When you take a break from something, you inevitably lose some of your skills and have to build up again.
When I went overseas in 2018, I was off pole for a whole month, and when I came back I was Weaky McWeak and it took a couple of weeks to build up my strength again. Most disappointingly I had lost my straddle, and it took about three weeks of working on Beginner Straddles (no legs on the pole, slide to the floor) again before I got them back.
I confess, I was worried about going back to pole, as I wondered what I might have lost, given I've been out of Inter Static since the beginning of September 2019 and had had three weeks off over Christmas due to the Pole Divas Christmas closure.
Term starts on Monday (tomorrow!) and my first class back at Divas is Inter Lyra on Wednesday, before I'm back to Intermediate Static pole and Stretch Tech (here I come, flat split!) on Saturday. I'm also going to be aiming to do practice time at least once a week, to keep my skills sharp. As for competitions, this year I am planning to audition for:
But, enough about comps; those are posts for the future as I begin working on routines.
I had a pole private with Kristy (my everything when it comes to pole!) yesterday, to see where I was at and what I needed to work on moving forward. I was expecting to have similar struggles as to when I came back from my holiday, as the time off was about the same, but I shocked myself when I discovered that I had lost very little strength, and had maintained my muscle memory and coordination.
I was even able to do new tricks that I hadn't been able to do at the of my last term of Intermediate Static in September!
Pole Divas Intermediate Static Mega Combo, Part 1. This is the first half of the mega combo: side split spin, spiral climb, remount, back straddle, back crucifix (layback), aeiral straddle, ballerina (outside leg hang), front crucifix, split hang, remount, scissor sit. Video: My own.
Before I left intermediate static I couldn't split hang from a front crucifix or lift from a back crucifix, and even attempting an aerial straddle was out of the question. As such, I was super proud of how strong I was in the mega combo, and am looking forward to perfecting it when I return to inter next week.
But I surprised myself even more by being able to master new tricks that I had never learned before, which I am so excited to now be able to perfect and (possibly) slide into a routine this year.
This year in pole, my goals are:
So here's to a pole-goal filled 2020!
Before I started pole and lyra, before I even started weights, I used to cycle.
I would do 50km - 100km rides, but I was silly and (to be honest) a little arrogant and didn't train for them as well as I should have done. Combined with my job (I work with children) where I am down on the floor a lot, this led to knee pain (which I stupidly ignored) and then spiked into full blown, permanent damage to my knees, which I have had to live with ever since.
Being the idiot that I was, I pushed back against the idea that I could possibly have 'knee issues' in my twenties, and tried to 'push through'. All that ended up happening was that I found myself on crutches for six weeks, and had to wear braces on my knees for another eight weeks.
That slapped me awake and I started taking more precautions.
Sadly, it also meant the end of my cycling days, but (ironically) it was also what led me to weights and, eventually, to pole and then lyra.
Weights is, perhaps, not so strange, as, with proper precautions, weight training is actually good for the type of injuries I have, but my doctor was not keen on the idea of me doing a sport that involved any time spent on my knees, or that was going to put 'unusual pressure' on them.
On his advice I started wearing knee pads (sticky ones for pole; and padded ones, worn backwards, for hoop) to help brace them and this worked exceptionally well until I moved up to Intermediate Static and started learning what would eventually become my favourite shape: The Ballerina.
Also called an Outside Leg Hang, Ballerina is one of those shapes that can take up to a year to learn and, as you can see above, is a lot of work for the outside knee.
Now, the knee is not the only gripping point in this shape, I've also got side grip and my inside armpit is also sticking me to the pole, but my knee is the main source of stick. If I loosen that knee, or don't hook it hard enough, I'm coming off that pole.
It's also exquisitely painful when you first start learning it.
It's not natural to take your body weight in one knee and hang from a pole, and the injuries I have cause little cracks to run through my kneecaps when they're under pressure. My doctor almost had a fit when a regular x-ray revealed that the cracks had increased in size and I mentioned Ballerinas.
