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Resolutions

posted 18 Feb 2014, 14:08 by Natalie Watkins

Hey Guys,


It's half way through January, and we're just reaching that time when everyone starts to forget or give up on their new year's resolutions.  I wanted to offer you an alternative this year.


I'm not a fan of new year's resolutions.  Generally, I think January's a bad time, when most people are tired at coming back to real life after the holiday.  More importantly, though, a year is a long time.  Over the course of a year, your goals will almost certainly change.  In fact, they really should.  In some cases, you'll achieve it or have made sufficient life changes that it's no longer necessary to hold to a resolution.  Alternatively, you'll find that the resolution is no longer possible (for example if you have a stretching goal but developed an injury) or that you're actually not that committed to it in the first place.  That's ok.  Either way, it's then time to take stock and decide what you really do want to use your energy to achieve.


Instead of new year's resolutions, I'm having monthly goals.  Because it's a much shorter timeframe, it feels ok to have much smaller goals.  It's also easier to keep them in mind.  I'm much happier with a small goal that I think about every day than I would be with a huge one that I only remember once a week (and then only to feel guilty at forgetting it so often).  It's certainly the option that leads to the most change.


So, here are my rules for monthly 'mini-resolutions'.  Obviously, these are the rules that work for me.  Find what works for you and go with that.

1 - Each month's goal is decided on the last day of the previous month, not before.  Usually, when I have an idea like this, I go into an orgy of planning.  I love deciding what each month will be, making sure that it all builds on what was done before and takes me towards an even bigger goal.  That's fun, but ultimately counter-productive.  A major part of the point of this is to react to the way your life is changing.  You can't do that if every month is already set in stone.  There's a real value in taking the time each month to work out what it is you want to achieve with the following 30 days.

2 - Each goal should be something you can measure.  You have to know whether you've actually been achieving it over the course of the month.

3 - Start really small.  These should be things that make you feel good.  If you start out with a huge target, each time you evaluate your progress will give you a sense of failure.  A really common example is achieving a flat split.  Even when you acknowledge progress, you’re still left with the nagging regret that you’re not “there yet”.  Small goals that can be achieved EVERY TIME are much more motivating than large, impressive goals with a period of failure first.

4 - Each goal is expressed in one or two words.  Throughout January, I found myself saying my goal aloud several times a day.  Not as part of some ritual or pre-specified motivational tool.  I just found that each time I wanted to do something that wasn’t in alignment with my goal, I said my goal aloud and that gave me the willpower to do things right.  Having to specify goals in one or two words also makes sure that they really are as simple and refined as possible.

5 - Goals can be repeated, if it feels like I want to.  Sometimes, it might feel like a goal is still the most important thing for me to work on.  That’s a sign that it could be valuable to repeat it.  Alternatively, a goal might feel so comfortable that you want to keep it as a ‘background goal’, in addition to the new goal for the month.


So, my goal for January was “good habits”.  Every day, I was trying to develop and maintain good habits in what I was doing.  This was in terms of training, yoga practice, cleaning the house, eating habits and anything else that felt right.  That might sound like a huge goal, but it’s actually quite simple.  The focus was all on my efforts, not on achieving an arbitrary standard.  So 5 minutes of stretching was enough to still be developing the habit. Stacking the dishwasher before bed was still part of the housework ‘good habit’.  And I found that doing 5 minutes of something (to keep my habit going) usually led to me doing much, much more of it.


January’s goal was so productive that I’m wanting to keep it as a background goal.  It felt good and there were loads of times that I believe I would have skipped a day or just been a little bit lazy without the magic phrase of “Good Habits” to pull me back.  Towards the end of the month, though, I felt like something was missing a little bit.  The word that stayed on my mind was “Play”.  So that’s going to be February’s goal.  I want to spend February remembering to stick to my good habits, but also remembering to play, just a little bit, every day.  That might be playing on the pole, it might be meeting friends for coffee, it might be spending time with the kittens and a ball of string.  It certainly means trying harder to say ‘yes’ to social invites.


If you feel like joining me in having monthly goals, I’d be delighted.  Please feel free to let me know what your goals are, and how you’re getting on.  I’m really interested in which rules feel like they resonate with you.


