Wednesday, June 30, 2010


I was asked by my new studio to create a short video clip showing some of my movement.

Attempt #1: After teaching the climb for 2 hours straight, the top of my foot somehow managed to find a very scratched up section of pole and cut myself open. Bleeding, bloody painful foot doesn't go well with attempting to film a graceful video. Abort.

Attempt #2: After bandaging up the foot, a couple days later I'm back on the horse. Set up my video camera, get some GREAT footage, 2 minutes in, the door opens, they need the studio. Sigh. Okay, fine

Attempt #3: Get to the studio. It's 90 degrees and 70% humidity outside. It's also 90 degrees and 70% humidity inside, thanks to full sunlight exposures and a studio that wasn't in use (and therefore the ACs weren't on at all that day). Have 30 minutes to try to sweat through a video that is decent enough to post on the studio website. Slipping and sliding off the pole was no fun, but here is the result of that attempt. I see a lot of flaws here but for progress, I post.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Singing through stretching

Ready for some pictures?

I have very, very tight hip flexors. This means that when I sit on the ground in a straddle stretch, like so:

I don't even come close to having the angle between my legs be 180 degrees, like this....
....because my hips will not move that far apart without popping and pain. However, one thing that I have realized is that given the number of days a week when I'm either in class or teaching, I'm getting closer and closer to being able to get my stomach and chest on the ground in what's called a pancake straddle, like this:
which is HUGE for me. I can get my face on the ground but when I'm using proper form, the goal is to get your stomach on the ground-- and I'm about an inch away.

I've also noticed similar gains in my side splits, by working on oversplits (placing a block under the front foot, to push your body past a split), like so (top pic):

Yesterday, in class, working on my side splits on my back--like this (which is great for working on your true split, without gravity or weight to assist you)--
I realized that on my left side (my "good" side), I was able to get my leg ALMOST TO MY FACE. Literally maybe 6 inches away. I was astonished. My teacher was astonished. I was having a very bendy day, feeling very strong and flexible, and I was completely warmed up (the 90 degree weather walk to the studio may have been a positively contributing factor).

Stretching for splits is a funny thing. On the one hand, splits are such a random, useless-in-real-life thing. When is a split ever going to come in handy? Maybe if I'm running to catch a boat pulling away from a pier, cartoon-style? Or if I want to be able to kick myself in the face? I mean really, let's be vain here: the only reason to be able to do a split is so that your body lines are prettier when you dance.

For a long time, a big part of me resisted actually working on flexibility. I was honestly too lazy, didn't see the instantaneous gains that I needed to stay focused, and found it to be a boring, boring chore. Holding a stretch for a long time is boring. BORING!

But with my newfound dedication and mentality on learning, I've found that something has shifted slightly in my perspective on stretching as well. Yesterday I found I was pushing myself harder, harder, harder. Concentrating on technique and form, and trying to really breathe into each stretch. It became meditative: Sitting in my side split, feeling the undersides of my knees and hips screaming at me to release the stretch, feeling sweat drip down my back, breathing slowly and evenly, forcing my core to fully engage to keep my torso upright with my chest up, I found myself sinking into a kind of zen meditative state. Stretching, I think, is somewhat equivalent to the mentality of long distance running: Just. Keep. Going. Breathe. The pain is only temporary. Somewhere in there, I realized that the point of stretching isn't necessarily to get into splits, but also to have the fortitude and dedication to push yourself physically in a way that, if you're doing it right, is honestly uncomfortable. It's almost being a masochist for the sake of knowing that you can, but moreover, it's about the process. Can you handle that process?

I have been reading a book about growth and happiness (interspersed with a few others, thanks to Kindle) and the author threw out a quote that really struck me (yet another sign that the teacher finds you when you are truly ready to learn)-- from Nietzsche: "Not every end is the goal. The end of a melody is not its goal, and yet if a melody has not reached its end, it has not reached its goal. A parable." Remarkable, isn't it?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Real Life

I think it’s hilarious how strangely disconnected college and work are. We put all this effort into tests, and exams, and reading and writing papers on the effects of operant conditioning in the context of long-term memory, or personification of animal life in Ulysses and his journeys, and what they don’t tell you, or teach you, is how to deal with all the crazy fucking people you will spend 8 hours (if you’re lucky) a day with, 5 days a week.

