Once upon a pole time, there was no such thing as fonjis and flips. Our beautiful art was a relatively simple thing, built on the foundations of our stripper sisters and self taught amateurs. These pioneers spent years not only creating but perfecting the basics upon which our sport was built.
Unless you have taken up pole relatively recently, you may well recall a time when your syllabus did not include a new move every week, when the move of the moment did not spread like wildfire throughout the pole community. A time where the most advanced move you were ever likely to do in the course of the year was a Superman. A time when world champions performed little more than some leg hangs and switches, a long, sweeping climb to the top of the pole, and then something really show stopping… like a jade split.
But here’s the thing. They did those moves to absolute perfection. When there wasn’t pressure to do new moves weekly, polers spent time perfecting and polishing moves until they were flawless. So today I’m taking it back to the old school, revisiting those classic moves upon which our whole community was built. Never mind birds of paradise and rainbow marchenkos, these are the moves you need to nail, classic pole style.
Originally created by Pantera Blacksmith, who referred to an inside leg hang as a Gemini and an outside leg hang as a Scorpio, polers have been debating which-leg-is-gemini-and-which-is-scorpio ever since. Most schools now seems to refer to Scorpio as an inside leg hang and Gemini as outside (rewriting the creator’s own rules), so for the purposes of this blog I’m going with that.
Gemini is the first actual inverted move I learned, and it was after a good six months of drilling just going upside down. I will still include a Gemini in pretty much every lesson I teach. Not only is it a really pretty move, it is also the gateway into so many more advanced moves, as well as being a fail-safe get out clause if you ever want to bail out of a tricky move. Do this move every time you train, until you can do it in your sleep. You just can’t go wrong.
To avoid confusion I suppose we could do away with the pretty names and call these move inside leg hang and outside leg hang and just be done with it, but where’s the fun in that? Pole dancing is an art to me and I like the pretty names much more than the sanitising boring descriptive names even if they do make it easier. Interestingly, we have Gemini and Scorpio, and a recent creation called Capricorn, but the other starsigns are yet to show up. Maybe next time a move is created and needs a name we should look to the zodiac for inspiration.
Anyway. Much like Gemini, Scorpio is a gateway into many more advanced moves, from simple foot grab variations to the super Bendy contortion Scorpio/cocoon and bird of paradise, and a must on the to-do list of old school pole moves.
Ah butterfly. How I love you so.The foundation for so many more advanced moves. It is worth getting this gorgeous move absolutely spot on, automatically awesome without even thinking about it, before moving on to exciting things like extended butterfly (or ex butt as we call it ), Ayesha, handsprings and so on. Think “boobs in, bums out” for a nice curve and to get that perfect line from hand to hip that gives you stability. Also try variations like a straight back leg, kicking yourself in the back of the head (ah, if only!) variations like butterfly handstand, one handed butterfly, butterfly from Jamilla or a thousand other moves, and Marion Amber (which isn’t actually anything like butterfly at all, but kinda, and that strong butterfly body position will help)
Named after the first letters of the names of its creator, the pole pioneer Jamilla Deville, the jade is a perfect example of an old school pole move that endures. You don’t have to be super splitty to make this look amazing – try attitude/stag leg positions, one or the other leg bent, or with straight legs but angled upwards rather than flat. There’s no getting away from it though – this move does look totally amazing flat, and absolutely incredible in an oversplit. It’s also a great way to condition your side grip for more advanced moves like allegra, or horror of horrors, jallegra (my internal organs are crying at just the thought)
5. Knee Hold
Yeah this can really hurt but you can’t beat it for a proper old school impressive move. Get the pole in the right place, push hips forward and shoulders back and squeeze your bum cheeks. Try to think of it as hanging from your top knee, rather than pushing on your bottom one. And don’t forget to point your toes! Then try letting your mate stand on you, and do it on spin. See? Old school doesn’t mean easy does it?
Here’s one move where we can all agree on a name! A Superman is a Superman, wherever you go. When I first started pole, this was everyone’s nemesis move, and if you could do it, you were the absolute nuts. The first time I ever did Superman I screamed until the windows shook because it hurt like a biyatch, and it took me a year until I could do the move with ease. The main thing that causes pain is gripping on too tight – loosen the thigh grip slightly, and don’t be afraid to drop your hips. I prefer the feet uncrossed as it creates a nicer line, but if your ankles are crossed make sure you point your toes and don’t flex the bottom foot. It looks gorgeous flat, and also curved, like a beautiful poley banana. There are wonderful things to do from here – shoulder mount, titanic, drop into a Scorpio – but you can’t beat the beauty of a classic Superman. And remember – lift chest, hips down, heels up.
What a boring name for such a pretty move. We originally called this move Wonder Woman when I first learned it, as it’s basically an inverted Superman, but sadly that wondrous name is not universal. Not as ouchy on the thighs as Superman, and a bit scary for some as you can’t see behind you, this too was once considered an advanced move that took a year to work up to. Ah how the pole world has changed. Squeeze your bum cheeks, push the hips up and heels down (the opposite, obviously, of Superman), don’t flex your bottom foot and voilà, a perfect plank flat and beautiful enough for the queen to eat her dinner off (feel free to select any queen of your choice)
A tricky one for a lot of students, Cupid is in fact a push/pull move rather than a grippy foot move. Aerial Amy has some excellent tutorials on this subject but to summarise as best I can, you need to pull on your top knee, push on your bottom foot, push the hips forward and get your body a long way from the pole rather than staying close. You can go into all sorts from here – butterfly, Marion Amber, holly drops, or just hang out and rest. You can do hands on variations, as well as holding onto the shin or ankle. And if you do this in a photo shoot, try it from the back because all that pushing and pulling and thrusting makes your arse look amazing.
9. Cross ankle release
“What’s that you say? I can go upside down… from sitting?!” Why yes fair pupil mine. Yes you can.
Also known as a hangback or layback, this is another move that is scary to some, as you lean backwards unable to see where you are going. But once you find that grip, much like all of these old school moves, this is another pose that is beautiful in and of itself, but also leads into so many more gorgeous moves, from lowering into a handstand, to an iguana grip/bow and arrow, to brass monkey and Janeiro. This move is also perfect for conditioning the thigh grip and skin, which lets face it is a big part of learning a lot of the more advanced moves. Just remember to point that back toe. A flexed foot in a cross ankle release makes us want to cry.
10. Shoulder mount
When I first started pole, if you could shoulder mount you really were the business. At first I could not even conceive of how you lifted yourself up, backwards, over your own shoulder, and yes, it is uncomfortable at first. My favourite tip for this move is to imagine you have a laser beam shooting out of your lady parts, and you are going to shoot your beam along the floor, up the wall in front of you, and shine it straight up to the ceiling. This helps you get your hips up nice and high and into the right position. Learn how to hold a straddle first, because as soon as you get your feet on the pole you lose your shoulder grip and it’s possible to slip. There are many grips you can try, and when you are totally badass you can move on to aerial shoulder mounts and all sorts of fancy schmancy stuff… which brings us right back to those fonjis I mentioned earlier…
There are many more than just these ten moves. Let’s not forget the amazing basic invert into crucifix, or the joys of a perfectly executed pretty climb. Think of a ballet class, drilling the basics again and again until they are perfect, even at an advanced level. For all of us, from total beginner to champion, practice is key. Show me a beautiful Gemini and it will still take my breath away.