Written by Erin O’Brien
Yes, I said it, I am tackling the ever-dreaded other side!
Whether we are referring to pole spins, pole tricks,or flexibility, pole dancers often speak of a “good” side and a “bad side” – our bad side being the side on which we find it a bit harder to perform spins or hold tricks as well as the side that we prefer not to try jade on because it is not our “flexi” side (not to mention the sting that accompanies doing a move on our other side for the first time).
For me, although I am right handed and more flexible on my right side, my stronger or preferred side when I started was my left – something that has made for interesting times indeed.
Fortunately, in the studio I call home, we have, do, and always will, practice everything on both sides, and for the most part I try to refer to my “bad” side as my other side instead – an obvious name for it no doubt but a very important distinction. By labelling our other side our “bad” side perhaps we are already starting at a deficit; we have two sides, this is a fact, but whether they are both good or not is a choice (this is my mantra and I am clinging to it because in no way is it going to be easy to tame the “bad” side but I am going to give it a darn good go).
One of the side effects of having always trained both sides, though, is that I no longer have one side that I prefer; what has happened instead – due to inconsistency on my part – is that I now have specific sides for specific tricks and feel I have created a confusing maze of nonsense for myself.
I can often be found trying to figure out which side I need to invert on in order to have my more flexible side in the correct position for the trick – THIS is what I want, no NEED, to eliminate.
My goal is to be able to do all tricks on all sides. Of course, I am by no means completely delusional and know that this might not be possible for absolutely everything but I’m aiming high nonetheless.
Three of the tricks that I find more difficult, or at least somewhat scary or uncomfortable, on my other side are Superman (preferred side = right), Jade (preferred side = left side invert, right leg flexi) and Cup Grip Handspring (preferred side = left).
I know that the only reason for this imbalance is having successfully and consistently avoided doing them, and since my “good” side was once at the same level as my “not-so-good-but-going-to-be-great-side”, the only way to improve is REPETITION! It might take time, and progress will most likely be small at first, but to quote one of my favourite movies: never give up, never surrender.
It was, after all, not that long ago that I had to face the prospect of perfecting my left side gemini in order to be on the correct side for my more flexible leg to be available for Jade. What started out as tedious and seemingly unending, soon became easier and easier until gemini became a trick I could do well and without thought on both sides.
Being able to do most moves, and especially the fundamentals, on both sides opens up a world of options and allows you to play around with tricks and combos more than you would have before.
I will forever be grateful to my instructor for instilling in me early on the need for both side training (not that I am by any stretch of the imagination 100% rigid in this regard) because there have been benefits from day one: I can clearly remember being in a workshop a few years ago in which the guest instructor insisted on every move being done on both sides – you can imagine how ridiculously relieved I was that the mere thought of this did not send me into a downward spiral of fear and doubt – I knew that I would be fine!
In yet another workshop, we were learning choreography and the instructor taught the entire piece on the right hand side (I have always been left hand dominant in pole even though I am right handed), but instead of hiding in the corner in despair or giving in to panic, I not only learned the routine but I enjoyed every minute.
Now, even after everything I have outlined above, I do not believe it is essential ot be an expert at EVERYTHING on both sides, there will naturally always be something that you prefer on a certain side; however, to be able to do most things on both sides gvies you a huge advantage as well as making sure that you build strength evenly as you train hence achieving a certain level of symmetry.
May the taming of the bad side begin!
(The picture on the left shows what many of my attempts at getting my bad/other side cup grip handspring looked like, and on the right is the look of absolute shock at actually managing to get up there and hold it for more than a fraction of a second! Small steps).
About Erin: Originally from South Africa, lives in Ireland with her husband and two daughters. She is a fitness instructor who teaches spinning part time while using all available other time to immerse herself in her one true passion: everything pole.