Because there's a lot of crazy fucking people in this world. And work is not about getting your job done. It's about navigating through all the crazies in the most efficient way possible.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Is the essence of competition to put yourself out there and display your skills as best as you can, and enjoy the sport, or is it to win?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

HELLO, my name is….

And I’m addicted to pole dancing.
This is what I have learned.

In regards to pole dancing: if you are not making progress, you are losing strength. It's frustrating to take a week off from class or real practice and see a marked change in your technical abilities. Recently I was unable to take class or really push myself in a practice for 2 weeks and it was incredibly frustrating to come back to such a quick and obvious degradation.

If I want to see continued progress in my physical abilities, I can’t hit pause. I have to continue to invest time and resources towards improving myself and even more time in tracking my progress and researching how to best proceed. I need to have directed practices with lists of things to work on; intermediate and my lists of “today” goals that are baby steps towards larger ones.

If you’re not moving forward, you are moving backwards. So simple, right? How many other things in life are this cut and dry? I feel like my life has become inordinately complex in the past decade or so, and it’s almost a relief to have such a clear relationship between effort expended and rewards reaped. Almost linear. And how can you say that about anything in life anymore?

Being a student means continuing to challenge oneself. Whether that is in learning new skills, or perfecting old ones, this is a humbling reminder.

It’s also an interesting learning point for me, in that in most of my life, I have gravitated towards working on what comes easily to me. I found an early affinity to running, and was good at hurdles the first time I tried. So, I joined the track team. Throughout my life I can trace an exhibition of natural talent to development of that ability into a hobby or a career. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing, but I have found that taking the wussy route to develop oneself leads to amplified frustration when a roadblock eventually presents itself. Having stick-to-it-ness is not something that comes easily to me, and is something that I have had to really stop and face as I come to understand myself better. I have to shake off and work through the bad practices, where I’m slipping and sliding or too grippy or hungover or just not feeling 100% and think always about tomorrow. And Tomorrow. And Tomorrow.

Being a student is life long. It is a commitment to the very act of accumulating knowledge and skills, whether or not the learner succeeds in mastering them.

The difficulty, of course, when the focus is on the future, and the present, is that your time-orientation prohibits your ability to remember where you’ve come from. It’s tough to have perspective on everything you’ve managed to accomplish and to properly celebrate that when it’s always about: what’s next? I think of myself as having a healthy amount of self-confidence, but it’s tough to not get caught up in what you can’t do when the focus is on reducing the list of the “can’t”s one at a time.

I had an awakening not too long ago. I went to a pole convention (yes, they have those) and found that the focus of the event was not on celebrating each pole dancer as an individual, but as a part of the industry. The majority of the performers, while undoubtedly technically advanced, were doing the same (very very difficult) tricks and after a while it seemed to all blend in together. I found myself wishing that instead of focusing on the technical, we were asked to focus, as observers, on the artistic- maybe it would have changed the quality of the performances. It seemed like the performers felt obligated to whip out the big guns and hardest tricks that they could, rather than entertaining us. Where was the individuality? Where was the focus on personality?

Sitting in the audience on that weekend, I remembered: I am not here to be as good as anyone else. I am here because I love this hobby of mine, and passionate about it. Not because I want to be like anyone else, but because I love what it makes me feel when I free my mind and body to react to a piece of music in a way that is true to my movement. My list of “can’t”s is my own, and no one else’s. And I don’t have to put anyone’s “can”s on my list, if I don’t want to. I am not here to be better than anyone, except who I was a month ago.

Being a student is also appreciating what you have come to learn. And not losing sight of the reason why you are in love with your learning.

Part of the process of learning, for me, has been learning how to learn. Not just consuming the new but recognizing what role the past has in shaping my understanding of my own learning processes. I have been self-taught for the majority of my serious pole “career” and all the mistakes I have made and corrections I have discovered have been invaluable, it turns out, in teaching others. By setting out on the journey of teaching I have discovered, in turn, how to be a better learner.

