Welcome to our second installment of Freestyle’d Tips! I hope you joined us in our first discussion about The Breath. This next rumination is on the idea of “negativity”, negative emotions and experiences as a tool to illuminate, to instruct, and to evolve from. A place not to avoid, fear, or resist, but a place to dive into more fearlessly to find more freedom, and where better than in our own movement. Take a listen. Please feel free to like, comment, and share! I mega-appreciate it.
“Negative emotions motivate change. Positive emotions confirm.”
― Dan Rockwell
The largest inhibitor of this process is the belief that the OUTSIDE circumstances are at fault. Blame. Deflection. Denial. Our powerful “allies” in staying put and not being accountable for the way we feel (even if we deflect onto others, or even onto time and space itself). But learning to respond consciously, and to take responsibility from the only thing you truly have any control over, you (and the way you react and feel), will transform your life.
Hey guys! Thanks for joining me! I thought it would be fun to start a small video series to discuss and share some tips that I find helpful for my own freestyle practice and for those of my students. These videos are freestyle’d, in true FYF fashion! Please feel free to watch, digest, comment and contribute, or share!
“I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.”
― Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
This first tip is about breathing. And by breathing… I mean conscious, aware breathing before and during a practice session, to create a neutral point where we can discover where we want to go within the present moment. It is important to breathe through and within your movement for many obvious physical reasons (oxygenation, control, extension, fluidity, power, usage of space, energy, etc!), but it is also important to point out the alternative functions for both calming and channeling your thoughts, directing your impulses, accessing what may be going on emotionally, and opening up your sensory awareness and sensitivity – where amazing movement ideas come from!
The biggest problem I see when people “get lost” in freestyle (not the good kind of lost, haha), is when the breath takes a major back seat. We get all hyped up and excited while we pick songs, fiddle with our clothing, set up our camera, change lighting, clean our poles, anticipate a movement or combination of movements, or have conversation and interactions with others in the room. We even get caught up while we control the expression we are determined or allow ourselves to express, “I need to get this out!”. These actions, while very important for environment, set and setting, are quite externally focused. Before and while we move, we must continue to access the internal, too. What is going on for you? How does your body feel? What do you hear in the music, what does your body feel in the room, against the pole, in your clothing, or on the floor? What do you allow to come through by staying present?
We all know, freestyle is full of magic in its potential spontaneity, and it can lead us in new and exciting directions, if we allow it. That’s where the breath comes in. Give your breath your attention. Before you start dancing. Or during when you need to come back to a center point. Again and again. Even if it takes you away from creating temporarily. It can be a seriously useful compass. And it will keep you from letting the mind and letting your expectations take over, causing small flashes of anxiety, hesitation, detachment, even fear (and this is all compounded when someone is watching, even if its just your camera)!
Let’s breathe consciously, before every freestyle. And if you are adamant about starting a song on cue (cause it’s THAT good!), take this moment before you press play. Your body will thank you.
If you try this exercise, please tag so we can see your explorations! #findingyourfreestyle AND #FYFexercise
This week in my Finding Your Freestyle classes at Body & Pole, we centered around friction as a theme. What a beautiful, wide-scoping noun! For pole dancers, friction makes up much of the what and how we do. How we communicate physically with our surfaces, what creates the magic of floating, lifting, sticking, dragging, sliding.
FRICTION (NOUN): “The resistance that one surface or object encounters when moving over another.”
There also is a humanistic component here to explore, if you think of one idea/emotion/person/communication coming into resistance with another, the mind simple explodes with ideas!
Last night, in a round of prompting guided by my theme of friction, I wanted to explore the “friction” between two persons when it comes to movement. You can see this exercise as metaphor for life, but how much resistance is generated or lost by the way one thing comes into contact with another? What drives our ability to “go with the flow” (internally and externally), what makes us stop our momentum, what can help us find the path of least resistance?
We used partners, (respectfully and safely) informed touch and direction guidance to find some really exciting movement. I swear, the collective movement quality of the room was next level. We will explore this again!
A few tips if you want to try this exercise:
• You need at least two dancers, one who is moving, and one who is giving direction and focus.
