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Ballet and Burlesque with Miss Maleficient Simona Martini

It's been the rainiest autumn in 140 years in Finland this year and you might think that all this fuss about fifty shades of grey refers to the colour scheme of an average day in Helsinki. The weather doesn't manage to get me down, though, as I'm happily busy at work all day and spend most of my spare time either pole dancing, dancing or doing yoga. Who cares what the weather is like?


Today we enjoyed our own personal sun at Pole4Fit as we had Simona Martini as our guest teacher. She lights up the room with her presence and her gracious way of moving is bordering on otherworldly. We've had the pleasure of having her as a guest teacher twice before. If you've followed my blog, you know that I've danced ballet for just over 1,5 years and it hasn't really come naturally to me at all. The pole ballet classes that we have every week I can still pretty much follow, but the lessons with Miss Simona Martini are always a reality check that remind me that I still have a long way to go, even at beginners' level.

Miss Martini gave us a 75-minute ballet class and a 75-minute burlesque class. Her lessons are not easy and she pushes us to learn by making us repeat the routines without her. That's why after all her classes I feel like I'm a terrible dancer, but still a lot better than 75 minutes earlier.

Simona Martini has danced ballet since she was 5 years old. She joined Rome's Teatro Dell'Opera when she was 11 and started studying at the Royal Ballet in London at 15. She has worked with many famous ballet dancers such as Elisabetta Terabust, Alexander Floris, Zarcko Prebil, Massimo Moricone, Merle Park, Jonathan Cope and David Drew. Like said before, her teaching me is a complete waste of talent, but it's still so inspiring and pushes me so much forward that I'm not going to complain!

Me and Miss Simona Martini at Pole4Fit. What do you mean I'm not built like a ballet dancer?


Steven Retchless's TRIXXX Workshop @Vertical Club

Steven Retchless blew us away in Stockholm with his Pole Art performance. Luckily he followed us to Finland to give two workshops at the new Vertical Club.

I attended the TRIXXX workshop described below:
INT/ADV 75min
This class is all about the TRIXXX! This 75min workshop will PUMP YOU UP!!! With a detailed breakdown of power moves, flips, inverts, twists, contortion and introduction to original and creative new moves. if your above beginner come take this awesome class. The “trixxx” will be modified to fit your level. I know you can do it, I believe in you so, LET’S DO IT!!!

I walked in just as they were finishing the previous workshop, 8" Spike. It looked like a lot of fun! I wish I could move in heels the way Steven does. Even more I wish I could move like he moves barefoot. Goddammit.

It seems that Steven really wants his students to learn in his workshop. He continuously walked around the classroom, giving pointers and tiredlessly redemonstrating the moves.

Steven taught us the spin combination that he did at the beginning of his Pole Art 2012 routine. I shared a pole with Pole4Fit teacher Carmen, who nailed the spin quite quickly. Luckily we've kept on practising it in her classes.

I usually never do this but I had to have a photo with Steven Retchless - and post it on Facebook. And yes, those are his pants on the floor. He specifically wanted to take them off for this photo.

All in all, a great workshop. Everything from warm-up to cool down was original, very Steven-esque. I'll have to work on the butt cheek lifts, impressive stuff! All the tricks or variations of tricks that we learned were new to me, which is exactly what I hope from workshops. If you have the change to attend Steven's workshops, do it! Very inspiring.

Please come to Poleranking to discuss this topic!


Natasha Wang's Signature Tricks @North Pole STHLM

Natasha Wang had just won a runner-up title at Pole Art the previous night and came to the North Pole studio still wearing the beautiful braids. She was met by 12 enthusiastic students, among them our group of five Finns.

The workshop description was:

Natasha Wang
"Signature tricks"
Level: Intermediate/Advanced
Price: 450 SEK (~53€, $68)
Class description: This tricks class will focus on unique transitions on and off the pole, innovative aerial tricks, Chinese pole techniques, as well as movement that transforms the human body into beautifully strange shapes. This will be a barefoot class, as we’ll be executing tricks that require all parts of the human body -- including the bottom of your foot!


After a thorough warm-up we started with a beautiful but painful side climb variation. We practised several tricks that were completely new to all of us, such as the transition (more like a dive) from standing on the pole to scorpio (a.k.a. inside leg hang). We also practised several variations of the meat hook (see photo of me below) and from that flipping yourself back right-side up and grapping your front leg (see the quick snapshot of Natasha demonstrating this transition below).

Natasha has astonishingly beautiful lines, even if she's just quickly showing how something is done.

Natasha is also one of those teachers who does everything to help you get it just right.

My take on the meat hook.

Pole4Fit's students and teachers were all smiles after the workshop.

What an inspiring, fun and useful workshop! We all agreed that this was money well spent. Thank you Natasha!


Jenyne Butterfly's Spin Sister workshop @North Pole STHLM

If you watched the live stream or watched the videos or if you were there yourself you already know that Pole Art 2012 was the most inspiring pole dancing event ever. But it wasn't just the amazing performances that inspired us mere mortals, the weekend was also filled with workshops with the best pole dancers in the world. I attended Natasha Wang's Signature Tricks class and Jenyne Butterfly's Spin Sister at North Pole Studio in Stockholm and Steven Retchless's TRIXXX at Vertical Club in Helsinki the following Tuesday. All the workshops were inspiring, but I'll start with the one that didn't quite meet my high expectations: Jenyne's Spin Sister workshop.

The class description was:
Jenyne Butterfly
"Spin Sister"
Level: Intermediate / Advanced
Price: 550 SEK (~65 €, $83)
Class description: This 2-hour workshop will focus on spinning pole and also spinning on static pole. You will learn take off and landing, how to lengthen your flight time with each spin, the importance of and how to condition your grip, what moves are good for spinning verses static, where the momentum comes from, the benefits of spinning pole, and an all-around basic understanding of graceful movement around the pole. Get ready to be dizzy lizzy!


