Just Let Go and Dance!
Seems like such a simple request, right? For me, it is. "Letting Go" or "Going with It" has never been a huge problem for me, so when I started to teach Pole Dance I assumed this ability was one that everyone possessed. I was wrong. I quickly began to realize that for some of us the words "Ok, time for our Freestyle!" sounds like "could you scoot forward just a little bit more please."
After years of teaching Pole I finally started to think about the reasons why??
Why is Freestyle such a difficult thing for some and second nature to others? I took the last year to really dig into this idea. I asked questions, I observed and I researched.
You know what I learned? Vulnerability is the reason why.
This blog is for anyone who doesn't know what Freestyle is, for anyone who finds Freestyle scary and for anyone who wants to improve their Freestyle practice.
What is Freestyle?
A performance or routine featuring relatively free, unrestricted movement, intended to demonstrate an individual's special skills or style.
I highlighted the words in this definition that I feel are important.
If you poke around on our website www.ScarletStudioFitness.com you will find our Q&A page. On that page we share our studio mission statement. If you read our mission statement you might notice that is has striking similarities to the definition of Freestyle:
"... to give students permission to dance and move freely, with no boundaries, no judgement and no rules beyond safety ... we strive to encourage individuality and personal autonomy ..."
Freestyle is at the heart of Scarlet Studio. We fully believe that being able to move freely and without boundaries is more way important than any trick, no matter how impressive. The only thing more important than being able to Freestyle, is doing it safely.
Why is Freestyle so Scary?
Why is Freestyle so dam scary for some of us?! The answer is because being vulnerable is scary. (I am going to assume that everyone knows who Brene Brown is at this point, but if you do not know who she is, I highly recommend looking her up and watching her TED Talk on "The Power of Vulnerability". )
Vulnerability is a paradox, it requires you to face your fears in order to become stronger. It allows you to touch uncertainty and shame which in turn allows you to experience growth and joy, but opening a door in which you know there are uncomfortable emotions on the other side, is really difficult. People prefer to keep that door shut and make excuses to keep it locked tight.
I hear you, you are still wondering what this has to do with Freestyle Pole Dance, right?
Well, by agreeing to pole dance you have agreed to be vulnerable.
As a society we have all quietly agreed to show ourselves in public as "the best possible version of ourselves". When you join a pole class you have quietly admitted that you do not know how to do something (first scary thing), you have agreed to wear very little clothing (second scary thing), and now someone is asking you to 'move freely' as if no one is watching... but there are people in the room! You want to do your best because that is your 'silent agreement with society', and now uncertainty has you terrified.
Let's add shame to the game! Shame is HUGE when it comes to the ability to be vulnerable Pole Dance taps into peoples shame almost in the same way sex does. The positions and movements that Pole Dance requires of you as a dancer can be interpreted as sexual or sensual, and this is not without merit. We need to fully admit that the reasons why people attend a Pole Dance Class will always include an element of wanting to feel sexy. We also need to admit that no matter how open you are about sex, there is always a bit of shame attached to the act, especially when that sex in front of other people.
In short, to feel comfortable with Freestyle you have to be vulnerable. You must set your uncertainty aside and allow yourself to make mistakes publicly, even if this means falling flat on your butt. You must fully embrace the idea of moving in ways that emulate sex and take it to the hilt, forgetting about foolish pride or shame. These are not easy things to do for a lot of people, and they are even harder to do if you do not feel safe or supported.
Scarlet Studio's number one objective is safety - this means physical and emotional safety. We fully comprehend a persons need to feel comfortable in order to allow for the power of vulnerability to work. We know this doesn't happen overnight and we know that it is scary as fuck, but we are here to guide you through the scary parts because we also know that the reason you came to Pole Class is to find that growth and joy you were looking for.
How to improve your Freestyle
Ready to let go and just dance? Now that you know what makes Freestyle so hard from an emotional standpoint lets talk about 3 things you can do to physically to become more comfortable with the act.
1) SLOW DOWN
A very intelligent woman said this to me, "If you feel like you are going too slow, you are probably going the right speed." Think about each movement as a beautiful word written in old English cursive, with a quill pen. Take your time with the movement, you have plenty of time, there is no need to rush.
2) REPEAT. REPEAT. REPEAT.
The more you repeat a movement the more your muscles remember and your brain can relax and stop worrying. There is absolutely nothing wrong with repeating the same movement or shape over and over again while you freestyle, you are drilling your body to remember how to do a thing. Just be aware of the movement you are drilling - you want your muscles to remember how to do a thing safely and correctly so that you don't need to go back an unlearn bad form. (Trust me, unlearning is way harder than learning how to do it right the first time!)
3) DANCE WITH YOUR FACE
This simply means that everything is a dance move. I will often tell my students that if you want to stand against the pole and pull on your nipples - that's dancing! Never underestimate the power of gliding your hand up your body from your toes to your face - that's dance! You do not need to constantly be banging out huge difficult moves or tricks to be dancing. The big tricks are the icing on the cake, but if the cake is crap no one is going to care about the icing.
In conclusion, learning how to Freestyle requires you to be vulnerable with your body movements and that is scary because none of us are comfortable with publicly making mistakes or emulating sexual positions. The reason why some people are better at Freestyle is because they have practiced being vulnerable in other areas of their lives. So, if you need to harness the power of vulnerability, come take a Pole Dance Class! It just might open the doors to growth and joy!