• Start by discussion your needs. If there is an area of the body that isn’t feeling great, let your partner know! Set your boundaries before you begin. Discuss what your needs are, honestly and openly. This also will create more trust between both of you! For example, does pushing, even lightly, trigger you negatively in some way? Do not judge where you are at, work realisitically with where you are at, and grow from there.
• Keep the music gentle (repetitive and consistent, even potentially instrumental or ambient) to start; supporting larger, more broad-strokes movements until you get more comfortable with the partner exercise. The music you pick will dictate heavily the movement quality. Relaxed or dragging beats, will create the same sensation in the body.
• Have the mover center their movement around a pole, or closer to the floor. As you get started you may want to rely on those places of anchoring so you don’t feel like you may fall. Those with stronger centers, or those feeling confident in their ability to direct momentum or fall safely, can do this without apparatus.
• Mover gives non-verbal feedback that they are ready for another push, lift, draft, pull, or any direction intention by becoming still, or pausing their movement, signaling that they are ready for another action.
• Those giving actions, think of larger body parts, sending energy through a place on the body that is more stable (upper/middle back, hands/arms, shoulder, hips, feet). If you are pushing or pulling, you don’t want to do so in a place that may feel potentially bad, dangerous, unstable for the mover to initiate movement from. As you build trust and understanding, you can take larger “risks” in your choices.
• Think about the quality of your touch. What will foster trust, faith, and surrender in the mover? The quality of your touch, the way you apply pressure or momentum, and even the subtle energies (maintaining your focus, staying positive, loving or non-hesitant touches), all matter here. Practice will make your instincts better, feedback helps too!
• Action partners…don’t be afraid to apply two forces gently, using two hands or assisting with another part of your body (shoulder, feet, knees). Get creative! Example: To get your mover to fold, it might work best to place one hand in front and one hand in back of their body, giving them maximum feedback that you intend them to fold.
• Make sure you are switching their direction frequently, opening their possibilities of new directions, not simply predicting where they will most likely go next. That doesn’t keep the mover “thinking on their toes”.
• Be curious, have fun, and try to make it work best for you and your partner, don’t just try it once! Grow the exercise in ways unique to your partnership, it may go in places you don’t expect! Let it!
• I recommend recording your sessions, as video homework really allows you to see your choices, learn from what works and what doesn’t, allowing maximum growth out of the exercise. Allow the lessons to teach you more about you, and the way you move and interact than with just this one exercise.
Thank you to the lovely amazing Rebecca Starr for such an incredible demo.
Last night, in a round of prompting guided by my theme of FRICTION in FYF – I wanted to explore the “friction” between…
We as pole dancers and movement enthusiasts have a smorgasbord explosion of options when it comes to imbibing the refreshments of social media-inspo. There are flows, there are combos, there are new tricks, their are new tricks on old tricks, variations, freestyle clips that encompass the very best moments of a song, flexibility goals, strength goals, friends who rock, strangers who rock, and more. It is overwhelming. It overwhelms me. I love it, and I dread it, at the very same moment of reflection.
If you search #poledance on IG, 1,260,257 posts and counting…
I would be lying if I didn’t honor that social media is an incredibly powerful tool that is a magical glue of connection across the land and sea of pole dancers. It’s power cannot be denied. I have been able to learn, travel, meet amazing people, and evolve because of it’s existence. Just from a single hashtag our worlds can expand, finding new things to stretch our minds and hearts. Meeting like-minded movers and thinkers who validate our own movement preferences and passions, watching those whose strengths push our perspective on what is possible, and not possible, within our own body. It is that koolaid-drinking, get-fired-up tool you can rely on when you are heading into an empty space to train, create, or experience movement. Options to play with based on things you get juiced-up on. There are people I see online who format their entire training regimes and sessions around Instagram wishlists. There are those that get up and move, because they saw someone else get up and move, and post about getting up and moving. It’s incredible. There is much to love, and appreciate.
