I know everyone can relate when I say that we've all had one of those days. Those days when one thing (or a hundred) goes wrong and we start to doubt that we can actually do anything at all.
And then the mind games begin.
This happens at work, in our personal lives and, for those of us athletes out there, it happens in our sport too. A friend of mine from PDCS, an excellent dancer and all round genuine, amazing person, recently asked the following question of her Instagram followers:
...How do other #polers deal with those days where your head gets the better of you and you convince yourself and you are incapable of all the moves? When your focus is on what you can't nail and the transitions you can't figure out and then the mind games kick in?
I've had these days in pole before, I've had them in lifting before too, but I'm going to focus on how I handle a bad pole day for this article. My friend's question got me thinking and reflecting on what I do when it feels like the pole just doesn't want to dance with me today.
When I get stuck, my strategy is to just go all the way back to the beginning and practice my walks around the pole. Three steps takes me one full circle and add a momentum turn on at the end if I feel like it. I've done this a lot in practice time recently, as since I've moved up to Inters I've felt stuck as I need a spot for most of the moves and/or can't remember how to get into them without a demonstration. Last Saturday, for example, I wanted to practice something called a Rock-A-Bye, but could not for the life of me remember how to get into this pose once I had mounted. I sat there on the pole for a while, feeling stupid and ridiculous, surrounded by all these amazing women practising their tricks without a problem, and my thighs were hurting from hanging onto the pole but I didn't want to just slide down because 'oh-my-god-they'll-all-think-I'm-such-a-pathetic-wussy-weakling'. In the end I did a tuck slide down, and would have been very happy to keep sliding all the way through the floor and vanish to never be seen again. However, I stood up, looked at the pole and said, "Walk".
Because if all else fails, if every other trick deserts me, my legs still work and three steps will take me one full circle around the pole.
But there's another reason I take this approach when the mind games begin: because once I start moving I stop thinking.
It's the bane of human existence that we tend to overthink things and 1+1=2 suddenly becomes a genius-level logic puzzle! In pole, I know which tricks I can do and which ones I'm still learning to do (the Rock-A-Bye being one of the latter), but when I can't do something, it goes to my head and I start to question whether I can do anything. But once I walk, once my three steps take me that full circle around the pole, I find myself doing other things: like a momentum turn, then a quarter turn, then a back-grip slide, then I'm cat-rolling off the floor and bouncing up and down on my knees, rubbing my hands all over my body, feeling sexy and empowered, then, before I know it, I've done a tuck-spin from the floor, and then I'm spiral climbing all the way up the pole and the Rock-A-Bye be fucked because I can back-straddle, diva and stag-drop like a pro! In these moments, I take the philosophy of Matter over Mind (i.e. Body over Mind) and just go with it.
But I didn't actually learn this philosophy in pole, Hilal taught me about this a long time ago, before EP even existed and I was training with her at a commercial gym: your mind will give up before your body will. I believe, at the time when Hilal shared this insight with me, she was working with me on my planks and I said to her 'No, I can't,' and she said 'Your mind wants you to think that you can't, but your body is not even tired and I know you can do it!' Incidentally, I did it (I believe it at the time was a six second plank), but that knowledge, that you mind will give up before your body will, has stayed with me and been a source of comfort and inspiration on my bad pole days.
Interesting fact 101: Your body will actually never run out of energy.
What we think of as energy is, in fact, a temporary boost of hormones that allows us to perform at a heightened level for a temporary period of time. I'm not going to go into all the science-y stuff, but that's the kind of energy that give us a nice hit of endorphins once we've finished a work out, and that's certainly the healthiest type of energy to expend, but it's also heavily controlled by the mind. Your body does an amazing job keeping you alive every day, but so does your mind, and your mind wants to save as much of this energy as possible because it is the safest, healthiest kind of energy to expend and it likes to keep it in reserve. For this reason, your mind will tell you to stop at the point of mind discomfort because then you'll still have plenty of energy; this is a mental barrier and it takes time and strength to push through, but the point where your brain says can't is most often the point where the body is saying are you actually doing something?
