If you were anything like me as a kid, the worst thing ever was standing over the bin, sharpening your pencil when, suddenly... you drop the sharpener into the bin. Then, if you're having a really bad day, your pencil lead breaks and you have to go and borrow your friend's sharpener and hope to God you don't drop that one too! I still remember the joy of finally getting my pen licence.
In pole dancing, we have pencils too, although we make them with our bodies and points come from our toes. The pencil hold isn't unique to pole dancing either, it appears in a variety of floor and danced based sports, such as gymnastics, and is a fantastic core workout in of itself. When done right, it utilises all the muscles in both legs, as well as the core and back muscles. Depending on how strong your core is will depend on how hard your arms work, but, generally, as your arms help to hoist and hold you up, they will be working too.
I have always been in love with this position, but terrified of doing it. I have a terrible fear of going backwards that not even going upside down as been able to cure. I get to a certain point in this position and start to freak out that I'm going to roll backwards and so come out of it as fast as I can. Lately, however, I have been confronting this fear and practising my pencil hold. Today, during a dance workshop, I used a quiet period to work on it further and was delighted when, for the first time ever, I managed to get my hips and legs up and hold them there. Now, my hands aren't in the right place and my legs are tipping back, but now that I know I can get up without falling, I can start working on getting my hands onto the small of my back and pointing my legs high. The pole behind me illustrates the angle I'm at and what I'm trying to achieve. Watch this space for pencil progression!
You've all heard of progress, where you get closer to a deadline or improve your performance? Well, in pole dancing we don't have progress: we have polegress. It's cheesy, I know, but it makes me smile every time.
A few weeks ago I posted here about my first attempt to the Handstand Hold, one of the new tricks I'm learning in Intermediate Static. This Thursday was the last night of term, and once we'd gone through all of this week's course content, Kristy gave us time to practice whatever we wanted. I have actually been practising my handstand holds in practice time but haven't been able to do anything resembling a hold since the first time I did it with Kristy. I decided handstand holds were the thing to work on last night and threw myself into it.
As I was getting myself into position, one of the ladies nearby came over to give me a hand. I won't name her here, but I will say that she is an incredible pole dancer and one of my Pole Divas Caroline Springs idols. She's a more advanced student than I am and I was stunned that she was willing to take the time to help me out. I was even more stunned after my first attempt at the handstand hold... because I did it! As she pointed out to me when I came down, all she'd done was give me moral support and talk me through the trick, but I was the one holding myself up and doing it. She then offered to film me the second time, which was super nice of her, and I did it again!
As you can see, I'm not holding it for very long, just a couple of seconds, but that's better than what I have been doing lately in Practice Time, i.e. falling over. In fact, I'm super proud that I managed to rehook my leg and come into something of a front crucifix. I have been having trouble with hooked front crucifix and, to be honest, I secretly hate this trick. I would much rather do the straight leg version, which I think looks prettier, has better lines and give me better grip on the pole.
But, moving up a level is all about building on the tricks you know, as well as learning new ones. I don't like hooked front crucifix, but I'll learn it (I have to, I need to be able to do it to pass Inters in a million years or so) while still keeping the straight leg version sharp.
Watch this space for more polegress coming your way, particularly as we're coming in competition season at Pole Divas. I will be auditioning for my first ever pole dancing competition next Friday, and there may be teasers heading your way.
At the end of last year, I entered a competition in the hope of becoming the Student Ambassador for Pole Divas Caroline Springs 2018. While I was unsuccessful in this endeavour, myself and the other finalists were invited by Kristy to participate in a promotional photoshoot for PDCS, which included posing for an individual shot doing our favourite trick.
I considered doing a Fairy, as I am seriously in love with Fairy at the moment, but - pretty as it is and as much as I like it - I didn't feel it showed me in my best when it comes to my ability in pole. I have to admit to having something of an affinity for upside down tricks, and, since moving up to Intermediate, I've never been right way up for long. Perhaps it's just because they once used to terrify me beyond belief, but upside down always feel special and, with that in mind, I decided I'd take a gamble and try and pull off my favourite upside down trick: the Ballerina Hold.
You've probably heard me mention the Ballerina Hold about a million and one times on this blog, but since moving up to Intermediate, it's been impossible to get away from. Not that I particularly want to get away from it (Spider Climbs, on the other hand...) and I think I have a bit of a soft spot for it because the day I managed to do this trick with my hands off for the first time also happened to be my birthday.
