Following SHOWCASE, finishing the year off with a bang, I did a photoshoot with the amazing Sally from Broken Ballerina Studio.
This shoot was unique among the shoots I have done, as it was more poses than tricks, but I did something I have always wanted to do, although have never been brave enough to do in a photoshoot: I posed in lingerie.
I am a huge fan of Honey Birdette (as anyone who has read this post will know) shortly before the December shoot I had purchased their Cleo Collection, which I decided to wear for the photoshoot. I might not be a catwalk lingerie model (or have any desire to be one) but I felt pretty damn good in my leather and rose gold. Also for this shoot, I did several poses wearing a leash and cuffs (also from Honey Birdette); this shoot was all about being rather daring and acknowledging an aesthetic that I find beautiful. I have always enjoyed my pole shoots, but this one made me feel particularly sexy and empowered. In fact, I loved my shots so much I had serious trouble choosing my edits. I actually ending up buying the high quality versions of my shots in USB, so that I can have indefinite and unlimited edits (I'll be getting more just as soon as my bank account agrees), but here are my five favourite images, which were included with the shoot.
Leather and Bondage Pole Shoot
Photographer: S. Truong, Broken Ballerina Studio
Lingerie: Honey Birdette's Cleo Collection
Bondage: Honey Birdette's Rose Gold Bondage Collection
Footwear: PLEASER Delight 3000 Thigh High Boots
Hair and Make Up: Jen Oliver Beauty
There will be more images coming soon.
And, a final note, I love these photos for many different reasons, but most of all for how I felt during the shoot. There is so much pressure on women these days to be 'sexy but not too sexy', but this shoot for me was all about my sex appeal. This was my theme, my lingerie, my props and my chosen poses (the photographer helped with angles and made me look amazing in front of her camera), but everything about this shoot was me. For half an hour one Sunday, I got to be openly, unashamedly sexy, while wearing my favourite lingerie brand and playing around with the aesthetics of bondage. These photos are about the power of self-expression, and the ability to explore and open your mind.
If you look as these photos and just see a pretty girl in lingerie and chains, then that's fine, I'm glad you decided to stop and admire them. But if you look deeper you might just see strength, beauty, empowerment and confidence: that's what these photos are all about.
Good morning friends and followers, I hope you are all having a fantastic Sunday. Mine began wonderfully when I discovered that @pole.divas had used a photo of me from last term in a promotion for Term 1 this year! There's hundreds of wonderful photos of pole divas doing their thing out there, and they chose my photo: that makes me feel special.
It read: Hi Barbell Dancer; such a beautiful straddle. I hope mine is as good at yours one day. I like your blog too, I've been following the Pole Dancing bit for a while now - I wonder if you'd ever thought to put up tutorial videos on your blog or even your insta? Lots of girls do it and you're such a great dancer, people could learn a lot from you. K. Bye.
I replied with thanks for her complements and (I hope) a polite explanation of why I do not and would not ever post anything purporting to be a 'tutorial video' on either my blog or my Instagram. However, the issue has been swimming around in my head for a couple of weeks now, and I wanted to address it here as well, and give my thoughts on a trend that has been going around for a while (well before I started pole dancing) of 'tutorials' on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and other social media sites.
1. I am not a qualified pole dance teacher/instructor.
I'm a student. I love my pole dancing and I learn so much each time I set foot in the studio; I get stronger, I gain confidence, I explore new tricks and discover what my body is capable of.
And I do it all under the guidance of experienced, qualified pole dance teachers.
When I'm learning a new trick, they are there to spot me; if I get stuck in an awkward position, they are there to tell me how to get down safely; if I nail it, they can recommend a more advanced level of the trick for me to attempt if they think it's safe. They can take into account any injuries I may have on a particular day, and they know precisely what level I am at and what tricks I can attempt safely on my own and which ones I may need their help with.
For instance, in the photo of me Pole Divas used on their Instagram page today, my instructor took the picture, but I had only just learned the elbow-grip version of this trick that day and she made sure I was well stuck on the pole before she let me go. Then she said 'And hold it! You look amazing, let's take a photo!'
But she would never have told me to hold it if she felt I was not able to do so on my own. In short, she was ensuring that I could do the trick safely: which is her job and why I am learning in a studio from such amazing instructors.
They know what instructions to give, how to tell me to put my hands, where to lift from (core, back, arms) to ensure I'm not putting strain in the wrong places.
I don't know these things, I'm learning them. And it would be dangerous, reckless, and irresponsible (not to mention quite potentially illegal) for me to put 'tutorial videos' out there when I am not qualified to teach or experienced in doing so.
2. Pole is DANGEROUS if not done correctly
When's the last time you climbed a vertical apparatus four meters with no harness or safety mat?
