We've all been there. We took our first pole class and loved it. We felt hooked from the moment our feet left the floor, and loved every minute of going to class, but then - maybe a couple classes in, maybe a couple months, maybe even a couple years in to our journey, some thing happens, and we start to feel frustrated. We start to feel that spark fading. We stop enjoying classes as much as we once did, and going to class becomes a chore just like going to the gym. This often happens when we start to feel stagnant in our practice. When we feel we have hit a plateau, and we just can't seem to get past it. We feel uninspired in our creative process, and we start to feel down on ourselves for not being able to get past the rut we're in. So - what do we do when we start to feel uninspired, frustrated, and stressed out about our pole journeys, and who we are as pole dancers? Here's my fool proof list for how to get the most out of your pole dancing journey, and how to keep loving the process along the way.
1. Take a break!
I know, this is a hard one. Especially if we're feeling frustrated because of a certain trick or combination we just can't seem to hit. Sometimes, the best thing to do is walk away from the pole for a couple days (or more, if you need it!) and pick up something new. Maybe you try a new yoga class, or you try a non-pole related dance class. Maybe you start going for a run in the morning, or spend some time lifting in the gym, or hit a capoeira class you've been meaning to check out. By all means, stay active, but enjoy a different form of movement. Once you get back to the pole, you may be surprised at how much inspiration you have from said various forms of movement, and your body may surprise you by being able to bust out those tricks you were struggling with. Don't forget the body needs recovery time, and pole can be SO taxing on the body. Sometimes a good break is all you need!
2. Explore new styles!
Are you a sexy vixen on the pole? Why not try a class that offers a more lyrical approach? Do you mostly focus on tricks, but ditch the flowy aspects of pole? Take up a pole class geared towards fluid movement and flow! Do you typically dance to booty shaking hip hop music? Try to move to hard rock next time you dance! Pole dance is SUCH a versatile art - there are literally hundreds of way to explore it. Sometimes all we need is a refresher not only on just how versatile pole dance can be - but how versatile WE can be! We are beings made up of layers and layers of complexities. We are both strong and fragile simultaneously. We feel a plethora of emotions, and we contain multitudes within us - so let your pole practice reflect that! Some days, when I get to the studio, all I want to do is freedance to new music. Some days, I feel like hitting that pole as hard as I can with body conditioning practices, or maybe I only want to focus on nailing a new trick. Sometimes, I just want to go back to basics and explore them all over again with my new found knowledge, body awareness, and strength. Always practice what you feel! If I forced myself to move to the same genre of music or style of movement every time I hit the pole, I would be SO bored and uninspired with my journey! Which leads into our next point....
3. Spend time with the moves you know!
So often, I see students of mine get absolutely disheartened and frustrated because they can't hit their next big move. It's important to note that sometimes in pole - it's a big step from here to there. Sure, you can hit 50 different basic spins and climbs, but maybe inverting just seems so out of reach. In the land of Instagram and other social media influences, it can be SO easy to feel like the goal of pole dance is to hit the next big trick and then move on to an even bigger and badder trick. I am guilty of this. I have to slow down and remind myself often of why I started pole dancing in the first place. It was fun. That was it. It was fun, and I enjoyed every new detail I learned. It's easy to hit a new trick once or twice and think 'ok, I'm ready to move on! Bring on the Ayesha!' but ya'll - let me tell you a secret - there are literally HUNDREDS of different ways to explore the moves you already know! Hundreds of unique transitions in and out of them. Hundreds of combination possibilities. Hundreds of new shapes, and variations you can put on a trick you've 'already done.' Spend time with these moves! Start creating from the space you know and are familiar with, and watch your own style emerge! It's lovely and inspiring, and when it comes time to perform or compete (if you so choose) you'll have hundreds of tricks up your sleeve to pull from.
4. Set Realistic Expectations.
This is kind of a sub-point for 'spending time with moves you know' and it should be obvious to us as creative movers, but that's not always the case. I know, I know - you see people in class or on social media or in competitions just doing the absolute most bonkers tricks and combos you've ever laid eyes on and you think - 'I WANT TO DO THAT.' This is great on one hand, but on the other, it can lead to us rushing through our journeys at an unsafe pace. Remind yourself that just like any other craft, there are incremental steps to getting yourself into something more advanced. Pole is wonderful, but if misused it can easily lead to injury, and that is just no good. I KNOW you want to nail your Ayesha, I know you want your Twisted Grip Handspring, I know you want to flip and fly through your Fonjis. But all in time, grasshoppers! In order to Ayesha, you have to be able to invert, and in order to invert, you have to understand proper shoulder and core engagement, and in order to understand that, you have to start with basic spins and various grips. If you can't hold a steady elbow hold upright on the pole, you CANNOT hold a steady elbow hold inverted on the pole. Enjoy the moments in between. The time it takes, and the work that goes in to finally hitting those big, long term pole goals. I promise that when you put in the work, and you are patient, that when you DO hit that Fonji, the feeling of pride and excitement will outweigh any feelings of frustration along the way. Stick with it!
5. Find a studio and instructor that you LOVE....
I'm not kidding on this one. It is SO important that you absolutely, hands down, adore your instructor(s.) You should feel safe, accepted, and excited to spend time with them. You should feel inspired by them. You should feel like you can trust them completely, and that they make you feel like a total bad ass pole queen (because you are!) You should feel like your instructor knows your body almost more than you know it yourself, you should feel like your instructor pushes you to be your best, but always keeps you safe. You should feel like your instructor supports you on your 'off' nights, and you should feel like they would have your back any time, any place, whether it's in the studio or outside of class time. In pole, we are vulnerable. Not only physically speaking, but spiritually and emotionally speaking as well. You romp around in clothes much skimpier than you would typically wear in a gym setting. You are often asked to freedance and move from your heart and soul. You will literally fall off the pole into your instructors arms at least once. If you do not love and trust your instructor with all your being, find one that you do! I cannot emphasize this enough.
5.5 ..... but try out other classes, workshops, and studios as well.
In my five years of training, I have practiced at 5 or 6 different studios across the country, and have trained with more than 50 different instructors. I learned to flow from Marlo Fisken, learned to unleash the sexy and primal beast within from Steven Retchless, learned to create magnificent lines with my legs from Sasja Fierce. I found my own voice and dance style in Tracee Kafer's FYF workshops, learned to backflip like a ninja from Kristian Lebedev, experienced insanely inspirational choreography from Kelly Yvonne and Kyra Johannesen, and found a beautiful and supportive mentor with Amy at Schoonover at Flirt Fitness. Every time I dance or practice on my pole, I find myself fusing pieces, techniques, and inspiration from each one of my incredible teachers through out my journey. Learning from so many insanely talented professionals in the industry has been absolutely crucial to rounding out who I am as a creative mover and pole dancer. There is a wealth of knowledge out there, so take as many workshops as you can and watch the magic happen!
I hope this helps you to always love your pole journey, and provides you with inspiration if you're feeling deflated! Remember always - pole is what you make it, and if we are compassionate towards ourselves, our practice will always reflect that.