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Interview with a Pole Dancer! With Samantha Hughes

This week, with the run up to the Authentic Pole Dance competition in June. in Interview with a Pole Dancer, we ask Samantha Hughes about her upcoming competition experience. Samantha attends the Advance classes and Rockin' Legs n Abs at Defy Gravity.

How long have you been a Pole Dancer?

I first became a pole dancer in October 20013 when I joined Bangor Uni Pole Society. And I have to say, this has been the best year and a half ever! Every time I was down about Uni work or anything, I would either hop on my pole or watch some YouTube videos and it would immediately cheer me up.

What made you start Pole Dance classes?

A friend of mine had been pole dancing for a while and kept putting up photos of her new moves on Facebook. It looked incredible and I could see how fit she was which made me want to give it a go. I didn’t know of anywhere to learn so the idea sort of went to the back of my mind until I saw the BUP stall at the societies fair at the beginning of my 3rd year in uni. I immediately signed up, only to be told that all the spaces had been filled! I was first on the waiting list in case someone dropped out, and luckily for me a week later I had a phone call telling me that a space had opened up for me! After my first lesson with Tracey (Pagan’s Pole) that was it, I was hooked. It rapidly became the highlight of my week, and I took every opportunity possible to practice. It wasn’t long until I purchased my very own pole so I could practice at home. Pole has given me so much confidence, not to mention my overall fitness! This is the only type of exercise that has ever been able to get me off the sofa and actually enjoy being active!

What made you decide to compete?

By nature I am quite competitive. But more than this, I just wanted more opportunities to practice and perform and really progress. The first competition I was in was the Inter Uni Comp in Essex. We had heats to decide who would perform, and I was lucky enough to be picked as part of the group we took. This was such a brilliant way to begin competing, as it meant that (being a beginner who had never performed before) I could rely on the advanced members of our group to lead the creation of the routine, having had experience of performing before. After this I got the taste for competing and couldn’t wait to do it again. The next competition I performed at was the All Wales Championships in Conwy. I didn’t compete this time, instead myself and my doubles partner opened the competition with doubles routine. This was such an honour for us, and it was such a thrill to be kicking off such a great competition. The next competition I am competing in is the Authentic Pole Competition in Wigan. This will be my first solo performance, which is both scary and exciting!

What do you get out of it?

It is such a good feeling to be standing on stage, gasping for breath and beaming from ear to ear as you hear the audience clapping and cheering you after a great performance. And nothing will get you more motivated to practice than knowing there is a competition fast approaching!

Do you have any advice for anyone just starting out?

It’s easy to be disheartened when you first start out, seeing other progressing faster than you or watching videos of incredible polers and thinking ‘I’ll never be that good’, but trust me, you’d be surprised. If you had told me when I first started that in a year and a half I would be able to half the things I can do then I would have probably just laughed. Don’t get me wrong, it will take a lot of work, and you’ll probably have days when you feel like you’re not progressing, but if you really want it, you’ll make it happen. And with just a little work you can see such massive accomplishments! So go for it, take a chance and you may surprise yourself!

Do you have advice for the advanced pole dancer?

Compete! You’ve clearly got the skills and dedication, or you wouldn’t have made it to this level. Just work hard, and never give up. This is just the beginning of an amazing journey!


Interview with a Pole Dancer! With Lauren Red

This week, with the run up to the Authentic Pole Dance competition in June, in Interview with a Pole Dancer, we ask last years Professional Category Winner Lauren Red, about her competiton and love for pole.
Lauren owns Flight Fitness in Leicester

How long have you been a Pole Dancer?

I have lost track! About 6 years I think?! I was very on and off at the beginning as studying at uni and volunteering for lots of different charities took priority that's probably why I can't really remember!

What made you start Pole?

Ballet and dance have always featured strongly in my life and I carried them on while I was at uni. However I was too advanced for the adult class and was put into the advanced one class alongside a lot of 15 year old girls. As I was much older than them they didn't take very kindly to me and I felt really unhappy going to classes there. One of my friends had started doing pole dance classes and asked me to skip ballet class and come along to see what pole dance was like. I really struggled with fear and strength at first but what made me come back time and time again was the fact that everyone was accepting and supportive of eachother - everyone clapped when someone got a new move or when someone really tried hard. I had never experienced that before and absolutely loved it.