AND…not instead of, but at the same time, I cannot and will not deny the vital importance of going in. And by going in…I mean GOING INWARD. Relying on the resources of self; your brain, your heart and emotional history, your intuition, your knowledge and intellect, facility and ability (without thinking they aren’t enough, at this moment in time…YOU ARE ALWAYS ENOUGH to explore YOUR MOVEMENT)…it is by going in that we arrive where we are, the dancers and movers and freestylers and athletes we can and should be proud of…
The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance. – Aristotle
I have said this message in class, and I will continue to find new and different ways to say this very same thing over and over again…but eventually in your journey you have to stop teacher-gazing, student-gazing, online-gazing, friend-gazing…and you have to start navel-gazing (a term I lovingly take from my acupuncture healer, Finbar McGrath). You have to move beyond imitation and inspiration, and start cultivating that which is yours. Many people never get here, because this is the hard stuff. It isn’t always “fun”, to come to terms with where you are really at, and to work with that you’ve actually got. In doing this, we have to take a deep breath, remove that static of denial, deflection and doubt, and acknowledge the beauty and opportunity of both our strengths and our weaknesses. We have to be silent, reflective, curious, and find our own pulse. Taking some time away from being taught new things by others, and trying to find our own guidance to pair with it. What music really generates unique instincts within our body? What moves ACTUALLY feel good, and can be repeated and expanded upon within our own facility? And, do we even like them? What flexibility and strength do we possess that we can harness in creation? How and where can we fill in gaps in our experience? What from our own lives can inform our artistry? How the fuck do we feel today, and what kind of movement DO WE NEED RIGHT NOW? (This is a big one.)
I have seen the magic that happens when we focus upon ourselves without judgement and with love. When we follow the odd, twisting, changing preferences of our own paths, and allow it to wax and to wane without resentment and regret.
If I asked you right now, you could probably list a few artists and professionals you know or admire who have done this self-cultivation. Who have seemingly invented new avenues to explore, and probably did it by spending a GREAT DEAL OF TIME ALONE.
I don’t want this article to suggest we all have to lock ourselves into the studio and experience our entire artistic existence by ourselves. I would never suggest that kind of total isolation. Collaboration, instruction, inspiration, and the social aspects of our industry are MAJOR points of joy and growth. But, I think, especially with pole enthusiasts and those trying to grow and find their own way, we have to be quiet enough to hear that voice inside. And sometimes it won’t speak up until we give it that time and space to do so.
HOW CAN WE APPLY THIS INNER REFLECTION?
As a final note, let’s land on a practical way we can use this inward gaze. Of course, there are a thousand and one ways to explore and find our inner silence and subsequent voice. But, let’s just start with an example. Let’s say you went to class. And in class you were given a flow and a trick. The flow interested you, it felt great, or maybe it didn’t but you know with a little love and attention if could go places. You executed the flow in class “right”, or at your best attempts maybe you got to do it once or twice in a satisfying way. So, now, you can have some fun with this morsel you’ve been given. (Time and time again we learn and experience things in class we never come back to, like, ever again. To intend to work with something does take effort!)
You take some time after class, or in a space rental a week or month from now, or at home in your pole space, or even in your mind in the car or subway – you start to play. You let the quality of content or instruction live within the confines of the flow, but then you identify what can be changed. Maybe in that spin, you have 2 contact points, and that leaves 1 or 2 limbs free for creative choice. Wow, even your fingers can play. Maybe you hone in on the sensation of weight in your feet, the pull of your dominant hand, the whip of the momentum, and you let your body get smarter with every attempt. Maybe you try to do the flow as slow as you are physically able so you can identify physical weaknesses within the flow you are rushing through. Maybe you realize that the contemporary styled movement works brilliantly to a song that screams SEX. Maybe with socks it slides and glides with elegance and ease, but in pole shorts and bare legs, it allows you to live long lines or shapes in interesting ways. Maybe you find that you can add, subtract, and insert transitions and spins into it that you love, diversifying and growing the combinations of movement. Maybe you close your eyes and enjoy the sensation of that flow, in a way you would never dream of doing with friends and strangers around. Maybe you try to reverse it. Maybe you imagine you are exorcising your shitty week with every rotation and every stomping step. Maybe at the end of it the flow is gone, and what is left is totally, excitingly, irrevocably, something completely new. Maybe, after a time, the flow doesn’t matter at all anymore, it just became a catalyst for a movement session you just created with your own curiosity. The same example can work with a singular technique or trick, it can work without the requirement of dance…the choice…is yours. It always is. All you have to do is realize the choice exists.