Making the most out of your experience from acceptance to post-comp.
Congratulations!! You’ve been accepted to compete in an aerial arts and pole fitness championship….now how do you prepare yourself for a stage performance?!
Competing can be exciting (and intimidating!!), and if you have a game plan to train your way to success, you can ensure that you will have an enjoyable experience. Throughout my years of competing as a national junior olympic gymnast and as a professional pole artist – turned competition organizer, I have learned along the way some helpful training tips that earned me a Pro card and titles at national championships.
Understand the Competition Rules/Regulations/Scoring & Judging
Knowing what the competition requirements/restrictions/style is, and what the judges are looking for can give you an edge in your scoring. Simple mistakes on stage can be costly, and easily avoided (example: violating a restriction like keeping 3 points of contact at all times, explicit music, costume malfunction, etc.) so be sure that you understand clearly what you are being scored on, and ask questions if you don’t!
If the scoring leans more towards the artistic and dance side, be sure to incorporate more choreography and artistry elements. If the scoring leans more towards the technical or trick side, it is important to include a range of tricks, combos and movement with flawless form. If the competition scores these elements equally, the challenge then is to create the perfect blend of artistry and athleticism that shows off your strengths while earning the highest scores from the judges.
Create A Training Schedule
Decide how often you will need to train and rehearse in preparing for the pole competition. What do you need to do different than regular training?
- Mark out your calendar your training days, rest days, and deadlines for the competition (music/prop/costume/compulsory move list due dates, date of routine completion, costume deadlines, etc). This will help you stay on track and focused leading up to the event. Every competitor is different, however the most common training schedule is 5-7 days a week, anywhere from 2-6 hours. It’s recommended to also include cross training such as running, yoga, stretching, dance classes, and weight training.
- Account for time spent learning new moves and polishing ones you already know, as well as choreographing the routine. Give yourself a deadline of two weeks to master/polish a move, or it gets cut. You only want to showcase your absolute BEST, and it’s better to keep something you’re not 100% on for a later performance, and not risk getting deductions for poor technique or missing a trick. Challenge yourself with a difficult routine, but if a move is not working, ditch it.
- Look and feel your best during training and on stage. Your diet fuels your body and a clean one keeps it running at optimal levels. Avoid foods with refined sugars, bad fats, and preservatives. Drink LOTS of water! Some competitors swear by meal prepping to help keep them eating enough, and staying away from cheap, fast, or fake foods.
- Take care of your body with REST days. This should include massages, reflexology and warm, relaxing baths or days at the spa, you can also exercise with an amazon exercise ball to improve your body and balance even more. Try to rest the day before the comp. You HAVE to rest to recover from all of this intense training and to prevent overtraining, getting too tired and injuring yourself or over using certain muscles and getting injured that way…or getting sick!
- A great book that is a short read and has valuable advice for training your body to perform on your “peak day” is called Consistent Winning. It explains, using multiple Olympians results to back up it’s claims, how to schedule training and resting days to allow you to “peak” (perform at your absolute best) on performance day.
Decide On Your Concept/Theme/Story
Incorporating a story line, theme, or general concept can be very helpful with choreography, music selection, and gaining artistry and performance quality points. Remember to stay true to yourself and your own style. If you try to create a routine solely based on what you think the judges want, there’s no guarantee that you’ll place, and then you’ll just have a performance that you didn’t really believe in. Your performance should have a definitive beginning, middle, and ending, and even if the audience doesn’t know EXACTLY what story you’re trying to tell, if you use choreography that matches the mood of the song and your costuming, it will appear more congruent and cohesive.
Choose a song that makes you want to MOVE, and inspires you to dance. A good competition song has highs and lows, instead of a repetitive melody. Interesting music makes for more interesting routines, and more opportunities for musicality, story telling, and interpretation. You can find a lot of interesting and new music from places online like Spotify, iTunes Radio, Pandora, iHeartRadio, YouTube, etc. If you are wanting to cut and edit your own track, there is some great free music editing software out there, such as Audacity which is great for cropping songs: http://audacity.sourceforge.net Take the time to cut or fade your song out – it will help your performance look more professional and put together.
Sometimes music will “sound like” something. A dramatic moment in the song can signify a drop, or a dynamic movement. Even the most simple moves can appear to be more dramatic when performed at the right time with music.
