If you have clicked on this blog post then you have probably asked yourself at least one of the following questions:
‘Why can’t I move like that dancer can?’
‘Why does my flow look so clunky and awkward?’
‘I wish my floorwork was better, what am I doing wrong?’
Undoubtedly you have posted your videos onto facebook groups or on instagram with captions such as, ‘I want to improve my dancing, any tips?’ or ‘This is my freestyle, what can I improve?’ And whilst the support you get from the pole community is lovely, just being told ‘You’re amazing!’ and ‘Just keep practicing!’ is not always the most helpful. Although it is true that simply practicing pole and dancing will make you improve, that alone is probably going to facilitate progress at a much slower pace than your true potential. By learning what some of the fundamental issues are and resolving them, you can optimise your pole training and make the most of your potential.
Now, I am not saying this applies to everyone, but I believe that one of the fundamental issues facing aspiring pole dancers is a lack of body awareness. Body awareness, as I like to describe it, is simply an applied ability to tap in to your sixth sense, your proprioception. This is your body’s ability to sense movement in joints and joints position. It is what allows you to know where your limbs are within space without looking at them. I say ‘applied’ because of course we are all born with this ability, but we don’t all learn how to use to its full capacity in order to improve our movement based skills.
Although there is evidence that each individual has a unique and ‘finite’ level of propiception potential, this shouldn’t deter you from training it. Sure, you may never have primaballerina levels of propriception but it will improve. As your sense of propreception is trained your mind creates a movement ‘map’ attached to each body part. When you train a specific body part the ‘map’ become more complex and intricate. For example, a guitarist or pianist will have an extremely intricate ‘map’ for their fingers as their sense of propriception will be much more advanced from their training. Now, if you have spent the last 20+ years of your life before pole dance sitting down and not doing much exercise or sports at all, safe to say your ‘maps’ are going to be pretty bare and basic. So, when your pole teacher shows you a new spin or you try and add some flare to a dance routine, your body doesn’t really have any ‘maps’ to refer to so of course you will struggle more.
You often see this with brand new pole students; a pole instructor will demonstrate a spin four or five times, explain exactly which leg goes where, what arm is doing what, and how you should utilise momentum, but two minutes later and each student will be doing something entirely different. This isn’t wrong or bad, and it is a natural process of learning something new and strange – but it is amplified as a result of years of not cultivating a strong body awareness. This is why people who have previous experience in dance, gymnastics, yoga or any kind of movement based activity or sport, will probably pick up on pole a little easier, not just because they are strong and flexible, but because their ‘maps’ are already more advanced.
Yes, continuing to practice pole will in itself help build up your ‘maps’. However, if you come from the other angle of developing body awareness alongside your regular training, then I would be willing to bet that the pole dancing skills come that much faster too.
‘So, how do I improve body awareness?’
I believe that improving body awareness requires only two very simple techniques:
- Body Isolation Exercises
- Mindfulness Practice
Because this is a lot of information to digest I will post this in two parts. Take the night to read through this section of the post, and have a think of how body awareness is linked to your training and progress. You can come back on Wednesday to find out the techniques and exercises I recommend for developing stronger body awareness.
You can now read part 2 HERE.