Blog: How pole became my dream job
It was in the middle of my third and final year of my PhD when I was offered the chance to start teaching pole. I had been a pole student for a few years and been dancing my entire life, including coaching dance on a regular basis since I was 13 years old. I originally signed up to support a friend who was super keen on trying pole but before I knew it I was attending classes at least twice a week, quit my regular dance genre after 23 years and was finding myself at the studio more and more.
I agreed to begin training as an instructor as a something fun to do while I waited for my thesis result and applied for jobs for the following year. I always had grand plans for my future career. I loved research and I had a talent and understanding of chemistry that isn’t easy to come by. I had worked hard, produced great results, published and made good connections and was on my way to landing my ‘dream job’ – a post-doctoral position overseas.
By the end of that year, I’d started to seriously consider competing and loved my instructing job so much that the thought of leaving to go overseas started to lose its shine and I begun looking for jobs closer to home. As I delved further into the pole world I started to realise that I had actually begun to procrastinate over my job applications and had actually made the decision to not even apply to many ‘dream job’ opportunities, with excuses ranging from ‘its not quite in my field’ (not true, it was completely within my niche research) to ‘ I ran out of time’ (no I didn’t, I’d spent months avoiding it), when really it was the thought of having to give up this new found passion that kept me wanting to move forward. Scientific research, particularly in an academic setting is a 24/7 career, having watched my supervisors over the past 4 years work endlessly on their research, most of them forgoing family, health, fitness and hobbies, I knew that I would have to choose between the career I always envisioned and the new passion I had found that was giving me a new lease on life. Little did I know that I was in fact already moving forward in my life, it was just in a different direction than I imagined.
I made the decision to stop applying for my ‘dream jobs’ in early 2014, and instead focus on pole, both teaching and competing, for the next year – I figured that since I had gone straight from high school to an undergrad degree to an Honours year and then onto a PhD that I deserved a ‘Gap Year’ to pursue my passion. It’s four years later now and I haven’t looked back.
In that time I’ve grown into a confident pole instructor and couldn’t imagine not teaching my wonderful students each week. It’s a special thing to be able introduce someone to a sport that you absolutely love, nurture their own love for it each week and then watch their passion continue to grow. En Pointe has become my second family, filled with people who inspire me daily and never fail to support and encourage everyone around them. I’ve had countless opportunities to compete and perform on some amazing stages and I love that I’m still a competitive dancer as I enter my 30’s (in my old dance form you where ‘over the hill’ at 25!). On top of all these things I also discovered another passion of mine – sewing! Thanks to pole I now have my own little business, designing and sewing custom pole and aerial costumes.
Whilst in the midst of my PhD, I always worried about being able to achieve the perfect balance in life- work, relationships, enjoyment. Now, thanks to pole, I’ve learnt that if you continue to actively pursue your passions and are lucky enough to be able to turn those passions into your dream job, then the perfect balance happens naturally. I am definitely one of the fortunate ones and have the wonderful sport of pole to thank for it.
Blog: A day in the life of a doubles competitor
My experience as a doubles competitor was a little different to that of many other doubles teams. Not only did I train multiple times a week with my doubles partner, we also lived in the same house. We quite literally lived and breathed doubles. Because my doubles partner happened to be my mum.
Some basic doubles terminology:
Base- the Hulk. The one who holds all (or the majority) of the weight. It’s your job to provide stability and safety.
Flyer- The one who gets all the glory. It’s your job to make everything look pretty.
Coming up with a routine
If you knew us well, you were always excited to see what crazy new theme we would come up with when the next competition rolled around. Our style of doubles was always comedy and it almost always came with some degree of wild hair. Whether we were green-haired workers at a chocolate factory or blue-haired escapees of the Cat-in the-Hat, we always aimed to give people a laugh.
Choreography was always the most stressful part of our doubles experience. Neither of us had any dance background before starting pole, we were from different levels and we also had injuries to cater for. Our routines developed with training. Our priority with choreography was to choose our big combos and doubles tricks first, then work on transitioning between them.
Go with your strengths! If one of you has amazing splits, make sure to include a doubles trick with a crazy split. The beauty of doubles is that you can tick the criteria boxes by playing to your strengths. If your partner is flexy, get her to tick your flexibility box for your team. If you have an iron X that you can hold for days, use a doubles trick to showcase it.
Keep in mind that your tricks should reflect your character and performance. If you are doing a heartbreakingly emotional routine, don’t throw a hello boys in.
