Written By: Erin O’Brien
Pole, as both an art form and a sport, is constantly growing and developing and it is breathtaking how high the standard has become – competitors are getting better and better and the distance between them (the difference in their abilities and skill) is getting smaller and smaller.
What, then, will set one apart from the rest? What is the magic ingredient that will give a performer the edge in the eyes of the judges? Of course, a natural talent for dance and performance is an edge in itself but when the playing field is pretty much level, surely there is something that will turn a good routine into a stellar one – our ultimate goal as a performer is to be remembered afterall.
In my opinion, this is when the details make all the difference – the winning is in the details.
You can have an amazing theme, the perfect music, the awe-inspiring costume, the tricks that will cause jaws to drop, but sloppy feet and untidy inverts could very well be your downfall.
It is for this very reason that going back to basics regularly is integral. It might not seem as fun to work on climbs and inverts as it is to work on the latest trick that is trending on instagram, but if you are planning to perform and want to be the best that you can possibly be, then one of your first priorities should be to make sure that the fundamentals, the building blocks, are polished and perfected (as much as anything can be perfected of course, nothing is ever 100% perfect and flaws are what make us human, but setting the goal high helps to achieve our best).
I am sure that I am not the only one who loves seeing straight leg inverts in a routine or pointed toes in climbs; when these details are taken care of then the bigger moves and boom tricks are what the audience and judges can and will concentrate on – your strength and flexibility cannot be fully appreciated if flexed feet (excluding feet that are flexed on purpose as part of the performance), sloppy lines, and untidy inverts and climbs overshadow it.
Naturally, there are different levels and categories in competitions and if you are starting in the beginner category then the level of tricks and spins will not be the same as those in elite – however, there is no reason, no matter which level you are at, that pointed toes and polished climbs cannot make an appearance.
Two other details in a performance or routine, whether you are performing in a competition or a showcase, that I am almost hyper aware of, due to my personal aquiantance with them, are: 1. the dreaded pole face (the name I give the expression that contorts my face while I concentrate – it ain’t pretty) and 2. the lost hand (that pesky hand that you just do not know what to do with during a trick/move).
I cannot count the amount of times I have looked back over a video of my training and cringed at the look on my face – it looks as if I am thinking about something really horrible but I am desperately trying not to let it show and the result is pinched consternation. This definitely is NOT the face to present to an audience. I am sure that there are many people out there who do not have this problem, and I am eternally jealous, but the cold hard truth for me is that I have to concentrate on not concentrating. So much of a performance is about a dancer’s face, it can change the tone and meaning of a routine in the blink of an eye (yes, pun intended) and bring us to tears just as easily, making it an essential detail in creating your masterpiece.
Now for that niggly lost hand: what can I say, this is another quirk that seems to plague me in certain moves, and although I would not wish such things on others, I kind of do hope that there are people like me out there. For example, during Allegra (right hand on the pole) my left hand tends to do its own thing, which ends up being a weird mix of nothingness and floppiness – a description that should never make its way onto a judges comment sheet! The answer? Make sure that, as you are holding a trick (the floppy lost hand does not really become a problem as you are transitioning from one move to another as both your hands are most likely busy), your hand or hands are positioned purposefully instead of being left to their own devices. I should point out that by “positioned purposefully” I do not mean that they have to be rigidly placed in a certain position, but knowing what your hand is doing, even if that happens to be extending gracefully, is a nitty gritty detail that helps to refine and perfect a performance.
So much of our thought processes during routine creation centre on the tricks we want to include, that the details can be lost or forgotten; try not to forge past the minutae, because clean lines and beautiful inverts can make or break a routine – a pointed toe can wow an audience and sway a judge, there is not a training session that goes by that I do not hear my teacher’s voice in my head “POINT YOUR TOES” and I love her for it!
Enjoy the trending moves, try the new spins and flips, but don’t forget – the devil is in the details.
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