Pick Your Tricks & Create Choreography
Make a list of your favorite tricks (big and small) as well as transitions, poses, floor work, and dance moves. Again, it’s important to showcase your strengths, not your weaknesses! For example, if you are not a very flexible person, don’t include lots of splits and back bending tricks! Include moves you have mastered, and don’t over whelm your routine with tricks. Less is more! Allow yourself time to “live” in your routine. Moments of nothing are often the most beautiful, and many routines are too jam packed to let the natural flow come out. Performing on stage gives people the tendency to rush through things, so practice taking it slowly and giving yourself time to breathe. A good routine has a variety of movement, with a blend of floor work, tricks, spins, transitions, and dancing.
If you are not good at choreographing, seek out help from a coach. If there isn’t anyone available in your area, try reaching out to people known in the industry and see if they can offer online or Skype lessons. Some of the best pole dance champions of the world have hired dance coaches and choreographers to help them put their best feet forward, and polish up their performance skills.
It’s a good idea to finalize your routine choreography AT LEAST 3 weeks before the competition date so you can spend the last weeks running your routine over and over and over, with the last week in costume. These last few weeks are when you start cementing those important nuances, like facial expressions, emotion, storytelling, and when you perfect details such as making sure tricks are angled correctly to the audience, floor passes start and end on the correct parts of the stage, etc.
Practice Makes Permanent
People often hear the saying “Practice makes perfect,” but in fact, practice makes permanent! What you practice over and over becomes muscle memory, and is what your body will auto-pilot to when you are on stage. Video tape your practices to see how things are looking. Video provides great immediate feedback, and can show you opportunities or movement that you originally thought weren’t good (or were good but ended up looking awkward). Video is also good to have to review on your rest days to make notes with, and to help with your visualization memory.
Try to perform your routine once it’s completed in front of your friends, family, or any one that will watch! Giving yourself experience with performing your routine in front of people BEFORE your competition will help you feel more comfortable and confident on the big day. This is also a great way to get feedback from your peers about your routine. Some of the BEST choices/changes/etc were made to my routines after friends and peers had watched and given me suggestions.
Create Your Costume
You want to be sure to look your best on stage, so be sure that you don’t just show up in a sports bra and pole shorts! It doesn’t take much to make a costume look more stage/performance ready, and supplies can be found at decent prices on amazon, at craft stores, and fabric stores. If you aren’t the crafty type, there are a few great costume designers in the industry that have shops online, Esty, Amazon, Pinterest, and Ebay.
Be sure to have your costume completed in time to perform several run throughs in it. The last thing you want to have happen is a costume malfunction or pieces getting in your way/distracting the audience! Practicing in your costume before hand will work out the kinks, and get you feeling more comfortable on the day of. Here are some great examples of costumes used by past FPFC competitors: (Brandon Rosario – James Bond Theme, Anna Elise Bowman – Sparta Theme, Jo Northcutt – Mime Theme, Paige Anderson – Psycho Killer)
Prepare For The Big Day
In the weeks leading up to the competition, write down a list of all the things you think you might need on the day of the competition. Some essentials are:
– Grip aids (put your name on them to avoid confusion backstage)
– Costume (both pieces – top and bottom – seriously, double check that you have both pieces!)
-Comfortable outfit to wear before and after performance. Backstage temps can be unpredictable so better to have something warm and cozy to change into.
– DOUBLE SIDED TAPE/PASTIES! Essential. The last thing you want to be worried about is whether you’re giving the audience more than they paid for.
– Music (check whether you need it on thumbdrive or iPod.)
– Dance shoes if you’re wearing them, or comfortable shoes to wear backstage if you’re going to be barefoot.
– Baby wipes (to clean your feet, and wipe yourself down if you get a bit sweaty)
– Make up for touch ups
– Bottle of water and snacks
– A suitcase or bag to put all your stuff in, maybe with a lock on it, if you’re performing somewhere without a secure backstage area. That way you can throw everything in your bag at the end of the night, lock it, and put it somewhere safe so you can go dance and celebrate the end of the competition.
-A camera to take pics backstage
Competing should only happen with yourself and not by comparing yourself to others. One of my favorite aspects of competing was the motivation to be a better dancer, train harder, get more flexible, and make gains in my skill set. Enjoy the process! You’ve worked so hard, you should take a second before you go on stage to congratulate yourself for all the effort you’ve put in. It’s your moment – let yourself have some fun performing!