In one of my past lives, I was an actress (okay, I did high school theatre). And the four years I did theatre has helped me enormously with my pole routines. I learned to be comfortable onstage and how to be expressive in a way that translates to the audience and tells a story. Best of all, theatre has helped me learn to handle those times when things don’t go the way you expect them to. (Memorable moments include repeating 30 seconds of a scene and failing to open a set door to enter on my cue.) The answer is always to just keep going.
There are plenty of things that can go wrong in a pole routine. Maybe you have a wardrobe malfunction, you forget your place like I did during a competition, or—worst of all—you fall. When you’re performing and you make a mistake, you might want to let out an expletive or stop or even get up and run off the stage. But, as they say in theatre, the show must go on!
Here are my top five tips for handling mistakes onstage:
- Try not to panic
Easier said than done, right? Take a deep breath and assess the damage. Tell yourself “I’m okay.” If you’ve fallen, make sure you are okay before you get back up. Costume problem? See if you can fix it on your own. If you think you can keep going, listen to your music. See if you can find your place. If not, try to think of what the next move you remember is.
- Don’t break character
When I competed in the Pacific Pole Championships in 2016, one of things the judges wrote in my feedback was: “We won’t realize you’ve made a mistake unless your expression tells us you did.”
I’d been grimacing every time I made even the smallest error and I was wearing almost black lipstick! My character (a sexy sorceress) was supposed to be a playful one. If I hadn’t panicked, there are lots of things I could’ve done. I could’ve given a sexy smile and laughed or pouted at the audience and no one would’ve known!
- Find a new door
Unless you’re seriously injured or having a costume issue that can’t quickly be fixed onstage, you just need to keep moving. Improvise if you have to! In the case of the door I couldn’t get through, I had to wait for the lights to go down again and enter through the curtain. I found a new door.
If you’re doing a sexy routine and you forget where you are, flip your hair and wiggle your hips! If your performance is upbeat, smile and groove to the music. Eventually, the music should cue your memory and you’ll find your place again. If you don’t land a trick, shoulder roll, invert, or climb to wherever you need to be and keep going. Everyone (including any judges) will be impressed with how well you bounced back.
- Take a Bow
After a play, there’s always the curtain call and everyone has to be there. Don’t run offstage as soon as the music stops. Chances are, the audience won’t have noticed your mistake and if they have, they’ll applaud you for being brave enough to continue. If you leave immediately after, you won’t hear that applause and appreciation and I guarantee you’ll regret it. You’ll feel much better when it’s all over if you smile and take a bow.
- Don’t Beat Yourself Up
Even pole pros slip or lose their place or don’t manage that trick—you know, the one that you felt really made the whole routine. Me? I do my best not to be hard on myself for every little mistake and my goal is always to have fun.
Each of my performances has been better than the last. I’ve learned from my mistakes each time, whether that meant rehearsing more, choosing more achievable tricks, or upping my freestyle game. Messing up can be an opportunity to grow, but only if you’re kind to yourself. Think about the parts of the routine that went well and congratulate yourself. You’ve done something incredible and you deserve it!
Jenny is a writer and pole fitness instructor from Tucson, Arizona and has been hooked on pole dancing since her very first class in July of 2014. After moving to Norwich, England to pursue her master's degree in Creative Writing, she trained with Spin City to become a certified Pole Fitness instructor to share her love of pole dance with others. She loves reading, eight-inch heels, and teaching exotic choreo. Follow Jenny’s Instagram @jennyhpolefitness. Collab: @polepedia