Catchy title huh? I know, but it does summarise the themes of this blog. Bear with me I promise it will get more interesting.
I was inspired to write this after seeing a post and conversation thread on Pole Freaks Pole Chat Facebook page. Janine Swart Grapendaal started pole in her posted about how she is progressing, but when she sees other who started after her, how she cannot help compare herself to them, especially when they appear to be progressing faster than she did.
So Janine posed the question “At what point do you call yourself a poler or a pole dancer?”
I fully empathise with this woman. I too started pole in my 30’s, just a couple of weeks before my 31st birthday, which means in October this year I will have been pole dancing 8 years. I also didn’t have a dance or gymnastic background. I’d done a couple a dancercise classes at my local gym, but I had shitty co-ordination and struggled to get a grapevine –which I believe is a sequence of steps invented by the devil to make the unco-ordinated amongst us feel even more lacking. It doesn’t help that I still have issues with differentiating between my left and right (which is even more sucky when you’re upside down on a pole). So I feel for her I really do.
It was actually a really broad question once I started thinking about it, so I’ve broken it down into sub headings to better explain myself in answering her question.
I have touched on this in previous blogs, but there are many elements to pole. And each category has sub categories. This can make labelling what you do difficult. (If you want to apply a label to yourself that is).
- Pole Fitness
- Strength based moves
- Pole Dance
- Incorporating different dance techniques on and off the pole
- Spins and combination heavy
- Incorporates parts of all categories
- Pole Flow
- Spins and floor work – focuses on fluidity of movement
- Can also incorporate tricks and floor work
- Includes lyrical pole dance
- Lots of freestyle dance as well as choreographed sequences
- Stripper Style
- This is basically unbound sexiness.
- Incorporates elements of other categories, but it’s the attitude of the dancer that sells it as sexy.
- Can incorporate removal of items of clothing
- Some of the best floor work I’ve seem comes from this category
- Pole Art
- Tells a story
- Includes all of the above
- Is inspiring to watch (but isn’t it all?)
- Pole Theatre
- Like Pole Art but on a bigger scale
- Performance pieces that can have an emotive, political or cultural message. Michelle Shimmy is a good example of this, https://youtu.be/1-gfitmqxiw. It also includes comedy, drama, and romance. Heres an example of the comedy, Dan Rosens 2015 Britney montage. Still hilarious even now. https://youtu.be/ft4unylUGRM
- Actually at a loss to further define this.
- Pole Theatre
So you see, there is much cross over between the labels for the genres. Most pole moves are covered by all the genres, just performed in a slightly different way. But even that isn’t genre specific. That’s down to the individual dance style of the dancer involved.
The one thing they all have in common? They build the confidence and strength of the person participating in that style, also bringing a sense of empowerment to us that we have rarely felt before.
Comparing Your Pole Journey to Others
This is a bug bear point for me. Even though I have compared myself to others in the past and still do from time to time, it’s something I work hard to prevent my class from doing.
Its human nature I guess, to compare ourselves to others. And it’s okay to look at another dancer and think “Wow! I wish I could do that.” What we’re not supposed to do is think, ‘they’ve been poling [insert time frame here] less than me and they can already do that. Why am I so shit?’
Every Polers journey is different.
Every single one of us has different strengths and weaknesses. Just because you see someone do something you think is amazing does not mean you have to rake yourself over the coals for not being able to do it. You don’t know that someone out there isn’t looking at you and thinking the exact same thing. Even the person in your studio who can do all the big tricks might be berating themselves because they feel inadequate next to you for your amazing spin combinations, or your fluidity of movement. Or Vice Versa.
As an example of this, I train with the lovely and bouncy Heather Pepper. She often comments on my strength and control, she believes hers isn’t as good as mine. In most moves it is, she just won’t be told. And I am always envious of her ability to freestyle, and the beautiful flowy way she links her moves. But we are working on those aspects of our own pole journeys, and these developments in our abilities are our current personal goals. Working together lets us improve each others techniques. There are always more goals for pole. Always.
That’s why Pole is such an amazing thing. It lets everyone, from every walk of life, from every type of background find something within themselves that they didn’t know was missing until they found it.
There was an amazing meme in response to the original Facebook post. I’m going to put it in caps so you can all take note and remember it…..
Note To Self :
Labels – Do we even really need them?
And here is where I bring it back to the main theme, labels, and when it’s appropriate to use them.
Many people don’t like to be labelled. Some people have a bee in their bonnet about the origins of pole and try to ‘clean’ it up by referring to it as pole fitness. There are lots of negative memes about pole dancers vs Strippers, lots of made up rubbish about its origins in India and China. I hate to break it to you if you are one of those believers, but it comes from stripping.
Way back when, it started from circuses, where the ladies danced around the centre tent pole to keep the crowds entertained between acts. Time moved on, and the dancing itself became a draw, for the crowds, then there were hoochie dancers, and then strip clubs (I’ve missed out a couple of stages in this, but you get the gist), and strippers dominated the scene for decades. Strippers invented all the early moves, and some of the bigger ones. Get over it. Why don’t you just appreciate the gift they gave us by bringing pole to us.
And really, does it matter where it came from as long as we love it? Lets not forget the Olympic games was originally a Greek all male event where the sports were performed naked. And look how far that’s come. The difference is, stripper style did not die out like the naked Olympics, it is still an aspired to art form for many of us.
I’ve seen many labels….
- Vertical gymnast
- Pole dancer
- Pole fitness enthusiast
- Stripper gymnast
- Vertical artiste
- Pole Athlete
And there are tons more.
So if you want to apply a label to yourself, ask yourself these questions:
Do you love it?
Do you move your body around a pole?
Are you proud of the things you have achieved?
If the answer is yes, then you’re a pole dancer. (Or any other appropriate label you want to apply to yourself). Whether it’s a new found love, or something you’ve been doing for years, if you feel it in your soul, then that’s what you are.
Tiff Finney recently wrote a blog specifically looking at labels and confidence. She has some awesome ways in which you can flip the meanings of some of the negative labels attached to pole dance, and women in particular.
Our Pole Journeys are our own. Even now, sometimes I feel awesome about the things I can now do. And other times I see people who started 6 months ago, who can do everything I can do and more. So I get it, I really do. But I know how hard I have worked to get where I am. And I am proud of where I am. You should be proud of where you are too. Lets make a deal not to let negative thought about ourselves in comparison to others dominate our thinking.
We are a community. And a rather wonderful community at that. We actually support and help each other, even backstage at competitions. There are not many activities that can say that truthfully.
We love it, we do. It is maybe our love of pole that makes it hard not to compare ourselves to others, hard to feel we deserve the labels, hard to accept that we feel incomplete without it. Its why many of us are so Evangelical about it, spreading the news of our newfound confidence and empowerment through pole as if it is indeed the second coming of the lord. But that’s who we are now. Embrace it. Wear whatever label makes you happy, and never doubt that you deserve it. After all didn’t you work hard to get where you are? Haven’t you loved every step so far? Don’t you feel proud of being able to do all the things you never thought you’d ever be able to do? Then you are a Poler. You are a pole Dancer. You are a vertical Gymnast. You are everything you need to be and more, as long as you are participating in the vertical joy that is Pole.
Much Love to you all
Sarah x x x