You’ve got your bicep grip locked in, and you’ve got plenty of back skin to support the bicep grip. Now all that’s left is to lift your legs into a V! To do this, use your catch arm, which should be firmly locked onto the pole and crossed over your body. Lift your leg until you can hold your thigh. Test your grip: do you feel like you could lift the other leg too? Yes? Then you’re there, just do it! No? Go back and make sure you’re making contact in the right places and try again.

As with most moves, the teddy will have a sweet spot for you. Experiment with your position and see if  you can find yours. When you do, your biceps will no longer feel like they may simply remove themselves from your body, and you’ll be able to hold the teddy for as long as you want to hold it. Once that happens, you can play with leg position variations–do a tucked hold, or a piked hold, or stag legs.

The picture below is of me getting the teddy solidly for the first time in 2010. I was super excited. I’m sure you can’t tell.

Posted in Kitchen sink, My work, Tricks | 2 Comments

Things we wish we’d known…

I polled some other dancers for things they wish someone had told them once upon a time… here are some of the responses I got. There’s an interesting mix here!

  • The importance of being able to freestyle. The importance of movement and dance. The importance of developing myself as a dancer. I may not have listened (“teenager” dancer syndrome lol) but still.
  • You need structured, consistant lessons in order to learn pole.  If you think you’re just going to jump on and go into an extended butterfly, or even a climb by figuring it out on your own…..not going to happen.
  • S t r e e e e t c h !!!!!
  • Be persistent and consistent!!!!
  • How much money I was going to spend on bras, booty shorts, shoes, tank tops and music!  Oh, yeah, and classes and workshops.  I really don’t want to sit down and work out that figure…..
  • That I would experience and subsequently break out of many, many plateaus. Each one has felt final, none have been.
  • I wish someone had have told me how to invert correctly. Untraining bad habits was very difficult. Proper form to begin with would have been nice.
  • I would’ve started constantly stretching at the tender age of 1 if I knew I was gonna be pole dancing at the age of 26.
  • To stretch, something I never did growing up and I’m paying the price…
  • I wish I had been taught how important being able to freestyle really is.  Also how to do basic pole moves correctly.  It’s hard to re-learn something.
  • Stretching and keep working on it even when you don’t get it. Listening to myself when a little voice was saying…bad idea!!! Painful lesson lol.
  • I wish someone had told me what great friends I would find in the pole community!!!!
  • I wish someone had told me that no matter how fast I was advancing at first, that, no, I wasn’t going to learn everything about pole in six months and be competing in a year.  I wish they had told me that I’d just embarked on a journey that was going to take many years and lots of hard work, and that I should take a deep breath, slow down, and enjoy the process of learning, rather than focusing on how good I could become.
  • I wish someone had told me how to properly structure a workout. I had to learn over the years through trial & error, if I’d known proper technique I’d have better form & development.
  • I wish someone had told me how distracting pole can be. Listening to the radio while driving and instead of seeing the road, seeing what moves’d be good with that tune.
  • That there was people more advanced than me. lol.
  • That it’s normal not to progress as fast as ‘everyone else’ does, and that I would definitely get better over time.
  • That I would probably get injured somewhere along the way, and that minor sprains and pulls are normal, pretty common, and not something to freak out and worry so much about!
  • That not all of my friends would ‘get’ how pole isn’t just another hobby but an entire awesome lifestyle, and not to care if they don’t. Cos no one else gets a pole dancer the way her pole sisters do! 😉
  • I wish someone would have told me the importance of freestyling for sure, the importance of flexibility training and how important in person instruction is.
  • I wish somebody told me that splits are something special and can go away if I do not do them time after time.
  • The beauty and importance of floorwork. I used to only look for tricks but now i value floorwork so much more as it plays such a vital role in your dance.
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Work from the floor to solidify inverted moves

When you’re doing a lot of inverted work, you discover pretty quickly that 1) it gets tiring and 2) when your entire blood supply has been in your head for an extended period of time, you get lightheaded.

Here’s my suggestion —and it’s one that has worked for many people! When you’re working on certain inverted tricks, especially at first when you need to be able to adjust leg positions, feel around for your grip points, etc., do the move from lying on the floor. It’ll help you suss out positioning and get the move hard-wired into your muscle memory BEFORE you need to have it be rock solid lest you fall onto your head. Wise, no?

A short list of things you can do from the floor, either from a prone position or from a forearm stand/handstand: basic invert, inverted V, an inverted crucifix, outside/inside leg hang, layback/cross leg release, butterfly. See? You can do a lot from the floor!

Let’s start with the basic invert. Lie on the floor next to the pole, with the pole wedged into your armpit. Place your hands as they would be if you were standing. Now, use your core to lift your legs and shoot your hips toward the ceiling. If you’ve got enough core engagement you should have your hips well up in the air. Now, gently catch the front of the pole with the calf of your outside leg, place your inside leg behind the pole, and grip. You can adjust your leg hold as necessary to feel secure but it should be very similar to your leg positioning in a standing crucifix (upright standing from pole sit). Now, release your core a bit and see if your legs will hold you up. Yes? Great! Do it again. And then do it again. And then do it again. Do it until it’s second nature to push your hips toward the ceiling and catch the pole with the calf of your outside leg.

