I’ve recently started teaching routines in classes and I love it. It’s so much fun to see pole moves come alive. We are so used to focusing on moves, that it’s great just to be able to do a routine and play with it.
I choreograph for street classes every week and have done for a long time. Before that, I’ve choreographed drama pieces and musicals and I love it. While I’ll never claim to be the best, it does come quite naturally to me. Don’t get me wrong – the process be can be long, frustrating and seemingly never ending but there’s a point while making every routine where it all just clicks into place and the routine comes to life.
I know a lot of polers have poles at home but aren’t sure how to make up a routine… So here are my top tips – this can be used for routines at home that you perform to your cat or for competitions and performances. 😀
1. Start Slow
When first choreographing start slow. I love fast routines but slow routines give you loads of catch up time in case anything goes wrong as well as allowing you time to hold your moves. When you slow things down you also realise where your strengths and weaknesses are. When you get more confident putting routines together you can be brave and play faster songs.
Remember – just because the song is slow, it doesn’t mean that all the moves have to be. A fast trick can be really powerful after lots of slow movement.
2. Don’t Throw In Every Move
Just because you can do loads of moves, it doesn’t mean that you have to. You’ll get exhausted if you throw one trick in after another. It’s more powerful to do a combination of spins, tricks, inverts, transitions and drops. Think of it this way – what’s the hardest, most impressive move you can think of? Now imagine a 4 minute routine of this move being shown over and over again with different entrances. It’ll probably get a little stale quite quickly and you’ll even be wishing for a Chair Spin!
3. Kill The Ones You Love
This is a drama term I heard a long time ago. You know when you have a move that you love and want to nail but it’s not working? Kill it. There’s no room in routines for super hard moves that you can’t do yet. No one wants you to go wrong. Imagine if you got to the end of your routine and couldn’t do your last move. It’ll be so frustrating.
You can of course practice this move over and over but when making routines you need to be able to do the individual moves. Of course there will be parts to work on but you shouldn’t put in a trick that’s too hard.
4. Listen To The Music
This one is key. If the music is new to you, play it over and over again until you get used to it – you want to know where the music gets softer and where the real power comes within the song.
Lie down on the floor and close your eyes. Play your song on repeat at least 3 times. In your mind play your ideal combination of moves – you don’t have to be able to do them all but you want to be able to do some. Everytime you listen to the music you should get more familiar with it and will have a better understanding of the kind of style you want to use.
5. Play To Your Strengths
If you are an ex-Olympic gymnast you will of course use those skills in your routine. Have a think about what your strengths are and use them. If you are a great juggler, tap dancer or contortionist why not put elements of this into a routine? You can use your strength, power, grace, flexibility, comedic performances and so on. For me, my spins are my strength. I’m able to use the hardest spins I can think of as I can practice them daily and have done for years. You might think this is a boring strength but there are so many possibilities with spins – how fast / slow they are, the power used, where you land, what moves you can then go into, how flexible you are, can you flip it? Endless challenges!
6. Start From The Beginning
I always start at the beginning – it seems like a good place! I might have an idea of what to try later on, but starting at the beginning will help to give you an idea of the kind of routine you want to put together. You can always go back and change this later.
When you put the music on, have a play. Dance around as if you weren’t doing a routine and see what moves you come up with. More often than not, these are the moves that end up in the routine.
It can take a long time to come up with a routine so make sure you write it down. It’ll be so frustrating if you forget it.
7. Put Any Music On
For me the hardest part of doing a routine is picking the song. I end up with 10 or so possibilities and then end up deciding I don’t like any of them! None of them are perfect.
Doing my weekly routine class has allowed me to put on any song I or the students like and then we dance 🙂 Not every song has to be 100% perfect but if you pick a song you like the chances are you’ll end up loving it in the end. And if you don’t, then you can just choose another.
This is the best part! Think about all the rules you know and throw them out of the window. We always take three steps into a spin to give us momentum and we know the position we should stand in to invert. The great thing about routines is that you get to explore. Think about your starting move and explore how you can get out of it, if you are stuck, try changing levels. You want a smooth transition between every move.
Quite often we will do a routine where we have only used 2 spins – the rest are transitions and floor work. This kind of play allows for some great shapes. You can work with your body and explore what works for you.
So let’s give it a ago 😀