Question: What are we doing to our journey, to ourselves, and each other, if we only encourage and actively engage videos for 15 seconds or less, on a daily basis?
By now most of you are probably aware that Instagram has increased it’s video length maximum to one minute! And yes, this change may be motivated by algorithms, celebrities, and sponsors, but I am so excited and grateful for what it may encourage long-term in our own movement and pole community. I have been meaning to write this for awhile now, so I’m glad to finally sit down with some coffee and tap these keys out. Please know this rumination may go on a few tangents along the way. (Insert joke about time limits and shortened attention spans.)
I began sharing and consuming pole videos online in 2009 (I had been poling for about a year by that time, but didn’t have the studio space to record anything). The sharing and watching of pole videos, let’s face it, is the bread and butter of our modality and community expansion. But the whole landscape was entirely different then. There were less pole tricks, less complex combinations, less pole vocabulary (and a lot more repetition), less pole dancers, less ‘ebrities, less videos, a lot less quality instruction. Many people were figuring it out as they went along, and it was an exciting time of magic and intimacy and novelty. We would watch and re-watch videos for inspiration (almost to an unhealthy obsession), and sharing was a huge part of the growth of everyone (which is still true today). Those original pole video years for me consisted of tons of recorded long-form freestyles and edited mash-ups of current tricks I was working on. I would edit out numerous pole wipes (sweaty hands) and disastrous aerial faux pas (although many are still in there, oh lord my inverts!), or paste together multiple songs, but I hardly felt encumbered or worried by a time limit, or the limits of someone else’s attention. Many of us watched every single second of everyone else’s videos we loved (6 minute freestyle? No problem.), and we shared a lot more of other peoples movement than our own in our social feeds. The smaller, fledging community was paired with a much larger attention span, and now, the direct opposite is true.
I would watch videos like this over and over….
and for fun, here’s an oldie from my own library…
I loved this part of my journey, so very much. I can literally use my YouTube channel as a visual timeline of my movement evolution (and if you want to go back even further, and into more embarrassing territory, I still have even older stuff on Studio Veena). I can see the parts where I began by imitating my instructors. I can see the parts where I was so obsessed with a move I would treat it like a track on repeat (shirt tug and hair toss, anyone?). I can see the parts where I struggled to finesse pole fluidity and transition. I can see the parts where I forced myself to do things I thought were important. that later I could care less about. I can see the parts where I realized I felt truly sexy. I can see the parts where I realized I was strong, and where I was weak and my body had had enough. I can review bad and inconsistent form, and visually asses my alignment and engagement, something truly invaluable about personal video. I can see the parts where I tapped into emotional awareness, emotional validity, catharsis, and then later emotional intelligence and integration. I can remember those specific videos that would permanently unlock style expansion, musicality refinement, strength, confidence, flow, freedom. I am so grateful to have these videos, with timestamps, and music, and mistakes, and friendships that surrounded it. I remember who filmed them, how I felt when I would watch them for the first time (“Oh, the horror! Oh, that’s not so bad. Oh, that was kind of awesome! Ooh that is new for me!”). I remember the anticipation of uploading and sharing them. The fear and excitement of realizing I was starting to embrace who I was, flaws and all. I remember the first time I decided to use my real name in the title of a freestyle video. (Yikes, there goes my google search corporate America!) The apprehension, then relief when others recognized or embraced my movement. I remember the encouragement, the generosity in compliments and sharing, and the moment when others started asking for advice about their own movement journey. Then the moments later on when I realized I continued to share for my own reasons, whether that was encouraging myself or others. Sometimes it was about connection, sometimes it was just about following my own freestyle-obsessed bliss, and being able to refer back to it for my own reasons. There was nothing else in my entire life that I had invested in that amount of self-care, personal cultivation, and contribution to community. Instagram, and Youtube, after all these years, is really just my visual journal of my life as a pole dancer.
“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” – Wayne Dyer
As time passed, and sheer numbers grew, I feel video exploration and process in our community seemed to be replaced, slowly, by results-driven creation, competition, and finally, intentional branding. A inevitable sweet-meets-sour place where the dreams of pursuing career and entrepreneurship became a beautifully attainable opportunity for those that loved to pole, and perfectionism, idealism, and compartmentalism shot an impending fog into our collective midst. I believe, as those dreams grew for so many of us, the landscape just had to change to meet it. (I am glad, though, that I still kept recording and posting many of my freestyles through all of it. I remember having conversations with people who would intentionally not post as much exploration for marketing reasons, and encouraged me to do the same. But I guess I realized it was a part of what I loved about pole, so I did it anyway. And I still do, even when I’m not moving at “my best”.)
