My pole nemesis

While the title might lead you to believe that I have an ongoing feud with another dancer in my pole class, my pole nemesis is in fact a move, not a person. This is a move that our instructor, Kristy, introduced in the very first class of Level 1, saying, “This one is tough, but you’ll all be able to do it by the end of Level 1.”

Well. The six weeks of Level 1 passed, and I still couldn’t do it, at all. Levels 2 and 3 likewise did not enable me to do this move. And now I’m at the end of Level 4, Mission decidedly Unaccomplished.

The embarrassing thing is, this move that I have been failing miserably at for six months now? Isn’t even a spin, or an invert, or anything else that seems like it should be hard. It’s a simple pole hold with bent knee crunches. Like so:

As usual, the fabulous Aerial Amy makes it look easy. Kristy also makes it look easy. I make it look like a person who has lost all control of her limbs is attempting to pole dance. My arms straighten, despite my best efforts to hold them bent, and I droop towards the floor, every dang time. I just did not and do not have the upper body strength to do this move right.

There hasn’t been anything else I’ve tried in pole that has felt harder to me. Spins usually come easily to me, and even the few moves that have taken longer start coming together after a few weeks. So the fact that six months later, I still can’t do a decent pole hold with bent knee crunches is somewhat…frustrating.

At the end of last week’s class, Kristy watched me desperately struggle with this move. I tried so hard, over and over. What she said was, “I like your determination!” At the time, I felt like it was kind of a back-handed compliment (although I’m sure that’s not how she meant it). But the more I think about it, the more I think it’s actually a better compliment than what I would have preferred to hear–something like, “That was great. You’re looking so strong!”

Because you know what I think? The beauty of athletic endeavor is not in what comes easily. The beauty is in being the kind of person who decides, “This is very hard for me, but I am not giving up until I get it, whether that takes six days or six months.” Because then you also get to be the kind of person who eventually does get it, and you know that you have accomplished something difficult by your effort and determination. Carrying that knowledge around with you as you move through the world changes your experience of life. It gives you a bedrock trust in your own character that is priceless.

Which is why today, when I tried the pole hold and managed to stay up for several seconds instead of immediately drooping helplessly off the pole, it made me prouder than anything else I’ve learned in pole. Prouder than a flawless Roller Girl to Black Widow on the first try. Prouder than learning to do Chair spins without ripping the skin off my inner wrists. Prouder than adding a graceful head movement to make a routine fluid and expressive.

So I’m getting a lot closer to making friends with my nemesis move. Can I do it perfectly yet? Not even close.

Am I going to keep trying until I can? You better believe it.


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