Competing – Is It For Me?

Sophie

It’s a bit of a long one today, but after my first proper comp last weekend at The Authentic Pole Dance 2021, I thought I’d share my experience!

You might have visions of glitter, garters, game face and glamour. Or maybe it’s more of panicked last minute routine changes, cold feet and sheer terror?!

Why would you want to put yourself through the process and what exactly does it entail? 

The Do I Or Don’t I Stage 

I had always toyed with the idea of competitions but talked myself out of it:

‘I’m not competitive enough. I don’t have the drive to try and be the best and I should leave it for people who are so inclined. There are people so much better out there than me. There’s no point. I don’t have time. Spin pole makes me feel sick..’.

But the more you think about the no’s the more it makes you realise the yes’s:

‘It can be a competition with myself. It’s a way of challenging and bringing out the best in ME. The other people there are probably trying to bring out the best in THEM. When I’m under more pressure, I somehow find the time. And actually, if I wasn’t training for a comp, I wouldn’t make the time and as a result, I wouldn’t get any better. Training spin pole is unpleasant because it makes me feel sick, but the less I avoid it, the less sick it will make me feel. In fact, I always practice the things that make me feel comfortable and the competition routine will force me to do lots of things that make me feel uncomfortable…’

There’s also the fact that every time I listen to a song I love, I think about how I’d move to it, what the theme would be, what outfit would work.

So when my last instructor gave me the encouragement to go for it, suddenly it seemed like a great idea!

 

The Authentics 2021 Competition stage

Entry

In 2019 I had entered a competition where the heats were done via video submission. I paid the fee, picked a prop to work around (a roll top bath from an art student, lol!) and – albeit reluctantly – chose a slower song than I wanted, as my instructor knew it would suit my style better. I built the routine together with her and she gave up both her Thursday and Friday evening to help me try and get a decent video of it (what a diamond!).

Guess what? I didn’t get in. And that bloody bath is still sitting in my parents’ garden (sorry dad!).

However, it didn’t dampen my spirits – I felt like I’d learnt so much already just from that video heat:

-I didn’t feel confident in my costume, which came across in the video – next time I needed to be comfortable.

-The choreography wasn’t 100% mine which made me feel like I was cheating and again like I wasn’t quite me. Next time I wanted to create the whole thing on my own.

-I now knew that when I needed it, I could find more stamina than I realised I had and that it was possible for me to get through 3 minutes of music without dying.

-I’d had a lovely time with my instructor putting it all together!

The next  comp had a local, face to face heat and this time, with a song I loved, a costume I felt more comfortable in, my own choreography and lots of faces I knew in the crowd, I managed to win a place in the final. But it really wasn’t fantastic and I knew I’d have to up my game!

No Pressure… 

18 months (and a whole Coronavirus pandemic) later, we had the news that the final was finally able to take place and I really was excited! I had a song I liked, a theme to work around, a load of combo ideas in my head. I was pretty much sorted right?! Listening to my internal dialogue over the coming weeks, I guess not…

Whilst listening to my song driving: ‘And lunge, lift arm and face, then turn and WHOOSH!’

Whilst listening to my song in the studio: ‘Um…’

Whilst listening to my song driving: ‘And DROP! And ooh yes that will fit with the music PERFECTLY, I’m so excited!’

In the studio: ‘What was it I thought was going to work here? This is dogsh*t’

Trying to get to sleep: ‘YES! I love that combo, why have I not thought to add that in? I’ll run that tomorrow…’

At the studio: …’Right that’s it, this is sh*t, I’m sh*t, I’m pulling out’

In the bath: ‘You’ve got this, you’ve got the heel clack to fan kick to la-de-da combo, you’ve got the swoosh up to swoosh down – this is going to be good’…

1 week before: ‘I’m actually really quite happy with this!’

The night before: ‘The whole routine is wrong, it doesn’t even fit the theme, I’m going to embarrass myself’

But hey, I had a whole routine now, there was no point worrying anymore and it was too late to back out now anyway!

One of the Dressing Rooms

On The Day

I’d worked hard on my routine. I’d planned my whole costume and done my dress rehearsals. I’d packed my bag meticulously. And I’d got myself there. On time. Without forgetting anything! I had even paid to get my hair and make up done (I’m no good at that kind of thing and trying to do my own had really added to the stress during the heats). 

Most importantly, I had a lovely little group to cheer me on and everyone backstage was so friendly. And as always, I just loved watching the other performances and seeing what everyone else has created!

The routine had a few hiccups:  the stage was racked so I couldn’t fully lift my handstand which is my favourite move! I also stood on my skirt which one of the judges picked up on and lost my bearings at the end of the spin pole section.

But it felt GOOD! I loved getting to perform in an actual theatre, with proper dressing rooms, a yummy sound system, dramatic lighting and even dry ice! And I think I’m quite lucky in that my nerves are worse in the weeks before rather than on the day itself. 

I didn’t place, but after spending all those weeks arguing with myself about my routine, I went on stage knowing I wasn’t really going to hit the marking criteria as it wasn’t the right style for the comp and I was ok with that. 

And while it would have been amazing to win, I had set myself a number of challenges with this routine in an attempt to get outside my comfort zone and I’m pleased to say I managed to tick them all off 🙂 Here they are:

-Perform in sandals rather than boots (scary as there’s less ankle support and your toes are more vulnerable!)

-Perform part of the routine wearing a long skirt (I’d never used an outfit prop like this before and had to choreograph around it – e.g. lots of twirly movements in the first minute or so before I removed it!)

-Choreograph to music with a slightly faster tempo

-Choose a longer song (4.5 minutes feels very different to 3 minutes when you’ve got terrible cardio fitness!)

Is It For You? 

In case anyone is reading this and thinking about competing themselves, here are my tips:

-Go to a load of competitions as an audience member. Not only is it super fun to have a pole road trip with your studio buddies, but you will get to see how it all works, watch some amazing routines and hopefully come away feeling inspired!

-Don’t be fooled into thinking you need to be at a high level to compete – the majority of competitions have categories for Beginners upwards, so that you are judged only against those with the same level of experience. If you wait to feel like you’re ‘good enough’ you might never get round to it, or find that you now have to enter a higher category even though you’ve never competed before! (I had to enter my first one in the Semi-Pro category due to being an instructor).

-Pick your competition carefully – there are competitions out there to suit all styles, from Authentics for Str*pper style and UKPPC for pole fitness, to Pole Theatre for telling a story through pole. And so many in between!

-Plan your costume before you choreograph the routine. That way you know what you need to work around.

-Think carefully about moves that you like and feel confident with and add these to the list for your routine first so you’ve got a strong foundation to build on. Then pick some moves that you’re less comfortable with but that you want to challenge yourself with – if you keep running the routine, you might find by the end of it that these moves are now your friend which is an achievement in itself.

-Do a dress rehearsal as soon as you can – that way if you need to make changes to the routine to fit the costume or make changes to the costume to fit the choreography, there will still be time.

-Film, film, film. You can keep watching back and picking out what works and what doesn’t. You can use it as your ‘audience’ and perform to it. You can see if you are connecting to the ‘audience’ or getting stuck in your own head (I’m bad at this!). And when you’ve got the finished routine, you can watch it back as a way of aiding your memorisation so you don’t get a brain blank on stage!

-Don’t be afraid of your competitors. You are all in the same boat and the vast majority will be just as nervous as you and very keen to be friends!

-Above all, do it to enjoy the process 🙂

What is your experience of competing? Have you got your own tips to add? Drop your comments below!

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