Everyone knows how important spotting is in pole dancing. It's a great way to build confidence to try a scary new move, and a safer way to train. But just in case you're one of those self-taught and solo-training pole dancers who has never had someone to pole dance with, I'll explain what I mean by spotting. To spot someone is to assist them while they're trying a new move, in case they run into difficulty and need a hand to keep them from falling.
These days pretty much every instructor worth her or his salt knows how to spot effectively. But it wasn't always so. I remember when I started pole dancing (about 8 years ago now), the moves weren't as advanced as they are now. Pole dancers didn't really spot each other. We kind of just got out of each other's way in case we got kicked in the head!
But as time went by, and the moves got more difficult, people began to see the value in spotting each other. Coming from a gymnastics background, spotting came naturally to me. I was used to being spotted, so I was able to put my trust in others to let them help me. I was also used to spotting my fellow gymnasts, so I understood where to put my hands so as to be a useful spotter, how to bear the weight, what stance to adopt when spotting, and so on.
It's difficult to explain good spotting technique in a short blog post like this, so I won't go too in depth into it. It's better to learn from demonstrations, or from actual instructor training (like the XPERT program).
A brief summary of some spotting techniques would include:
1. Adopt a strong stance - legs wide, knees slightly bent, ready to bear weight if necessary. And don't wear shoes when spotting :-).
2. Understand the move your partner is doing, and where her/his weight is likely to be. You need to understand the move to be able to put your hands in the right place. For example, if someone is inverting, you wouldn't spot them by holding their feet. A better place to start would be to stand next to them and support their hips as they go over.
3. Make sure you are at the right height. It's extremely difficult (even dangerous) to spot someone doing a move up high on the pole, e.g. higher than your head. If they are too high up, you can't spot safely. Similarly, if your partner is a lot taller than you are, they might need to make some adjustments in their starting position if they want to be spotted by you.
4. Spotting on a spinning pole is more difficult. It's best to attempt new tricks without spinning, especially if you're getting a spot from someone.
5. If you're spotting someone, you need to be really focussed on what your partner is doing, both for their own safety and for yours. Spotting can be dangerous for both people involved if it isn't done correctly...
Which brings me to my next point.
**Look After the Spotter!**
If you're the one being spotted, you need to be conscious of the safety of the person doing the spotting.
I was talking about this with another pole instructor the other day. She was telling me that she had a student who was dangerous to spot, because at any given moment she would simply let go of the pole and expect her instructor to catch her.
Now, it's nice to have that kind of faith in your instructor. But as a student, you have to remember that you're not the only one being spotted by your instructor. Your instructor has to be conscious of their own safety as well. It's very easy to injure yourself or strain something when a human being falls off a pole and onto you.
It is very important to make sure you're ready for a new move before you try it. The purpose of the spotter is to assist you in case something goes wrong, not to carry you through the move and do all the work for you. If you can't do the move without the spotter bearing a considerable amount of your weight, then you aren't ready for it.
And finally, if you are attempting a new move with a spot, and it starts to go wrong, DO NOT JUST LET GO. You need to keep your main grip points (elbows, hands, knees - whatever the move requires) as much on the pole as possible. The person spotting you should help you to slide down slowly and safely to the floor, not catch you. It should never actually get to the point where you fall. This is for your safety and that of the person spotting you.
So make sure you spot other carefully, and of course take care of yourself when spotting others.
May your experiences of spotting each other be safe and successful!
PS The attached photo was taken at the end of a photo shoot for X-Pole South Africa. The photographer wanted to have a go on the pole, and get a photo together. Just to be clear, the attached photo isn't supposed to be an example of the best way to spot a fully clothed man on a pole. It's just supposed to be funny! I'm actually breaking a few of my own rules here! He's too high up, he can't grip on with his clothes, I'm supporting a lot of his weight… So let's take this as an example of how NOT to spot someone!