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Prepare to Perform

As May nears, many members of our Flirt Family are getting ready to perform in showcase or compete in Central Pole Championships (CPC) in Chicago – or both! Our very own Pole Sport Organization (PSO) Unicorn Paige Gabert, and Flirt instructor Nicole Braun, hosted workshops on preparing to perform, and shared some pointers in preparing your routine, what to expect the day of a performance, and some other helpful nuggets of knowledge. If you missed the workshops, here’s what we covered…

Want to compete? If you didn’t get to register for CPC, there’s a waitlist you can get on to compete. You can also register for PSO Gateway in St. Louis (July 27-28) if you don’t want to chance the waitlist, or PSO Great Lakes in Chicago (November 22-23).

Resources are available to you! The PSO Competition Prep Manual is available for purchase when you register to compete. It is a glorious 97-page document that has everything from choosing your level and category, to a calendar for competition training, to day-of competition tips. It’s $19 and totally worth it if it’s your first time performing. PSO has a variety of other resources online available for purchase/download, that are applicable to performing in competition or showcase; including a Choreography 101 eBook, Microbends and Pointed Toes eBook, and various partner deals/discounts for polewear and equipment. You can also visit the Flirt Blog and search for past posts about showcase (including this one).

Having trouble putting your routine together? We’ve got you covered on that, too!  Nicole suggests first deciding on what your goal is as a performer: do you want to show off your hardest skills? Do you want to tell a story? What kind of a reaction do you want from your audience? These questions can help guide in choosing music, or choosing your competition category if that’s where you’re headed. Sometimes freestyling to different genres can help bring out some unexpected inspiration, and Nicole left us with a list of freestyle “games” to play to help us out:

  1. Dance with only certain body parts touching, or not touching the pole/floor (example, no hands on the pole, no booty on the ground, etc.).
  2. Tell a story through your movement (maybe try this out with a song from a favorite musical, and try to tell that story first).
  3. Write out your name in the air or on the ground with your body, to travel through new shapes.
  4. Create a short combo and then reverse it.

In addition to those, Flirt instructor Brittany Gervais taught a freestyle workshop in March and left us with some more freestyle “game” ideas:

  1. Freestyle in the dark, or with a blindfold (make sure the floor around your pole is totally clear).
  2. Listen to music for a few seconds before you start dancing and detect the different beats within the music; try to dance to each different beat you hear throughout the song.
  3. Dance like Godzilla, or another weird character – try to embody their movement in your own movements.
  4. 10 songs in 10 minutes: make a random playlist and dance to 1 minute of each song, for ten minutes straight, moving through different genres.

Always make sure to record your freestyling in case you do something totally amazing, so you can go back and recreate it! Or, look for really interesting shapes and transitions and make sure you revisit them.

When it comes to song choice, Nicole said this: “Once you have chosen your theme, choose a song that you feel represents it. Sometimes the song comes to you first and then you decide on a theme. Either way, it’s a good idea to have a few songs you could potentially use. Choose a few songs you really love and freestyle to what inspires you most.” Remember that if you’re performing in showcase, your song can’t exceed 4:15. If you’re choosing to compete, your song length depends on your competition level (Levels 1, 2:30 minutes; Level 2, 3:00 minutes; Level 3, 3:30 minutes; Level 4/5/Professional/Showcase/Showcase Plus/Doubles, 4:00 minutes). Remember, this is the maximum length your song can be – choose something that’s realistic for you!

Once you think you have your song picked out, try this: freestyle to the entire song only doing floor work, then only using static pole, then only using spin pole. Feel out which parts of the song go best with each location, and notice when in the song you get tired or worn out using spin vs. static vs. floor. This will help you plan when to use your hardest tricks and how much to travel during your routine.  

When thinking about choreography, you should start with deciding what tricks or movements you absolutely want to incorporate. Make a list of 5-8 that you really want to incorporate. You’ll structure your routine by creatively coming up with ways to transition between those favorite movements and tricks throughout your song. Make sure to decide if you want those tricks to be from the ground, aerial, or on spin pole. If there’s a trick you want to do but you’re not sure if you can do it 100% of the time, ask for a spot! In the showcase, it’s totally okay to have someone pop out on stage for a quick spot! This is a trick list we’ll use as an example:

Cross knee release (spin)
Stargazer (static)
Inside leg-hang to flatline (static, from ground)
Carousel Spin (static)
Genie (spin)
Forearm stand (static)
Shoulder Roll (floor)
Prancing Descent (spin)

To connect all of those tricks together, you’ll need to create what Nicole calls a “movement pathway,” which describes how you’re going to move around the stage to accomplish all of your movements. Will you start on static pole? On the floor? Will you venture to the spin pole at any point? How will you travel from spin to static? Write out the literal path you want to take as you perform. For example:

Start on static
Drop to floorwork
Backward role back to static pole
Walk to spin pole
Crawl back to static pole
Finish on floor

Within that movement path, I can decide that I want to include the moves I listed above into certain parts of the routine:

Start on static
Carousel spin
Drop to floorwork
Shoulder roll
Backward role back to static pole
Inside leg hang to flatline
Forearm stand at pole
Walk to spin pole
Climb and cross knee release
Prancing descent
Genie
Crawl back to static pole
Climb to stargazer
Finish on floor

With this outline, I can now build in transitions, breaks, and additional movements to fill the song, making sure that I’m being intentional about the movements I choose so that they match my theme/goal that I initially chose.

Paige made a point to let us know that if you’re competing, judges will look for you to use the entire stage during your routine, not just traveling in between the poles. Make your movements dynamic to use the front of the stage if you can.  It’s also important to use the whole height of the pole, on both static and spin if you can. She recommended incorporating a flexibility move, a strength trick, and a creative shape during your routine; at least one of each.

It’s a good idea to have your routine done a few weeks before a performance so you can work on performance skills with a complete routine!

Things like making eye contact with your audience, filming yourself dancing to spot flexed feet and bent legs, creative and intentional use of any props you might use, and practicing facial expressions while you dance. It’s best not to lip sync during your routine, so try to break that habit if you find yourself mouthing along to the words. Make sure you spend some time rehearsing in your costume, so there aren’t any surprises on stage or any guest appearances from body parts you don’t want showing up. It’s a good idea to perform in front of a few friends while you’re practicing, too, to get some feedback on things you might not notice when you’re filming yourself.

As you prepare to perform, whether it’s in Grand Rapids at DeVos Place or in Chicago or St. Louis or wherever your pole journey takes you, remember that your performance is your story! No matter what, this is the story you are choosing to tell through this amazing style of dance we all love. While choreographing and doing run-throughs and competing can be extremely hard work (and a little stressful) we’re ultimately doing it because we want to share what we enjoy so much with the world.

When you go on stage: take some deep breaths, keep your head up, and enjoy your time in the spotlight. Performing is brave and you deserve to enjoy every second that you’re up there! And always, ALWAYS ask your instructors for help; they’re going to be so proud of you and eager to give you some pointers!

We’ll see you on stage!