What made you decide to compete?

When I first started competing was the only way to get on the stage and perform. My instructor at the time suggested it and I just went for it as there was nothing to lose really! I'm glad I did as it was such a great experience!

What do you get out of it?

Competing for me is a chance to get on stage in front of an appreciative audience. I used to perform a lot at club nights and corporate events and just experienced indifference or abuse most of the time. It made me question why I was busting a gut until 5am when people didn't even care! So competing is my way of performing to people who appreciate what I have to offer. I don't always make it to the final or win but I enjoy the process and the challenge of pushing myself out of my comfort zone.

Do you have any advice for anyone just starting out?

Stay positive, don't compare yourself to anyone else - everyone moves at different rates and struggles with different things. Enjoy the process, don't race to the advanced moves or feel pressured to be doing certain things. When I judge competitions I would rather see simpler moves done in a clean, controlled and safe way than advanced moves that are messy / unsafe / wobbly.

Do you have advice for the advanced pole dancer?

Always play and experiment with linking things together. For example an old move can become new when teamed with a new exit. Set yourself little challenges (how do I link these two random moves together etc.) and never neglect your stretching!


Maintaining your pole dance lifestyle

Moisturiser -
Pole Dancers skin takes a battering, what with pole burn and the occasional bruise. (Bruises get less and less the more you pole).  Moisturiser is banned at class (as all Pole’rs know) Even self tanning the day before can cause problems. Moisturiser from your arms, legs and hands onto metal is super slippery, think about it. Think about those sharing a pole with you, and the ones who have classes after you. But it is really important to moisturise when you’re not Poling.

“But I Pole all the time???” I hear you cry! Not when you’re sleeping. So do what I do, oil bath/shower before bed. Wash it off well in the morning. Even wash the bath/shower in the morning before you get in! It’s strict, but its worth it. I use Aveena Bath Oil, smells amazing, makes the water all cloudy so you can pretend you are Cleopatra in a milk bath. I also like bath melts and massage bars by LUSH.

Look after your skin, very dry skin will not grip the pole, and battered skin does not feel fun during tricks.

Sleep/Rest Days -
If you’re anything like me you love sleep but hate rest days? Both are important for recovery. Also if you have a One2One/Private class booked, plan your week so you will be ache free, not tired and ready to make the most of that training opportunity.
I try to get one alarm free lie-in a week, it seems to heal a lot of niggles from that weeks training. Especially if I twin it with an oil bath the night before (see above).
Rest days are annoying, but you’ll know when you need one; When stretching does not feel good, when your arms refuse to lift you nicely, and when training that day feels like a punishment for your body rather than you and it working together.
When you feel your body is yelling “Whhyy, I thought you loved me??” then take a day off…or at least cross train! Bit of gentle Yoga wont hurt ;)

Protein -
Your muscles need tearing down in order to built back up even better than they were before. What makes you think they can do that without help, in the form of protein?  Be good to them and feed them the stuff they need. Find a protein source that suits you, and if you do not eat meat, essentially take Amino supplements , and maybe also B12 and Iron.
I am currently loving Purition Wholefood Protein, which is available at class.

Time management/ training -
Block out slots of time, ahead of time and stick to them.  Not only will it help your pole ability increase, but having a weekly practise gives you much deserved time for yourself.  Time to get selfish, its all about you. There are two main types of home training:
1) Trick Training- Go Hard or Go Home (you’re already home so you have no choice but to go hard!) , this training makes you feel like a boss, smashes goals and makes you buzz with your success for hours! No amount of chamomile tea can bring you down from this high. You have been warned night-owl polers!
2) Dance and Floor - Lights low, shoes on, in front of the mirror. This type of training is therapy. In my opinion every single woman should have a pole at home for this reason.  This is all about dragging those shoes across your floor, swaying your hips, leg twirls, cat crawls and checking out your curves in the mirror and lounging upside down for ages, or in a sitting layout.  Side effects are increased self-esteem and self love, and that solid secure feeling of knowing what you’re worth.  Bliss.