The spins on static were intermediate. I struggled with a one-handed spin that was supposed to end in a shoulder mount - I just didn't have the strength left to actually mount the pole. We also worked on bringing the popular breakdance move flare legs into a spin on the pole. I wish we had done more spin combinations like the pike spin - piroutte - backhook -spin that we did.

The part on static pole was fun, but that's not why I came to Jenyne's workshop as we have spin classes at Pole4Fit every week and we work on even more advanced spins in every class. I really came for some tips on rocking the spin mode. I haven't worked much on it even though I have a spinning pole even at home. For two weeks before Jenyne's Spin Sister I did a little bit of spinning pole every single night just to get used to it - I didn't want to throw up in the two-hour workshop!

However, the part on spinning pole was hardly intermediate/advanced. I'm a complete newbie on spinning pole and I still didn't really learn anything new. We practised the very basics of spin mode. I checked my watch to see that we should still have 20 minutes left of the workshop when Jenyne asked if anyone had any requests. I tried asking about inverted moves on the spinning pole but all I got was a very brief reply. We started stretching and ended the 65 € workshop 15 minutes ahead of schedule even though we had started late. So, understandably, I was a bit disappointed with the workshop, even though it's of course an honour to get practice with the likes of Jenyne Butterfly.

Jenyne gave us a good piece of advice: Do a freestyle every time you practise on the pole. Just put on song on and move. Even if you're tired, come on, it's a 3-minute song!



Pole Dancing in Music Videos

Pole dancing has gotten more and more popular, even in music videos. Here are some that I know of, please share if you know more!

Enrique Iglesias feat. Usher - Dirty Dancer has more than 57 million views on Youtube, and luckily those dancers are actually good!

2 Chainz feat. Nicki Minaj - I Luv Dem Strippers is more... Well, what do you expect with that title? It's not all booty shaking, though.

Diplo feat. Lazerdisk Party Sex - Set It Off has AERA dancers Marlo, Mina, Nadia, Reiko, Michelle, Kyra, Autumn, Danielle and Crystal in their video. But honestly, what's with the description "Thanks to Director Ryan Staake we may finally know the answer to how many strippers it takes to get to outerspace"?


PoleArt 2012 videos are here!

If you didn't make it to Stockholm and even missed out on the live stream provided by Poleranking (what's your excuse?) you can now watch the videos here. You definitely should, as PoleArt 2012 exceeded at least all my expectations - and that is saying something!

As you will know by now, Oona Kivelä won for the third time, followed by Natasha Wang as a runner-up. In the male category Saulo Sarmiento won, followed by a tie between Evgeny Greshylov and Steven Retchless.

In evaluation, equal emphasis was put on technical difficulty, execution, choreography and originality. The judges seemed to be as overwhelmed as the audience. Lu Nagata admitted that some artists brought her to tears and Anna de Carvalho commented that there was a lot of originality and many elements that had not been seen before. Serena Mon De Vienne told us how glad she was to see contestants trying to explore their own dance. She also said the evolution in pole dance has been so fast that it seems like 10 years have passed in the short history of PoleArt. It was Marina Cavallini who captured my thoughts the best using the word contemporary. She said the pieces were very strong, impressive, professional, breathtaking - and more contemporary than we have ever seen before.

I couldn't agree more - and couldn't be happier about it! This year was exactly what PoleArt is about. The venue, Göta Lejon theater from the 1920s, was stylish and exactly right for this event, and many performers seemed to have found the pole dancer in them. Many pieces were contemporary dance where pole was just one element of the dance. Patryk Rybarski, Evgeny Greshylov, Oona Kivelä and Laurence Hilsum all had dubstep(ish elements) in their music and showed some locking (or vogueing) moves, very trendy. There are always top tricks in all competitions. In last year's PoleArt the shoulder mount - outvert -flip was all the rage, this year we saw several starfish and chopsticks.

Below are Poleranking's YouTube videos with my comments - Please note that they are my personal opinions and feel free to comment and discuss! The videos are in the same order as they were performed in Stockholm. The first posts contain the first half of the videos, watch this space for my take on the remaining half!

Intellego Pole Company started the night with a performance that I personally found a bit disappointing - after their captivating performance in PoleArt 2011 my expectations were sky high. Their performance was called Female Exhaustion and called for freedom and democracy. I couldn't help but think about Pussy Riot in Russia. Very contemporary.

Patryk Rybarski still is a Dancer with a capital D. He danced to dubstep and showed us some cool locking moves, but his pole technique is still not quite clean. At the end of his act the poles seemed to be a bit too slippery for him and we even witnessed the only ass wipe of the night. But when he masters his pole technique in a year or two, there will be no stopping this guy. Can't wait.

Tracey Simmonds had a fierce look - Lisbeth Salander (of Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy) instantly came to mind, not a bad look for a competition in Sweden. Tracey didn't disappoint with her unique trick combos and solid floorwork.

Rafaela Montanaro started with a super strong one-handed handstand. The latin pop song she used was tacky but the rhythm sure was catchy. This style is what Rafaela does best, the same thing she always seems to do, but maybe it isn't right for PoleArt. However, I've never seen a pole dancer put more clothes on in the middle of her performance, so that was original. Take a look at the one-minute solid aysha combo in the end!

Phoenix Kazree blew our minds away with her mesmerizing performance. She portrayed pain or hurt, a classic theme, but she did it beautifully. One of the most contemporary pieces of a contemporary night.

Go to Poleranking.com to see read the entire post and see the rest of the videos! You don't need to register to view the post and the videos, but please do and share your opinions!

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