This series of numbers may not have much significance to you. It’s very important to me though. It is the length of the song I used for my Atlantic Pole Championship routine. It’s a flash in time that passed as quickly as it came.
It was the amount of time I had to prove my worthiness to a room full of peers, mentors, judges and strangers. In three and a half minutes I had to garner all the training, knowledge and life experience I had built in the days, months and years leading up to the competition.
I listened to my song, visualizing my routine in detail, every intricate transition, every small gesture, every facial expression. I listened to it 339 times. This amounted to almost 20 hours of daydreaming about those few minutes.
I trained this specific routine for three months. I created choreography and then changed it. I used the time and energy of others to ask for their input and help with my piece. I have trained on the apparatus of pole for over five years in order to build the strength required to physically achieve the moves I used in my piece. Like a massive pyramid, building the necessary groundwork to reach a high and fleeting peak.
I spent roughly two hours gluing tiny Swarovski crystals onto my costume, filling my apartment with toxic E600 fumes. My friend took the time to custom-fit my costume for me. And finally I spent hours getting needled, massaged, covered in Arnica gel and soaking in Epsom salt baths in order to recover from pole-related injuries. So many hours, so much effort and so much commitment to a goal that would eventually be experienced in a minuscule sliver of time.
I enjoy the creative process. I live to create art and express my emotions. The days leading up to a competition are always the worst though. The pressure mounts. The hours spent in preparation gnaw at me as a reminder that I only have a few minutes to make all that work count. Will the laborious effort be worth it?
The day of this particular competition I became physically ill (as usual). I had to force myself to eat solely for the purpose of having enough energy to perform. I became weak and unsteady. I couldn’t stop pacing or fidgeting. My body was in a constant state of stimulation, coming up and then crashing back down. As my moment on stage approached fight-or-flight response kicked in and my heart rate accelerated. I had three and a half minutes I reminded myself. My throat sank into my chest.
|Backstage during Level 4 Championship
The greatest anticipation came when the competitor before me was announced. I knew I was next. I had tunnel vision. I saw and heard nothing. Wishes of good luck from friends did not register in my brain. I was hopping up and down behind a black curtain in the air-conditioned conference room in the Hyatt. My nerves were increasing in intensity. I breathed deeply in and out.
Once I got on stage there was no time left to think. I almost felt as though the suspense was still mounting but there was no time left to prepare. The moment I had waited for was happening now. My mind forgot the moves but my body knew what to do. My arms and legs were shaking but the adrenaline was enough to get me through. Time seemed to move so fast yet I also felt as though I was dancing in slow motion.
I was immersed in the moment but then it happened. My foot slipped off the pole. To me, it was a fatal error. I got into my head and I couldn’t get out. I thought about how I was being perceived and judged, what points would be deducted from my score. I tried to return to that lovely feeling of utter presence but it had escaped me. I just needed to get through until the end I had decided.
My error was not faulty footing, or the poles being slippery, or the room being cold, or my shaky legs or not training hard enough. My error was in letting one second in time define all the seconds that had come before it and all that would follow after. I should have accepted that moment and moved onto the next without dwelling. When does anything ever go as planned?
|APC Female Pro Division Winners
Yes, the moment of a performance is what counts on a scorecard. It is the final product that will be displayed to an audience and captured on film. But it is not all that counts. It is not the only moment there is. There are so many other moments that are part of the process. Mishaps don’t discount everything else you have achieved. Imperfections are a part of life. You don’t fail through your flaws. You fail through obsessing over them and not being able to move on past them.
And when the big moment you have been waiting for finally does arrive, you need to be in it fully no matter what happens. You need to live in it and accept it. As philosopher Alan Watts has said
, “In giving away the control you got it.” I haven’t figured out how to be in that space every time I perform but I know that when I’m there it feels right and nothing else can compare to that high.
Pole dancing is a performance art and sport of variables. How sticky are the poles? How warm are you? How cold is the room? How fast is the spin? How injured are you? You cannot always control these variables. In fact, you usually have no control over them at all. Sometimes it’s your day and sometimes it isn’t. You can’t create the ideal situation. What you can do is accept what is thrown at you. Because right now is all there is. This is it.