I’ll let you know how I get on.


Much love


Natalie

xx

Feminism and the Pole

posted 7 Sep 2011, 07:53 by Natalie Watkins

Hey guys,

A slightly less upbeat post this time around, but I think it's an important one.  I've been asked recently about how I present the fact that I pole dance to family and friends, and importantly, how I deal with the perception that it is in some way 'anti-feminist'.  I wanted to answer that here for a couple of reasons.  I want to make my feelings about this public, I want to make sure that you all know you're not alone in having to deal with some negative reactions, I want to give you all a few more options for what to say when you're challenged about your dancing and I'd really like to know your thoughts on this.  I know this blog doesn't allow comments yet (damn my tech fail!), but please email me about this one!

First of all, let's address who actually criticises us for pole dancing.  I've had quite a few conversations with people who are outraged that I'm dancing, let alone teaching.  One thing they all share is a lack of knowledge.  Not one of them had seen a clip of me dancing.  In fact, none of them had watched any actual pole dancing.  The closest most of them had come was the brief glimpses you get in films of a girl writhing against a pole to demonstrate that the location is a seedy strip club.  They have no idea of the strength, determination and outstanding pain threshold required to become an accomplished pole dancer.

So this gives us the first way to counter the complaints.  We can educate them.  We can explain what pole dance is.  We can show off our bruises (well, the more 'family-friendly' ones at least), we can detail the months of training, we can show youtube clips.  We can demonstrate in a hundred different ways that this is a complex, sophisticated art that takes strength, skill and stamina to perform.  For most people, this is all that's needed.  They realise that they're criticising us for something we're not actually doing.  They see what we do, they admire our abilities and (with a little luck) apologise.

Unfortunately, I find this somewhat unsatisfactory.  It fulfills part of my desire, i.e. it lets people understand what I actually do.  What it doesn't do is address the underlying point, which is that they feel they have the right to police my actions.

So, I have two other general points.  The first is that pole dance is actually a very female-dominated form of dance.  Unlike so many other forms of dance (such as tango, for example), pole dance is usually performed by a woman alone.  We're not dependant on a male dance partner, and certainly not 'led', with our choice of moves dictated to us.  Pole dance celebrates female strength, female power and female choice.  When I'm dancing, it's all about me.  My emotions, my passion, my power (and sometimes my falling on my butt).  The dancer chooses how much she gives to the audience.

Added to which, you can't be a great pole dancer without muscle.  The ideal pole aesthetic is (in my opinion) a much healthier one than can be found in many magazines.  Pole dance women are strong, powerful women who never have to ask for help to open a jar.  We know our own limits, our skills.  We recognise our achievements, know our strengths and work for what we want.  What's more feminist than that?

The second general point is that exercising choice (particularly where one's own sexuality is concerned) is the cornerstone of my interpretation of feminism.

When it comes right down to it I have the right to writhe against a pole if I want to, even if it doesn't take strength and skill and so on.  I don't see anything particularly feminist about restricting a woman's choices.  I enjoy pole dance.  I want to do it.  That's the only justification I ever need to give.  My pole dancing is only slutty if I choose to make it slutty.  It's graceful if I choose to make it graceful.  And both of those choices are equally valid.

For me, any restriction I accept simply because I'm worried about what other people might think is a failure.  It diminishes me, and I'm better than that.  I deserve better than that, and mostly I deserve better of myself.  My feminism requires that I fearlessly do the things that matter to me, that I accept the consequences and that I attempt to enable those around me (of either gender) to do the same.

So, this has become rather more of a rant than a 'how to' guide about how to answer those difficult questions.  Hopefully, the outline of the three main strands you can argue (pole dance isn't what you think.  Pole dance is about strong women.  Feminism is about creating choices) will at least prove helpful when you formulate your own arguments.  Which argument path you choose will depend at least a little on who you're talking to and what you're hoping to achieve.  In the end, however, you have to choose your own path.  Follow it fearlessly (or at least pretend to be fearless) and remember I'm with you all the way.

And don't hesitate to ask if there's any more I can do to help/clarify this.

