Videography: EMC Photography
Trick Technique: 19/30
Trick Level of Difficulty: 19/30
Showmanship and Connection: 21/30
Total Score: 119/180
Judge One: Work on softness through dance movements, watch toes in transitions and mounts, great character and lovely costume.
Judge Two: Amazing audience connection Jewels, stunning emotion, this really came across so well, I have tears in my eyes. Incredible costume, loved the theme, you're an angel, I loved this, well done, you should be so proud.
Judge Three: Transitions are sooo smooth, and you looked like an angel from start to finish. Beautiful lines but remember to point your feet at ALL times :)
My thoughts: I'm super pleased with my scores for showmanship and concept, as these are areas where I usually score quite low in pole competitions, so I'm pleased that I didn't have the same trouble in lyra. I was quite annoyed at myself after my show as I forgot to point my toes and messed up one transition, although these were minor technical mistakes and the crowd still seemed to enjoy my show. Overall, I had fun on the night and I'm proud of myself for getting up on stage and giving it my all. This routine is particularly special to me, as I had only been doing lyra for roughly twenty weeks in total (with one eight week break in between terms) before I put this routine together. I had been doing pole for more than a YEAR before I was brave enough to put my hand up for my first competition, so this is a huge improvement for me.
Content warning: Religious themes
Professional photos from Aerial Addiction are in!
These pictures of my performance were taken by the amazingly talented Emily from EMC Photography, as were all the backstage pics. The professional video of my performance is coming soon.
Aerial Addiction 2019: Barbell Dancer
Song: 'Something in the Water' - Carrie Underwood
Costume: Alicia Joan Designs
Hair and Make-up: Y. Tacay
Choreography: My own, with input from my lyra coach, Risako.
Concept: My own
Backstage Antics at PADCS Aerial Addiction
Some close-ups, back and front, of my Aerial Addiction costume. The flower halo was designed by Alicia Joan Designs, and she also bedazzled my top and added roses and sparkles to my wings. Of all the performances I've done, this costume would have to have been my favourite.
Yesterday morning I awoke to a surprise: some of my #hashtags on Instagram had been shadow banned.
I was more than a little confused, as these are hashtags I have been using for over a year and all were very common in Instagram's pole dance community. From the system used to identify our tricks (e.g. #pdbutterfly) to popular apparel brands (e.g. #rarrdesigns) to even our fun on Sundays (#sundaybumday) the list of shadow-banned hashtags was long as my arm.
And I wasn't the only one affected. On many of the pole accounts I followed, they had encountered the same problems. There was a lot of anger, confusion and discord: why had we suddenly been banned?
As usual, Instagram (like most major tech companies) refused to elaborate beyond 'this content violates our user policies' and the general feeling among the Insta Pole community was that we'd been targeted.
Many in the pole community immediately swung into action, demanding the return of our popular #hashtags and going through Instagram's policies with a fine-toothed comb to prove that the majority of our community was not in violation of their community guidelines. A petition was even started on Change.org calling on Instagram to Please Stop Censoring Pole Dance.
But I haven't signed it.
Undoubtedly that will be a surprise to many of you, but what happened (literally) overnight is bigger than the pole community's Instagram #hashtags and I think the petition, while started with good intentions, misses a very valuable point and many of the actions online demanding the return of our #hashtags risk creating a very real division in our community, one that is already widening dangerously and needs to be checked.
I am speaking, of course, of the supposed "difference" between those who pole dance primarily for sport and fitness, and those who are employed as pole dancers and/or strippers in clubs.
Those of us who pole dance for sport come from a place of privilege when discussing pole dancing, why we do it and why we love it. It's a trap I fell into in my early days of pole, feeling the need to justify that 'I pole dance but don't strip', as if I was somehow better than the women who did. But it's a trap the pole-fitness community needs to find a way out of and start avoiding all together, because it's doing nothing good for pole dance as a whole.
