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The Podium (Beginners Pole Competitions and their Challenges)

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I kind of feel like the title should have the cello from Jaws as a back drop.

Preparation, preparation, preparation

I decided to enter the Up Your Pole competition in Glasgow at the weekend. 12 days notice and therefore 12 days practice to work on my solo routine.

It was something I wanted to do anyway. After looking back at recordings in the wake of my work on my basics, I just wasn’t happy with how it looked. So taking on a competition at short notice seemed to be the way to go and provided motivation to get round to something I was going to get to eventually.

Thought I wanted to make a couple of tweaks including popping in a ballerina but nothing too much. That changed with the first practice. The familiar music played and I started (with the ballerina) and it felt ok. Then the glitches started to show.

Turns out all the practice I’d done had actually changed the way my body moved and the timing for the moves was off, some transitions no longer worked. I realised very quickly that I was back to the drawing board.

So with the help of teachers Anne and Becky (and fellow students) I got to work on fixing it. I learned some new spins and worked on new transitions, all very questionable tactics so close to performing but I do love a wee challenge! I did a recording on the Friday before the competition and landed everything except the last climb so was happy enough to go for it.

It also occurred to me very late in the day that I don’t have a costume for performing, something on my to do list so decided I would just get up in shorts and vest top, nothing else for it so late in the game.

The competition

The competition was in Glasgow so a mini road trip was planned. It was an open competition so I knew going in that I was going for the experience rather than to get anywhere since my meagre beginner’s skills would never hold up against the advanced dancers. The event organisers were really nice and helpful, and gave loads of information about the size and type of poles. I was happy because there was going to be a 45mm there. So 2 car loads drove through west for the event itself all chatty and excited about the day ahead.

The Podium

Like I said the event organisers were super helpful about saying what type of pole would be used and they had mentioned podium poles. Here’s where my beginner status officially kicks in. The ‘podium’ part never registered in my head as being anything different. I signed in all excited and was made to feel really welcome as we were shown to where the dancers would get ready and shown where the poles were so that we could warm up and get comfy; that’s when I saw it. The podium. There’s not a whole lot of foot space on those things. My routine includes a drop to splits which when I practiced had both my feet off the edge but that was fine.

I have to admit there was a mini-meltdown when I realised there wasn’t enough space for me to kick up into a handstand which then meant I was faced with having to make a change. Luckily for me Anne was there, was very calm (just as well one of us was) and told me it was fine I would just handstand onto the podium from the floor – at that point I actually laughed out loud.

Not taking ‘no’ for an answer, Anne was adamant that I had the strength to do it. So I tried it a few times and eventually landed my feet on the pole. In practice the success rate was about 1 in 3 so I was none too sure about how it was going to go come show time.

I was the 2nd last to perform and by that point had watched some amazing and very varied performers. Girls were dancing in contemporary, freestyle or sport styles (I was doing contemporary). The tricks were amazing and the strength required for some of them just blew me away, add to that the girls looked so glamorous.

So, then I tip toe up to go on stage, in my vest and shorts. They’d introduced me as a blogger for Platinum Stages UK so I was quite keen not to fall on my face. Really I just wanted to do this routine as best as I could and to fix the bits that had bugged me.

I don’t get nervous before performing but that handstand was firmly at the forefront of my brain and there was definitely a touch of the nerves going on. My music hit and I opened up into stag then ballerina and gently spun to the floor. I loved the feeling of performing again. At crunch time in the routine, I stepped off the podium, took a deep breath and kicked up into the handstand. I can’t tell you the relief I felt when my feet touched steel and the cheer from the crowd was a real boost.

Once it was out of the way I just enjoyed the rest of the experience. While waiting for the judges’ feedback the very glamorous hostess asked me about my blog , and I even managed to answer while getting my breath back. The feedback from the judges was very positive and they all commented on the handstand and my musicality. Perhaps the nicest piece of feedback was the comments on how comfortable I looked performing and how comfortable I looked with the pole.

Now that I’ve worked on a podium I would do so again, it’s slightly different but makes you keep your floor work very neat and contained.

The biggest lesson in this was way that doing pole empowers you. As many challenges as you experience doing pole they just don’t outweigh the benefits for both your body and your brain.

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