Light Your Performance Fire - 5 Resources to Inspire Your Next Pole Performance

Are you planning to compete in 2015 or, like me, just signed up to compete in PSO’s Pacific Pole Championships? Then inspiration and a guiding performance motivation is probably what you are looking for right about now!

Sometimes inspiration hits us like a flash of lighting, other times we’ve got to roll up our sleeves and really work to discover our performance muse. I want to encourage those who might be going through an inspiration drought to look for it in new places and in new ways.

So if you are struggling to find that spark that has you choreographing in your sleep I’ve got some places for you to start!

1. Watch Musicals & Music Videos

Musicals and music videos are the perfect inspiration for a competition piece because along with music and choreography to pull from you have a story already in place! This gives your character motivation and a story arc to focus on in your choreography. It also makes it a lot easier to express exact emotions through your movement thereby creating an even more compelling piece for the audience and judges to watch.

You also don’t need to look to these sources for direct inspiration, but take snippets from their pieces to enhance yours. Musicals especially are great at featuring unique movement that can communicate specific emotions and character in a way that most pole dancers would not normally think of. And music videos can bring you the latest in new choreography styles and dance moves to keep your piece feeling fresh. All this can be put together to build a one-of-a-kind, emotionally charged, story driven pole performance that will keep your audience enthralled!

Favorite Musicals for Inspiration:

  • An American In Paris (check out my favorite snippet above)

  • Hairspray

  • Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

  • Little Shop of Horrors

  • Singing in the Rain

  • Phantom of the Opera

  • Moulin Rouge

Favorite Music Videos for Inspiration:

Love Book by Chainfoto on 500px

2. Characters and Stories from Books & Film

What stories have captured your imagination? Which characters do you identify with? Which characters intrigue you? What fictional worlds do you want to be apart of? Dance is one of the few places, outside of Halloween, that it is not only completely acceptable, but encouraged that you dress up and take on another character – so take advantage of it!

This is the time to scour your book and film libraries to find the stories that have stuck with you. If they have you daydreaming then there is definite performance potential there. Things to look for in these resources: clear visuals that describe a character, the overall feel of the world, and what do the characters have overcome, where do they start and end. How does the author or director communicate these things? How can it be translated into pole dance? Use these questions to motivate your choreography process. The pole is a magical place where we can become anything and anyone, whatever you have been fantasizing about this is your opportunity to bring it to life!

Favorite Sources for Character & Story Inspiration:

  • YA Novels – Check out the all encompassing worlds of Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, The Mortal Instruments, etc

  • Fairy Tales – From light and fluffy Disney versions to the dark and disturbing Grimm versions

  • Action Adventure Movies – Be your own hero! Look to Indiana Jones, Lara Croft, James Bond, the Goonies for heroic performance inspiration

  • Animated movies – This resource is filled with bright color, over the top movement, and creative story telling devices…and I think we are all dying to see Pixar’s “UP” as a pole routine (just me?)!

ballet shoes by Pedro Corrêa Animus-Art on 500px

3. Look to Other Form of Dance & Movement

Amaze your audience and breathe new life into old moves by incorporating elements from other dance styles and forms of movement. The simplest of spins can become so much more by adding elements of ballet and something completely different by introducing hip hop. Also look outside the dance world, what other forms of fitness have you done in you life? You can bring the meditative flow of yoga to your instrumental piece or the sharp and powerful movement of karate to your Kill Bill performance or steps from Zumba to your floorwork. There is a whole wide world of movement out there just ready to be taken advantage of and with it you can bring something to the stage your audience has never seen before!

Places to Find Movement Inspiration:

  • So You Think You Can Dance – A dance competition tv show

  • Dancing with the Stars – Another dance competition show

  • Kung fu movies – Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon specifically comes to mind as it is filled with surreal, dance-like fights

  • Rewatch workout videos with your performance in mind – old aerobic tapes are especially perfect if you are doing an 80s themed piece

  • Search dance competitions on Youtube – my favorite is Streetstar, an international Voguing competition, but also look for ballroom dance and cheer competitions

day one ninety seven. vlogger status. by Kelly Stewart on 500px


Seriously record EVERYTHING! Don’t get near a pole without your smartphone at the ready. You never know when polespiration will strike or when a mistake will turn into the “WOW” moment of your performance, so make sure to keep track of all those happy accidents by videoing it all. Most of us are haunted by that one totally amazing pole move we once magically fell into, but have now completely forgotten – don’t let that happen to you!

This is also an extremely useful (and I would say necessary) tool when training your competition piece so that you can review your runs and see exactly what your audience sees.

Things to Record:

  • Your pole practice

  • Marking your piece out

  • Freestyling

  • Playing around on your home pole

  • Rolling around on the floor (aka floorwork)

  • Other people dancing to your song (of course ask permission first)

  • Anytime you see someone else do a move that inspires you (of course ask permission first)


Journal and sharp colored pencils by carolyn lagattuta on 500px

5. Keep a Performance Dream Journal

I know I’m not the only one who wakes up in the middle of the night with an amazing new pole combo or an idea for a costume! Amazing ideas come to use when we least expect it and much like in the case of #4 you don’t want to miss out on a 1 in a million idea just because you forgot it the next day. Carry a journal with you at all times or use your phone to track every moment of inspiration. That way you can easily call back to the moment of brilliance when its actually time to practice and put your routine together.

Things to Put in Your Performance Journal:

  • Any snippet of choreography no matter how small or incoherent

  • Stick figure drawings of moves

  • Costume & hair/makeup sketches

  • Magazine tear outs of visual inspiration

  • Motivational quotes

  • Any performance imagery that comes to mind

  • Any thoughts on emotion and story that you want to communicate

What is inspiring your next pole performance?

How do you find inspiration?