Your home pole -
My favourite out of all my 8 pole’s is my home pole, old style screw together  xpole 50mm (with a P.S top plate- it’s a bit of a hybrid). I am 5`4 and can touch my ceiling when I am on tip toes. There is 3 and half foot in one direction from my pole to my bed (3 of my feet literally, I stepped one foot in front of the other  to measure this), 4 and half from my pole to my mirrors, about the same from the pole to a wall, and enough room for me to lay down from pole to bedroom door.  So don’t come telling me you have no room for a pole at home. I find the only maintenance I need for it is to hoover around it. So…that’s all I have to say about this part. Buy a pole, dance on it for life-simple. Oh, and also put it up and down YOURSELF! I know the new Xpert Xjoint design is a bit confusing at first but once its done, its done. No woman needs to rely on a man to find beams or put up a pole.  There is only one main difference between a man and woman and that part does not help at all when it comes to putting up xpoles!

Training clothes-
If what you wear for pole already makes you feel like a queen then congrats, you done it right. If not, then either root around your wardrobe for a better option or make an investment.  Your shorts need to be short enough for pole sits and lay-backs, and flattering enough to show off your pole dancer butt.
Bad Kitty USA make good shorts, so do Wink UK and Mika Yoga Wear. For the more daring among you, try or even
Unless I’m performing I have a sports bra on , every time. Cleo the Hurricane sells `crop tops` that work like very secure sport bra`s if you want something cool. Although there are some types of Shock Absorber sports bra that look very pretty and not boring and sporty, too!
Lastly for uber cool tops and t shirts either look again at Cleo’s website, or if you are not easily offended, the Merch page on My best selling t-shirt on that page is not for the sensitive. At the same time, I don’t know many Poler’s in the UK who does not own one. ..or two. They are even being used as prizes in the goody bags for the competitors at this year’s Authentic Pole Dance Competition. As with everything Defy Gravity- Adults Only, please.


Has competing ever crossed your mind?

Here is what you will need to know, to help you decide if comp training is for you?

1- Comp training is not your everyday pole practice.

If you thought jumping onto your home pole every day or so, and practising your least favourite moves takes discipline then understand that comp training will take you to whole other level of pushing yourself!
Comp training involves drilling sections of your routine over and over to iron out any problems, until you can put it all together, and then drilling that over and over. Errrryday! Even when you don’t feel like it, even when you feel like a may have a cold, even when bad news has happened, even when you have a hangover. You have a deadline. The audience, and the judges, wont care on the day, how many sessions you missed because the grey weather outside made you feel a bit sluggish. But it will show.
On the same note, if you do not wish to put in the hours needed to create your very best work. Then maybe do not apply for the competition, and leave the spot open for someone else who does. This may sound harsh but comps have limited spaces and there are hundreds of Pole’rs just dying to show the world their ultimate results gained from months of hard work.

2- Block out time, at least 3 months in advance of the comp date.
Yep, 3 months is the minimum time needed to create your piece. First month to put your routine together, second month for any changes you need to make, last month to proof it and condition your muscle memory and fitness level to it, so you will not be exhausted on the day and can perform it well. 4 weeks for each of the above is actually a tight deadline. This is why it pays to be pole training as often as possible anyway, even if there is no comp coming up that you wish to be in. As soon as one arrives, you will be ready to start training for it.
So calculate how many hours you can put in, in a week. Write it down,
stick to them.
Btw, the body results you will get from comp training will astound you! The thing I miss most from competing, is the fitness levels and muscle tone gained. Comp training could be renamed: 3 Months to Your Ultimate Pole-Body!

3- Chose your song wisely.

My advice is to chose a song you truly love and have never got tired of. You will be hearing it over and over, if you get sick of your song, it will be hard to carry any energy from it on the day. There will be no emotion to show, and the performance may look flat.
Also listen to your chosen song on earphones, and on loud speakers, and also quietly. How does it carry itself? Are there long sections of the song that not much happens in? Can you keep moving enough during that to hold the audiences attention?
Some songs are great for big show performances, some of great for small, close up audience gigs, some are huge, outgoing tracks that are great for competitions.
Also, do you know if you dance best to fast songs or slow ones? Are you an energetic, fast mover, or a slow slinky dancer?
Record yourself doing both if you are not sure.

