After a fabulous night judging at the UK Professional Pole Championships semi finals on Sunday 9th October - the UK's newest pole dance competition (results)- I wanted to share some performance advice from a judges point of view and with my previous performance experience in mind. Firstly I should point out that as a judge I have seen many pole dance performances so I am always on the look out for something new and innovative, if I see a bland performance I am likely to mark it down even if it is technically correct.
Don't copy - be original!
No matter how much you are inspired by a pole dancer don't directly copy their routines or ideas. Having seen the marvellous Elena Gibson's Black Swan inspired performance I have now seen 5 copies of her routine and none of them have quite matched Elena's elegance and grace. 2 of them were great and I would have marked them higher if I had not seen Elena's routine first.
Try to put your own special marks on tricks and transitions, pole dancers such as Becca Butcher, Karen Chaundy, Sarah Scott and Robyn Rooke always stand out for coming up with new and exciting ways to execute their moves and combos. Sarah Scott's 'Floor sweeper' move is a classic example of her innovation.
picture above of UKPCC 2011 judges Lucy Misch, Donna Gant, Sam Remmer (me!), Stacey Snedden, Emma Mitchell, Kat Williamson and Elena Gibson.
All pictures courtesy of Claire Winters - Littlebiglegs photography.
Point your toes!
This is the biggest bug bear for me and is something that I will seriously mark down for. Alignment is so important and so often it is the feet/toes that let a move down. When you are executing a move it needs the right lines to make it look perfect and usually flexed feet will kill the move. My students, and those who have been judged by me in the past, will know how much I care about pointed toes!
Wardrobe malfunction/Dress rehearsals:
I have lost track of how many lips and nipples I have seen in the last few months so please check your wardrobe before you enter any competition. Your costume needs to behave itself throughout a routine otherwise you will either provide a free peep show for the audience or spend the entire routine fiddling with your costume. Thumb up the bum is anther no no, Make sure your shorts do not move around too much, although I would rather see you adjusting your shorts rather than flashing I would prefer to see neither!
Male pole dancers have additional concerns to address, if you do happen to be well-endowed please at least double up on your shorts do stop he trouser snake detracting from your routine. In some cases a jockstrap may be a handy addition to your wardrobe.
Sweaty palms are every pole dancers worst nightmare, you need to make sure you are prepared for the dreaded wet palms before you perform. If you don't get a handle on your slippery mitts your routine could be severely compromised or, worse case scenario, you could fall off. Remember to take into account stage lighting and nerves which could increase the amount you sweat. If you use grip aids or gloves make sure you work with them prior to the competition/performance. There are loads of grip aids and gloves on the market so choose well as different products work for different people. I use mighty grip if teaching advanced lessons or on hot summer days. I use dry hands and/or gloves topped up with mighty grip for performing.
If you do suffer from sweaty palms during a routine try to avoid visibly wiping your hands on your costume throughout your routine as this detracts from your performance.
When performing be aware of where your audience are, don't perform with your back to them. If you submit a video entry to a competition make sure you perform to the camera. Stage awareness also affects which way you should perform a move e.g. ideally a Jade should be performed side on to the audience so they can see the long lines created by the upside down horizontal splits.
Think about how the audience/judges will perceive your routine, you need to command their attention and give them eye contact where appropriate. Make sure your performance and facial expression link with the music, its no good picking a sad song and then smiling all the way through!
On-line video entry:
If you submit a video entry make sure the video is clear and easy to view, judges want to see your facial expressions and your costume a well as your pole dance moves. Poor quality videos might mean you don't qualify even if you are good enough.
Don't over choreograph:
Whilst choreography is a must, over choreography can kill a routine for the following reasons:
Trick heavy - don't overload your routine with tricks unless they fit with the music and flow effortlessly.
Land on the beat - musicality is an integral part of any good pole dance but as a judge I hate seeing people reaching a point in the song too early and then waiting to execute a big move. If you do reach a point in the song too early don't just sit and wait, try to have some filler moves/transitions on standby to stop the unnecessary pause.
Pick the right competition and the right entry level:
There are some really good and some really bad competitions so choose carefully. Before you enter a competition ask around for advice to see which competition and which set of rules suits you best.Work out what level you are at an don't try to cheat the competition, if you are advanced don't enter a beginner or intermediate level as it is unfair to other competitors. You can always ask a promoter for advice before you commit to entering.
picture above of Kate Johnstone and Varie Anderson - organisers of the PDC approved UKPCC competition.
Rehearsal and rest:
The right balance of rehearsal and rest are essential to a good performance. I have seen so many people practising their big tricks over and over again a few hours before they are due to perform and then being too tired to execute them in their actual performance. Ideally you want to take at least 3 days rest before your performance so don't leave your practice to the last minute. Also be aware of choreographing your routine months before the show, by the time you get to perform you may hate your routine and your song choice and that may reflect in your act.
I usually spend time practising my strongest moves and combinations and then make a list of them, I then pick a song and listen to the music to find the highs and lows of the song so I can try to match the tricks and combos to the music. I have the list of moves and combos printed out so I can read through it before performing, I also have a couple of back up moves in case I get a mental blank or complete my routine before the end of the song! Of course, what works for me may not work for you so allow enough time to get your act right before the big day!
Make sure you plan your diet and hydration not only when training but also on the big day. A good competition will have told you roughly what time you will be performing so you can plan what time to eat and can stock up on some carbs earlier in the day to fuel your muscles for your performance.
I think I have bombarded you with enough advice for today so will leave you to enjoy the rest of the day. Good luck to anyone who is performing :)