It's a scenario that plays out in studios all over the world. It's your first ever pole class and you've just walked in to the studio. You should be greeted by an instructor who will sit you down and talk through everything you need to know; safety, where the toilets are, the membership rules, what poles they use and how they organise their classes. I personally have a spiel ready for all new groups. One of the main points I always stress is: NO COPYING other students, some of my groups can be slightly mixed ability, and NO going home and trying ANYTHING that you're not comfortable with. Copying in class still happens. No matter what I do. All I can do is remind them regularly and ask them politely not to do it. But trying new things at home is an issue I am seeing more and more.
But what if, possibly, in some cases we're just letting our ego get in the way?
Twice recently I have scrolled through facebook to find students posting videos or pictures of themselves doing moves I haven't taught them. At first it made me really angry. HOW DARE THEY?!?! They're flouting my rules! NO RESPECT WHATSOEVER! But then I sat and thought about it. What was making me so upset? Was I worried for their safety? Or was my ego hurt, that they didn't need me? And that was exactly it. I was hurt because - I'm their pole mummy!!!! - I want to be the one to teach them new moves. I want to be there when they ace badass tricks. It felt like I was missing out and wasn't needed.
And I started to realise; who am I tell students what they can or cannot do at home?
Some students have this amazing ability to understand the mechanics of a move and have a really great understanding of, and connection with, their own body. But I also have students who no matter how many times I show and break down a move still struggle to get their body to do what they know they have to do. I have students who are always careful and have safe dismounts from the pole. I also have students that, no matter how many times I shout at them, still jump off the pole or dismount in a horrifically scary way. Everyone is so different. And part of my job is to understand how each student learns, who needs more help, support and a crash mat and who can be left to get on with it. I just have to hope that they also know which they are and whether or not they are safe.
Also; I know from my own journey that as a pole dancer you simply do just get to a level where you know your own body, you know safe ways in and out of so many different positions, and you have a good understanding of when you are or are not safe - whether or not you need to ask an instructor for a spot or whether you're safe by yourself. At this point many pole dancers do begin self teaching by watching videos online. I know I did.
Many pole dancers self teach from day one. Safely and successfully I might add. Jess Leanne Norris claims to be self taught, Kiki from Kiki's Pole Blog is mostly self taught, as are many many others. Lena, one of my pole kisses readers, is also self taught and sent me an email the other day, "I'm very much the same as you are, I tell everyone I teach that it can be very dangerous to try new tricks at home alone and I'm strict to tell them that, for example, a superman looks damn pretty, I know, but it as an advanced trick for a reason. On the other hand, I am also largely self taught and I, too, learned my superman on my own."
I hope all of my students will be honest with themselves about their ability when they go home to practice. All I can do is encourage them to be safe, educate them, and hope that they do listen. But if I see an able safe student trying something new without me: I will try and remember to check my ego.