You see, your body has its own kind of energy that is not connected to your brain (again, it gets really science-y and I'm not science-y, so I'm going to explain it all in lay-man's terms and you can Google later if you're interested in finding out more) and it can literally keep going until you drop dead! Not healthy, not safe, and absolutely not recommended! This is reality, your body will keep going if it needs to, to do what it does best: keep you alive. And it will continue keeping you alive until you're not alive anymore. Your mind doesn't want you using this energy because it's not healthy energy, it is absolute, life-or-death, emergency energy and the mind starts to get scared as you're pushing yourself through your 'good' energy that you might switch into this 'not so healthy' energy. In reality, you're never going to push yourself into this type of energy in any kind of healthy workout, but your mind doesn't know that (strangely, given how advanced our brains are, they can be quite primitive when it comes to keeping us alive) so it tells you to stop when you actually don't have to. Chances are high you are nowhere near any kind of physical or mental breaking point and you just need a push to get through a mental barrier.
My push is Matter over Mind. My body will keep going, it won't fail me, but my mind is my worst enemy. So, when the mind games begin on a bad pole day, when the voice starts to whisper that maybe I've had enough and I should stop and I'm a useless pole dancer anyway, I just start walking. Because walking reminds my body of what it can do, and once my body gets going, my mind stops talking and I remember what it is I came to PDCS to do in the first place: dance.
I have, so far, done two pole themed shoots with Broken Ballerina Studio: a Classic shoot with a white backdrop and a second Classic shoot with a black backdrop. You can find out more about Broken Ballerina Studio on my Acknowledgements page, but I will say here for the record that Sally is an incredible photographer who goes out of her way to make you feel comfortable during a shoot.
The slide show above showcases some of the images from the two shoots I have done. I was at Beginner Level in both shoots, although my first shoot was taken very early in my pole dancing days, I think I'd done maybe three terms in total, while the black backdrop Classic shoot was taken when I was almost ready to grade for Beginners and move up to Intermediate. For funsies, I dressed up as pole dancing Elsa for my Black Backdrop Photoshoot and Broken Ballerina Studio got right on board with my theme and they even played 'Let It Go!' during my shoot.
Today, I got to do my third shoot with Broken Ballerina studio, but this time it was far from Classic. I rocked up today a full hour and a half before my shoot because today I was getting covered in UV paint before taking on some pole tricks.
My actual shoot with thirty minutes, and it was my present to myself for passing Beginner Static and moving up to Intermediate Static. I've already worked out that my present to myself when I pass Beginner Spin will be a Glitter Photoshoot (yes, Broken Ballerina Studio does these too), but, I'm getting ahead of myself.
The UV paint application took roughly an hour, then I had half an hour to warm up before my shoot. I had brought shoes for this shoot earlier in the week, under an ordinary light they look like a nice pair of pole shoes, with little blue and white lightening bolts zigzagging down the platforms. Put them under a UV light, and the bolts glow, so I decided I wanted to continue the lightning theme with the UV body paint. During the hour application, my painter covered most of my body in blue UV paint, before highlighting it with yellow and then adding neon pink lightening bolts down my back, arms, legs and torso.
As you can see above, without the UV light, I look a little like an alien, and me and one of the other divas doing the UV shoot had a good laugh with each other. However, under the UV light, the paint looked superb and I loved how well my lightning theme came through in the pictures. Below is a little teaser from the end of my shoot, so some of the paint has worn off, but you get the general idea, with me and the photographer from Broken Ballerina Studio; I will be receiving my raw images shortly, so there may be more teasers to come in the following days...
Evolving Physiques, a.k.a THE BEST GYM IN THE WORLD, is currently holding a competition for members to be the EP Sponsered Athlete for 2018. I had a studio hire at Pole Divas recently and decided to film my submission on the pole, because if it wasn't for EP I wouldn't have got to Divas, but if it wasn't for Divas I wouldn't have gone back to EP for my weights training. EP and Divas have become so intertwined I can't imagine going back now, so here is my submission to be the EP Sponsered Athlete for 2018.
