4 Ways Ballet Training Makes Learning Pole HARDER
This is the second of a two-part series by Pony Winterhart, who is guest posting for me while I’m busy getting married! THANK YOU, PONY!!
Last week, I showed how my training in classical ballet has been an asset to me as an aspiring pole dancer. This week, though, I want to mention the ways classical dance isn’t doing me any favors.
1. You are never upside down in ballet.
Even when a boy is holding you that way, you’re still leaning up. So, once you’re inverting on the pole, all bets for that classical dance connection helping you are kind of off. As anyone who has had to learn to invert knows, the brain thinks much less clearly when one is upside down and ballet did not prepare me for that.
2. Ballet feet aren’t pole feet.
The lines of the body in pole dance versus classical dance are not always the same and are sometimes absolute opposites! The first time I learned to climb, I got a sick feeling just holding my foot in that suppinated ankle position we use to climb (my pole teacher calls it “monkey toe”). To hold the foot at such an angle with the ankle rolled like that is a crime against nature in ballet, it is unthinkable and I am not kidding when I say holding my foot like that made me feel sick in my stomach. It is WRONG on every level – but it is also necessary to climb. This took some getting used to.
3. Knees face where??
The same can be said for keeping the knees facing forward. If you’ve seen a ballerina with her legs turned out, you know what I’m talking about – but you may not realize that, when you train your body to use the legs in this way, it is extremely difficult to NOT use them in this way. Dancers who start at a very young age, as most do, actually change the shape of their femur heads by turning the legs out on a daily basis, allowing for more flexibility in the hips to achieve better turnout.
I am including a picture of myself (the one at the top) that my pole teacher will be ashamed of but it isn’t her fault; I jokingly call this pose “ballerina scorpion” because it is a scorpion with the extended leg (my scorpion “tail”) turned all the way out, knee to the side in what is a beauitful ballet line that is dead incorrect in the linear scorpion position. I have corrected this pose since then, but it is always a conscious effort for me to keep my knees close to the center.
4. Lack of focus on upper body strength.
We don’t use the arms the same way in ballet. The ideal upper body of a ballerina is skinny, skinny, skinny, while a pole dancer needs to be strong, strong, strong. My body image goal in ballet was to see bones; my goal now that I focus on pole is to see muscles. So when a new student is not strong enough to pick herself up using her upper body and still has to practice those strength building holds on the pole to build some muscle, we ballet dancers are right there with you.
Ballerina to Polerina
Classical ballet and pole dancing are both very similar – and very different. I hope this series helps other polers understand those of us from the ballet world. It is important to embrace where you came from, whether you started in ballet, or as a gymnast, or in a strip club. You are the dancer you are today because of it!
Happy poling, everyone … and point your feet!
For more of Pony’s writing, visit her blog, Life of Pony.