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Competing in pole dancing is getting more and more challenging by the year. It’s becoming more popular and attracting people from other disciplines who have taken pole dance to a whole new level.

Competing, for some, has turned in to a full time job, which can make it difficult for those who are already lawyers, students, parents etc. But this does not mean you shouldn’t compete! There are ways of preparing yourself and making it possible. Whilst some may say there are ‘too many’ competitions these days, I actually believe it’s a great thing. It creates choice and the ability to find the right competition for you. There are many options of smaller, less intimidating competitions that are accessible to amateurs and those who do not wish to pursue pole dancing as a full time career. Of course I’m specifically talking about The Bristol Pole Championships, MY baby, my one and only event! I’ve worked hard to make this competition fair, fun, and above all else, friendly. I’ve taken the liberty to write out some competition advice for trick based competitions (not the Pole Theatre, Floorplay competitions of the industry as I am sure there is a whole other way of prepping for those!). I know there are many of these out there but I get asked for advice a lot so I thought, no harm in writing this and putting it out there as a point of reference.

Plan Before You Do

Plan out your ideas. Properly, not just thinking about stuff. Make mind maps, collages, lists… Whatever works for you! Theme, costume and music to start with. What’s your reason behind everything you’ve chosen? Does the costume and theme match? I’m not saying go for a full-on theme if you don’t want to, but try to make whatever you decide meaningful in some way. This will help make creating the piece easier. Even if the point is to scare the shit out of people, that’s cool too. The judges will be looking for a ‘good in all areas’ performance so make sure that your costume matches the song. Not just a pretty song and a pretty costume, although there is nothing wrong with this, you have to remember it’s a competition and you want to stand out right? This is not to say you shouldn’t have pretty songs and costumes, but have a story behind it. It will connect with the audience so much more that way. The fabulous Hannah Finn has some great advice about performing with meaning for anyone interested!

Now on to the Content

So now that you’ve planned what you’re going to do, you need to think about perfecting all the tricks. My good friend, Claire Andrews, says something great to her students about tricks to use for a routine: 60% tricks you’re already happy with, 30% things you’ve recently learnt and 10% something challenging. Of course this is not an exact formula, but I think it’s a great way to look at it. It’s great to challenge yourself but very important to make your routine realistic to your ability. Make an effort to get in some appropriate level combinations rather than only posed tricks. Try to get in a bit of everything: strength, flexibility, flow, floor work etc.

Treat the Video Round as if it’s a Final Piece

If you are competing I expect you would like to get in to the final?… So why would you put less effort in to the audition process? I’ve seen many, many video entries in my time and it does sometimes seem a little heartless – you performers know what I mean… This may be harsh but it really is true. Now, I know it’s hard to perform to a camera. But what better way to learn and practice how to perform? That is the key word… PRACTICE. Don’t just set your camera up and be like “yeah I’ll just film today and send whatever I get in” (I have heard this so many times!). Film every practice session possible and watch it back. I know, I know, you hate watching yourself back. But guess what? Hundreds of people will be watching you, so if you can’t even watch yourself, what vibe are you giving out to the audience? Probably, head down, please stop watching me, type vibe. Anyway, really try to connect with the camera, just try not to do a creepy, awkward stare… Watching it back will help you know what you do naturally with your face. If you don’t have access to a studio that often or if you practice in group training times, then do it at home. Do your floor work, freestyle to your song and film it. This is the next best thing to filming your run throughs at a pole studio. Oh yeah and watch it back! You will get used to it, I promise.

Don’t be Afraid to use the Same Routine for the Entry and Final

I’ve had a lot of people asking me if it’s “bad to use the same routine for both rounds”. Of course its not bad! Here are the benefits of repeating the same routine: length of time to make the routine is extended massively, time to perfect and make small changes which could make huge improvements overall, becoming extremely comfortable with the routine and building on your theme. One amazing example of this is Megan Jane, one of my fabulous students. She started off with a routine that got her through to the finals of BPC via the Organisers Choice award, not by placing in the final 6. She kept her routine, built on the theme even more by adding backing dancers and a whole lot of sass. She perfected her tricks, really worked on her lines and performance… and then she won the advanced category! Preparation is key.

Organising Your Time

So, in 2017 I competed in UKPPC for the 6th year in a row… after promising myself I wouldn’t (I just couldn’t resist!). I had also just started my first year of uni which, as you can imagine, was a daunting combination. So I started making my routine for the final 2 months before the results were even out. Yes, I know this was very presumptuous of me but my outlook was, even if I didn’t get in I was still getting good fitness and could use the routine for another competition. Don’t put off starting to build your routine, especially if you are a busy person. The sooner you start the better!

Dealing with Nerves

We all know that being nervous is totally normal, which is great to know but it’s not exactly helpful is it. So how to deal with nerves. I personally have had to work a lot in this area. Before a competition, and I mean literally months leading up to it, I would be short tempered and snappy towards my loved ones, emotional and generally on edge. This has improved massively for me and here is how I have personally dealt with this. Accepting that I will be going on stage or filming a video audition. Don’t pretend it’s not happening! Accept and prepare. Visualise performing your routine and it being a positive experience. If you imagine yourself falling and running away crying over and over again, how do you think it’s going to go when you actually perform it? Chances are you would have worked yourself up so much that even if it does go well you probably won’t have enjoyed it! Show people your routine. I realise this also goes under how to prepare physically but it’s super important when mentally preparing yourself. If you’ve done it 10 times already in front of people you’re much more likely to find the final stage performance less intimidating. But above all else remember nerves are GOOD. We aren’t trying to abolish them. Nerves show you care about what you’re doing but also give you a great boost of adrenaline which does wonders on stage when controlled in these ways!

These are just a few things to think about when deciding to or preparing for a competition, not everything. Please remember I am not judging anyone, the only reason I know how to prepare well is from years of experience of being UNprepared myself. I hope someone finds this useful and feel free to comment or message me with any questions! From, Kass x

Claire Andrews – @clairelouisepole
Hannah Finn – @hannahfinn
Bristol Pole Championships – @bristolpolechampionships