Much (much, much) love

Natalie
x

Pole can do good

posted 22 Aug 2011, 04:58 by Natalie Watkins

Hey guys,

I had a wonderful (if manic) pole weekend, and I thought I'd share a bit of it here.  Firstly, I got to do some pole practice with the ever-wonderful Sam Pickles.  Sam is a great dancer, and a finalist for the Pole2Pole novice competition.  We met just before her heat, when she asked me for some coaching to really polish up her routine.  Anyway, she waltzed (well, actually tango'd) through her heat with a stunning performance and has carried on working on it since.

Anyway, we had a great couple of hours on the pole, playing around with ideas, messing about with new ideas for moves and variations.  Given how much I'm teaching, it's been a while since I got a good space of time to practice for me, so it was great to have a pole buddy to work with.

After that I went off to teach a private lesson, and here's where it gets a bit deep.  I finished that lesson really feeling like I'd done something extremely valuable.  This lady had always wanted to try pole, but had very low self-esteem.  Her husband had bought her a private lesson so she could try it out, and to help her work on her confidence.  Watching, encouraging and coaxing this lovely lady onto the pole, and seeing her natural strength and grace really shine left me feeling really good.  Her (much less shy) smile at the end of it really lifted me up.

As someone who was naturally blessed with ego you could bounce bullets off, I sometimes forget the profound impact pole can have on a woman's self-confidence.  Days like yesterday remind me not just how much I love being on the pole myself, but how important it is to me that students feel good about what they've achieved.  I am so honoured to have the opportunity to make a difference to someone's life in this way.  Seeing students develop confidence, particularly confidence that comes from achievement and skill, makes me happier than I can express.

And as I think you can tell from the tone of this post, I'm still walking on air today.  You guys are great!  And any student who has a lesson today is probably going to get an extra hug, just 'cos I'm so bouncy.

Chat to you all soon.

Much love

Natalie
x

Dancing in the heat

posted 1 Aug 2011, 07:36 by Natalie Watkins

Hey guys,

I don't know about anyone else, but I've been having a wonderful summer.  I haven't had to put the waterproofs on to ride to work (I ride a motorbike) at all and have spent quite a few relaxing afternoons in the back garden enjoying the sun.

But all this hot weather comes with a price.  Poling in the heat isn't easy.  You have little to no energy, you get tired easily and, worst of all, the sweaty hands issue becomes a complete show stopper.  You slide all too easily, the moves just aren't coming and there's a real temptation to just throw in the towel (at least for a while).  So here are my top tips for pole practice during the summer.

Don't expect miracles
I know we all want to progress constantly and master ever more difficult moves, but some days it's just not going to happen.  Accept that some days are just going to be a Bad Pole Day, whether because of the heat, the time of the month or even something as simple as a stressful day at work.  First and foremost, pole is fun.  If today's session is leaving you feeling frustrated and irritable, start to work on some simple, fun moves.  Remind yourself why you're doing this in the first place.
Stay hydrated
Make sure you drink at least 2 litres of water every day.  Note that this is in addition to any tea, coffee or soft drinks you may have.  I use a big mineral water bottle that I refill every day and then keep in the fridge.  As long as I finish that, I know I'm properly hydrated.  It's easy to miss when you're not drinking enough, but it can make you irritable, distracted and makes it harder to think.  All in all, not conducive to a good workout.
Take a shower
I'm not implying that anyone reading this has got a little stinky over the summer.  In fact, I'm certain that's not the case.  A cool shower (not cold, that could lead to muscle problems) just before training can help to get over that heat-related slipperiness.  And it can help bring back a little energy on those hot summer days.  Similarly, washing your hands with soap in the middle of a session can bring back your natural grippiness.
Vodka works wonders
With just a little orange juice over ice.  Ok, well maybe not so much with the juice and ice when we're training, but wiping your hands and pole with a towel with just a little vodka on it can also help to get rid of those oils.  Repeat as often as necessary.  Just, don't use the good stuff for this task!  :)
Factor in rest days
Nothing's going to ruin your enjoyment of pole more than having training sessions scheduled in every single day in this kind of heat.  I recommend students spend at least 2 days per week as rest days and do no pole or weightlifting whatsoever on those days.  That's true no matter what the weather, but if you're already prone to exhaustion it's even more important!
Use grip aids (sparingly)
I'm not a massive fan of using grip aids continuously.  I find that it slows students' development of unaided grip strength.  Having said that, I'd much rather you used a grip aid than got discouraged.  My personal favourite are mighty grip gloves, as they (obviously) don't leave any residue on the pole and come on and off within moments.  It might take a few tries, but find a grip aid that suits you and pole to your heart's content.
Change your plans based on your energy
I'm as guilty as anyone of having specific aims I must achieve during a workout but I'm learning.  It's far better to adapt to the day and do whatever seems right at the time.  Even in classes, it can be worth (politely) telling your instructor if you're finding it just too hot and slippy to be doing invert after invert.  Most instructors will recognise when the energy in the class isn't quite right, and try to do something about it.  Last week, one of my favourite classes was unusually quiet and subdued.  We chatted about it and it really was just the heat and the humidity getting to us all.  We came to the conclusion that we needed more silliness to raise the energy levels and our spirits so we ended up playing 'Simon Says' on the pole.  It worked a treat and I went from being slightly concerned about the mood of the class to bouncy and grinning in a matter of minutes.

