I have been a pole dance instructor since 2009. As I write this, I realise I'm coming up to my 10 year pole instructor anniversary! I can hardly believe it. I still love teaching pole as much today as I did when I first started, in fact I love it even more, because I can remember just how nervous I was when I started teaching. Nowadays, with almost a decade of teaching experience under my belt, I have been fortunate enough to have watched hundreds of women start their pole journey with us at Pole Dance Academy and develop into strong, flexible, confident pole dancers.
One of the sweetest things I have noticed over the years is that pole dancers tend to get a little bit attached to their favourite instructor. Often, students get very upset if timetabling changes mean that their favourite instructor, whom they have had since they started as a beginner, is no longer available to them. It can be so hard to let go of your first pole instructor!
It's also really hard as a pole instructor to let go of your students when the time comes for them to move to another level! But moving on to train with a wide variety of instructors is a crucial part of developing and growing as a dancer. And yes, it was hard for me to hand these lovely students to another Pole Dance Academy instructor...
At Pole Dance Academy, I can often tell if a student of ours has been a particularly devoted apprentice of their favourite teacher. You can actually tell from their dance style who their main instructor has been! They have similar gestures, flourishes, movements, style and attitude when they dance. It can be quite uncanny how strong the resemblance is!
Of course, there is nothing wrong with this. However, if you start performing or competing, something that makes people pay attention to you is whether you have your own unique style. It's often the uniqueness of a performer that makes their presentations so memorable .Think of Felix Cane, Yvonne Smink, Lisa Dee, Daria Che, Olga Koda, Nadia Shariff and any number of other performers that have a really unique style. You may not always remember exactly what tricks they did, but you definitely remember their style and stage presence!
But developing your own style can be confusing and intimidating. Where do you start? How do you know what your own style is? You might feel pretentious or silly defining your "style", when in reality you feel like you're doing your very best to simply hold on to the pole and not fall over during a performance!
Here are some tips for developing and honing your own uniqueness:
1. Take classes with a wide variety of instructors. See what aspects of their style resonate with you, and draw inspiration from their movement. The more instructors you have, the more influences you have, and you can pull from this pool of inspiration to develop your own style. If you are a Pole Dance Academy student, you're lucky enough to have more than 20 instructors to choose from!
2. Consider your pole classes as the starting point. Take movements and tricks you have learned in class, and use that as a jump off to exploring other transitions and movements on your own. Making discoveries on your own is a magical way to get to know yourself and your dance style!
3. Go to practice time - a lot! Use practice time to research and explore your body's way of moving. At Pole Dance Academy, enrolled students are entitled to free practice time on the weekends. It's our way of encouraging you to practice and develop your skills.
4. Freestyle as often as you can. Freestyle dancing is the best way to discover how your body wants to move. Dance from the heart. Don't worry about how you look - it's all research and exploration. Make sure you record your freestyles so you can look back on what you've done and see what works best for you.
5. Take classes from movement teachers outside the pole world. Draw inspiration from everywhere - ballet, capoeira, break dance, hip hop, contemporary, ballroom, zumba - whatever appeals to you!
6. Don't be afraid to take risks with your style. If you are too afraid of what people will think, you will never step outside the boundaries of what has already been done. Go wild! Be you!
7. Lastly, as cheesy as it sounds, enjoy the journey! The process of building your own style is an amazing way to explore yourself and your capabilities as a dancer. Enjoy the process of creating and falling in love with your own unique style.
Who are some of your favourite pole dancers, and what is so unique and appealing about their style to you? We'd love to hear from you!
Michelle Shimmy xx