Having both come from a background of team sports and weights training, we took our training very seriously. In the weeks leading up to a competition we would train up to four times a week at the studio and go to the gym at least five days a week. We ran combos, did strength training, trained our doubles tricks and did full run throughs of our routine. We trained with different people and ran our routines for students and instructors alike. Our training was always varied as we found this was the best way for us to train. It ensured we didn’t get bored in training sessions and we didn’t have gaps in our performances.
Training doubles incorporates many new factors into your training. As a solo competitor you do not have to rely on anyone else. You don’t have to work training sessions around someone else’s busy schedule. You don’t need to factor in the abilities of another person. These things become so important as a doubles team. It’s all about compromise. You can’t always expect your partner to do their non-preferred side in favour of your preferred. Similarly, you can’t force your partner to do all of your favourite tricks. One clear cut way to solve these disputes is to always defer to the base. Your base is your rock. She (or he) is holding your ass up in the air! The base should always be the decision maker. This goes for deciding which side a trick will be performed on as well as all of the safety. If your base tells you to get down, get down!
Have fun! The day of the competition is not the day to be stressing over that trick that you took out of your routine three weeks ago or that you should have trained more in the lead up. Today is the day to remember all of the hard work that you put into your routine and get out and enjoy your moment on the stage. This day is so much fun when you have a doubles partner to share it with.
Look after yourself on comp day. Drink lots of water, eat properly, warm up before you perform. These things can get missed along the way as it is such a busy day. But they are essential for your best performance.
Tricks of the trade
Have a safe word! This is a signal to your partner that something has gone wrong and you need to bail out of a trick. For this reason, it is usually not a “word”. You can’t yell something to your partner while you are in the middle of competing. We used a quick pinch. This is a movement that can be performed during most doubles tricks. And while it may sound painful, it is very mild when you consider the alternative.
Have days off! This is important in every aspect of competing. Your body needs time to recover. With doubles, it is also important to have days away from your partner. Competing can become stressful- mental recovery days are just as important as physical ones.
Listen to your base/flyer. This one seems obvious but many doubles teams forget about it. Your partner will be able to give you tips to make your tricks look nicer and feel safer. Mum was a serial offender for forgetting to hold on as a flyer. You can see how that would become an issue! She needed constant reminders to focus on her grip throughout tricks. Help each other out with little tips when necessary.
Blog: Getting a grip on Grip Aids.
GRIP: MIGHTY GRIP
TYPE: White (dries clear) tacky powder. (Does not dry out skin)
USED FOR: Ideally Dry skin. (Can be used on sweaty skin after an antiperspirant product has been applied)
WHERE TO APPLY: all over body is fine. Do not apply directly to apparatus.
HOW TO APPLY: To apply, simply put a small amount on your hands and rub it in. They key is friction to create heat, the thermoplastic components react with the heat from the body and the friction, this will create a slight tackiness.
PRO TIP: If you have severely dry skin, once you’ve applied and rubbed in, gently squeeze a metho towel between your hands to add slight moisture to increase mighty grips affects.
APPARATUS: All finishes of pole, particularly good on stainless steel, can be used for aerial silks or hoop.
GRIP: TITE GRIP
TYPE: Milky (dries clear) antiperspirant liquid. (Does not add tack)
USED FOR: Sweaty skin.
WHERE TO APPLY: Mainly hands and feet, can be used on other parts of the body to alleviate sweaty. Avoid applying to apparatus.
HOW TO APPLY: The packaging says you should apply 30 minutes prior to poling for best results. This is to allow the product to take affect in the skin. Most students apply during class without issue. Apply a small amount to palms and rub in until it feels tacky, then let air dry to activate.
PRO TIP: If you’re sweaty and don’t stick, use tite grip to dry hands of sweat then apply a tacking grip such as mighty grip to help stickiness.
APPARATUS: All pole finishes, can be used for aerial silks or hoop.
GRIP: DRY HANDS
TYPE: Milky (dries clear) liquid antiperspirant and tack. (Dries and adds some tackiness)
USED FOR: Sweaty skin. (acts as an antiperspirant but adds “texture” to skin to help grip”
WHERE TO APPLY: Mostly hands and feet, can be used on other sweaty areas of the body.
HOW TO APPLY: Applying a small amount to create thin layer on your skin, avoid rubbing it too much. The product has been designed to provide an extra layer of film over your skin and rubbing will just remove it. Make sure it is fully dry before using apparatus.
PRO TIP: Experiencing those cold and clammy days? then just apply the product directly on the pole and it will solve your moisture problems.
APPARATUS: All pole finishes, can leave a residue so avoid using on aerial silks and hoop.
TYPE: Yellowish/white (rubs in clear) wax. (Made from organic bees wax)
USED FOR: Creating stickiness. Best for normal skin.