When I dance, I dance for me. My steps follow my direction, my heartbeat echoes their sound." - Unknown
Tonight was PDCS Filming Night for those dancers planning to audition for Pole Divas UNLEASHED. There were about a dozen of us there and we all got the opportunity to get up and film our UNLEASHED routines in front of a live audience. I was even lucky enough to have my face professionally painted and made-up for the occasion by Jen from Jen Oliver Beauty. I said 'Jen, I'm coming back from the dead to tell a story, can you make me look "sexy-undead"?' and she said 'I sure can!' As you can see below, she did a f**king awesome job of nailing my vision and creating a "sexy-undead" look.
But why did I want to look 'sexy undead' for a pole dance routine? Because this routine was not merely about showing off the tricks I had learned, the level I was at or exploring the musicality of the steps. This routine, danced to the song Joan of Arc by In This Moment, is not just a dance, but a story; I'm dancing a character I created based on the lyrics of the song and, since I'm not yet allowed to share the audition video with you (because, you know, I don't want to spoil it for anyone if I get into the competition) I thought I'd share the story I danced tonight instead.
After pole dancing, writing is my second passion, so it was great to combine the two in this way, creating both dance and writing inspired by music. Enjoy!
Content Warning: Horror themes and images may distress some viewers; simulation suggestive of execution by hanging may be disturbing for some viewers.
The Difference Between Good and Evil
"Who are you to even think you can know the difference between good and evil?" - Joan of Arc by In This Moment.
She dug herself out of the grave. It was a shallow grave, so it took barely any work to haul herself out of the pit they'd thrown her into, the noose still wrapped around her neck. She twirled it once before tossing it aside, leaving a ring around her throat like an ugly, black choker.
How foolish they were, to think rope could slay her.
They'd revered her once, come to her whenever they'd needed something. Sometimes it had been simple herbs or remedies, but occasionally they'd requested something darker: a spurned wife wishing to make her faithless husband impotent, a cheated labourer who wanted to watch his former master crumble, a disinherited son who wanted to rise above his brothers and bask in their envy. They'd all come to her, and she'd given them those things they'd wanted. She had been the supplier, it was true, but the choice to use them had been that of the client alone. She'd warned them, had she not, that there was danger in these things they desired, that it was easy to be black of heart but not so easy to undo the damage such darkness could inflict.
It had been slow, their turning. The wife now doomed to a cold marriage without children, the labourer with no one to employ him, the brother now so unloved his kin had made war against him. They'd been the first to say that fateful word: witch.
And once that word was spoken, there was no going back.
But those fools who beat and burned and hung her, how could they know? That the rope was a temporary stay, that the terrible forms they'd twisted her into were no more than slight discomforts, that she would rise so much more terrible than ever before?
They had not been wrong to call her a witch, but their stakes and their chains, their fire and their noose, would be their end, not hers. She had given them everything they had asked for, and they repaid her with agony and suffering.
And now she fought back. Potions and parlour tricks were one thing, but to think that was all she could do was utter idiocy. A flick of her wrist, a crook of her finger, a look to the heavens and she could bring fire and brimstone raining down upon them. She was fear, she was fire, she was fury, and not even their God could save them now.
"Go ahead blame me for you sins!" - Joan of Arc by In This Moment
Photos: My own; stills from one of my competition prep videos.
Tomorrow night I will be filming my very first competition audition video at PDCS. I will be submitting this video to Pole Divas student competition UNLEASHED. UNLEASHED is open to all current Pole Divas students across Victoria in Beginners, Intermediate, Advanced, Elite and Doubles categories. I will be auditioning for Intermediate, doing a spin/static routine telling the story of a witch rising from the dead! I'm so excited to go along for filming night and also can't wait to see what my incredible Pole Sistas have put together.
Wish me luck!
If you're afraid to fall it means you're prepared to brave the heights from which you might fly.
Me With No Apologies.