Then, one of the biggest contributors to our current video sharing landscape came to the scene. INSTAGRAM.
Since the birth of video sharing on Instagram, we have now been exposed to hundreds of thousands of small bursts of bad-ass moments in polers’s personal pole trainings. I think one of it’s incredible uses is as an archival, sharing, melting pot of emerging pole trick vocabulary. A place where people can get their daily stimulation of what they may want to work on when they get in the studio, and vice versa, when they share what they did in the studio (usually it becomes this orgy timeline of ideas where everyone is sharing and borrowing and sharing, and growing and molding and modifying, very cool). But the points I make in this blog are not about those short clips that fully encase a trick/combo/move idea, but what it is doing to movement itself. A very important difference for me.
Tangent. In 2012 when I started Finding Your Freestyle and it’s subsequent YouTube Challenges and freestyle perspectives, I started turning my own process into a productive one for encouraging others on this path I was subconsciously fighting to create and keep valid. With all this pole industry acceleration I asked myself, “Where is the growth in self-progressing exploration? When does someone get the chance to turn inward? How can I develop tools and methods for molding a healthy and fulfilling practice? Can freestyle be embraced and further developed as the powerful creative process and training method that it is? And can others benefit from what is a vital life practice for me?” Movement doesn’t have to be inherently competitive, comparative, even complacent. We don’t have do it exactly the way we are taught, are used to, or the way we think others like it, or the way your friend or teacher or idol does it. We can learn the rules, enjoy the rules, and then enjoy breaking them. And then we can share our findings, contributing new ideas to the melting pot. Movement is a tool of personal evolution, and expansion, and a video account of that process is highly important for growth, and the benefits of sharing our process/journey are amazing and connective.
Originally, my YouTube FYF videos were loooooooong. Each one having an intro, deeper explanations, longer examples…videos were 4, 5, 6, 7 and more minutes long! I talked “too much”, maybe, danced for “too long”. I loved doing these videos, I really cared about them. I loved feeling like I had ample time to explain and demo an idea or creative concept. However, participation on a larger scale for these challenges didn’t really pick up and build momentum until Instagram allowed those short video clips. You had 15 seconds to share you and your freestyle in all your glory! I started adapting my freestyle challenges to IG (This was March 2014), and sh*t just took off running. I remember my first IG challenge was about movement through three different levels in 15 seconds, the time limit became part of the fun! 15 seconds became a safety net of accessibility and accountability, and more people, it seems, threw on a song and danced. Maybe it felt like less of a burden, or risk, or time commitment to post just a clip. You could freestyle for an entire song, but only share what you liked. You could freestyle for just the chorus of a song, and get your exploration training done faster than a commercial break. (AMAZING!) It gave people, who were hesitant to share, a platform that felt comfortable in it’s low-time-commitment. (And the filters! Oooh!) I feel this platform did help validate freestyle as a means to enjoy pole practice and to be proud of it, even if it was only one clip at a time.
Posting on Instagram can be incredibly fun and sometimes, even rewarding. We have gotten infinitely creative with our little rapidly-digestable squares. We can speed up, slow down, morph ourselves into these perfect-looking morsels of movement. Over the years we have seen an explosion of sharing, borrowing, gazing, following, leading in this 15 second format. But here is where I see a shift in our pole community’s collective consciousness. Growth happened so rapidly this way, and dancers are more consistently and constantly sharing in shorter and shorter bursts than those many years ago, but at a cost. And this is what brings me back to the core reason I write this. What are we doing to our journey, and to ourselves and EACH OTHER, if we only encourage and actively engage with 15 seconds or less, on a daily basis? (Actually, did you know that you have more like four seconds to engage someone with your video before they decide to move on?)
