The Hurdles of Competition Training: My First Pole Competition
The thought of doing a pole competition for the first time is downright frightening. I don’t care how seasoned of a performer you are; I have a competitive dance background and had done many performances previously but it took a lot of convincing to get me to sign up for my first pole competition, the Atlantic Pole Championships, last year. It’s not just a matter of you remembering choreography and your movement being on point, but with pole you have another variable on stage to deal with. Not to mention it’s absolutely exhausting to do a full pole routine, and keeping your game face on without looking tired is damn difficult to say the least. But, I figured it would be a healthy challenge for myself and would be a way to get back on a competitive performance stage. Once I made the decision to go for it I signed up and didn’t look back (my advice would be to sign up ASAP that way you have less of an excuse to not follow through).
Figuring out my level/category and finding a song was the first challenge. I knew I wanted to do a high energy, dance-focused routine so I chose to be in the entertainment category. I also wanted to compete in a level that would be realistic for someone who had only been doing pole for a little over a year, but without too many restrictions. Thus, I chose level 3 because I knew I could pull off a quality performance there. I wanted a song with a hip hop energy and ideally a female voice because, you know…girl power. After a LONG search through Spotify, iTunes, YouTube, etc., I settled on “Massive Attack” by Nicki Minaj as it covered off all the qualities I wanted in a song, plus it was the right length.
I started developing my routine very early, about 4 months before the actual competition. Some people can pull routines together in a matter of weeks but I’m a neurotic over-preparer and because my schedule is so hectic I wanted to be sure I had enough of a buffer in the event I couldn’t get to the studio for a period of time. My process for choreographing usually starts in my head. I’ll listen to the song on repeat and start developing a “vision routine”. Often when I get to the studio and start working it through, I’ll realize that certain ideas worked better in my head than in real life, but it at least helps me to have a plan. Picking my pole “passes” first and then connecting the dots with dancing also helped the creative process. By the end of January/early February I had a full routine on which to build and refine.
The training process was hard, exhausting, anxiety-ridden, and at many times unsuccessful. For every day that felt great I had two that were horrible. There were some days I’d stop and say, “What the heck do you think you’re doing Danielle? You’re not cut out for this.” Oh, and I can’t forget to mention the fact that the only song I listened to on my subway rides for those 4 months was my competition music…I swear I’m not exaggerating. However, being surrounded by an amazing support system of women who were also training really helped. Their positive feedback was an incredible confidence booster. And despite the fact that I did the majority of my training for the first two or so months by myself, I will say it really helped when I got a practice partner; motivating yourself to push through alone can be extraordinarily difficult so another presence makes a big difference.
Despite all the hurdles, that weekend was one of the most special and fun of my life. I ended up winning 1st in my category and had friends and my boyfriend to cheer me on. I also got the opportunity to showcase LeiVola in costume form as a little pilot project for the brand, which was even more reason for me to feel proud.
I haven’t decided yet if pole competitions are really my thing – I did sign up and start training for APC again this year but had to stop due to persistent injuries that flared up. I think there will be more in my future, but I have a feeling I’ll end up enjoying showcase performances more. Regardless, I encourage everyone who does pole to try a competition at least once. If nothing else, it’s an opportunity to break out of your comfort zone and show the world your most honest, raw, beautiful, confident self.
Here's the video of my pole routine - enjoy!