The first step of my journey to becoming a competitive pole dancer started in 2011 when I did my first pole competition which was Miss Pole dance UK. I remember being so consumed with nerves that I almost threw up minutes before my performance. I really had no idea what to expect as I was a self taught pole dancer and knew nobody in the industry to ask for advice.I remembered being terrified! However since then competing has became such a huge part of my life and looking back I now realise how much I have gained from it.
I would like to share my six years of experience to help others who may be starting out and need support and guidance. This may even be useful for those who already compete and want something to relate to.In this guide I will illustrate how to deal with competition Highs and Lows ,tips and tricks to help you manage on competition day and why the mindset is so important.
Even though I have been competing for a while now the points illustrated here are factors that I also need to remind myself of at times and are not only for the newbie's. Competing is demanding but rewarding .It requires physical and mental hard work, a lot of time, expense, careful planning and significant sacrifice.However they do get a little easier because through repetition magic arises.
One thing I love about competitions is meeting all the other talented competitors . We are all here for the same reason so we can relate to one another and our passion brings us closer. It is a great way to network and be inspired by others.They also make you physically more capable and push you to become a more mentally strong and confident pole dancer. They give you a goal to work towards and give you a reason to train hard. In each rehearsal your stamina, grace and physical strength is slowly building. It is also a platform for you to showcase your skills and express yourself. The whole creative process of bringing your idea to life is very exciting and rewarding. Also other pole dancers in the audience may love your style and book you for workshops.
Competing is not for everyone
Performing in front of an audience can daunting enough but the added pressure of being judged adds to the emotional rollercoaster, especially if you are new to it . Some people are naturally in their element on stage. They may stem from a competitive gymnastics background and have been used to this process since childhood. Or perhaps they have a natural charisma and just adore being on stage. I struggled with competitions for years.I was never naturally confident and being up on stage made me feel very vulnerable however after each competition I became mentally stronger, more self assured, more creative and an all round better pole dancer.However you don't have to compete to be extraordinary at what you do.It is a choice.
How do I know when I am ready ?
Many people want to compete but claim they are not ready.The truth is you will never feel completely ready. You will always feel unsure and unguarded at the thought of dancing in a room full of hundreds of people when all eyes are on you.Its normal to feel uncertain, unprepared and unqualified but you are more likely to improve faster if you start before you are ready. Success does not come to those who wait.
TIPS AND TRICKS
The truth is about nerves is there is no way of escaping from them. Nerves actually can be looked on as a good thing as they show your passion and how much you care for what you are doing. However, there are good nerves and bad nerves. The good nerves can feel strange and exciting like butterflies flying in your stomach. The bad nerves are generated from negative self-talk and bad thinking patterns. Obsessive worries and doubts about what could go wrong such as ‘what if my hands are slippy?’ and ‘I think I am going to forget my routine’ will trigger bad nerves and can override your whole performance. There are some herbal remedies you can take to combat nerves such as Bach’s flower remedy which can pacify uneasy sensations. I find this helps a lot! But most important are positive thinking techniques which can calm your mind and your nervous system ( we will come to this later)
Admittedly I struggled with this factor for many years as I have always been a ‘leave it till the last minute’ girl. Organise all your bits and pieces for your show in advance to relieve unnecessary stress on the day, there is nothing worse than being backstage and realising you have forgotten a piece of your important prop or franticly running around looking for a needle and thread. Your competition bag should be prepared the night before and a checklist can be made to make sure you have all the essentials. Rushing around on the day will do you no favours. The truth is any added element of stress on the competition day is wasted energy and could potentially affect your performance. Being calm and centred in the hours leading up to your performance is crucial in executing your best work.
Mindset is EVERYTHING! your mindset is what is going on in your head before a competition. We are all different but personally, a calm mental state is more valuable for me when I compete. I try and keep my mind in a restful state daily with meditation and yoga practice especially leading up to a competition. Some other techniques that can be used are;
Mental Imagery: Close your eyes and visualise yourself vividly performing the best show you have ever done and this will reflect into your reality.
Affirmations: These are powerful proven methods of self-improvement. Replace thoughts of self-doubt with positive words about yourself and your ability.Words spoken out loud are more powerful.