If he'd had his way, I would have been out of the pole studio then and there, but I wasn't gong without a fight. Pole was my happy place, my niche, and - while I didn't yet know what the answer was to dealing with the increasing size of the cracks in my knees - I was certain it wasn't 'stop pole dancing'. After all, if you don't move it, you lose it!
I did this shape hands off for the first time on my birthday in 2018, but it was at least another sixteen weeks before I felt comfortable enough to do it regularly. Unsurprisingly, as I got stronger and more confident, my knees became stronger, and eventually the cracks started healing again. My doctor also came around, but he does constantly stress the importance of taking continuous precautions and making sure that I'm always wearing my knee pads and that I take breaks and stretch when I need to.
Now Ballerina is just a standard shape that pops up in just about everything I do, mostly because I just love it so much! It's one of those classic shapes that never goes out of style.
And then along came lyra.
In lyra, there are knee hangs too, but they're more regular than in pole and, because of the difference in the apparatus, they hurt more and they caused me a whole host of problems. At one point it actually looked like my only option was going to be to stop lyra, as the cracks becoming dangerously long.
Instead, I took a break and went back to weights training and working on spin and static pole, then came back to lyra after Pole Addiction and before Aerial Addiction. I have put it down to the weights I did while I took a break from it, but my body was so much stronger second time around and I had less knee pain and less trouble with cracks.
And today I had my first go at the hoop again for 2020.
One of my goals for 2020 is to be able to pass intermediate lyra by the end of the year. Whether I will actually grade just before a three - four week break remains to be seen, but I want to be ready to grade by the end of the year. So, with Term 1 2020 fast approaching, I scheduled in a private with my lyra instructor to work on my nemesis lyra tricks: hanging straddles, single arm spins and diamond hang, which is a single knee hang on a lyra.
I actually did less work in a lyra and lots of conditioning during the private, but it was great to get some exercises to do at home that will help build up my strength and assist me to get my hanging straddle. A lot of the pull-up conditioning I'm doing at CRUNCH will help with gaining strength for my one-arm spins, but it was my diamond hang progress that I was most pleased with tonight and that caught me off guard.
My diamond hang from my lyra private tonight. Video: My own.
At the end of my last term of lyra, Term 6 2019, I couldn't make this shape: it hurt too much and my knees and hamstrings weren't strong enough. Tonight, however, I was able to do it (on my good side). My instructor is there to spot me, but - even though she does have one hand on my foot - she's not actually exerting any pressure. She's just there in case I don't have enough grip and she needs to grab me quickly to stop me landing on my head. She's holding the hoop to make sure I get a good angle for the camera.
As for my knees, the reason I am able to do all these knee hangs without sustaining further, long-term damage is because I work on strengthening them through my workouts, and I take proper precautions. Gone are the days of dismissing my body's cues and trying to 'push through' pain. I've also learned the difference between 'discomfort pain' and 'pain pain', particularly in my knees, and haven't had any new or expanding cracks for a while!
Sometimes it is easy to take what health professionals say as gospel, and this is certainly not to say you shouldn't listen to their advice, but be realistic about it. If I'd given up pole when my doctor told me to, I would have been unhappy and I doubt my knees would be as strong as they are today. Be prepared to ask for a different opinion or see if you can find ways to mitigate the risk of injury. It's not going to work for everyone, of course, and depending on the nature of any injuries, you may have to stop or pause something for a while. But remember, you know your body best: better than the doctor, better than your coach, better than any health professional you choose to see. Do what is best for you, listen to your body without ego, and you never know where it will take you.
THIS IS ME - SHOWTIME Solo 2019
This is my 2019 SHOWTIME Solo. I do SHOWTIME every year and one of the best parts of the course is getting to create a solo and preform it to my classmates (and half the studio who come to watch) at the end of the course.