As a sport, pole dance is relatively new (some even still consider it fringe) but dancers and strippers have been working as entertainers in clubs for decades longer than pole has been available mainstream. They paved the way for us! When we dismiss them, when we say 'I don't strip!' or try and draw a line between ourselves and the strippers and entertainers of the pole dance community, we are not only participating in sex-shaming, moralising and the policing of an already marginalised and stigmatised workforce, but we are dividing the very community we so love! We should be standing with our stripper sisters, demanding protections for them and others in the sex and adult entertainment industry, including sex workers. If they hadn't brought it out of the clubs and taught it to us, we wouldn't be here right now.
The pole-fitness community seems to have forgotten its roots and the Change.org petition to Instagram asking for the return of our #hashtags enforces this view, opening with the following paragraphs:
For hundreds of thousands of people worldwide, pole dance is a mainstream fitness activity. Pole athletes, dancers, performers, instructors, entrepreneurs and amateur enthusiasts use Instagram daily to connect, share expertise, train and inspire. We have uploaded millions of videos and pictures. We carefully hashtag our tricks, training and dance flows to learn and progress, and cheer each other on as a passionate, supportive and diverse community.
This is true, however it excludes a vast section of the pole community who also use Instagram, and a little digging would have yielded the 'explanation' (and it's a terrible one!) of why our hashtags were suddenly banned overnight.
The answer is two pieces of legislation signed into law in the United States yesterday: FOSTA and SESTA. FOSTA (Fight Online Sex Trafficking) and SESTA (Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act) sound great on paper. They provide a loophole for the "Safe Harbour" provision, which states that no website shall be responsible for content posted by its users, in regards to services which advertise sex trafficking or prostitution. These provisions, according to the bills proponents, will make it easier for law enforcement to police these sites and mean that victims of online trafficking who were prostituted over the internet will be able to sue the websites that were complicit in their victimisation.
There's just one problem with the legislation: it doesn't make a distinction between the heinous, inexcusable crime of human trafficking/sex-slavery and those sex-workers who use online platforms to run their business and offer their services.
Whatever your feelings are towards sex-work and sex-workers, it is a valid and legitimate industry that has been stigmatised, marginalised and, in many cases, criminalised, and subject to horrible stereotypes. Dancers in clubs are often characterised as desperate, single-mums who can't find other work, while sex-workers are assumed to be junkies selling their bodies for their next hit.
I'm not claiming that there isn't exploitation going on in the sex industry or that the internet hasn't been used to facilitate illegal sex-trafficking - both of these things are most certainly real, pressing issues! But FOSTA/SESTA is going to do nothing to stop sex-trafficking and, in the process, is going to make is harder and more dangerous for adult sex-workers to solicit clientele safely. The internet allows sex-workers to connect like never before, to share information and blacklists with each other, maintaining networks and working to keep each other safe from potential predators. Sex-workers face violence regularly, but unlike other industries where providers are at risk of assault (health-care, emergency services, customer service etc.) there is very little support for sex-workers who are assaulted, or to pursue justice against those who harm them. Reports of violence against sex-workers are often not taken seriously by law-enforcement or the courts, so it is left up to the workers to protect themselves and others from violent clients. In no other industry is that an acceptable norm!
Now, because of FOSTA/SESTA, those sites that adult sex-workers use are likely to be blocked or taken down, as the providers grapple with the risk of being sued or prosecuted for content posted by users. Now, I'm all for providers being accountable for allowing the solicitation of illegal activity or failing to remove broadcasts of violent events (Facebook's lack of response during the Christchurch massacre looms large in my mind) but these laws go further than that and target legal, consensual, adult activity under the same umbrella as the illegal and abhorrent practice of human trafficking and sex-slavery. Even in places where sex work is illegal (as it is in many states of the US), this bill will cause more hurt than help, as it will drive the industry even further underground.
So, what does FOSTA/SESTA have to do with Instagram's #hashtag ban? It's simple: because these acts don't distinguish between consensual sex-work, including stripping and adult entertainment, and non-consensual sex-slavery and trafficking, Instagram (like many other sites) has taken a blanket-ban approach to protect itself from possible litigation or prosecution. Those of us who pole dance for sport and fitness are simply collateral damage.