The picture above was taken by a friend at the shoot and is not the finished picture, but it illustrates the position very well. You also get a good look at my 'revolver heels', particularly on my hooked leg and an excellent illustration of skin grip, which I talked about in my very first post What Is Pole Dancing?. I'm not only hanging on with my knee, although it is doing most of the work, but my side and part of my stomach are pressing into the pole as well, along with my thigh, all of which are helping me stay firmly stuck as I arch my back and take my hands off.
So, what else happened in the photoshoot?
We took some promotional shots, pretending to look through the merchandise and cool down in the Stretch Zone, then there were class shots of a warm-up and choreography, before group shots and doubles tricks on the poles abounded, and we rounded off the night with a boomerang taken by one of the other finalists.
Now, talking about a photoshoot is fairly dry subject matter, but it's an important lead in to what I really want to talk about. While this photos in this shoot will more than likely be used as promotional material for PDCS, what makes every single shot special is that it shows real students of all levels, body types and backgrounds. We're not models pretending to be pole dancers and we're not professional pole dancers pretending to be amateurs, we are real life Pole Divas, who all found something amazing in ourselves through pole and wanted to share that with the world. That's why we all entered the competition in the hope of being this year's student ambassador, and that's why we all jumped at the chance to share how amazing Pole Divas Caroline Springs is through this photoshoot. We are all real women, doing what we really do at PDCS, with the only staging being positions for the shots. We all chose our tricks individually because of their personal meaning to us, we wore the kind of clothes we really wear to pole - crop tops or singlets, heels or no heels, pole shorts or sticky leggings, the clothes that we dance best in - we did things in the Stretch Zone and out in Reception that we really do when waiting for a class or cooling down afterwards, and all the class shots showed things that we really learn in a Pole Divas class - mishaps and all.
This wasn't a glossy, staged, soulless promotional shoot - it was a real life shoot with a whole lot of awesome PDCS students who want to share the joys of pole with the world. We're ordinary women on an extraordinary pole journey.
And we want to share it with you!
Those readers in Melbourne, particularly the Western Suburbs, Pole Divas Caroline Springs is having a FREE Open Day on Tuesday the 1st of May (01/05/2018). You can try both static and spin pole, bring your friends, meet some news ones and discover just how freaking wonderful pole really is! I'll be there too with a few friends of mine, all of whom are trying out pole for the first time. If you want to find out more, follow the link to the event PDCS Open Day 2018 and make sure you click GOING. Bookings are not required, no previosu experience is required and it is open to all fitness levels and, I promise you'll have the time of you life!
Please note, PDCS Open Day is for females aged 18+ only! Any males interested in learning pole dance should contact the studio for further information.
After my success on Thursday night, I decided to spend some time practising my pole assisted handstand during Practice Time at the studio today.
I have done this handstand all of twice and both those times Kristy helped me get into it, so trying to do it on my own was both a big step and quite an eye-opener. Once I had warmed up and done my strengthening - front straddles and spider climbs - I got the mat out and prepared to attempt a handstand.
You come into this position from a Ballerina Hold, and you come into a Ballerina Hold from a Front Straddle. Both these are full body inversions, with the Ballerina requiring you to take both hands off the pole. To enter the handstand you place one hand down, then the other, brace your shoulder and stomach against the pole and press your thigh into it before straddling your legs. For those curious, I have posted a video of me doing a Ballerina Hold below. Sorry about the angle, but you get the idea; Ballerina is a knee-hang, using upper-body skin grip to maintain the position on the pole.
So, how did I go practising on my own today? Well, I didn't manage to do a handstand, but, as you can see from the video below, I really did try. So, given I didn't actually manage to do the trick I was practising, why have I posted it here?
Because it's still progress, just of a different sort. It's the beginning of learning a trick, of working out where the different parts of your body go, where you need to press into the pole and how to position your arms to make it look good. It's knowing where your limits are and making sure you don't injure yourself when you realise that you're not going to be able to hold the position. There is a risk in this kind of pose, because you could not only fall and hit your head, but you could injure your neck if you fall or topple backwards and hurt just about every part of yourself. That's why I put the mat down, as some kind of protection, but I was able to safely manoeuvre myself out of this position without falling.
I've got more Practice Time coming up on Tuesday, I've got Intermediate Static again on Thursday and Open Private this Friday night, so you know what that means: more handstand practice. I'm determined to get this trick, and I won't give up until I've mastered it.
Until next time, goodnight!
