Thursday, September 15, 2011
Do I need a pole dancing teacher?
There are a lot of different paths people take to learn pole. Some join classes at pole studios, circus schools, or gyms. Others find their way to a private instructor like myself. There is also a huge ratio of self-taught pole artists, who use instructional videos and imitate moves they find on YouTube, and might give back to the community by posting their own videos in turn.
I'm often surprised by how many beginning polers tell me they don't need a teacher. "I can just copy videos from YouTube and practice at home." I'm really glad more people are getting poles for their homes (makes me seem less weird). but I wanted to advocate for the teachers a bit.
Full disclosure: As a pole fitness instructor (especially one who just moved to a new city and needs new students), I have a vested interest in this debate. But I will be open and honest, because that's my thing!
Reasons to have a pole teacher:
I believe a huge portion of a teacher's job is to help you avoid injury. A good teacher knows the dangers inherent in each individual move, and can quickly spot errors in your form that could lead to injury. This is the #1 reason I recommend polers find an instructor. Injury is always possible (and bumps and bruises are inevitable), but you want to reduce your chances. Pole dancing is an extreme sport, and your life is at stake.
A teacher will greatly accelerate your learning speed. Alone, you can spend months stuck on a move, whereas a good teacher might be able to tell you immediately what you're doing wrong and how to fix it. An experienced teacher has not only learned each move themselves, but observed and taken part in the process of many other polers learning them as well. They know all the mistakes that are usually made and can often catch them before you make them.
A teacher can give you all kinds of information that will help you on your pole quest. How to take care of your pole, products to use, products to avoid, standard practices, where to train, strength training and supplemental sports, where to get shoes, etc. I always find myself giving this information (for free of course) to novice polers who "don't need a teacher." Hmm...
I always hear people say "I can't afford a teacher." But give it a second look before you reject the prospect. If your gym (Crunch, for one) offers pole dancing classes, it's probably free to members. There are many small, independent pole studios out there, and rates vary. Instructors who have their own poles can often offer a good rate for private lessons in their own homes, since they don't have to pay to rent a space. Many, like me, are welcoming to students who want to split a lesson with a friend to save on expenses. And if you still can't afford many of these options, be on the lookout for someone you can do some sort of exchange with. I've occasionally done lesson exchange with aerial instructors who specialize in other apparatuses, but you could offer a trade for music lessons, tax preparation, babysitting- whatever's your thing!
If you still think you don't need a teacher, I hope at least the following apply to you:
You have a strong background in other aerial arts or gymnastics.
You have a training partner who can spot you or at least be in the room in case an accident happens.
You have good visual and spacial learning skills.
You know how to build moving strength and active flexibility.
You have health insurance.
I'm being a little hypocritical here, because I am largely self taught. But I'd say I learned the hard way.
I was a good candidate for self-instruction, as I was taking aerial silks classes and lessons parallel to learning pole, I was initially taught pole by more experienced friends, and had a training partner who, if not always present, I could ask for spotting when learning an intimidating new move. I also had a strong athletic background, having studied several forms of dance, run multiple marathons, and been a gym rat. I started learning pole 8 years ago, when there was very little available in the way of instruction if you were trying to do stunts, and not "get in touch with your inner vixen." (That's fine if that's what you want to do. That's just not what I wanted to do.) So I was pretty much left to my own devices. Did I learn? Hell yes I did. But I also dislocated my shoulder 6 times, eventually needing surgery, and experienced a lot of other smaller, entirely preventable injuries. If someone with more experience and a good eye for form had been paying attention and told me I wasn't engaging my shoulder correctly when I was spinning on one arm (and that I had to wait more than a week to heal from my first dislocation), I would have been at my current level 5 years ago, instead of having to wait so long, so many times, to heal.
Of course, having gone through injuries has made me a better instructor in the long run. It's inspired me learn a lot about injury prevention, and put safety first with my own students. But it's depressing when I think how good I could be today if I hadn't had to tiptoe around a recurring injury for five years. (It is pretty solid now, but I still have to be careful, and I'll never gain the flexibility back.)
I feel that my own history, more than my current need for employment, has made me such an advocate for instruction. I understand being broke. God, do I understand it. But I wanted to put my thoughts out on the table so people who "don't need/can't afford" instruction can make a truly informed decision, rather than an assumption.
See you in the sky.
Photo taken from The Inquisitr, in a completely unrelated story for which I can't figure out how to play the video.