This year our theme was Musicals, so all our solos had to be to a song from a stage or screen musical. My favourite musical at the moment of THE GREATEST SHOWMAN (although the real P.T. Barnum was nothing like Hugh Jackman's more open-minded, benevolent portrayal, just FYI) and I love the song THIS IS ME, sung by the cast as they are shut out by someone they thought had accepted them, and decide that, instead of hiding away, they will stand tall and be themselves. It's a very powerful song and one that has always resonated with me.
So I went all out and did it for this year's SHOWTIME.
I'm planning to revamp it and get some professional input before running it again for Pole Addiction 2020, so I see the above as kind of like a first draft. I know I want to include my static combo and the position I call an 'Amazon Split' (see below), but everything else is open to both timing and input from an instructor. There is also a spin combo I meant to do but went totally blank on during the night, so I really want to add that into the Pole Addiction routine, but we'll see what 2020 brings.
Below at the professional photos from my show, taken by the fabulously talented Emily from EMC Photography.
I Make No Apologies, THIS IS ME!
Amazon Split; I am told this is actually a Pegasus variation, however when I learned it my instructor wasn't sure what it was called and, for some reason, this shapes make me think of the Amazon warriors from Ancient Greek mythology. This is another trick I only learned to do confidently about four weeks before SHOWTIME, and I'm so very proud of it. For some context, this trick is taught in Advanced 3 Spin at Pole Divas, and I am in Intermediate Static and (most likely when I go back) Beginner Spin.
I take you back to 2017, my very first year at Pole Divas. The final weeks of term 5, and I was looking at the timetable for Term 6, checking to see if my Saturday morning Beginner Static class was still running, when my eyes lighted on something at the bottom of the timetable.
"What's SHOWTIME?" I asked the receptionist.
"The best course ever," she said. "You learn a group performance for SHOWCASE and you'll each do a solo to be preformed to the class in the last week of term."
It sounded fun to me, but I was worried I might be good enough.
"Is it open to Beginners?" I asked, fully expecting a no.
"Yes," the receptionist told me, "open to all levels. Do you want me to put you down?"
And that is how I found myself doing, for the first time (and every term since) two courses for the term. It was also my very first SHOWTIME, and our theme was Nineties Hits. I can't remember what song our group performance was to, but I remember our costumes all had to have a 'nineties flare' and we all looked stunning and different, but it was so much fun: I went with mesh and denim (which I also wore for my Beginner Static dance, as our costume was white and denim).
Our solos that year also had to be to a nineties song, and my choice was CLOSER by NINE INCH NAILS. I'd only heard it a week or two before I started SHOWTIME, during a Pole Moves class and had liked the choreography. I stole most of it for my solo and only used one pole. However, SHOWTIME was the most fun and, by the time Term 6 rolled around in 2018, I already knew that I was putting my name down.
Diva and Back Straddle from my very first SHOWTIME Solo in 2017. Photos: EMC Photography.
In 2018 our theme was 'Collaborations' and we glammed ourselves up and rocked out to GLAMOROUS by FERGIE feat. LUDACRIS. My abiding memory of 2018 is how much fun we all had with our costumes, going all out to create the best, most glamorous pole wear we could imagine. Our costume rules last year were white, gold and silver, either one or a combination, but white was by far the most popular, although everyone managed to sparkle in some way.
The choices for solo songs that year were also broader, as our song just had to be a collaboration between two or more artists. At the time I had been working on a routine for Pole Addiction 2019 to THIS FEELING by THE CHAINSMOKERS feat. KELSEA BALLERINI, and was anxious to use SHOWTIME as my training ground, so was over the moon to discover that I could use it. You can watch the video of that routine here more about why that particular routine was so special to me (and I did end up doing it for Pole Addiction this year) be clicking here. Once again, it was the most fun I'd had all term (and Term 6 2018 was very stressful for me, because I over stretched myself), and I knew at that moment that SHOWTIME was going to be an annual event for me. So, when it rolled around again this year, my name was on that list.
Hooked back and front crucifixes from SHOWTIME 2018. Photos: EMC Photography.
