Decide, Create, Train, Perform, Aftermath
Updated: Apr 14, 2019
We're only a few months into 2019 but there have already been three large NZ competitions, numerous shows and many more on the horizon (i.e. check out the earlier blog!).
We talked to our Altitude instructors, many of whom have performed and competed more times than they can count, to garner their gems and inside knowledge for all things routine creation, training, performing and post-routine feels.
You've made the decision to 'do the thing' now what?
Find a song - what gives you the feels, what don't you get sick of listening to on repeat, what is a good song length, what can you easily move to, do you want to tell a story, embrace a character or just dance - does your song enable this?
I sit and listen through Spotify until a song comes on that I can picture a character and story with. I need to have a song I connect with and can tell a story with - Rhi, Auckland.
You'll probably have an idea what combos and moves you *just have to have* in your routine, but once you've decided on your song, it gets a bit easier to piece it all together *to* the music - what moves, where, when etc. Start thinking about your moves - what moves do you love, what are you comfortable in, what moves would you love to get but are a challenge right now but you could feasibly get by the time of your routine? What can you do perfectly without even thinking about it? What can you do on static, what can you do on spin, what do you want your moves to look like - sharp, sultry, slow, flowy - how do you incorporate your character, story line or music into your movements?
Once I have a song, I repeatedly play it & film freestyles to it. This lets me get to know the music and gives me ideas for movement. While most of the moves won't end up in the routine, something will. There's something more raw and emotive about my freestyle movement compared to choreographed content. I like including that. - Michelle Muscles, Christchurch.
Everyone has different processes for how their routine is created and it might be that you do one of them and it works, or it might be that you do a whole combination of things and that's totally fine. Whether you write everything out, visualise it, freestyle it, or work backwards off criteria or particular moves you want. Consider a timeline working backwards from the performance date to try and create some mini-goals to keep you timely and not in panic state towards the end.
I like to print my lyrics out or download them to my phone. Then I can write down things like the moves or the combos I want to do next to the words and see if I can match things together. Not important if I can’t map it out at the start but I’m a visual person so seeing my song written rather than just listening to it helps me - Kym, Whanganui.
Get thinking around what your strengths and weaknesses are, you want to "perform to your strengths and train to your weaknesses". Utilise your instructors and studio offerings - practice times, private classes, extra classes or those 'other' classes you've might have been avoiding - they'll likely be very useful. You might have friends with dance backgrounds you can use or family you feel comfortable sharing snippets with and getting opinions from. Creating routines and sharing movements and ideas with others can feel really personal and be a bit scary but if you can open yourself up to it, it has a lot of advantages.
Get feedback and input from instructors throughout, don't wait until 2 weeks out - Rhi, Auckland.
The routine purpose and your motivation, discipline and drive will be important shaping aspects of your routine creation and ongoing training. Is the routine for a competition or a showcase? Are you wanting to do the best you possibly can do, be competitive or are you trying something new, experimenting, happy to be part of it all and just generally happy doing what you love doing the most. This context is important, where do you sit?
If you compete, make sure you look at the criteria and let that inform your routine. You can ignore it if you don’t care about winning, but you are also missing out on part of the creative/physical challenge — and, just as shows generally have an underlying theme to tie performances together, ignoring criteria ignores the overall theme and style of the competition. What you will generally see across all comps, though, is a need for good execution, flexibility and strength (and usually some sort of dance/movement element, and audience connection points). If you can’t execute a move well, take it out — you might get difficulty points, but it will drag your execution score down (as well as possibly strength and flexibility, depending on what you are trying to do, and how it reflects your abilities). Regardless of criteria, there’s still room for creativity and for you to include what you are personally good at - Oliva, Christchurch.
Training and timelines and what else?
Typically you should be thinking about, mapping out and training about two months prior to your performance date if not earlier. You want to have a full routine mapped out around a month out from the performance date and then use the lead up time to change up anything that isn't working consistently, polish (drill those bits where the toes don't want to point), refine (think face, hands, angles) and run the full routine to build stamina and do costume checks.
