I can do pole tricks but I can't dance!
Question: I want to learn to pole dance, not just do tricks.
I'm pretty strong and I can do all the spins and inversions and stuff. But I'm totally clueless when it comes to putting the moves together gracefully.
What can I do to get my flow? I want to enter a competition one day but it seems like you have to be able to dance too. Help!
Your Pole Pal says:
You raise a really important point here Amber, so thank you for bringing it up!
Pole dancing involves several distinct skill sets, of which strength is only one. I can't tell you the number of women I've had in my classes over the years who are undeniably athletic and very strong, but have difficultly with basic skills like walking gracefully and confidently around the pole!
Often, these women try to push the class curriculum because they want more and more challenging tricks. Meanwhile, they're skipping over the opportunity to learn some excellent foundational skills.
Now there's nothing at all wrong with focusing on tricks if your main goal is being able to do as many advanced moves as possible.
But if, like you, a student wants to become a competition-worthy dancer, there are definitely other aspects to incorporate into your learning. Some of these include flexibility, gracefulness, confidence, musicality, and stage presence.
What you're referring to when you say you want to have better flow and to be able to connect your moves gracefully, is closely related to musicality.
While musicality can be defined as the ability to respond appropriately to the different elements of music (melody, harmony and rhythm), your struggle appears to be with the mechanics of connecting your tricks. But they're really not so different.
You see, if a person has a good sense of musicality, they tend to feel comfortable moving spontaneously to the music. In other words, they usually don't have to think too hard about what to do next, because their ability to "absorb" the music almost unconsciously translates into natural, fluid movements.
With pole dancing, what this does is allow the dancer with good musicality to intuitively "connect the dots" between tricks with appropriate transitions and contrast moves.
Now the problem is, this doesn't come naturally to all of us! In fact, in some ways, it's much easier to learn the mechanics of pole tricks than it is to learn to connect the moves in a fluid and "dancey" way.
Here are a few tips that might help you, and the many others like you who struggle with connecting all those impressive tricks fluidly and with appropriate movement:
- My first suggestion is very simple...listen to music often. I know it sounds basic, but music is really just another language. If you think back to how you learned your first language as a child, you heard it being spoken all around you for many months before you even attempted your first words.
Listening to music requires no real effort. Just put it on in the car, while doing housework, or even have your favourite romantic CD on softly in the background at dinner. It may not seem like this is doing much, but remember, in order to feel comfortable expressing yourself in this new language, you need to expose yourself to it frequently, until it becomes very familiar to you.
- Set aside time during your regular pole practice sessions to just "play" with your pole to the music. No tricks or spins allowed, just dance with your pole and see what comes out.
This can be a real challenge for many people, as we all seem to want to know how to do it "right" before we'll attempt something new. But the purpose of this exercise is just to allow you to get a feel for what it's like to let the music move you.
With no prepared lesson plan and no specific movement you're trying to learn, you may feel a bit lost at first. But if you push through that initial awkwardness that you may feel, you'll probably surprise yourself by discovering a move or two you didn't realize you had in you!
- Take a ballet class. Yes, I'm serious! Many community recreation centres and dance training studios offer beginner adult ballet classes, so you don't have to plié along side a bunch of 8 year olds. And if you struggle with musicality, rhythm, or just don't feel comfortable moving to music, I can't recommend this highly enough.
All great dancers, no matter what style they focus on (from Jazz to Salsa) say that ballet training is the foundation of their dancing. There's just so much technique to be learned here that will serve you well going forward, particularly if competition is your goal.
Thanks again for writing in Amber, and good luck with your quest to become a better dancer to go along with all those great tricks!