Instagram has birthed an entire movement of short-form, marketing-rich content where everyone can see and share the quickest, most succinct, best version of themselves and others. Realistically, it has far surpassed YouTube, Vimeo, and Facebook as the dominant video sharing network for our industry (Most of our FB videos are direct IG shares, anyway!). I’ve seen the social feeds grow full and fat with chopped-up content, while those >3 minute YouTube videos keep getting fewer, growing shorter, and are less engaged with view counts (Of course FB and their video engagement allowances play a major role, too). It’s like because we can clip out our most dynamic, highest peak or most interesting moments in our training, explorations, or choreography/performance, we never see the entire picture, of anything. I mean, there are highly visible pole people in our community whom I’ve never seen move for longer than 15 seconds! Real talk. In this process, directly and indirectly, consciously or unconsciously, we deny huge aspects of our practice. We can collectively glorify those few seconds of seeming pole/movement mastery, and we can hide and ignore anything we don’t feel like owning. And I say this as a passive process, I understand this isn’t necessarily an intentional act. In the selection and sharing of “clips”, we are editing ourselves, and only seeing the edited versions of our peers, and that has to have a profound psychological impact.
My concerns are not only just about the way we integrate and acknowledge all aspects of our own movement process, but what we give to others. In giving ourselves less attention, we ultimately give others less, too. It’s a vicious cycle.
But through being energetically aware, responsible, and generous, we can create inclusiveness, warmth, and learning!
Already I’ve seen people get super pumped about their one minute new clip lengths. So many longer movement ideas are already being shared, climbs and descents start and finish in-video before the inevitable TA-DO moments, and it makes me heart sing every time. I find myself quite easily watching these clips entirely, even though it is FOUR times longer than the previous time limit. This is a huge increase if you think about it! We have already started adjusting to the lengthened format…and I look forward to the balance these longer movement moments in our feeds may create.
Ultimately, I wish social media continued to be a tool for our community where you can still be encouraged to integrate the many aspects of our movement journey, not just function as a super spliced-up, un-mindful, sensationalist, denial-filled world where everyone attempts to attain virtual bad-ass-status. There are incredible experiences that we can have with each other and ourselves when we nurture generosity, curiosity, perspective, kindness, authenticity, compassion, laughter, reality. We are worthy before we even start moving, and we are worthy in those moments between our biggest leaps and bendiest shapes. I love watching someone else’s experience of growth. I can roll through my mind a dozen people who I have watched over the years, from video to video, change and grow into incredible artists and movers. And I have also seen their movement explorations inspire movement qualities of numberless others over time.
Now that we can post one minute clips on Instagram, all of my freestyle clips have been that length. I like my own video record this way so much better, as seeing a full minute is way more fulfilling for me to see what ideas and sensations were happening for me that day, than the previous 15 seconds. I looked back at my own video library, outside of Instagram time limits, and realized that I have continually done this. Majority of my videos are still pretty long. There is definitely a smaller community of freestylers out there that also continue to post long-form, and I love watching them! I love sharing freestyle in entirety, and will continue to do this, even if little to no one watches them! I still learn a lot from them, I hope it will still connect me to those people who may get inspired to move in their lives, and I enjoy seeing how I change as a whole.
So, if you made it this far….
Let’s get our Freestyle One Minute Movement going strong! I had been thinking of hashtags for awhile and I like the idea of using #oneminutemovement. (Please continue to use #findingyourfreestyle as well so I can find you easily!)
This movement challenge (for lack of a better word…) is a focus on duration AND task. I suggest creating freestyle sessions that last at least 10 minutes. It takes me on average about three songs to fall into my flow state. You should allow the full arc of experience in a session, first warming up the mind and body (don’t forget meditation and stillness), then maybe a song or sensation or breath cycle may spark an emotional or physical reaction inside your movement, and the juicy stuff that happens during and after this can also be quite special and useful. (Has a freestyle that happens when you are physically tired, been especially beautiful or honest?) True creativity is gifted through the power of time and attention. Think about the things in your movement that genuinely improved when you didn’t rely on denial and selective attention? A creative process that drags you both through the mud, and into bliss. In these longer formats, we experience integration of all parts, and we become more whole.
Post your #oneminutemovement both for yourself, and your peers. When we train our eyes and perspectives daily to look for more beauty, we inevitable find it. Look past the single beat, the single moment, the 4 seconds of dopeness. Embrace the subtle genius of your smaller or still moments, allow the build up, allow the aftermath.
I encourage you be inspired to create your own long-form prompts within the #oneminutemovement. Create your own hashtags and challenge your friends! The more people we can encourage to share, the more confidence and support you may bring to their practice, and your own. I have a few I thought could be great, and will be playing with them as well:
#oneminuteflight (one minute up the pole, woohoo!)
Don’t forget to share your journey with us, #findingyourfreestyle.
Happy moving. Happy grooving