You know when you do something terrifying for the first time? I had one of those moments last night. This is my very first pole assisted handstand (next time I shall point my toes) and the wonderful Kristy Lee is standing close behind me because I'm terrified I'm going to fall. But I did it! And tomorrow I'm going to practice the hell out of it because I proved I could do it.
Flashback Friday is a weekly section on Barbell Dancer, where I look back at an event in my past and reflect on why it holds sure precious memories or what it means to me as an individual.
First Pole Dance Photoshoot
These are a selection of pictures from my very first pole photoshoot with Broken Ballerina Studio. I had been in Beginner Static for about nine months before taking this shoot and, to be honest, wouldn't have been brave enough to do anything like this prior to that anyway! I even asked the photographer if beginners were allowed to participate in the shoot, because I'd only ever seen pole shoots with dancers doing crazy complicated tricks that were well above my level at the time. Her response: ABSOLUTELY!
Most of the poses in this shoot were on the floor, with only the S-Pose (top right) and the Diva (bottom left) being on the pole. Looking back at his shoot, I'm not only delighted that I can now do many more tricks and execute my old favourites with confidence, but it's a warm reminder that doing something for the first time isn't always as terrifying as I think and that jumping into something new is, for the most part, a positive experience.
All images were taken by the extraordinary talented pole-dancer and photographer S. Truong from Broken Ballerina Studio, while my hair and make-up was done by Y. Tacay. Those wanting to know more about the work of these wonderful ladies should click on the links or visit my Acknowledgements page.
Actually, I can't, but sometimes when I'm pole dancing, I feel like I'm flying - especially during Wednesday night's spin class. Tonight's combo included one of my all time favourite poses, Fairy, which is one where I really feel as if I've taken to the skies. Watch the video below and see if you can pick which one of the poses is Fairy, then read on below to find out if you got it.
Did you get it? The combo goes: cross-spin, climb, mount, wrap, fairy, diva, stag-drop (because I can't do the splits), cat-roll, dirty-squat to standing. Fairy is the pose I do where I spread my 'wings' (arms) and kick out my bottom leg. I forgot to point my toes, so it doesn't look as pretty as normal, but I still love how it feels to be in this pose. The strength, the twist, the entry from Wrap... it all just comes together and makes it something special.
Something also to look out for in this combo is the hip lock after the mount and then the unlock as I transition into Diva. As I mount and place my legs on the pole, prior to coming into Wrap, I twist my hips to the side and 'lock' them onto the pole. This is taught as standard in Beginner classes at Pole Divas, as it ensures that you have as much thigh skin, and therefore grip, on the pole as you can. If I were to take my hands off the pole at that point and switch on my abs, I would be able to hold myself up there just by virtue of the thigh grip I have from the hip lock. This lock is what allows me to do the Wrap without sliding all the way down to the floor and it helps with Fairy as well, as my thighs are still hanging onto the pole when I extend my bottom leg, so the grip is strong enough to allow me to release my hands. As I transition into Diva from Fairy, I unlock my hips and centre onto the pole, which then allows me the lines I need for Diva, and also prepares me for a split drop (or, in my case, a stag drop).
So it is the lock that is really doing the magic here, and my thighs are doing some seriously hard gripping to keep me up there. In truth, that is the base of pole dancing, no matter how pretty the trick or how fluid the transition, there's always some part of the dancer's body being twisted up tight against the pole, hanging on in the most awkward position and burning the hell out of them. I have found Hemp Lotion from The Body Shop to be the most effective relief for pole burn (just as long as I don't have another class within the next twelve hours), although I know some of the ladies I dance with, including my instructor, prefer ice. The Lock can cause bruising on the thighs, but the immediate pain of pole burn is usually the most pressing issue following an exit from this position.
So, there you have it, a little about one of my favourite pole tricks and a little trade secret to go with it. Flying into Fairy is one thing guaranteed to make me feel better about anything because, really, what woman wouldn't want to live her childhood dream of turning into a fairy? All I need is a pair of sparkly wings and ballet slippers, and 5-year-old Jewels will jump up and down with joy. Maybe I should try that next time...
Second week of term in Beginner Static, you learn to climb. If you're a newbie, that means you've been pole dancing for an hour and, all of a sudden, the pole looks very high, you feel very weak and you're not sure how all these other fit, amazing ladies are scrambling four meters up (in their heels, no less!) and you're quite certain you have no hope of doing anything but falling to your death, should you try any such thing.
