Sins I’ve committed while preparing for showcases, and how they’ve made me a better Pole dancer

OMG! I love Desiree Galvez Photography! She caught a great shot of my foot slide.

OMG! I love Desiree Galvez Photography! She caught a great shot of my foot slide.

Yes, I generally try to practice what I preach as a registered dietitian and certified fitness trainer. I eat my fruits and vegetables, get (well…close to) enough sleep, get regular physical activity, yadayadayada.

But I am guilty of some cardinal sins, too, especially when showcase time comes around. Here they are, in no particular order:

1) Rehearse?: When I first started pole dancing, I felt like I needed to practice everything over and over again. I’m a self-admitted perfectionist with a dash of OCD, and a pinch of anxiety mixed in. I like to know exactly what’s going to happen and when (and to what type of musical beat). So for the first showcase I ever did, I agonized over choreography. I ran through it again and again. When I wasn’t happy with my OWN choreography, I hired Mel to help me for literally HOURS on the day of the show. I broke my toe while practicing, and STILL PERFORMED (in heels). You’ll read more about that sin later.

Anyhoo, I am SO not the same person that I was back then (well, when it comes to Pole). Now, IF I choreograph, it mostly consists of listening to my song (admittedly hundreds of times) and running through the dance in my head. I’ve read studies that say this action builds muscle memory; I’ll take whatever justification I need, so sure. That’s why I do it. I leave vastly blank spots in my song because I want to allow space for the moves I learn the week before the show. I’ve run through my entire routine! Once. At dress rehearsal. And I forgot a part.

But this makes me a better pole dancer. Why? It takes away the power of anxiety. I am absolutely not advocating this method as the best one for a first or second time performer. And I know that this style of preparation would not be good for everybody. But it’s perfect for me. If I don’t over think it, then I HAVE to be OK with not having a ton of control over it. And it pays off! Compliments I’ve received for performances are inversely proportional to the amount of time I spend physically running through a routine. In other words: the less I practice, the better I do.

Case in point: my 100% improv performance at VF’s one year anniversary to “The Beautiful People” by Marilyn Manson. I had two people tell me that night that it was the best they’d ever seen me do. And when I watch that performance, I kinda have to agree! I just let go, had fun, and did what came naturally.

2) It doesn’t hurt that bad: Oh, I am NOT saying that this one is good. And I do NOT think you should try this at home. But I feel that my personal examples have been helpful for me.

If I have an injury that doesn’t force a quick intake of breath when I disturb it, I still dance. And I definitely perform. I am careful and cautious; I consult my doctor and take the necessary safety precautions. I risk being a little bit hurt for a little bit longer, but why? Because the mental benefit I get from Pole outweighs all mild to moderate physical discomfort. Here’s a rundown of my limits.

-Broken toe: Yes, I literally snapped the second toe on my right foot the morning of my first showcase. (Back when Mel ran VF classes in her basement). I went to pop up from the ground, caught my freakishly long second toe (thanks Dad for the genetic boost), and felt (and heard) a snap. I thought I’d dislocated it, so I sat on the X Stage and yanked on it for 20 minutes. Then I iced it. Then I walked. Then I danced. I found that the pain was minimized when I wore 5-inch heeled boots.

-Strained shoulder: I’m careful with this one. I nurse it in the weight room by performing recuperative moves. I ice if needed. I am more cautious with that side. And if it gets worse during Pole, I take a 1-2 week break.

-Dislocated rib: This one put me down. I’ve experienced very few things more painful. When I first started Pole, I hit it hard and got really strong, really fast. My weak-sided rhomboids clenched onto my rib where it connects to my spine in order to gain leverage. Muscles tightened, and THUNK. Instant super pain!!!!  A physical therapist and A LOT of time cleared that one up. I had to take an almost month-long break from Pole, then I had to be super careful with it for another two months.

3) I sweat it out on the day of the show…then don’t shower!: Eeewww…I hate even writing that! This one is a new discovery. I realized that when I ran on a Sunday morning, then cleaned my house, did errands, etc all day long, and ended with a pole class, I performed monumentally better. Why? Stickiness! Sweat leaves a special kind of salty sheen all over your body that works like wonderful glue on the pole. This one is still tough (heightened performance aside), because I am really skeeved out when I feel filthy. But it’s worth the ickiness for the trade off I get in ability. And, I suppose it’s really all of you who have to suffer, sooooo…I’ll put on some extra deoderent for you.

4) Accept no rules and follow all instincts: While performing my own aforementioned version of “choreography”, I also fantasize about what I might do on stage. This includes tricks, but I am surprisingly good at keeping my fantasies in line with my abilities for those (it took a few performances to find that balance, though). I’m talking about details. I think up things on a whim that I feel would kick ass. Many of them are things that would make normal people afraid of being laughed offstage. But I don’t typically go there; if it makes me smile, cringe, grin, or feel intrigued, then it usually ends up in the performance. Hence my Silly String bit during “Cherry Lips”, or my overtly sexy floor work during “Kickstarts”, or my up-and-coming dart gun bit during “Bad to the Bone”. In some ways, I want to shock people, but mostly I want to get them paying attention while they’re being entertained.

5) Depend on the power of pasties: It is not without its risks. But it makes Butterfly a little bit more secure.

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