By using trial and error to discover how to make a position more stable, or how to make a specific transition, I can explain to someone: you want to do this, because if you do that instead, then this does or does not happen. And when someone asks me a question that has me stumped, something that I need to figure out for myself, it leads to a more nuanced awareness of what it is that really works. It changes the perspective you have in moving forward, because you want to not only be able to accomplish something—you want to internalize. You want to understand the reasons why.

It’s funny to me that I have gone through pretty much all of my life to date without really focusing my energies on something so whole-heartedly and passionately. Only now am I realizing how much more I could have accomplished, in general, if I had been so dedicated to the process behind the learning and not just winning, or taking that test, or landing that job, or writing that paper.

“True humility is intelligent self respect which keeps us from thinking too highly or too meanly of ourselves. It makes us modest by reminding us how far we have come short of what we can be.” Ralph W. Sockman

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


"Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it" - Charles Swindoll

On Sunday I was in full-on enjoy-the-outdoors-mode.

Grab the blanket-in-a-bag, grab the dog, grab a towel and make a high speed switch into the leopard print bikini (first public outing) to rush over to the park for a nice summer lay out.

Get to the park, enjoy the sun, enjoy the clouds, wait, more clouds, wait, now the sky is just white….

Okay. So, retreat. Zip the blanket back into bag mode, toss everything into the bag, corral the reluctant dog, and high-tail it back to the apartment. Less than one hour round trip time. Fine, still got to get some sun in, still got some outdoors and nature in, so the jaunt wasn’t a total loss.

Get ready to go to run an errand or two. Grab the keys, go to grab the wallet….

Wait, where’s the wallet?

Check the bag, check the purse, check the counter, no wallet.


Check the bag, check the purse, check the counter, check the bed, check the fridge. Still no wallet.

Grab the umbrella, run outside, run to the park, check the grass. Still no wallet. Kick the wet grass. Still no wallet.

I have never, ever lost a wallet. Or a phone. Or keys. It is completely outside the realm of possibility for me that this has happened. I am stunned. I can’t stop thinking about it. I’ve exhausted all possibilities for where it might be. It’s clearly gone. I must have dropped it somewhere in the back and forth and just not realized it. My thoughts are just tumbling over themselves. I look, again, although in a studio apartment there is only so much looking you can do.

Finally I suck it up and make the phone calls: debit card, credit cards. I go to run my errands and begrudgingly buy a new monthly metrocard. As I feed the bills (since I’m now on a cash-stash-only basis until my new bank card comes in) I am thinking: Dammit. Dammit. Dammit. And when the machine tells me it only gives a maximum of $6 change, and I have to go back above ground to find someone to break a $20, I’m cursing myself again. Who uses cash anymore? Damn useless stupid paper!

I barely keep anything in my wallet (it’s more of the card-case variety with the bare minimums, and I am notorious for only ever having a few bucks in cash on my person at once). The money isn’t really the issue: it’s the pride. Did I seriously just manage to lose my wallet on a 3-block walk to the park and back?

Sunday night passes. I’m still kicking myself about the lost wallet.

Monday passes. I’m thinking: hm. Well, that wallet was really tired and used anyway. How long have I even had that thing? Maybe it’s time to get a new one anyway. Hm, maybe I’ll check and see if Balenciaga has a cute little wallet. I mean, I never lose them, so I might as well spend a little on one that I actually like….

Enter some online window shopping at work. Shopping can put a bright shiny mask on even the most annoying of situations. Suddenly I have gone from being out one wallet to having a world of new-wallet possibility opened up before me.

Monday night passes. I’m not quite so annoyed. I mean, what did I really lose? A grimy old Coach card case (that I didn’t like) with barely anything in it. Yep, time for a new change. It’s not such a big deal, anyway.

Today (Tuesday) morning I’m bringing the recycling downstairs. I run into my super. “Hey! Hey I found your wallet in the hallway the other day….”

I smile, nod, effusively thank him. And suddenly I have back in my possession a wallet that I no longer want.

Sigh. Talk about the grass is greener…