Now, that is of itself isn't right and I'm certainly not happy that Instagram has effectively banned one of the pole community's most popular ways of connecting with each other, but I'm equally disappointed that the community is focusing on a single symptom, rather than fighting the cause. If we are serious about destigmatising and legitimising pole dance, then we must include all pole dancers - those who dance for sport, those who dance for employment, and those who work within the sex and adult entertainment industry. In the current climate we must do away with the idea of 'us and them' because we are all affected by FOSTA/SESTA, which is nothing more than a cleverly disguised attempt for the men in power to keep doing what they have always done: police women's bodies, sex-shame women into compliance, and moralise the world according to their values.
AND IT'S WORKING!
Instagram's #hashtag ban is a mere symptom of a broader problem. Pole dancers angry about having their #hashtags shadow-banned should be putting their energies into fighting against FOSTA/SESTA; we should be demanding that sex-work be legalised and properly regulated, with avenues for workers to keep themselves safe at work and laws to protect them from harm and prosecute those who perpetrate it. We should be standing alongside our stripper sisters, who paved the way for our community for grow, and who work just as hard, train just as often and enjoy their dancing just as much as we do. Their work, and the work of consensual, adult sex-workers around the world, is legitimate and only by uniting as a whole community and fighting against the broader issue of the stigma and criminalisation of women's bodies can we truly move forward. If you fight the symptom of disease, you may experience temporary relief, but if you attack the cause, you will stay well. If we simply attack the one aspect of FOSTA/SESTA and the climate that it represents, we create a divided community, an us and them mentality, and any small gains will be outweighed by broader loss. But if we attack the cause, then all pole dancers, along sex-workers and others who opened the doors to our sport, will be able to stand proud, without censorship or shame.
As far as I'm concerned, that seems something more worth fighting for than a few #hashtags.
You can read more about FOSTA/SESTA, what is was intended to do, what it will actually do and why it's a major problem by clicking here.
Yesterday I had the honour of competing in Pole and Aerial Divas Caroline Springs first ever Aerial Addiction. Aerial Divas has only been open at Caroline Springs for seven months and most of the competitors only started in January this year (although some had been hooping at other studios prior).
The show opened with an incredible performance by instructor Amelia, then I was the first student performer to walk out onto the stage. I actually can't complain about this, as it meant everything I did was new for the audience, they were all fresh in their seats, excited and I got lots of cheers and claps. I was also lucky enough to meet one of my hoop idols @rachokun, who had come to from Aerial Divas Richmond to see the Caroline Springs Divas compete. Also in the audience were my parents and my coach Risako, without whose ideas and support my Aerial Addiction routine would have never been born, was judging. A few friend who couldn't make the show were also watching the live stream at home on Facebook.
I won't go into great detail about my routine; I didn't win, but Wildcards for Airbourne (Aerial Unleashed) will be announced next Monday, so I do still have a chance of going to the big competition and, if I'm lucky enough to grace that stage, I don't want to give anything away. Also, I have got the professional photos from yesterday yet (although I got some great screengrabs for a video a friend took), but when I do I will certainly post those, along with the professional video.
What I will tell you is that I danced to a gospel song sung by Carrie Underwood and went all out with my costume, dressing up as a sparkly angel complete with wings and a flower halo. I have to give a massive shout-out to Alicia from Alicia Joan Designs who created my halo, and who also bedazzled my costume and added flowers and sparkles to my wings. My hair and make-up for the day was done by the fabulous Yeliz, who not only made me look incredible, but also stuck that crown hard on my head and, even when I accidentally banged into the hoop and hung upside down, it didn't come off.
Thank you Divas for making my first Aerial Addiction so special and congratulations to the winners! Best of luck to all others waiting for Wildcard announcements for Airbourne.
"Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will" - Suzy Kassem
Back in February, when I started lyra at Pole and Aerial Divas Caroline Springs, there was a little voice in the back of my head that said, 'Jewels, what are you doing?!'
The voice's problem: I am terrified of heights and don't like being in/on anything that moves fast, goes upside down, or spins.
Lyras are high, they spin, they bounce, they go pretty damn fast if you kick off too hard and, by necessity, to mount a lyra and do any tricks in the actual hoop, you have to go upside down.