Poles can be up to four meters high, are generally made of metal (brass, chrome, and stainless steel are popular) and one of the most basic skills in pole is learning various ways to climb to the top. At some point in learning to dance, most pole dancers start wearing pole heels, so then are climbing with five, six, seven or even eight inches of shoe on their feet!
It's risky. It takes time to build the strength to climb, you need to put your feet in the right position, be confident enough in your foot and thigh grip to release and replace your hands as you go up, and be able to lift your butt (trust me, it's heavy!) into position as you ascend.
It took me three terms to learn how to climb - 24 weeks! And once you've mastered the technique you need to be confident enough to do it again and again and again, then come aerial tricks, where you need to climb and then reposition your body to execute anything from a layout to an aerial straddle.
If you do not have everything in the right place when you start climbing a pole, do you know what's going to happen?
You're going to fall!
Maybe not immediately, maybe it will be a few weeks, maybe you'll think you've got it because that's how the dancer you saw on YouTube did it, but how long had that person been dancing? Were they an elite level dancer doing a fancy side climb during a competition? Were they a brand new beginner who had only just learned how to climb? Are they qualified to teach pole, or are they just posting a video (as we all do) to show off our skills and map our progress?
And if you don't fall immediately, you are going to injure yourself first - especially if you're putting your body in the wrong position.
Pole has risks, it involves height, various and sometimes unusual grips, inverts, and it takes time to build the strength needed to master the skills you're being taught. Under the guidance of an instructor at a studio, who is monitoring your progress and can assist you where you need it, you'll gain these skills. If you're watching YouTube videos, or tutorials on Instagram, you have no one to actually tell you if you're doing it safely or if you're ready to advance. There's nothing wrong with pushing yourself, but an instructor will be able to tell you when it is safe to do so: if you're watching something on your own, you may think you have it nailed, only to discover you don't when you hurt yourself. That's a scenario best avoided, in my opinion.
3. I actually don't like 'Online Tutorials'
There are lots of pole studios who do have tutorial videos (Pole Divas among them) for their students to access. Any reputable studio however (Pole Divas also among them) will also have a range of courses and times to suit many levels and lifestyles, and there will be options for small group or private sessions if there's something you particularly want to work on.
I know that online pole studios, with tutorials taught by qualified pole instructors, are becoming more and more in evidence, but I don't believe a video can ever replace the knowledge, expertise and hands-on assistance of a flesh-and-blood instructor in a studio. Of course, a reputable online pole studio will be a pay-to-use arrangement and any students will have to accept that they practice at their own risk, and I just feel that it's not worth it. If I see something online that I like, I'd rather take it to my instructor during a private and say 'I want to learn how to do this', and then they will be able to say 'Yes, that's at your level, we can work on it' or 'That's too advanced for you at the moment, Jewels, but here's a way we can safely modify it so you can still give it a try.'
4. There is enough dismissal of pole in the sports and dance community without unqualified tutorial videos adding to the mix.
Pole dancing is only just beginning to become accepted in mainstream sports and dance communities. It's often still seen as adult entertainment and dismissed as a 'fringe thing'; this is despite the fantastic work that companies like Pole Divas and other studios have done over the years to make it accessible for everyone. Pole is a great way to build strength, increase flexibility, make friends and get fit (especially at Pole Divas! Pole Divas is the best - yes, I'm biased, deal with it!). I would argue is no more 'sexual' than many other forms of dance, as dance (of any sort) is a form of self-expression and can be sexy, strong, lyrical or any other style the dancer or dancers choose to incorporate into their routine.
Pole is still finding its feet in the mainstream, and unqualified tutorial videos on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and various social media do more harm than good for its image. Chances are high that anyone posting free pole tutorial videos on social media is not a qualified pole instructor. Learning to pole dance is not a 'DIY project' you can master at home with a few tutorial videos and the right equipment. It's a sport and, just like any other sport, it requires taking time to learn the skills safely.
In closing, I will say this: pole dancers love to post videos on their social media. It's a huge part of our lives and we enjoy sharing it with the world. We don't put them up to instruct or teach others. If you want to learn how to pole dance, have a browse online and find your nearest, reputable studio. Give them a call and don't be shy to take a tour or join a casual class: studio owners and instructors will be used to shy and nervous newcomers and a good owner/instructor will make your feel welcome.
And as for Instagram videos that pop up every now and then with captions like 'How To Climb A Pole! P.S. Not an instructor, just love pole dancing!' do yourself and favour and scroll right past. You wouldn't take lessons in any subject from someone who admitted they were not qualified, so why would you take pole dancing tutorials from someone who just said the same?
Stay safe on your poles, everybody!
If you're afraid to fall it means you're prepared to brave the heights from which you might fly.
Me With No Apologies.