Overall, just make sure you're still enjoying your pole and make allowances for the environmental difficulties you will sometimes encounter.

Much love

Natalie
x

Thank you

posted 25 Jul 2011, 05:02 by Natalie Watkins

Hey Guys,

I know I haven't been posting in here as much as I intially hoped.  In all honesty, I've been far too busy teaching to keep on top of all the different ways I want to keep in touch (though do follow me on Twitter, as I've been doing pretty well at keeping up to date with that one!  @polecatsdance).

Anyway, all this teaching has had me thinking.  As students, we're all very quick to thank our instructors.  It's clear what we get out of a lesson when we're learning new moves, perfecting old ones and receiving so much encouragement and help.  But it's not often that we instructors stop and thank our students.  I don't know if you know what we get from you.

You give us energy.  You make us proud.  You let us share in your every achievement.  It doesn't matter which student you are.  When you're the student who just 'gets it' straight away, we love you for your grace.  If you're the one working for weeks on a single move, we're almost as delighted as you when you finally master it and are awed by your dedication.

A few months ago, I had a horrible day.  It was all my own fault.  I put unleaded fuel in my diesel van, I threw a whole cup of hot tea over my leg (and floor) and was generically grumpy.  I was teaching that evening, so I spent half an hour calming down, mentally re-starting the day and then went out to teach forcing a smile onto my face.  Within 10 minutes, the smile wasn't forced.  Every single student I taught that day made me so happy.  One had choreographed a dance in her head to show off the moves she'd learned the week before.  Someone else got her first sit without holding on.  The list goes on.  I finished that day exhausted but so happy and really feeling like it was a day well spent.

So I just wanted to say to all of you, whether you're one of my students or learning elsewhere, from all pole instructors out there

Thank you!!!!!

Much love

Natalie
x

Workshops

posted 15 Feb 2011, 02:45 by Natalie Watkins

Hey guys,
 
It's been a hectic few weeks and I haven't had time to update this blog after my workshops with Becca Butcher and Maxine Betts.  I know some of you have been waiting to hear how they went.
 
As you'd imagine, they were fantastic!  Becca was so very lovely and so incredibly enthusiastic.  I got to work on some moves I'd only ever seen in her videos before, including the terrifyingly-named "flying dislocator".  I promise it hurt a lot less than it sounds like it should.  Becca's delight in every student achievement was infectious and I think it's safe to say that everyone present felt welcomed, valued and wanting to do their best.  I learned a lot from her, not just in terms of moves but also teaching style and stretching choices.
 
Two days later, I had my day-long workshop with Maxine.  She is a true inspiration, achieving more than most people believe is possible whilst suffering from a debilitating illness.  Of course, this did mean that I couldn't use my sore muscles from Thursday as an excuse!
 