Maybe that little voice had a point!
Nevertheless, I went to class.
Weeks one and two of Beginner Lyra were not so scary, all the tricks were spins done under the hoop, and the few upside down tricks we did were similar enough to pole tricks that I felt confident and able to do them, and I never had to let go with my hands.
Lyra and pole straddles side by side for comparison purposes. We do learn to straddle in Beginner Lyra, but it's not graded (it does from part of the graded syllabus for Intermediate Lyra); in pole, you need to be able to straddle without your feet touching the pole and slide all the way to the floor holding the position to be able to pass Beginner Static. The position is similar enough that I felt confident doing it in lyra, despite being upside down on a swinging, spinning apparatus.
Then along came week three! To everyone's excitement, our instructor announced that, from now on, we would be doing tricks in the hoop. I thought this sounded fun, although did wonder, with a little uneasy squirm of my stomach, how we were supposed to get up into the hoop, given how high it is off the ground. At least with a pole, you know that, to get to the top, you have to climb it, and most tricks can be done at ground level until you're ready to take them aerially. But I could see no way to climb the lyra and then the instructor said 'Watch here, this is how we mount'.
It consisted of hanging upside down and using pure momentum to kick yourself up into the lyra, briefly letting go with your hands on each kick to slide them higher.
I was quite ready to nope on out of there!
Single Knee Mount example. I can now execute this move confidently (but still working on keeping my legs straight and toes pointed), although it terrified the hell out of me when I first learned it! Video: My own.
For pretty much my entire first term of lyra I did all the tricks, every single one of them, in a lowered hoop that I could step into, unless we were spinning underneath the hoop. I was too afraid to mount, and the rare occasions I did try and managed to get into the hoop, I tended to freeze once I was up there and it would take my instructor several minutes to coax me down, and assure me that I was very unlikely to fall, because all my grips were correct and, as long as I didn't let go (which was not going to happen in a million years, I tell you!), I would be fine.
By the end of term one I could mount, but my fear had progressed by then to a trick called 'Lady in the Moon' (ironically, this is now one of my favourite tricks from Beginners and I think it just looks so pretty - I'm doing it in the picture on the page header). What terrified me about Lady in the Moon was two things: 1) you have to hook one leg around the hoop, which means lifting and turning your body slightly to get your leg through to the other side, and 2) to do it properly you have to take your hands off! You hook with one elbow and let the other hand hang down. It was this trick that held me back in Beginners, as I could not confidently transition into it without my instructor talking me through it step by step, although the rest of the combo was fun and I could move through the tricks easily.
Due to the demands of Pole Addiction, I couldn't do lyra in Term 2, however I came back in Term 3 with the hope of passing Beginners by the end of the year.
And then, within the eight week term, I had done it.
Nothing had changed: the course syllabus was still the same, the tricks were still the same, the hoops were still (terrifyingly) high, and yet I felt like a new woman.
However, despite loving Term 3 and accepting that I had passed, I really, really, really did not want to go up to Intermediate.
My reason: I remembered what it felt like to go from Beginner to Intermediate in pole and I didn't like the thought of making that massive jump (think leaping over a 50-foot-wide chasm filled with lava and inhabited by lava-resistant, man-eating piranhas) in hoop. It wasn't so much the thought of learning new tricks that frightened me, but the fact that many of these tricks would involve position in the hoop that were not conducive to hanging on with my hands and, despite all my success in Beginners, I still don't like positions where I'm expected to go 'hands off' in a hoop.
On a pole? Sure, I'll hang upside down by my legs with my arms, I'll even hang with just one leg: Ballerina is one of my favourite shapes on a pole. But there is something about not holding on in hoop that just makes it terrifying for me.
'Man in the Moon', as shown in the photo above, is a trick from the intermediate lyra syllabus at Aerial Divas, and involves not only letting go with the hands (although I was not able to do that bar for a few seconds in the low hoop last night), but also relies on gripping with the soles of the feet and pressing the shoulder blades into the back of the hoop for dear life. It terrified me the way 'Lady in the Moon' did during Beginners, yet something must have changed, because instead of refusing to try it (like I did initially with Lady in the Moon and other tricks from Beginners I was afraid of), I just hopped out of my high hoop, went over to the low hoop and took my time with it, moving at my own pace.
