Surrendering to limits, especially those imposed on us by others can be challenging. Years ago, during a house move, my husband and I encountered one challenge after another. From foot long gashes on a refinished floor to ants, dry rot, a mouse, loud street noise and a huge gap in the flashing of our roof, my normal calming influence had spiraled into buyer’s remorse. It seemed each problem we encountered led to the discovery of two more. My patience reached such a boiling point that I exclaimed to my husband, “I hate this house of 7…11, no 12 plagues!” One of my coping mechanisms during this transition time was dance. Pole dance, to be exact. I knew I needed to dance out my frustrations. But even in pole class during the most hectic times of my house move, I couldn’t catch a break. Instead of our normal freestyle dance, our latest assignment involved us being tied to the pole. With one ankle tied to the pole, I began dancing. Initially I felt like a wild animal, captured and tied to a post. At first I fought against the limits by testing boundaries. I pulled the rope. I tried to reach other things. Eventually, I accepted it. As I let the tension in the rope ease, so did my muscles. The pole was all there was. I stopped worrying. I just moved and the rope moved with me. As mentioned earlier, surrendering to limits, especially those imposed on us by others can be challenging.
However, experimenting with limits in pole dance can teach us lessons and build skills for the chaos of life. When I got home from dance class, I told my husband I decided to stop fighting the house. I surrendered to the idea that we’d be in the house for at least a year or two. If you find yourself frustrated, stressed or facing challenges in life, take an hour here or there to try something different. Give one or more of these pole dance activities a try. You can adapt most of these activities to most types of dance, movement or other creative exercises.
1. Tether Yourself to a Pole
Use a nylon rope. Tie it around an ankle or a wrist. Then tie it around a pole, giving yourself as much room to play as you need. Three to four feet is comfy for a first time. Dance. Explore boundaries. Test limits. Struggle against them. Feel the frustration, if it’s there. Then surrender to the restriction. Can you find fun in it? What do the limits have to teach you? Can you escape them? Do you want to? If you’ve been tethered to a pole before, try it again in a different way.
- Tie one end of rope to the pole & the other around your waist.
- Have a friend tie one end of 3 to 4 feet of rope to left wrist and the other end to right wrist so that the pole is between the rope and your body.
- Stand against the pole with your back to it and have someone wind rope around you like a cocoon.
- Use something stretchy or silky.
- Try fabric or metal cuffs.
- Make a loop with a yoga strap and step into it. I did this recently and it felt supportive instead of restrictive. A friend tried it and said it felt like dancing with a partner.
Be safe. Have a friend nearby ready to cut the rope in case you get tangled up or the knots get stuck. If you don’t pole dance (yet) tie yourself to any pole or column in your house. Be sure it’s secure and won’t topple down as you tug against it.
2. I Want You But I Can’t Have You
Play a song you’re dying to dance to. Dance to it, but don’t let yourself touch the pole.Try something full of yearning like Matthew Mayfield’s Heart in Wire or The Zone
by The Weeknd.
Stare at that pole. Stalk it from across the room. Strut by it. Get so close you can smell the metal and almost feel the chill. But don’t touch it. Dance around it. Then retreat. Turn your attention to a nearby wall, chair or the floor. Close your eyes. Don’t forget that the pole is there waiting for you to grip it, spin around it, climb it, flip upside down, or fly like superman. Escape to a far corner. Slither to the floor. Crawl back…dance to the whole song. Just don’t touch that pole. How long can you go without surrendering to the desire to touch the pole? Is it exquisite torture? Or just torture? How else can you use the energy you stirred up in your body? You can do this exercise with anything (or anyone) you adore
. Try your favorite outfit or piece of jewelry. Your signature perfume. Strawberries or bittersweet chocolate. Your lover. It conjures ecstasy.
3. Go Back to Basics
Choose the first move or trick you learned and loved. Get your dance on from that single move/trick. One of my favorites is the hip circle. It’s part of any sensual dance you can think of including hula, Tahitian, Latin, belly and pole dance. Explore every nuance of your favorite move/trick/transition. Vary speed. Try it slow. Slower. As slow as you can go. Then rev it up. Can you create a breeze? Settle into a pace you like or continue to vary it. Change the size. Go big. Feel the lusciousness in the stretch and reach. Take up space. Then make it small. And isolated. So imperceptible that only you know you’re doing it. Like a secret. Then let the movement ripple through your entire body. One inch at a time. Or like a wave crashing onto shore all at once. What do you love? What can you incorporate into more advanced moves?
4. Non-dominant Hand
Let your non-dominant hand lead the way. This is something we’re taught for balance as beginners but most of us have a side we favor. Unless forced into it by training or injury we typically don’t let our non-dominant hands lead the dance. Try it for a song. Or an entire class/workout. Wear a glove, mitten or sock on your dominant hand to remind you. Make a fist. Or hold something like a quarter in your dominant hand so you won’t be tempted to grab the pole with it. This is an especially good exercise to try outside the pole studio too. Write your name with your non-dominant hand. Try your hand at poetry. A letter. Draw. Paint. Since most of us are right handed, using our left hand can also help wake-up the right side of our brain.
5. Floor Dance
Dance at the pole. However, you cannot go higher than if you were on your knees upright. Experiment with starting tricks from your knees, belly, butt or back. Allow your feet and shins to approach the pole instead of your hands and arms. What favorite moves can you do from this low position? Try something that you’ve struggled with while standing. Slithering into an invert from the floor is how I built muscle memory and body trust to get my first inversion.
6. Share the Pole With a Partner
Share the pole with a partner. Play a game of high/low, where one person climbs high on the pole and the other stays close to the floor. Switch places. Coordinate tricks using body queues. Start with 3 steps into simple forward spins like fireman and chair. Stalk each other in freestyle one as predator, the other as prey without letting go of the pole. Which exercise do you prefer? Which makes you feel strong? Vulnerable? For what reasons?
7. Dance in Silence
At one point in my dance journey none of my music worked for me. When I asked a teacher what to do about it she suggested I dance without music. I looked at her like she was crazy. Moving to music was the essence of dance. It’s very definition. And then I danced in silence with Nature: Moon, clouds, breeze, seagulls, seal, handfuls of sand, rose petals and the rising sun. I adored it! Try dancing with nature. Or the pole with only your own internal rhythm. How do you dance and move without the influence of music?
Which of the exercises have you tried before? Which are you most looking forward to trying. Which is your favorite? If you’ve done these exercises before, how did your body respond to the restrictions?
How easy or challenging was it for you to surrender? What kind of freedom did you find within the limitations? What did it teach you about yourself?
My own experiences with dancing with limitations continue to teach me lessons about
- accepting what is
- surrendering to the experience and conditions without giving up
- Finding ease and play rather than struggling and fighting.
And after declaring a truce with the house, we eventually became friends. Brian and I have been happy in the house for 5 years.
Lisa Faulkner is the passionate + playful pole dancing professor. She also writes for PDBloggers and Bad Kitty. Come learn and play with her at poledancingprofessor.com.