Method in the Madness

2nd April 2016

Method in the Madness

Why does Diamond Dance have levels, checklists and 8 week terms? Simples. We believe in progression.

We believe in developing our students physically in strength, flexibility and spatial awareness for each and every skill we teach in our curriculum. It’s safe, produces good technique (which helps aesthetics) and in the long run, ensures that you’ll be able to combine moves together easier.

Your body takes 8 weeks to adjust to an exercise regime – after that your results will diminish which is why we change it up with the routines all the time, so even if you are repeating, the different sequence of the choreography is enough to keep your body on edge. In the higher levels the moves and sequences are so hard that sometimes it takes 8 weeks just to get as far as achieving the execution – possibly lacking a bit of finesse. So we repeat routines to give you a chance to really work your cardio and finesse and performance of the routine – after all, it is dance; it should feel amazing.

In gymnastics, you spend 80 – 90% of your training working on your physical preparation. They do hours of strength and flexibility training in order to perform the moves they have planned or are required to perform in their routines. Once they are strong enough and flexible enough for the move, they then begin doing drills. Drills are the small components of each skill to help teach the body each phase and movement pattern of the skill. Your brain needs to develop neuron pathways for every movement it performs, each time you repeat a movement it becomes easier or more natural. Think of it as a puzzle; you colour in each piece and then you start to put sections together until you have the whole picture. In pole dancing, we are doing drills (as skills) from beginners. Everything we teach you has a purpose higher up the levels.

Here’s a specific example; the infamous knot grip – in beginners we are just using this grip to slide down the pole and maybe a bit of hanging. This is to get your body used to the movement pattern/position, develop body awareness by getting you to feel the correct muscles activate and developing your strength and flexibility of your shoulders to hold your weight in this position. In level 2 we teach you to scissor kick in this position; again building on and challenging your strength in this grip and we’ve added a bit of core work to the mix (you would have been activating your core but not using it to lift). We’re also starting to develop the movement patterns for kick up into the invert and creating the awareness of what each part of your body is doing and where it is. Level 3 we introduce the Pow-V with both legs kick up at once – huge challenge for your strength and movement patterns as there are a lot of muscle groups firing up. At this point you are really get the idea of the bigger picture – you understand the movement patterns and the activation required. Sometimes we’ll even start to turn you over close to the floor so you can feel the sensation of the whole skill. Level 4 we finally stand up and attempt the whole move known as the ‘Candy’. Usually here the biggest thing holding people back is fear – and that takes patience to overcome. (and then in level 5 you have to learn to do an aerial candy! YAY)

As you can see while you’re in level 2 and your skill is the scissor kick in knot grip – it will actually take you all the way upside down by level 4! The whole time we have been priming you for that move! Never thought of that? Most people don’t – we’ve tried to disguise the physical preparation side of things to be a little sexier – Jacinta hated the hours of strength training in gymnastics, but while it didn’t make sense at the time it is the foundation to the design of the programs at Diamond Dance.

So that brings us to the checklist. You’re probably starting to see why its important to be able to tick off each move on the list before you can move up. Everything leads on to the next thing (even when it isn’t as obvious as the knot grip example) so if you haven’t nailed a move, the likelihood is you won’t be ready for the next progression.

We also talk about confidence and consistency when deciding whether to move up to the next level. Here’s why; consistency as in 3 – 5 times in a class shows that you do have the physical strength and flexibility to perform the move. Confidence shows that you have the special/body awareness and understanding to perform the move. You should be able to put the move easily into a combination with pointed toes and a smile – that’s true skill mastery!

Why? Because if your brain hasn’t fully formed those neuron pathways to make each movement natural then the risk of you hurting yourself is greatly increased. Pole is not like any other activity in life – you need to take the time to prepare yourself.

What’s the rush anyway? It’s a beautiful journey.