WHERE TO APPLY: Not to be applied to hands. Whilst the manufacturers say that it can be applied to hands, in my long experience, it proves more hindrance than help. The slightest sweat under it can create sliminess. Everywhere else on the body is fine.
HOW TO APPLY: Using the back of your fingernail (otherwise it may get stuck under your nails and in your pores) scrape out a small amount, a little bit goes a long way, (too much can create a slick affect as the wax slips over itself)
PRO TIP: There are different levels of grip, regular or extra strength, to be honest, they feel much of the same.
In very hot or humid conditions, itac can liquify and become very slippery. Use with extreme caution in hot or humid conditions.
Itac 2 is water and sweat resistant which means it wont sweat off but may become slick and slippery with excess sweating, it also means it’s quite hard to remove, the manufacture says warm soapy water, I find I need to scrub with a loofer and it’s still quite sticky after.
Cold bodies, itac and cold poles, can create very stubborn friction which can be very painful.
Itac is also banned from lots of competitions as it leaves residue!
APPARATUS: Not to be used for aerial silks or hoop. Great on chrome and stainless steel poles. Brass poles can be temperamental, one theory is that since brass is porous the wax fills in the microscopic gaps and smooths at the surface making it slick, others have found it no problem at all.
GRIP: DEW POINT
TYPE: Clear liquid spray (creates “dewiness” for sticking)
USED FOR: Dry skin. Not to be used on sweaty skin!
WHERE TO APPLY: Not to be applied to hands for pole. Whilst the manufacturers say that it can be applied to hands, in my long experience, it proves more hindrance than help. The slightest heat or sweat under it can create slipperiness. Everywhere else on the body is fine.
Can be used on hands for aerial silks if you have extreme dry skin.
HOW TO APPLY: Comes I different levels of grip, to be honest I find they’re all very similar. Avoid getting it on your hands, I spray my legs or body and either rub my legs together like a “need to wee” dance or use the back of my forearm to help rub it in. You’ll feel it get slightly tacky when dry.
PRO TIP: You should also consider using Pole Physics to condition and care for your skin. Dewpoint Pole positions itself as a grip aid that is also a natural moisturizer for your skin. Pole dancers with dry skin learns from experience that their skin sticks better just as they start to sweat a tiny bit, when they skin is a bit clammy. This product mimics this feeling.
APPARATUS: All pole finishes, can be used on hands for aerial silks if you have extreme dry skin.
GRIP: BEAL GRIP
TYPE: White liquid antiperspirant chalk (dries hands)
USED FOR: Sweaty Skin.
WHERE TO APPLY: Mainly used for hands, it can be used on other sweaty areas but it will leave a white residue, so not ideal for other body parts.
HOW TO APPLY: Apply a very small amount and rub in. It will leave hands white. Don’t over apply.
PRO TIP: It can be tricky to remove, it is designed to be slightly water and sweat proof so may require multiple washes before being fully removed.
APPARATUS: All pole finishes, not to be used for aerial silks, can be used for aerial hoop if you have extremely sweaty skin.
TIPS ON IMPROVING YOUR GRIP
Aside from using the right grip aids, one of the most important things to remember is that the stronger your body gets, the easier gripping will be.
Here are some general tips on how to enhance your grip on the pole.
- Increase your hand grip strength.
This comes with time and practice. Using aids such a grip/hand strengtheners can help, I find that onehanded spins and grips help quite a lot. Once your hands and grip strength is stronger, you’ll be able to overcome minor slips and sweatiness.
- Increase your overall strength.
Being stronger will mean you are safer and more able to overcome slips and sweatiness.
- Get warm
Being cold is not only dangerous for your muscles but will actually hinder your grip. Warm skin and muscles will actually hold apparatus much more efficiently, especially on pole.
- Got dry skin?
For people with dry skin, use moisturizers specifically made for pole dancing, such as pole physics. Apply them daily if possible or at least the morning of your class. Naturally elastic and supply skin grips much better than smooth, flakey dry skin.
- Shoes help too (for pole)
Wear shoes made of vinyl or plastic, these shoes will stick more to the pole making them useful for sticking in tricks.
- Gloves are a good last resort
I try to avoid using gloves where possible but some people are inevitably sweaty and so gloves can be a safe option!
There are a whole heap of other grips but I haven’t had enough experience with them to give advice on them.
Stunt Grip- rosin
Grippy leggings- Rarr and XIX stock them
Dancing dust- glittery powder used for creating dewy skin
Dirty girl poletice- magnesium powder to dry out hands
Trick tac pole grip towel- wax infused grip towel
Gloves- patent for spin pole and softer leathers for static pole.