This was how I felt in my first term of Beginners when Kristy showed us how to climb. It looked utterly terrifying, not to mention painful, and I couldn't see how I'd ever be able to do it.
As it turned out, it was painful (everything is painful the first few times) but not nearly as terrifying as I first thought. For one, Kristy was always there to spot me the first few times I learned, helping ensure I had correct leg grip and wasn't putting my hands too high.
FUN FACT: It often feels more secure to have your hands as high as they can reach in pole, but it makes climbing and aerial tricks so much harder. Having your hands at face, or even chin height, makes it so much easier.
To climb, of course, you do have to have your hands a little bit above your head as you move up, but that's something that comes (as I discovered) with time and practice. It took me three terms, a total of 24 weeks, to learn how to climb and it is one trick I am still so proud of myself for getting, given all the terror it inspired in me when I first saw it and how freaking hard it is to actually do it. However, once I could do it, it just became standard to climb into all of my tricks, or to scramble up the pole and touch the roof during strengthening and tuck slide all the way down. Below is a video of me doing a standard climb as part of a choreographed routine. This was filmed during my last term of Beginners before I graded up to Inters, when I had long mastered the technique (the Diva Pose on the end is optional, it was just part of my choreography). Watch my feet to see what I mean when I say shoes make climbing so much easier, if I wasn't wearing them I'd rub the top of my foot raw, which I have done on at least one occasion.
But once I graded up into Inters, climbing turned into something else entirely: spider climbs.
Spider climbs are hard to explain; part aerial trick, part full-body inversion, they incorporate both front straddles and ballerina holds, as well as aerial versions of both and involve moving from one side of the pole to the other as you go up.
I learned how to do these three weeks ago and, accounting for the week I had to take off due to my elbow injury, I've only been practising these for two weeks. So I stunned myself on Thursday night when I managed to lift myself through the climb and come around to the other side of the pole! Watch the video below to see what I mean.
This is a single spider climb, and, yes, I am jumping for joy and clapping because I DID IT! If I was to continue my spider climb, there would be another front straddle, this time aerially, another ballerina, also aerial, and then I'd lift myself through it again and keep going up like that.
This spider climb was exciting for me because, not only have I only known they've existed for three weeks, but this was the first time I'd ever done one without a spot. Previously, when I've been practising, I've got my top hand stuck underneath my hooked leg and have been too afraid to pull it out, so my instructor has had to come and hold onto me and help me pull my hand out and climb up and through. But last night I did it all myself, and twice at that, and practised some aerial straddles into the bargain.
Expect to see more spider climb progress as I continue through Intermediate Static and look out for some aerial straddle practice coming your way very soon.
Do you know one of the most wonderful quirks about pole dancing is that all the poses and tricks (and I mean all the poses and tricks) have names. Some of them are self-explanatory, but some are just so wacky and out there they make you smile. One of these is JAMILLA.
Jamilla is a beginner level spin trick/intermediate static trick, which involves taking the weight into the arms and rocking back into something of a side split while gripping with the side of your thigh. It hurts, but my pole instructors all make it look so lovely and it's one trick I'm working hard on at the moment.
But not just because it looks pretty or because I need it to pass my course.
About a week ago, in Intermediate Static (Inters) I attempted a Jamilla with slightly incorrect arm positioning... and sprained my elbow. This resulted in me being forced to take a week off pole to recover, and having to carry my right arm around in a sling, which got very uncomfortable and was very hard on my neck.
Once I recovered, it was back on the pole, although taking it very easy, and tonight was the first night since my recovery that I attempted a Jamilla again. I won't deny that I struggled, but I also discovered something that made me just go 'WHY!'
I injured myself attempting to do a Jamilla in my right hand. This is usually my stronger side in pole tricks, as being on the left side of the pole means I'm taking the weight in my right arm, which is my stronger arm. However, I was struggling something chronic tonight and thought, you know what, maybe I should try it on my gumbie (weaker) side.
And discovered that Jamilla works so much better for me on my left than my right!
Reflecting back, I have found this before with tricks that involve tucks, but I didn't click with Jamilla because, when I first learned it in Inters, I wasn't on a spinning pole and you don't tuck to enter Jamilla on a static pole.
This video above is not quite a Jamilla; I'm in the correct position with my hands, but it's more a side-split at this point. I'm working up to rocking back and getting my top leg up and over, so watch this space for further progress as I tackle spinning and static Jamillas. No pole trick will beat me!
If you're afraid to fall it means you're prepared to brave the heights from which you might fly.
Me With No Apologies.