Friday, February 12, 2016

I Did Another Thing I Said I'd "Never." MN Regional Pole Competition 2016

Ever since learning there was such a thing as pole dance competitions, I said it was something I would never do. Competition with others is never something I've really ever been into. Of course, I like winning at stuff - who doesn't? But there is something that happens to me when I get into a competitive mindset. It starts a cascade of negativity in my brain that inevitably leads to self defeat. I am prone to perfectionism which has been a very destructive force in my life. Competition sparks loads of harsh self-judgement, criticism and doubt within me. It gives a megaphone to my feelings of unworthiness and all I can hear is that voice telling me about all the ways I am not good enough. On top of that, I really don't have the desire to be "the best" at anything. I want to be MY best but not at the expense of outdoing others. That just has never really been my thing.

When I heard that Minnesota was hosting its very first regional pole competition, I had mixed feelings. There was part of me that was intrigued by what the experience of it might offer me. There was also the appeal of being apart of our very first pole competition, which is a landmark event for the pole community. Then, there were also the parts of me scurried away and hid in fear at the very idea of competing. It was those scared parts of me that I found particularly interesting. In a way, I wanted to help those parts of me see that it might not be so bad; that just maybe I could do this competition in a way that didn't prompt a my brain to erupt with self defeat. In essence, I saw an opportunity for self growth which is what ultimately lead me to plop down my registration fee and officially sign up.

One important thing to realize about pole competitions is that the judging is very subjective. There is a judging rubric and outline for the different technical aspects they look at. However, there is so much room for subjectivity.

One of my judging sheets

It was really cool that each judge provided specific feedback for each competitor. I found mind incredibly constructive and very helpful! I completely agreed with the suggestions given to me.

I am in no way suggesting that the judges pick favorite competitors and give higher scores them on purpose. I am talking about the uncontrollability of being human. Maybe the song choice of a competitor happens to be particularly moving to one judge. Naturally, they are going to have an overall different response to the piece and it will certainly affect the way they judge it. It's a totally normal, human occurrence that can't be predicted or controlled. This is only one of many examples of things that influence judging: mental distractions which cause a judge to zone out or miss parts of a routine. Physical distractions; they have to pee really bad and are having a hard time focusing. You get the point. This is something I thought a lot about when making the decision to compete. I realized that truly, there was no sense in getting perfectionistic over a routine that might simply rub a judge the wrong way. I felt very conscious of the fact that I was entering a competition with a very human judging element and it wasn't worth making myself crazy over something I have no control over. That actually really helped me let go of my incessant need to do it the "right way" in order to best please the judging panel.

I made the choice to revamp and old routine I'd previously done at a showcase. I felt good about having a solid place to start from and choreographing my competition routine was relatively easy. I chose to stick with tricks, spins and dance moves I felt completely comfortable with so that I could do them well under pressure. I felt good about the time I spent solidifying my choreography and six weeks before the competition, I had a well constructed and memorized routine.

Unfortunately, life decided to happen and I had a really difficult time dealing with it. My grandma passed away almost exactly one year to the day of my father's death. Same family, same cemetery, too many similarities. I felt so much grief, it was overwhelming. Toss in the emotion of all that during the holidays and it was difficult enough to shower and leave the house let alone train my ass off for a competition. In any case, the result was a beautifully choreographed and memorized my head.

I had barely practiced more than 4 times over the six weeks leading to the competition. I was physically out of shape and could especially feel it in the cardiovascular area most. I am not super proud of that at all. What I am proud of is the fact that I did that competition anyway. About four days before the competition date, I had very serious thoughts about dropping out all together. When I shared this with my husband, he asked me, "Bottom line - Do you want to do this competition? Would you regret it if you didn't do it?" My responses were "yes and yes." Then, very matter-of-factly, he said "Then there is no reason you can't do it. You have every ability to do this if you really want to." He believed in me and that's what I needed most at that moment; a reminder of my personal power. It helped me believe in myself and ultimately practice a few times in preparation for the big day.

I decided to purchase the professional video recording of my competition routine as a momento of my experience. I have watched it several times and given the circumstances, I really do feel good about it. I see places where I could have held poses longer, where transitions could have been smoother and where I can tell that I want to just plain collapse from being out of breath. It was kinda hard to believe that I came in just about 4 points shy of 3rd place. Parts of me wishes I could do it over again and compete with a routine I feel like a rock star about. Maybe someday. While I don't have any immediate plans to compete again in the future, I have certainly learned by now to never say "never."

Backstage, anxiously awaiting my turn!

Here is the video of my reworked Game of Thrones competition routine that I'd love to share with you. Thank you for reading about my journey along the way to it.