Now do it from a handstand. You can walk yourself backward into a handstand on the pole. Stand facing away from the pole with your butt at the pole. Put your hands in front of you, close to your feet, and lift one leg behind you, resting your instep on the front of the pole. Slide that leg up and bring your other leg to the back of the pole. At this point your legs should be in invert/inverted crucifix/BAT position. Now you can check your positioning, grip, etc. with the safety of having your hands right there, no worries about slipping. I hope that description made sense. I’ll try to take a video soon and post it.

Notes:

  1. Don’t do much handstand work if you’re on a thick mat. You can really strain your wrists.
  2. If you can’t hold yourself in a handstand, you may want to reconsider doing much inverted work until you have more confidence in your handstand. Sorry, but it’s true. You need to have good safety net when beginning work on any inverted move… and if you don’t trust your arms and shoulders and core to hold you in a handstand against the pole, one of your best safety nets becomes completely nonexistent, and that’s not good. I’m not saying you have to be able to do a freestanding press-up handstand, walk on your hands, or hold a handstand for minutes on end. Just that you need to know your arms aren’t going to buckle beneath you before you get a chance to gain control over your leg grip.
  3. This may go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. A handstand isn’t the appropriate emergency exit if you are sliding, and sliding fast, down the pole. In that case, tuck and roll!
Posted in Kitchen sink, My work, Safety | 1 Comment

Trouble with the inverted V, aka chopper/helicopter

The inverted V is the hobgoblin of many a poler. I struggled with it for a long time before I built the strength to go into it with control and hold myself there.

First and foremost, bear in mind that this is not a beginner inversion–it’s a difficult move because you are supporting yourself fully with your hands/arms/shoulders/back. In my last post, when I referred to rhomboid and intercostal strains? Yeah. Much of the time polers get them from incorrect or uncontrolled inverted V work.

If you have to kick into the V, you’re not strong enough. A gentle foot sweep is one thing, but here’s a good test: if you’re in an inverted V position, can you come out of it in reverse and lower yourself back to the floor slowly and with control? If not, go back to conditioning and strengthening work.

Some conditioning moves that are primo when it comes to nailing your inverted V: knee tucks with your grip in invert position on the pole, knee tucks into tuck-and-tip while holding the pole as though you’re going to invert. Another good one is the yoga plow done slowly, using your core to control every inch of movement.

Bad form can trouble you even if you are strong enough. Keep your arms bent until you’re inverted and your hips are close to the pole, then straighten them a bit. I prefer to keep some bend in my arms the entire time because it’s much (MUCH) easier to keep my back and shoulders engaged. If your arms are completely straight, it’s very possible that, in straightening them completely, you’ve also “roached” your back slightly, meaning you’ve rounded out in your upper back. If you’re doing that, you’re not engaging your shoulders–it’s almost impossible to do so, in fact.

Here’s a test that you can do, right now, from your chair. Grab something stable and capable of holding your weight–a door frame works well for this–with both hands and hang your weight back from it until your shoulders round forward. Now try to pull your shoulders back and down into a position of strength. Tough, eh? If you want to move your body at this point, it’ll have to be through your biceps, because your core, back, and shoulders are all being stretched to the point where they’re basically useless to you. If you were to roll out of an invert from that position you’d probably do so quickly and without any ability to control your descent, and those muscles would all snaaaaaap back into position. It wouldn’t feel good, not at all.

Now take the same position while keeping your shoulders back and down and engaged the entire time. Do you feel stronger, more stable, more secure? You should.  🙂  That’s the position you should strive for in your inverted V.

Posted in My work, Safety, Tricks | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Be safe, even if it means going slower than you want

Every pole dancer falls at some point.

It’s not a question of if, but of when–and how badly/forcefully/quickly–we go down. Sometimes it’s just a fluke. We do a move we’ve done dozens of times, and something doesn’t catch quite right, and down we go. But often, it’s because we aren’t properly conditioned, or because we didn’t have a good exit strategy for the trick we were trying to do.

As a dancer, I understand being impatient. Believe me. I’m working on my iron x right now, and if a genie would appear before me and magically make it appear, I’d be 100% down with it. But it’s a tough move, and I need to accept that conditioning for it is part of getting it. Sigh. OK.

As an instructor, I’m here to tell you that there are times in pole when you’ll feel like you’re moving much more slowly than you’d like. You might even be getting bored. But there’s progression to be had in pole. Conditioning and learning technique for graduated versions of advanced tricks are important. You don’t get your black belt in karate in week one, and you’re not going to do a flawless chopper in week one.

Warning signs that you’ve injured yourself
An acute injury usually comes on quickly because of impact or trauma. Break something, tear something, sprain something, dislocate something. Pole dancing offers alllll sorts of opportunities for this. It’s slippery, your grip is a little off, your grip’s not quite strong enough, or you don’t have the proper technique for the move.

Injuries of overuse are just what they sound like. They usually develop slowly and start off in milder fashion–and they can cause long-term pain or damage if you don’t allow ample time for yourself to heal.

One super common injury in pole involves a strain or tear of the rhomboids or intercostals, and it happens when you a) invert before you’re ready, or b) you’re ready, but you go invert  CRAZY and become all about the invert, without giving your body a break. Invert. Invert. Invert! INVERT! You’ll start to feel pain in your side, under your underarm, when you go up or down. Or you’ll feel it between your shoulder blades. It might be a dull ache, or it might be a stab of pain. Either one is your body telling you “hey, could ya take it easy?” Listen to it. Go back to conditioning work, or at the very least, don’t spend every minute of your session rolling yourself upside down (or doing whatever move it is that’s causing the pain).

 

 


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