It seems that every competition I do teaches me new lessons, and tells me new things about the world of choreographing, performing and pole dancing.
So, seeing as I have performed in Floor Play, closely followed by The Authentic Pole Dance, which I competed in on Saturday, I have realised yet more hard earned lessons. These were ideas developed through struggles and stress, and healthy doses of self-doubt and frustration, so please appreciate that I’m saving you at least a little hassle!
It can be harder to recover from a good routine than a bad one
My Floor Play routine went really well. I loved every second of it! Although the preparation had its fair share of issues, from me worrying about my Vogue choreography to deliberating over my choice to lip sync, overall it was a routine that developed very organically and comfortably. I loved my song, theme and costume.
On the night the audience went crazy for my performance, and I got particularly glowing comments from some of the judges too. I got told it was my ‘best performance ever’ and that my Drag Queen persona was one that I needed to do way more often, all the time in fact! “Peach, you HAVE to do that character again!!! Do it at your next competition!”
Fast forward two weeks and I am preparing for Authentics. Thing is, the costume, song and theme had been decided since way before Floor Play, and my character was most certainly not a sassy Drag Queen – in stead it was a Freak Show stripper. Now I’m worrying because Floor Play went so well, and was received so positively. I’m thinking ‘OMG do I need to change this routine? Or do I stick to my original plan??’
You see, because my Floor Play routine was such a success, it made the routine I was planning 100x harder to prep. The pressure to repeat that level of success and audience engagement in the character is crazy. In stead of preparing a routine that I love, I spent more time trying to actually recover from my last routine going so damn well. I sat staring at the screen watching back my routine thinking over and over, ‘This is SO boring! The audience is going to hate it!” Of course, on the actual night they didn’t hate it at all OR find it boring!! It went really well.
When you have a great performance you’re meant to celebrate and enjoy it. But, no one really talks about the extra expectations you place upon yourself when a competition piece goes particularly well. When something goes wrong in a routine or you are disappointed in yourself, you know the only way is up. You have a cry, you pull on your adult pants, and you carry on. When a routine goes great it can feel like the only way is DOWN! There’s no, ‘it’ll be better next time’, because you already feel like you gave your best. I mean, what if you’ve already hit that peak and now you’re just gonna go backwards? It’s really tough, man. It can feel as though you are living in the shadow of your last performance, especially when they are so close together, sometimes only weeks apart.
Sometimes ‘I just want to have fun’ can be an enjoyment death sentence
For Authentics I decided that I just wanted to go along and have a great time. However, these fateful words can actually cause more stress than going to a competition with a ‘winning mind-set’. In stead of accepting stress as a natural part of performance prep, I end up thinking ‘I’m meant to be having FUN, why am I not having fun yet??’ when I was having trouble choreographing or working on my routine.
By all means, go to have fun, after all that is the way I approach every competition. But you also need to accept that frustration is a natural part of the creative process. Even with something you are just doing to enjoy and perform, you won’t be happy putting on a show that is half baked, so the same stress related to competition can be expected, just without the extra pressure of trying to compare yourself to other people or fit a certain score sheet.
I mean, I don’t tend to go ‘to win’ anyway, because I know just how unpredictable competitions can be. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been competing, or how hard you have worked, someone completely new can show up in your category and absolutely smash it out of the venue, and win. You never know what is going to happen, so don’t put that pressure on yourself!
Committing to an ‘easy’ choreography can be harder than going for a ‘hard’ routine
In line with the ‘Oh I just want to have a good time’ I also decided that for my Authentics routine I wasn’t going to do any difficult tricks or trick combos, in fact I would only do stuff I personally found easy. This would make it more fun, right?
Of course, it was incredibly fun, and my routine was probably the cleanest I have ever performed, which is was very very happy with. But, committing to ‘easy’ stuff had it’s own pressures. I realised, if I messed up the ‘easy’ stuff I would totally beat myself up for it. If I slip in a difficult trick or combo, then hey, I wouldn’t be annoyed because it is bound to happen, but when I decided to just do the things I was 100% comfortable with, I had a lot of pressure on myself to get it ‘perfect’.
So, remember, if you decide to just stay within your comfort zone (which is totally fine to do by the way, it is your choice and sometimes it is nice to do), then remember that performances are a bit crazy. You never know what the adrenaline and energy is going to do to you on the night. That pirouette that you’ve done a thousand times? The rush of being on stage might make you did it just a little bit faster than usual. The spin that you’ve taught to your intermediate girls over and over? You could land it a bit funny because of the excitement. This is totally OK, little mistakes happen, and no one except you will notice!
I hope you enjoyed learning about more shit I’ve discovered during comp prep, and make sure you leave your thoughts in the comments below.