We’ve all been there, we feel like we’re kicking butt on a combo or routine that we’ve worked so hard to perfect. We’ve been watching ourselves meticulously through our mirror, analyzing every move. When showtime comes nearer, we feel pretty good. It’s at the 11th hour now and we have decided to record ourselves, see how we look to the audience. And it’s a catastrophe.
We realize our lines only look good when we’re looking at the mirror. Somehow as soon as we take our eyes off, they go limp. Only now do we realize that the mirror hasn’t been catching our tip toes. They are not nearly as pointed as we thought they were! We only just now catch the fact that our legs in that handstand are not actually a true straddle. But damn the view from upside down had me convinced! It’s a sinking feeling to realize all the errors in the angles that our eyes on the mirror couldn’t catch, but that video caught every single one! And sometimes the feeling from watching those videos are so strong that we avoid recording ourselves as much as possible. But truth is, we need to be recording ourselves nearly EVERY SINGLE TIME.
It makes sense if you think about it. It’s impossible for our eyes to catch every single move in the mirror. Especially in pole dancing when we’re spinning 100 miles an hour and upside down. You could try and have someone watch and tell you what to look for but that’s not the same as seeing for yourself. And the only way you can really analyze your progress is if you look at yourself from a different perspective.
I don’t say this to try and make you more critical of yourself. In fact, I want the exact opposite! But if you want to improve and get past those feelings of anxiety when you see a recording of yourself, you have to make recording yourself a habit. And I know there will be a lot of polers who have been doing this already for a while and/or don’t even flinch when they see themselves, but for those of us who still feel like they have so much progress to make and don’t even like our picture being taken, it’s a big deal. I get it!
I remember when I started competing as a kid in dance competitions and my instructor had us all watch recordings of our practices, and I hated it! The dance I was seeing on camera didn’t even look like how it felt when I was dancing. It was such a troubling feeling! And I hated the concept (rather, what I thought the concept was at the time) of it. I thought it was to make me look at all my errors and horrendous mistakes. Honestly, I really only watched recordings when my instructor was literally standing over me to make sure I wasn’t covering my eyes.
That left such a strong impression on me that I didn’t even start recording myself for about a year after I started pole dancing. And when I did, I wasn’t terribly happy with the results. But that was a huge indicator and motivator to me that I needed to record myself more often, because ultimately we can’t improve on what we don’t know what we need to improve on.
We need to record ourselves because practice does NOT make perfect. Yes, you read that correct. Even when we know we need to improve, if we don’t know what exactly is setting us back in a move or combo, then we’ll end up just repeatedly practicing a move wrong over and over. Essentially, you will just teaching your body to do something the wrong way. In other words, only perfect practice makes perfect.
How do we get this perfect practice? By observing ourselves from a clear perspective so that we can see why and how exactly we are making errors so that we can correct them as need be. Now, you may be thinking, “If I record and watch myself after every time I do something, it will take too much time away from actual practice!”, and while that may be true, you’ll still be making way more progress than just practicing a move incorrectly over and over again and learning to do it the wrong way!
But recording yourself is not just about learning what you need to work on. It’s also about learning what you are already good at and appreciating yourself for it. At that point, we can ask ourselves: what made my flow look so great in this section? What transitions and combos look the most effortless on me? In other words, recording will also help you to better understand yourself as a pole dancer. It will help you appreciate your strengths and talents that you may not even know you have! Knowing this about yourself will help you to build more fluid combos and routines and make freestyling easier as you start to become aware of what you’re most natural at and can pull out of your sleeve on a dime.
You still may have some reservations, so these are the tips I’ve learned that have really helped me through it. Set up your environment in a way that makes you most comfortable. For me, that means my favorite music, comfortable and cute pole clothes, privacy, and dim lighting. I find that these elements, especially the dim lighting, are most flattering to me and make me the most relaxed. And being more relaxed can help you feel less critical of yourself. And after you make recording yourself a habit, that instinctual criticism will eventually just turn into calm observations.
Before making recording myself a habit, I would watch myself and cringe over every little imperfection. But now I can sit and watch myself and simply just observe, take notes, and do another run through with the new modifications. Sometimes you just have to detach yourself from it and pretend you are analyzing data. You’re not looking at yourself. You’re not measuring your worth as a pole dancer. And you don’t always have to pay attention to how the recording makes you feel. You just need to look at the data and make the necessary changes. I know, it’s scary, but trust me it works! And don’t forget, you have me and the whole rest of the pole community cheering you on! So get to it, you awesome pole dancer!