A RUMINATION ON FINDING INSPIRATION
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.