The thing I love most about SHOWTIME is, every year, it gets better. This year our theme was Musicals and, much to my delight, our dance was to THE GREATEST SHOW from THE GREATEST SHOWMAN. I love this movie and the soundtrack is to die for (although I'm not sure P.T. Barnum actually deserved a highly romanticised musical about his life, but that's a post for another time). Costumes this year were a solid colour each with sparkles, and mine was pink.
I'd actually just been at the pole expo the weekend before and had brought a body suit that worked perfectly. The routine this year featured more tricks than I've done in previous routines (possibly because I'm at a higher level and can do more) and I loved all the short, sharp movements in the dance. I also got to do a small solo, which was great fun and I rememberd to smile the whole way through.
Usually, in pole performances, I am concentrating so hard on my movements and not stuffing the whole dance up that I forget to smile, and so all my photos are of my 'serious concentration face', so it was great to get some amazing pics showing off not just my tricks, but my smile as well.
My solo this year was also my favourite to date, featuring my favourite combo, a beautiful costume I brought with this dance specifically in mind and some of the most beautiful yet advanced tricks I have ever put in a routine yet. Usually, my SHOWTIME routines consist of lots of movement around the pole, and one or two tricks on the actual pole. But most of my routine this year was aerial, i.e. on the pole, and I did more tricks than I knew what to do with.
To me, this (more than anything) shows my growing confidence in pole, more than what level I happen to be in at Divas ever could. SHOWTIME is always my favourite end of year reflection moment, because I really get to see how far I have come. So here's to progress, not perfection; here's to slow and steady; here's to good form; and here's to another wonderful term of SHOWTIME. Let's see what magic we will create next year with SHOWTIME 2020.
The problem with SHOWCASE is that, in the lead-up, everything is RUSH RUSH RUSH and it always feels like you're never gong to be ready.
Then you wait... and wait... and wait to get up on stage, biting your nails and making last minute alternations to your costume and make-up...
And then, two and a half minutes later, it's over.
Sometimes it feels almost anti-climatic, to be honest.
I got smart this year and restricted myself to do dances. I did five in 2018 and it was just too much: I was stressed, sore, exhausted, and didn't enjoy any of them. Two was a good number, although I am thinking of doing three in 2020, but let's see how I go. Certainly, I will never, ever again do five dances (until the day I become an instructor and get to dance with my students #tenyeargoals) and it was nice this year being able to put my energies into just two dances, rather than spreading myself so thin.
However, SHOWCASE this year was not without it's bumps and I very nearly pulled out of my hoop dance just two days before the show. I had some issues with this dance and really, really, REALLY didn't like (and still don't like) the song, and the dance really did nothing for me either, it just wasn't my style of movement. I'd been looking forward to doing a bit of a sexier hoop number to Justin Timberlake's 'Sexy Back', but a change of classes in Week 3 due to a booking mix-up saw me having to learn the new dance. I've rehashed my feelings over this so many times, but I just did not want to do this dance and would probably have pulled out of it were it not for the support and encouragement of my friend, mentor, instructor and PADCS studio owner, who helped me get some perspective on my negativity towards this dance. It also helped that I'd already sorted out my costume (which I actually loved, it was my favourite costume of the night and of any Showcase to date) and I knew that Emily from EMC Photography would be there and I love seeing the images she captures during SHOWCASE. She has never taken a photo of me performing that I haven't loved, and I really wanted some shots of me, in the hoop, in my amazing costume.
And the photos I got were absolutely sensational!
Furthermore, to be surprise, I actually really enjoyed the dance when I was up on stage. I still hated the song (so pleased that I never, ever have to listen to that song again!) but I found I could move well and enjoyed the thrill of the performance enough to be able to dance to the counts and not listen to the music.
All above photos by EMC Photography.
I was also quite lucky with my hoop show, because my father was sitting right up the front and in the centre, so he got a great video for me, from which I was able to grab some fantastic screenshots.
All above images are my own.
