Pole competitions are very tempting when you’re progressing through moves naturally and are enjoying every second of your pole lessons. As soon as I found out I could compete, I prepared a routine and entered the Midlands Pole Championships at an intermediate level. I came 4th in my first comp, which I was very proud of! However, I did not get masses of guidance from many people and wish I had known what I know now about pole competitions, particularly amateur ones.
Here are my top 10 tips for any amateur pole competitor:
1. At a beginner/intermediate level, it is not just about the tricks. Make sure you incorporate dance or gymnastic elements in your routine. Your technique will increase or decrease your score massively depending on how you use it, and fluidity of movement is way more important than how advanced your moves can get without breaking any rules.
2. READ THE RULES. As an amateur competitor at any level in any competition, there are rules! At a beginner/inter level, there will be move restrictions which you need to read closely and make sure you understand them; if you don’t, email the organisers. It’s better to ask and win than get disqualified because you didn’t understand a rule. The same goes for costume, timing and routine rules. Most competitions require a certain amount of bodily coverage in your costume and certain things, such as gloves and thigh-high boots are often disallowed. Make sure your costume fits the requirements. Check your time constraints, as well as checking if the comp is asking for a certain amount of the routine to be based on floorwork, etc.
3. Show your routine to everybody. Your friends, family, instructors and classmates may get sick of hearing your routine song over and over, but make sure you get their fully honest feedback. It is also recommended that you ask them to point out if you are not extending enough, or if your toes are not pointed, as these are the things which will bring your score up massively.
4. Choose your song carefully. Think about watching routines and competitions, and what kinds of routines you enjoy. I personally get bored by slow songs which never pick up the pace, so often choose a more upbeat song that people will recognise to wake the audience up. If you do choose a slower song, think about the dynamics and how you can move to the song to make it stand out from everybody else’s routines.
5. Remember it’s a performance. When you compete, the judges want to see you performing; look at them, smile, look at the audience and engage everyone in front of you. Command the stage and make sure nobody wants to look at their phones apart from to take pictures and videos of your performance. Think about making somebody watch you; which pole dancers do you watch and cannot take your eyes off? Become that kind of pole dancer when you perform.
6. Let yourself get nervous. Nerves are a GOOD thing, regardless of what many people think. For me, nerves provide me with adrenaline to put that extra energy into my performance. They also help to warm up your muscles, as they make you slightly shaky, so as long as you stretch, your bendy moves will look twice as good on adrenaline. I had never achieved a flat Jade split before my first competition, so use your nerves to your advantage. This goes hand in hand with not getting cocky, or over-confident! Sure, your routine is fabulous, and maybe one girl messed up on her extended butterfly, but that does not mean you should assume you’re going to be any better. If you have never competed before, you have no idea what you will do on stage in front of an audience.
7. Choose whether or not to watch your category. Then, stick to that decision. This relates to my nerves point above, as some people find watching their category gears them up and gives them a decent amount of adrenaline as they have seen what they need to surpass. However, for others it makes them feel sick if they see someone perform a better moves than them, even though their routine may be flawless. It can make some people fired up and ready to compete, while it can make others want to run and hide, which can mess up their performance. You know what type of person you are, and more often than not, your instructor and pole friends will be able to tell you what they think you can handle.
8. Practise, practise, practise, then stop. As much as you will want to practise constantly leading up to your competition, know your own body. If you know that you’re more flexible after a day’s rest, make sure you rest the day before your competition. If your muscles will ache from practising the day before, don’t do it. Practise as much as you need to to make the routine perfect, then take a day or two off before the actual competition to allow your body to rest.
9. Have your routine set and ready at least 2 weeks before the competition. Choreograph your routine to your satisfaction, then just practise it. Ideally, you should make no changes for 3-4 weeks before a comp, however usually most competitors go for 2, especially at an amateur level, as you may learn and perfect a new move in the month before the comp which must go in your routine.
10. ENJOY YOURSELF. Enter a competition for yourself, not for the win. Do it because you love pole and you want a chance to put a routine together and show the world how good you are. Don’t ever let yourself be pressured into it, and don’t do it for anyone but yourself. At the end of the day, you know if you like performing, and nobody can or should tell you to or not to.
Aaaand just because I haven’t put this in, and just thought of it:
10.1. Enter the correct category for you. If you are in-between beginner and intermediate, enter whichever one suits the moves you enjoy performing. If you like spins, transitions between poles and upright pretty moves, beginner is probably more up your street. However, if you enjoy inverts way too much to perform for a whole 3 minutes without them, enter intermediate. But also know the difference between advanced and intermediate, as there is a massive jump between the categories.