Perhaps I'm getting braver, perhaps I'm getting stronger, or perhaps I'm just more aware that there is a difference between something I actually, physically can't do, something I can learn to do, and something I am afraid to do. I am afraid of heights, and afraid of falling out of the hoop, but there's no trick in the syllabus that I can't do - I just have to learn them first.
This quote really sums it up for me. If I continue to water my fear, I will keep being afraid; if I water my desire to learn, I will surpass the fear.
Videography by EMC Photography.
Music: 'This Feeling' by the Chainsmokers feat. Kelsea Bellerini
Click here to read about why this dance was so special and what it meant to me.
Tricks (Technique): 21/30
Tricks (Level of Difficulty): 22/30
TOTAL SCORE: 131/180
Judge One: Clean tricks, well done! Great energy throughout. Smile more throughout the routine and watch feet in transitions. Great job!
Judge Two: Great show and commitment. Watch your toes in pole trick transitions, awesome spin combo, you look so joyful.
Judge Three: Great use of your prop.
Sunday, 28 April AEST was Caroline Springs Pole Addiction, the annual in-house studio competition that allows the divas across the studios to get a taste for the stage. This year there was a slight change to the competition and it doubled as heats for UNLEASHED, with division winners getting automatic entry into Pole Divas most anticipated event of the year.
This was my second year competing in Pole Addiction, Intermediate Division, and, while I haven't won a sashie yet, I was super proud of my routine. It was a heavily modified version of the routine I worked on for last year's Showtime solo. My amazing instructor and Pole and Aerial Divas Caroline Springs studio owner Kristy gave me some one on one assistance to get it looking all shiny and clean, throwing in all sorts of tricks along the way.
I purchased a professional video of my performance and have received it, however I'm not posting it yet and I'll tell you why.
While I didn't win, all entries to Pole Addiction go into a Wildcard draw for UNLEASHED, so I still have a chance. I'm not expecting to get in, but if I do get a Wildcard entry I want to keep my special routine as much of a surprise as possible. Wildcards are announced on Monday, so you'll know them if you will be seeing my video before June. I'll probably do what I did last year and wait to get my score and feedback from the judges, and post the video alongside those.
But, even though I'm not sharing the video yet, I'm putting up the photos for all to see. There is a major story behind this routine, which will be revealed when I post the video, but there's clues throughout the photos and anyone who has seen any version of this routine may have already picked up the story I am telling. All will be revealed within the next few months.
This Feeling: Pole Addiction 2019
Unless otherwise stated, all photos were taken by the supremely talented Emily from EMC Photography. The song lyrics quoted are from 'This Feeling' by The Chainsmokers.
Nothing beats Pole Addiction!
Thanks to everyone who made it so amazing!
Yesterday was my birthday and, as my birthday present to myself, I booked in for a Roller Pole workshop today. Since watching my amazing instructor/mentor/friend/Best-Pole-Divas-Studio-Owner-In-The-World-Kristy Lee win Elite Survivor 2017 with her amazing roller pole routine, I've been curious to try it out and see how it works.
Kristy Lee - Survivor Elite Champion Routine. Video: YouTube
Now, I had no doubt that I would not be doing any of the things Kristy does in this routine, because Kristy is much stronger than I am and has been poling for a long longer, but I was interested to see what the basics of roller pole were and how it worked. So I rolled up to the workshop this morning full of nervous anticipation, excited but expecting to be challenged by the content and hoping to have a good time over all.
But, for the first time ever at Pole Divas, I found I didn't enjoy the workshop and I actually would neither do it again NOR recommend it to anyone else. Now, before you think I'm just being sad and sore because I fell down (I didn't) or because I found it too hard (it was hard, but the challenge was not what put me off) let me explain what it was that really turned me off ever attempting or participating in roller pole again.
The lack of assistance or feedback from the instructor.
