5 Award-Winning Pole Dancers Share How to Have Better Stage Presence
Recent PSO Champs share their best performance tips
Lately I’ve been thinking about competing in pole dancing competitions, because right now the only performing I do is during recitals at my studio. (It used to also be when I’d host house parties, until I collided hard with the floor after a handspring and realized alcohol and pole don’t mix).
But, before I sign myself up, there are a few goals I want to accomplish. One of them is having better stage presence.
Even though each competition has unique judging criteria, stage presence is a must if you want to leave a lasting impression on the audience. When I watch pole performances, someone can bust out all the splits and advanced moves, but I’m still left lingering on the person who emotes with abandon.
The thing is, getting to that point can be so difficult, especially when you’re nervous about competing or just have general stage fright. To help push past my own nerves, I turned to five recent Pole Sport Organization champs for their best advice on improving stage presence.
With pole competitions and showcases always taking place around the world, perhaps their comments will help you prepare you for your next performance, too.
“We are always told to look at our audience and make eye contact, but I always took that to mean just look in the direction of the audience or look over their heads. When I started acutally looking at people’s faces and even looking for eyes to make contact with—like you do when you have a conversation with someone, you look at their face, their eyes—this is where my stage presence in performance took on a whole new level of connection.”
2017 PSO U.S. National Pole Champion
2017 NAPDC International – Third Place
2017 PCD Arnold Sports Festival – Second Place
2016 PSO Northwest Pole Champion
“Execute your choreography full out with confidence every time you practice, even when you make a mistake, recover gracefully. Find small movements to help exude your character. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable with direct eye contact with the audience. Love every single moment you are on that stage and the audience will feel your passion. Own it!”
–Tinkk Holt, Ecdysiast & Ecdysiast Pole Dance Company
2017 PSO Northwest Pole Champion
(I’m lucky enough to call this beautiful, talented being my teacher)
“If you want it, you can have it. When you want to gain or even increase your stage presence, you must work for it. Sometimes we feel if we just go out it will all just come to us, and for some people that can work but not for everyone. Think of it like playing a role in a major movie: you have to audition and you want to get that spot. No matter what category you are in, you want to explain a story without words. Let your body language do the talking. Practice and make the story believeable.”
2017 PSO Northeast Pole Champion
2017 PSO Level 4 Exotic Champion
“Stage presence is perhaps the most difficult thing to work on and improve, but it is an essential factor in any pole performance. For someone working on their stage presence, it’s important to note that this doesn’t just apply to dance/floor movements but also when you are up the pole, posing upside down, handling a mess up and even walking on and off stage, because the performance continues until you can no longer be seen. You want to appear as comfortable as possible on stage as if you have been doing this your whole life.
With that said, it’s important to get yourself into the right mindset to ensure you convey your intended emotions by feeling that way inside. Nerves always overcome me before I go on stage, so I find that listening to my music or running my routine in my head helps channel my energy before I perform.
Eye contact is perhaps the most telling if someone feels comfortable on stage. If it doesn’t come naturally, choreograph looking towards the audience at points in your routine and practice it until it becomes seamless. I find that looking at a distance far behind the audience and not specifically at someone watching helps keep me focused and in character.
Truth is that stage presence may come more naturally for some but it can be improved with practice. Don’t be scared to dance your heart out as people connect to facial expression, explosive movement and movements that breathe, so if it’s more noticeable, the more likely you will connect with the audience and leave a lasting impression.”
2017 PSO Canadian Pole Champion
2017 Canadian Pole Fitness Champion
2016 PSO US Nationals L4
Here is some advice that’s especially great for competitions:
“No. 1: Know your division’s judging and scoring criteria. Emphasize a routine that fully satisfies all of the categories. Point spread between competitors does tabulate to as little as fractions of a point.
No. 2: Set the tone early. Stage presence and confidence captures attention. It’s a pole competition—get on with it. Showcase the content rather than elongating, say, a minute of just floor work as a ‘story set up’ in a pole division.
No. 3: Choose music and a theme that is timeless. Preparing a routine takes months. The music will be on repeat over 100-plus times. So will the emotions of the routines. Be careful not to get sick of the same music many months into training before getting on the main stage.
No. 4: Check your ego at the door. It’s a pole competition after all. Enjoy the experience and the friends you make along the way. Let criticism be the guidance toward a better routine. Points and placement doesn’t define your character. Your likeability does.
No. 5: Copyright music means the Facebook, Instagram and YouTube police may block your account and your friends won’t be able to watch and share your glory. Choose instrumental music and change the tempo, which may bypass the copyright issue, or simply adjust the tempo to suit the pace of your routine.”
2017 PSO Northwest Pole Champion
2017 PSO Canadian Pole Champion
2013 CPFA National Men’s Division – First Place
In the end, everyone has different ways of shaking off the nerves and getting into character, but the main takeaway for me is to be sure to insert that character into my practice each time, so I’m not just running through the movement and hoping for my emotions to come through on performance day.
Do you have any tips for better stage presence? Share them in the comments!