20 May, 2014

Shut up and freestyle.

One of the most neglected areas of pole dancing in many fitness based classes is the dancing. Sure, many schools do routines - particularly with beginners - but very few teach how to freestyle and I can understand why. Many of the women who come to my classes are of a low fitness level, are disconnected from their own bodies and have confidence issues. Getting them to simply roll around the floor, leap about, get in character or simply play and let go is very hard, almost impossible. It has to be done slowly, step by step. It's also incredibly hard for women to do this in front of others in a class environment. I know I did. But I loved to dance, even when I looked ridiculous, so I persevered at home. I have a lot to learn about dancing but I have also learnt a lot in these past 2 years.

Hoopers talk about "flow" and "finding your flow". And what they mean by this is finding your zone and that moment where everything seems to work. That doesn't mean you don't make mistakes - hoop dancers know a lot about making mistakes (dropping a weighted hoop right on the foot usually, ouch!) but there is a joy and a freedom in letting go and letting the hoop do its thing. It's something a lot of pole students, and some instructors, could do with learning; letting their body go and seeing what happens, losing yourself in the moment. You don't have to be a classically trained dancer. Here are some tips and simple dance exercises you can use to improve your freestyling!

Freestyle dance tips:
  • No dance experience? No problem! Watch a tonne of pole videos and look at how they move - not just the pros, check out amateur videos as well. Then try and translate bits you like in to what you do. You'll soon find there are certain ways your body likes to move, one style will suit you more than others, but don't stop looking for inspiration - a combo, a dance move, a hand position; all of it can be adjusted to suit your style. 
  • Practice. Practice and more practice. It will be bad at first. Horrific, if you're anything like me, but it will get better. Like anything - the more you do it the easier it is. Schedule in a specific dance session each week. Put some music on and just move. You'll find that even getting through a whole song might be hard at first. Persevere. 
  • Film everything; watch it back, cringe but learn from it. Pay attention to what doesn't work and what does. There will always be something you do that makes you wanna vomit, and something you did that surprises you. Take everything on board, fix one thing at a time. Use those little moves and combinations that work for you. 
  • If you mess up, keep going. Often something seems really big but looks really small when you play it back. Even THE best pole dancers make mistakes when they freestyle - learn from the hoopers and keep on going.
  • Know your song. If you know your song then you can react to the ups and downs, the highs and lows. You can capture the emotion of the song through your dance.
  • Cheat. At first you'll probably find you're just doing the same 10 moves over and over again and that's fine but as you start to build up your own collection of favourite moves and combos you can start to loosely think about what you might like to include. I used to have a white board in the corner of my room with all my favourite moves listed on it. If I got stuck it was easy to just hold a pose or do a pretty walk while I chose the next one to do. 
  • And finally; NEVER STOP MOVING. If you can't think of anything keep walking, hold a pose! Do something goddamn it!

Freestyle Games/Exercises:
  • Spend a whole song rolling around on the floor. See what shapes you can make, what positions look good.
  • Don't let go of the pole for a whole song but use the three different levels; floor, standing and invert. 
  • Pick a slow song and move as slowly as possible. Inject meaning in to every little movement; move the fingers on your hand individually, slowly transition from move to move, hold poses. Become a living statue.
  • Dance for a whole song without doing any spins or inverts! Just dance moves, positions and transitions. If both feet leave the floor then you're cheating.
  • Move as fast as you can. Go crazy, roll around, jump up and down, fling yourself around the pole (safely of course). Really let off some steam. Laugh when you fuck up.
  • Play a character. Choose a song which presents a story through its lyrics, take on a role from the song.
  • Dance to a song with no lyrics - make up your own story. 
  • Repeatedly do the same combination over and over again in different ways, with different emotions, at different speeds.
  • Get sexy, get dirty. Choose a slow sultry song or something with a bit more attitude and wiggle that bum, do some body rolls, roll around, pout, flick that hair!
  • Choose a favourite pole dancer and try and do a whole song in their style of dancing. Even if you look silly!
  • Dance with a friend. Take it in turns to shadow each other. 
Got ideas for other freestyle exercises? Comment and I will include them.

September 2012 (fucking cringe).

March 2014 (still a bit cringe).

- Bex