Article by Mel Nutter as Baudelaire
As a pole dancer, I watch a lot of pole videos. My Instagram is exclusively pole, Facebook is about 80% pole, and then there are all those live stream events on YouTube! I see strong dancers, strong athletes, flexible women and men. Only occasionally someone takes my breath away.
For good or for bad, it is sometimes easier to point out what is wrong with a performance than to pin point what makes it amazing. Of course if someone pulls out a rainbow marchenko, you are going to be impressed. For us mere mortals, however, we need to focus on other ways to wow an audience or win a competition. These five techniques will clean up your lines and help your performance shine with the best.
1) Pointed toes
You've seen the memes and heard your instructor yell it a thousand times. Pointed toes make such a difference to your lines, even when climbing. We all learned to climb the pole with a flexed back foot but it pays to change these habits. Video your rehearsals and see where you flex, and work on pointing your toes through your entire movement - climbs, ankle grab, inside leg hang etc.
I practice pointing my toes all day every day to work on engagement and muscle awareness. Stirring dinner? Rise up to the ball of your foot, roll over to a point and control it in reverse. Watching TV? Flex and point your feet in rounds of 10. Feel it through your arches, toes, balls of the feet, and ankle.
2) Straight leg straddles
4) Facial expressions
Every time you spin around the pole and face the audience you have an opportunity to find a point of contact. Gritting your teeth or pulling faces will most likely contrast with the intention of your performance. Watch your favorite dancers and see how their character is consistent through their facial expressions, ALL the way through their routine.
It has taken me a long time to become comfortable looking out at the audience. When putting on a show it is important to make the audience feel like you are dancing for them. This comes across with eye contact and by conveying the feeling that you are enjoying what you are doing, not panting and forcing it out.
5) Consistency between floor and pole
Many pole dancers are great at making eye contact and engaging with the audience when they are doing floor-work. However, as soon as they touch the pole their whole focus changes towards their tricks. This really affects the mood of your performance and it can also be quite jolting for the audience. If you are portraying a character, consider how the image and feeling of that character can continue through your pole tricks. Can you replicate a shape you made on the floor and make eye contact in the same way? Are your pole combos a reflection of your story, much in the same way that your movements on the floor were?
The best routines are those which are creative, well thought out, and offer new ideas. It's hard to stand out from the crowd when even amateurs are pulling out what were considered advanced tricks just a few years ago. However, if your transitions are polished, your gestures full of intention, and you engage the audience throughout your entire performance, you will carry a stage presence and a confidence that will challenge anyone’s flips or planches.
The details are in the dance, and we are pole dancers after all.
Mel Nutter as Baudelaire.
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