It was a very hard day, with an intensive conditioning workout, nutrition discussion as well as 4 hours on the pole and Maxine's infamous "abs attack".  She prompted us to really think about what we wanted, not just from the pole, but from life in general, as well as giving us training regimes and nutrition plans based on what we hoped to achieve.  I'll be honest and say that the new plan is incredibly demanding and not always the tastiest option, but I can already feel the benefits.
 
I now have loads of new moves and combinations to work on, a whole body conditioning workout to get used to and host of new (mostly painful, but definitely worthwhile) exercises and approaches to pass on to my students.  The most important thing I took from the workshops, though, was observing how these incredible women inspire their students.  They were both perfect examples of how to make people feel valued, respected and how to adapt your teaching to the aims and desires of your students.
 
Now I get to live up to their example.
 
Much love
 
N
x

Training

posted 27 Jan 2011, 08:25 by Natalie Watkins

Hey all,
 
Wow.  I've just looked at my diary for Feb, and I'm so excited.  I'm booked in to train with Maxine Betts (who I've trained with before and will never cease to be amazed by), Alethea Austin (the lady to learn floorwork from) and Becca Butcher (whose ninja-inspired style is just jaw-dropping).
 
It's such a privilege to be able to study under these incredible women.  They are all world-class dancers and Maxine in particular is an inspiration (I will explain why sometime soon, but she deserves a post all to herself).
 
The thing I have to remember, though, is that that we all take something different from an instructor.  No matter how much I might sometimes wish it would, none of this will make me 'become' Alethea.  Each of us has our own beautiful style, and the role of an instructor is to help the student unlock that style.  The basic poledance moves are like vocabulary when learning a language.  You have to study them, and you have to get them right.  It can be time consuming and sometime repetitive (though thankfully with pole, never boring).  The reward for that effort, is the ability to communicate.  Other people teach you the 'words', but what you say has to come from the heart.
 
I can't wait to see what I can learn in these sessions, and of course pass on as much of this as I can to my students.  I'll keep you updated on what I find.
 
Much love
 
Natalie

Improvisation

posted 24 Jan 2011, 03:26 by Natalie Watkins

I had a great weekend.  Not only did I get to perform with my lovely snakes at a friend's birthday party, but I also got to take a pole!  I really, really love performing.
 
There were bellydancers and jugglers and many amazing carnival costumes.  I got to perform and, best of all, one of my students also got up and did an improvisation.  I was so proud.  Teaching gives me a warm glow anyway, but getting to watch a student overcome nerves and show off her skills was just wonderful!  Huge congratulations to her.
 
I'm a big fan of improvisation.  In fact, most of my performances and videos are just that.  Developing and learnng choreographies can be a lot of fun, and is a great way to find new transitions into and out of moves.  For me, I still find that improvisation is where my heart comes into it.  It's where poledance stops being about the individual moves and becomes a full dance.  It takes courage, because you're having to think on your feet (or even off them! ~grin~) and you're trying combinations you haven't done before.  It takes confidence, because you have to trust in your ability, not try to think to far ahead and just know deep down that you will have another move or sequence to perform next.  Most of all, it takes practice.  Improvising every lesson helps you get rid of the nerves and actually enjoy doing it.  This is why I make students improvise every class and why I improvise every time I practice.
 
I'm now really looking forward to the summer, when I can organise an outdoor pole party.  I can't wait for all my students to have the chance to showcase what they can do.
 
Much love
 
Natalie

New poles

posted 16 Jan 2011, 09:27 by Natalie Watkins

I collected the new r-poles yesterday.  They feel amazing, so beautifully finished.  Pole jam near me soon, I think!  :)

It was also lovely to sit and have a chat with Kay and Steve from Pole Passion.  It was just great to be able to discuss the industry we all care so much about.

Anyway, pics of the new pole will undoubtedly be forthcoming.  In fact, there are a few plans for that.  But I'm just going to keep you waiting for those.  ~grins~

Much love

Natalie

Twitter!

posted 10 Jan 2011, 02:40 by Natalie Watkins

Hey,
 
Despite my legendary slow uptake on new forms of social networking, I can now be found on Twitter.
 
I am polecatsdance.  Come follow me!
 
Much love
 
Natalie

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