Understand that you will have GREAT training sessions and feel like an absolute kick arse boss, but you will also have SHIT training sessions and the latter suck. If you're in the middle of a training session and what you're doing *just wont work*, as tempting as it is to keep doing it till you're haggard (we are determined things us aerialists) it'll be better if you stop and either change what you're working on - play with something that is really different to whatever is driving you nuts or call it quits and go home and chill out. Come back another time and try again, you will push through it believe it or not.
DEFINITELY DON'T OVERTRAIN - Nicole, Christchurch
Make sure you incorporate rest days, or continue doing classes or training that makes you feel full to help balance out the monotonous element of training. Make sure you're looking after your body and all the niggles that will make themselves apparent while you're in the depths of training. Consider sports massage or other body recovery tools and methods - foam rolling, shakti mat, cupping, gua sha. Think about your lifestyle - are you regularly boozing and eating shit food? Not suuuuuper compatible with making your body work hard in routine training. Try and find a middle ground across these elements to look after your body.
Eating healthy helps with my energy levels and recently I’ve found running has helped with my stamina (this one is always hard for me) - Erin, Christchurch.
Any change in diet habits should be during the training phase, or EARLY in the performance prep. Late changes can change the workings of your body and can lower performance levels. On the day of the comp/show think about what you ate the day of your best run through and do it again - Joe, Christchurch.
The day has arrived, and what?
Performance days, particularly competition days, can be LONG and there is a lot of waiting around. Be sure to bring the things that keep you in a good space - headphones for listening to your music, a support person, comfortable clothes (i.e. you can stretch/warm up in), food, water, rescue remedy, whatever works for you. If you're performing or competing for the first time it can be hard to predict how you will respond to the nerves, just got to roll with it and then you'll be wiser for the next time.
We've seen all sorts in the backs of pole dance competitions - complete internalising and quietening of even the chattiest of people, pacing, crying, coping mechanisms like support persons, arriving at the latest time possible, rocking, huddling, hugging or the opposite and lots of chit chat, excitement and smiles. All is perfectly acceptable, just remember to respect the space and processes of others.
Don't think about others, doing the best you can do on the night comes first. You have put all that work into creating something you want to be as perfect as possible on stage. Why let stressing about others get in the way of that - Joe, Christchurch.
Be mindful of your preparations prior to taking to the stage - mimic your usuals in terms of what you do for warm up, what grip you use, what food or drink you've noticed gels well with your body etc. Or as Joe so succinctly puts it, "don't use a grip aid you haven't used in training just cause Susan says it's good!".
Don’t stress too much about the tiny details and let them overwhelm you. I swear to god, no one has won a competition because they had the best false eyelashes or the most even tan. Worry about things that matter, like taping your boobs into your top so you don’t get disqualified for flashing - Oliva, Christchurch.
The performance is done, feelings can be big, what now?
Treat yo-self. Be kind to yourself. Have a fang out, cry, eat the donuts, get grumpy.
Have a plan for after the show or competition - how are you going to recover? What is your rest and relaxation plan to nurture your mind and body afterwards so you feel inspired (or at least interested) instead of exhausted when coming back to training after a show or comp - Libi, Christchurch.
We are our own harshest critic. By all means take learning lessons from your performance, but avoid dwelling too long or letting any negative experiences fester. EVERYONE will experience unhappiness or discontent around aspects of their performance or even the whole thing, the trick is accepting it for what it is and moving on.
What happens on stage will be what happens on stage. None of us have complete control over everything that happens on stage (unfamiliar pole, stage pressures, blinding stage lights, adrenaline etc) - Larry, Auckland.
When you're ready, reflect, be proud that you got on stage, that you had the balls to do it, that you put the time into training and pushed yourself, or if you didn't, then appreciate it was done with perhaps not as much preparation as it should have been. And then onwards and upwards, yeah!