Choreographing a Pole Routine
Competition season is gearing up and with that many pole dancers are starting to choreograph their routines. Some dancers rely on choreographers to help construct their dances while others create pieces on their own. 2012 USPDF Champion Michelle Stanek has said she views her routines as works of art such as a painting, a poem, or a film. I think this visual approach is helpful when putting pieces together.
I’m by no means an expert on choreographing dances. But I have performed in several shows and films. I’m currently preparing to compete in the Atlantic Pole Competition. I’d like to share with you my strategy for creating a routine.
Choose Your Song
No matter the style, pick something that speaks to you and that you move to well. Stay true to yourself on this one. Don’t choose something just because you think other people will like it. This is the starting point from which your entire piece will emanate from. You will also be listening to it over and over again. Pick something that you can’t help but move to and be moved by when you hear it.
Listen to You Song
Now it’s time to listen to that song and listen to it well. Go to a quiet place and close your eyes. Hear the music, the undertones, the lyrics… everything. I like to listen on my headphones. Certain parts will call out for specific moves…such as a dramatic crescendo. Keep these moves in mind and track the time in the music where they seem to fit.
Freestyle to Your Song
Go to a darkly lit studio where it’s quiet and you can be alone. Use this time to see how your body moves organically to the sound. Throw away any planted ideas you have about what the dance should look. See what works and what feels awkward. Sometimes a move that you think looks bad ass actually looks clumsy in reality.
Track Everything on Paper and Videotape
I’ve touched on this already but it’s important. Make sure every idea you have is recorded to some effect. Be specific when writing about when moves will occur and how long you will hold them for. Some ideas come to us only as brief flashes of genius and you don’t want to miss anything!
Start Incorporate Your Ideas Into the Piece
Use what you have….moves you know will fit, fluid transitions from your freestyle exercises… Put them together and see where you’re at. This process can be discouraging because ideas you initially thought would be ideal may not end up working at all. Don’t get thrown off course by this because it’s only natural. This may take hours, days or weeks. I like working in chunks so I don’t exhaust myself with a full 4 minute piece but you will find an approach that works for you. And remember to videotape everything!
Don’t Put Your Latest Tricks in the Routine
This cannot be stressed enough and this is something that I see all too often. I made this mistake in a routine of my own once before. Looking back on footage of the performance now, I cringe. I look unstable in the moves. I also remember how nervous I was about performing them. Only put tricks in that you feel completely confident doing in an unintimidating setting. There are so many variables that will be at play on the day you perform. There will be nerves. The pole may be slick or a different size than you prepared for. Maybe you will be sick. There could be any number of challenges that arise.
Perform for Someone You Trust
If you don’t have a coach or choreographer, still make an effort to perform your finalized routine for someone whose opinion you trust. Make sure it’s someone who will be honest if anything needs tweaking. When pouring a great amount of work into a piece it helps to have a fresh perspective since it’s what the audience and/or judges will be having.
Let Go of it All
The day of, let your routine speak for itself. You trained, you worked yourself to your ultimate limit. Don’t worry yourself with stress or nerves. I know this may be difficult to do under great pressure. But there is no last minute effort you can throw in to change anything. Accept what is and what you have. Be present when performing and give yourself to the performance.
Hope this helped you and gave you some ideas. Feel free to share your own tips! And good luck to all those competing and performing this year!