4- Be prepared for `Head Trash`.
Unless you are used to competing from a young age (school sports teams, for example), you may find a few personal demons appear while you are busy finding out your ultimate potential. When was the last time you had the freedom to devote a ton of your day/weeks to becoming the best version of you, via something you love so much? What if you find out you are a thousand times more capable of what you thought you were? What will you do with all of that? That’s a whole new level of being you may not be prepared for? Yes, it’s a scary thought, you may find yourself pulling out all sorts of subconscious mental f***ery to keep you in your comfort zone. It will mess with your training and your routine.
I have been there. Usually in the last month of training, when my routine has come together well and I am conditioning to it on time. I become a brat, everyday, and complain to anyone who will listen about being `judged for my art by others` and that being judged on dance is a stupid endeavour, and that I don’t know why I am doing it. Obviously this was just a fear based reaction. Being judged on your own style by others pushes on your insecurities, even if it was you that put yourself in that position in the first place.

5- Competing is not performing, you are there to be judged and scored.

Remember this is a comp piece, not a show piece. You do not get 100% say in what you include. You may love booty work, but a 5min twerk routine will get you nowhere in a comp that asks for a well rounded routine. The best comps will have given you written information of what is required and what sections gain the majority of the score. Some comps make a third of scores for tricks and technique and a small portion for costume and theme. Some comps are equal across the score board for spins, tricks, dance and performance skill. Get hold of this information, and plan your routine accordingly.

6- Make a list of what you are excellent at, and anything else you wish to include that you will have perfect in a few weeks from start date. Stick to it.

It will be tempting to add new things into your routine last minute, that have not quite nailed yet, just because it feels/looks/seems a lot harder/more impressive than what you are already using. Don’t do it. You will score higher for a trick performed smoothly and with good form than a harder trick that took you a few shuffles and a worried face to pull off.
Definitely include dance, tricks and spins that you can knock out in your sleep and that you LOVE doing. Try finding out new ways into and out of them, a lot of comps score high for originality and unique transitions.
Be aware of your songs tempo changes. For example, it is always a let down to hear a song explode into the chorus and the performer dance as if that music change is not important, or isn’t  even happening. Hitting perfect timing on your music with a dance move, or a trick landing, or leg hook, or a drop, for example, will make it easy for your audience and judges to be a part of the performance with you. And will score higher than a routine full of tricks the performer has had to concentrate so much to pull off, that the performance element is lost.

7- Performance face is key, proof your skills as many times as possible in front of people.

Your routine does not start from the neck down, what your face is doing is just as important as what your body is doing. (And also your hands, fingers and pointe`). Look up, acknowledge the crowd and the judges, emote what you are feeling via your face as well as your dance, throughout the routine. Now is not the time to be shy. To quote International Performer `Glory Pearl: “ You are not on that stage by accident.” Meaning you put yourself in that position, so do not look at the floor the whole time, being shy about your decision.
Proof your routine in front of your class members, your mates, anyone who will watch. Do not be picky about choosing who to show, different reactions and different faces to perform to will strengthen your confidence over time. Getting over the fear of proofing your routine in front of others will pay off before the comp date.

8- Rest.

Rest is just as important as training, this will be an intense few months at least, take some time out so you don’t end up hating the process. But don’t get hung over and lose training days either. If you are using good form and warming up/cooling down then injuries will be unlikely, but rest is still important for a body that is going over repetitious `exercises` . Factor in some time for yoga, foam rolling, Epsom salt baths and eat well.

9- Use your instructor!

It’s what they are there for. Put the work and the money in. Try your hardest to exhaust your instructor with questions, innovative ways in and out of stuff, help with choreo and linking. And most of all share your head-trash with them, they have probably been through it, and want the very best result for you so will help you. Let them know when you want some time for quiet, self focused training or if you want them to watch all of it and maybe change something.
Do you want your Instructor to choreo the routine for you, or would you prefer to do it yourself 100%? All of this needs to be verbally conveyed so your Instructor can coach you in the best way they can.
Get in early with the coaching help. Try not to wait until two weeks before the comp to show your instructor your full routine, because if there is a lot that may need changing or tweaking, its too late.
Basically, make your instructor work as hard as you are working, and you can both get the best results possible.

I hope the above has answered some questions for you. And I hope that maybe you are inspired to take the leap one day?

`No person has the right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. It is a shame for someone to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.` Socrates.

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Defy Gravity - Jamie Taylor
Defy Gravity - Jamie Taylor
Defy Gravity - Jamie Taylor
Defy Gravity - Jamie Taylor

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