Today's workshop was run by a guest instructor, who is obviously very passionate about roller pole and wants to share it with the world, but it became very apparent shortly after the warm-up, once she had taught us how to do the spins on the skates, that she was either not interested in helping struggling students or wasn't sure how to engage with those of us who were having difficulty. Much of her time was spent with those students who had picked up the tricks in the first few rotations and wanted more challenging additions or combos.
Now, of course, a good instructor will spend time with the students who had doing well and give them extra challenges, but struggling students have just as much right to an instructor's time and energy. We've paid just as much, we want to be there just as much, we'd like to learn. Certainly, today, I would have liked to learn and would have liked some help to do so, but the instructor's focus was entirely on those students who could already do it and wanted more, and the few times she did come over to me, it was simply to skate by and say 'Good job!' before disappearing off to the higher level students again.
If I was doing a good job it certainly didn't feel like it and she didn't explain to me what I was doing well either. Perhaps it's simply because I'm used to Pole Divas instructors, who take the time to help each student - high achievers and those just starting out - but this style of teaching, of leaving beginners to their own devices, didn't suit me and I would be reluctant to attend any workshop on any subject, roller pole or otherwise, run by this instructor.
Others may not have felt this way about the workshop or the instructor and that's OK (we're all different), but I didn't enjoy myself over all at roller pole and felt ignored. I respect that it is hard, within an hour and a half, to spend the time you would like to with each student, but there comes a point where you have to let the higher level dancers do their own thing and give the beginners some time as well. Saying 'Good job!' without telling us what we're doing right doesn't give us anything to work with and so there's nowhere to go with that.
However, with that said, I did manage to get a few things right today, mostly spins, and it was interesting getting a taste of something new. I also don't believe that the instructor deliberately set out to ignore the beginners, but her style of teaching didn't sit well with me (perhaps because I'm used to Pole Divas instructors who are all so amazing and give their time equally). You can see a couple of my better spins on @barbelldancer, but I certainly mean it when I write #neveragain and #oncewasenough.
Roller pole is not for me, and today's instructor was definitely not someone whose teaching style was effective for me. I do sincerely hope that many of the others in the workshop today enjoyed themselves and had a great time and I hope that PADCS gained something from having this workshop today as well. It didn't work for me, but that doesn't mean I want it to have gone badly for others either.
On Saturday I took a Pole Acro and Handstands workshop for the first time. I'd always been curious about this mysterious element of pole and I've seen more than a few of my friends from Pole Divas engage in some awesome hand and elbow stands, so I decided I'd give it a go myself.
It was one of the hardest things I've ever done in my life!
Acro is pretty much all core and (confession) my core ain't that strong at the moment. Because it is pole acro, all the holds are pole-assisted, and once I got up into my elbow stands (handstands were too scary for me) I was alright. Stag legs defeated me, but I did a really pretty fang and some lovely holds with pointed toes. Kristy also had us do some cool doubles tricks and practice forwards and backwards rolls.
All the doubles fun in acro yesterday! Photos: My own
As we were doing forwards and backwards rolls, I had a moment of wondering why the hell I'd decided to do this workshop, as two of my biggest fears are being upside down and going backwards... and but it's very nature, pole acro consists primarily of being upside down and going backwards!
But then I realised that the fact that I was in the acro workshop at all was a testament to my courage. I knew that acro would involve being upside down in strange positions - my forearms have bruises and my shoulders ache from my elbow stands - but I still chose to go. I knew that part of acro would be floor transitions such as rolls, which I have never liked, and I still chose to go. And I chose to try everything, even the terrifying handstands, which I couldn't hold without Kristy, so there are no photos.
And, the most important part, I had fun!
Even though it was scary, challenging, I have aches all over (cryo tomorrow, methinks) I really enjoyed myself. I couldn't kick up into an elbow stand on my own, so Kristy helped me to get up, but I got into all of these positions on my own once I was up there and managed to hold them. In fact, I quite liked the elbow stands and you will be seeing some in my upcoming routine for Pole Addiction. You will also be seeing the Fang again; I love this shape!
If you're afraid to fall it means you're prepared to brave the heights from which you might fly.
Me With No Apologies.