Importance of Foundation, Roots, and Fundamentals in Pole, Balancing Innovation with Tradition
In honor of my 10-year Poleversary, here is a post on the importance of roots and solid foundation in pole dance. For background on how I got started and my pole path read ‘My Pole Dance Journey’ then return to this article.
In 2001 at age 16, I took my first pole class with Kristina at S Factor but have been involved in the industry consistently since October 2008. One of the original BeSpun Girls, I instructed at BeSpun from ‘09-’16 along with a number of other studios in LA including The Choreography House, The Vertitude, and Metamorphosis.
My roles in the pole industry include: student since ‘08, teacher since ‘09, private events performer since ‘09, XPERT instructor since ‘11, XPERT Master Trainer since ‘12, X-POLE US Marketing Director (‘11-’14), Girl Next Door Principle Cast Member (‘10-’13), Kelly Maglia’s Vertical Theater performer (‘10-’11), Pole Show LA performer (‘10-’16), Pole Presenter at fitness expos TheFitExpo and SCW Mania since ‘12, Co-Founder & Event Producer of professional pole league PCS (Pole Championship Series) (‘12-present), Pole Fitness Co-Chair of world’s largest international Sports Festival by Arnold Schwarzenegger since ‘14, and Co-Creator of POLE-GA (‘18).
Upon starting pole, twisted grip handspring was the most difficult move. There were fewer than a dozen true pole stars and Lil’ Mynx was still in the mix. PoleFit did not yet exist, and there was only one major pole competition in the US.
With pole’s growing popularity and the arrival of smart phones and social media, pole content is everywhere. Students come to class asking to learn X or Y from Instagram. In the early days we relied on the unique skills and talent of each instructor and trained face-to-face. Online pole lessons were sparse and many of the earliest inspirations came from YouTube sensations such as Tara Karina, Karol Helms, and Leigh Ann. Similar to how consumers drive the market, student requests can influence and shape class direction.
The number of pole studios, gyms offering pole, home pole sales, students, teachers, online pole lessons, competitions, shows, and teacher trainings is growing exponentially. However, one element that seems to be diminishing is strong foundation, pole fundamentals, building blocks, and layers of moves. There are hundreds of beginner and intermediate techniques many of which are skipped due to an interest in fancier tricks. Students come to class asking to learn the spatchcock but cannot yet perform an inside leg hang.
I don’t want to deter excitement for learning certain tricks but do argue that mastery of fundamentals is key to longevity, depth, well-roundedness, grace, smooth transitions, quality of form, injury prevention, and more. Mastery of basics and the ability to add layers upon moves enables polers to learn anything and to build a vast library over time.
Here are some tips to ensure a balanced and enriching pole experience:
Be strict with form such as pointed toes and extension
Encourage new elements learned in class to be performed in freestyle
Provide level options for all moves
Encourage mastery of techniques before moving on with sloppy form
Incorporate strength and flexibility training in classes
Teach moves equally on both sides
Master the basics and layer moves
Balance training and repetition with proper rest
Train both sides evenly
Listen to the instructor
Create curriculum and enrollment based programs. The longer execution curve of pole makes a series more conducive to learning.
Educate students on dos and don’ts (post a list of suggestions at studio)
Offer class levels and other types of modalities for cross training
Pole’s multi-faceted nature gives rise to a myriad of styles, for it is a combination of dance, acrobatics, gymnastics, aerial, stylized movement, fitness, and more. Styles and tricks will vary but safe and effective techniques through mastery of fundamentals should be priority with any style. Quality of form and movement is not only more visually appealing, but also healthier! The body feels good moving efficiently and freely. As pole evolves, balancing innovation with tradition is key.
If you want to chat further on the topic, let’s connect at my pole page.