Meditation: Disciplining yourself to have a daily meditation practice will bring clarity to the mind and increase your ability to focus on the day. ( 3-4 weeks of daily meditation)
If these techniques are not for you then generally thinking and talking positively will raise the level of feel-good hormones in your body. Also believing in yourself and your abilities and not comparing yourself to others on the day is very important. Like the Buddha said ‘You become what you believe’
We all have our own pre-competition rituals that help prepare us on the day. You probably won't discover these until you have done a few competitions and know what to expect. Some of mine are;
1.All techniques in the above chapter :)
2. Keeping myself busy on the day doing tasks NOT just relating to the big show.Such as cleaning the house or taking a walk in the park.
3. Watching a happy Disney movie to activate positive thoughts.
4. Eating sweet potato for slow-release energy for the evening performance.
5. Chilling out. This means NOT overstimulating my brain with social media.
It's always exciting at first to be around your fellow competitors and friends however as your time slot creeps closer the nerves circulate and the environment can become quite tense. I pick up on other peoples energies very easily and I find being in a small room with 20 nervous competitors very intense so having a little quiet time to myself is valuable. I normally find a small space to breathe and centre myself before my spot. Even if you can connect with yourself for as little as 5-10 minutes it may help you a great deal. I find too much conversing with other competitors before showtime can break my focus. You will have lots of time to catch up with everyone after. Listening to your favourite playlist on your headphones while you warm-up is a great idea too. If you are in an exotic style pole division listening to sexy music will stimulate the right mindset for your act. In terms of listening to your music for your piece; I personally think you can OVER listen to it just like you can OVERthink and OVERtrain your routine. Trust in your ability and assure yourself that you know your routine like the back of your hand (which you should at this point). The routine is already printed in your subconscious mind from all those hours of practice so use this time to relax.
How to deal with a 'bad show’?
Just to make this clear your 'bad show' was probably not bad at all but in your mind, it was just not how you envisioned. After weeks or months of practising the same routine, you expected to deliver the best and most flawless show you have ever done. However, you may not have fulfilled your expectations and as a result, you may feel disheartened and disappointed. You may vow never to touch a pole ever again!( a little dramatic I know) This has been me many times! After a ‘bad show,’ it would sometimes take me up to a week to watch my video.
Whilst watching your recording it is normal to pick out all the mistakes and dwell on those things that did not go quite to plan however you must remember that you are your own worst critic and that the audience does not know your routine so its unlikely they identified any mistakes. In the unfortunate case that you slip or fall, if you smile and continue this is brave and courageous and the audience will love you for it. You may lose points for this but it will make you stronger and more careful for the next performance. We are human not pole dancing machines so a mishap is bound to happen at some stage. You can't turn back time but you can reflect and learn from it. After every ‘bad show’ I have done the next competition I have won.
You are always a winner
People compete for different reasons. Some do it just for the experience, others to improve their skills or perhaps to increase their social media following. But the main aim for most is to Win and be recognised. Winning is hugely satisfying and it feels good to be rewarded for months or years of hard training. Even if you do not place you normally always going to gain something from a competition such as more strength or confidence as a pole dancer. It is also likely that an opportunity could arise from someone in the audience who enjoyed your show. This may be in the form of a new teaching opportunity or job avenue. The last competition that I didn't place in I received an invitation to perform in Tokyo. You can achieve recognition without winning a title and at the end of the day, we know that competitions are subjective and the results in most cases are really just the opinion of four people.
The Golden Rule
ENJOY! ENJOY the process! ENJOY being up on stage! ENJOY the whole experience!
Enjoyment is not only seen through the eye but is also conveyed through the energy you project. Stage presence is like magic and part of this is feeling great about yourself and your show. Of course, you need to have worked very hard and trained accordingly but the truth is you don't have to be the strongest, most flexible pole dancer with a 10-year dance background to win. If you are feeling great about yourself and your show this will bring your performance to life. Love being up there and the audience and judges will love it too! Before going on stage remind yourself of your true passion for this art and be grateful that you have been selected to share this wonderful gift with so many people.