After hoop I had an almost two hour break, before I had to come back for my pole performance: SHOWTIME. I have done SHOWTIME every year since I started dancing at PADCS (back when it was just PDCS), but this year was my favourite. SHOWTIME is the finale of the show, a group performance done to a theme, fully choreographed and learned over roughly six weeks. This year the theme was Musicals, and we did our dance (very aptly) to THE GREATEST SHOW my The Greatest Showman. My father took a video of this routine too, but he wasn't in as good-a-possy as he got last time, so I had to wait for professional photos to come out but, once again, Emily didn't disappoint and they look amazing.
All photos above taken by EMC Photography.
This year's SHOWCASE also come with a surprise for me: I won the Dedicated Diva award for 100% attendance, and there is a free pair of shoes coming my way in 2020.
So, another SHOWCASE has wrapped for the year and PADCS is currently closed for summer, with classes starting again in mid-Jan. Next year I will be continuing for Intermediate Lyra and returning to Intermediate Static Pole after a two-term break to deal with a training plateau. Hopefully next year I'll remember to blog here a little more than I have this year (opps) but remember you can always keep up with me on Facebook or Instagram. No matter how quiet I am out here, social media is always running.
The Pole and Aerial Divas Ninja Challenge began on Monday. This challenges involves taking on 4 classes a week for 4 weeks, focusing on strength, dance, flex or a combination of the above.
This is my first Ninja Challenge and I'm super pumped to be putting myself out there. My focus is STRENGTH, particularly in lyra, while continuing my progress with my splits. For the next four weeks I will be taking the following classes:
Inter Lyra and Inversion are two 8-week courses I have been doing since the start of term, while Aerial Condition and Stretch Tech are casuals I will be taking up for the next four weeks (at least) for the challenge. My two major goals for this challenge are:
I'm bring my #wintersoldierdetermination to Pole and Aerial Divas Caroline Springs! Are you ready? Let's NINJA!
P.S. You can fellow all the progress myself and my fellow Ninja Divas are making by following #divaschallenge on Instagram.
I am so excited to announce that I won the PADCS Photo Challenge for week two!
Happy as I am to have won, I can also honestly say that I have enjoyed this challenge just for the sake of it. It's always wonderful to explore how far you've come, who you look up to and where you're at, and this challenge has enabled me to look at my pole and hoop journey in a way that I never have before.
At the beginning of this term I was feeling seriously disenchanted with my pole journey in particular. I'd hit a plateau in Intermediate and felt utterly and completely stuck. My decision to take a break for Inter Static and do Inversion Therapy instead was as much a mental health choice as wanting to try something new, as I didn't want to do Inter Static anymore and the thought of going through another term of zero progress made me sad.
But Inversion Therapy and the PADCS Photo Challenge have given me new heart and, once I have finished this term of Inversion Therapy, I think I will be ready to go back to Inter Static and have another crack. I was talking to a Diva recently who told me she spent four years in Intermediate, and I also know from talking to my fabulous mentors in everything, Pat and Hilal, that plateaus in training are normal and that switching it up and giving your body something new to work on is a good way to break the monotony and re-energise.
Looking forward to sharing this week's progress, and remember to check out my Instagram @barbelldancer for all things pole and aerials, or follow me on Facebook.
Wednesday: A photo of my pole/hoop idol or bestie.
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Stay tuned for what's coming next week in the PADCS Photo Challenge!
- Wednesday: #wcw - a pole or hoop idol/bestie.
- Thursday: #tbt - an oldie but a goodie or your beginner pole or hoop days.
- Sunday: #sundayfunday - something new you learned in class this week.
I've been having a lot of fun participating on Instagram, so I thought I'd come and share the fun over here as well, and on my Facebook page. Rather than trying to do it over the three days like on Instagram, I will post the content of all three posts at the end of each week in September, so you can check it out.
If you're afraid to fall it means you're prepared to brave the heights from which you might fly.
Me With No Apologies.
Broken Ballerina Studio
Upside Down Trick