Happy gripping! -Jenny Toner
Blog: A “How To” guide to exercises- by Shae.
A ‘How To’ guide to exercise:
I love sport and the study of sports in relation to the body. However I know to most people the subject of anatomy or biomechanics in exercise can seem really dry. So today I wanted to do a simple “How To” when it comes to exercise. The three main things you need to concentrate on (in my humble opinion) are:
The science behind exercise is ever evolving and they’re constantly improving and changing the “correct” way to exercise but despite all that, a good rule of thumb is; if it hurts, stop. I don’t simply mean you’ve walked the stairs instead of taken the elevator and your legs are tired, but rather stop if you feel as though you are injuring yourself. This can be a tricky concept when it comes to pole and aerials because there are a few tricks out there that may always hurt in some way.
This is where your knowledge or the knowledge of the people instructing you will come in handy.
While I would normally never tell anyone to google for study guide references (one thing I actually remember from my Uni days) I’m not expecting everyone’s knowledge to be at tertiary level. So sometimes (and if you’re interested) it can be beneficial to brush up on some anatomy, even if it means just checking out a muscular system from google images and how they interact together. Knowing what it is you are specifically working on in relation to your body will also help you to workout smarter. Knowing how to identify what area/trick you want to work on will help you pick exercises that target your body more specifically. While this is easier when it comes to learning a specific trick on your chosen apparatus it’s more difficult when it comes to the strength aspect of class.
This then leads in to posture and technique.
Most people when doing strength may not even know that there is a more efficient way to exercise than what they’ve been doing all their life. Not only that but they might not have ever been taught how to do exercises but just given the basic information on what you do. Eg; the squat (eek) you either love it or hate it. When I talk about knowing your exercise the difference I mean is compared to someone telling you how to do a squat:
“Bend down at the knees and hips and come back up.”
Compared to someone teaching you how to squat:
“Head face forward, back straight; bend at the knees and hips, keep your bottom back like you’re sitting in a chair, knees stay in line with the toes, etc.”
Posture/technique is one of the biggest issues with exercising incorrectly. Most of what we are going to learn will come from watching someone and mimicking their movement. DON’T PANIC! You haven’t been doing things wrong for past whole of your life. Generally it just means that we are exercising a whole muscle group rather than the specific muscles within a group. Eg: Leg raises will help work the lower layer of abdominals for greater strength when piking or straddling compared to your basic sit up. This will work not only those muscles but also others around them so that you will be stronger in that general area but if you want to focus on straight leg straddles it may just take a few more sessions to fine tune. You will however be that little bit closer to that six pack. If you are unsure of the correct posture in an exercise my advice would be to ask the people who are teaching you or training you. Google at this point is a definite no no.(Mostly due to conflicting information) Posture/technique in this instance will greatly depend on what you are doing. For example the way you position your body in the splits in a gymnastics class versus a ballet class can be different.
While this can be the same for general fitness based exercises, for the most part it will just be similar to the specific individual muscle and groups of muscle analogy I went through earlier. Everyone will likely have their own way of doing things. Like I mentioned, exercise is always changing. You need to know and listen to your body. When it comes to the technique that works for you, ask everybody to show AND explain to you how they do it. Correct posture is easier to identify if you have more knowledge of the muscles and how to work them at an individual level.
Only go as fast through an exercise as you can keep your posture, you should never lose your technique in the middle of an exercise. This is when we get injured. I know what it’s like wanting to get through strength as fast as possible, but at no time during your workout should you look like you’re drowning on dry land. Control and execution will help build your strength quicker. Smashing out 30 push ups in a row in 30 seconds (while impressive) likely means you are relaxing your posture. It would be more beneficial for your muscles to do less, but technically correct exercises, which guarantees that you are working specifically on the muscles you are supposed to be training. Going through the exercises slower is also a basic way to help improve your endurance levels.
Remember. The three main things you need to concentrate on are:
Knowing: Make sure you understand why you are doing a particular exercise/trick and the muscles involved (and not just because your instructor told you to).
Posture/Technique: Learning how to do a trick or exercises and how to do them correctly, making sure you maintain it throughout the entire exercise
Speed: Slow and steady wins the race. Be efficient not fast. If you go too fast you have to work almost twice as hard for similar results. (All those bad posture repetitions don’t count).
Last tip: For general overall fitness, work out larger muscle groups; squats, burpees, planks. For more result based exercise, break everything down and work each muscle as specifically as possible. Just like any type of life goal, you need to be specific and think long term.