How to get the most out of a Workshop…
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Since I live in NYC, I’m lucky to have a lot of pole-celebrities come through on vacation or touring to teach workshops close by. Nowadays, a lot more pole pros are touring and it can get tough to juggle your life and class schedule (and budget) with all these extra special classes, and it can be tough to pass up an opportunity to take class with your favorite pole dancer! Usually pole workshops are expensive, and it can really be a bummer to take a workshop and not get that much out of it, so there are a couple of tips that may help you.
[I've blogged in the past about class manners-- make sure you bring your manners with you when you come to a workshop!! If you need a reminder, read the entry here. A workshop is definitely different from a regular weekly class, but you should still be on good behavior when you go!]
Know the pole dancer you are signing up for a workshop or private with! What kinds of tricks do they usually do, or are they famous for? If they do a lot of twisted grip lift work, make sure that your body is comfortable with that. If they do a lot of really acrobatic combinations, you need to either pack a helmet, leave your fear at home, or sign up with a buddy who will spot you safely. If most of their performances involve extreme flexibility, you should expect most of their teaching to require that as well. Research the pole dancer and their style, and know what you are getting into…. and also know what they usually DON’T do. For example, if I were to take a private with Alethea Austin, I wouldn’t ask her to show me a Fonji, or a Russian split on the pole– not because she can’t DO those things, but because– when have you EVER seen her perform one of those tricks? Each pole pro is so unique and it’s wise to try to capitalize on a pro’s strengths– because if they do certain things a lot, those are probably the things that they LIKE to do the most as well, and what they are best at!
Read workshops descriptions and requirements carefully. If the workshop description says you should be able to do X Y and Z to have the right skillset, then… make sure you do! You will get less out of the class, and you will be holding back other people in the class who DO know how to do those things and are ready for more. If you aren’t sure, or if you are borderline, ask the hosting studio and they can ask the instructor if it’s that unclear. If the workshop is all about polishing what you already know, then don’t expect to learn a bunch of crazy new combos. If the workshop is all floor work or flexibility, then bring kneepads, legwarmers, or sweatpants.
Stay within the realms of what you know you can safely do. The guest instructor has probably never met you before, and is assuming that if you are trying something 6 feet up the pole, without a spot, that you are comfortable doing it. Remember that they don’t know what you know, or what you are capable of. It’s up to YOU to stay safe. If it’s a hyper flexibility move, or something that can aggravate an old injury, or something that you know you need a spot for, then take an active role in your learning and listen to your body and what it is telling you.
Along the same lines… Leave your ego at home and be glad to take home stuff to work on! Don’t push yourself too hard– the point of a workshop shouldn’t be to nail everything that day, it should be to have a bunch of things to work on even after the workshop is done. There’s no shame in taking home homework! And remember that in the workshop, you can always try asking for a modification, or for a building block to work up to a harder trick. It may not always be possible to get those options, but it doesn’t hurt to try.
Don’t videotape or photograph the instructor unless you get explicit permission FROM THE INSTRUCTOR. Some travelling teachers rely on their workshops to bring in a significant portion of their income, and the method or breakdowns that they have developed for their tricks may be things that they are protective about. If you’re filming yourself working on something, that’s totally fine, but filming instruction as it’s given is NOT okay unless the instructor says it is.
If you have a list of goals, and specific tricks you want to work on, do a private. I can’t emphasize this enough: You can’t be absolutely sure what tricks will be taught in a workshop ahead of time, and if there is a wishlist that you have, a private is probably a much more effective way to get the information and instruction that you want. There’s really no substitute for one-on-one attention! I’ve had privates where the student literally came in with 10 tricks that they were THIS CLOSE!! to nailing and by the end of the hour, at least 6 of them were completely nailed, and solid. Even if they had done every single workshop I offer, I probably wouldn’t have touched on more then 2 of the tricks on their list. I have friends that take privates specifically for flexibility with certain instructors, or for choreography or spin pole or one power move that they just need clear instruction on. One productive hour can be far more worthwhile than 2 workshops, at about the same cost! Especially if the workshops offered are open or mixed level, you will get a more focused experience in a private.
And on a less serious note– Here are two things I’ve realized as an instructor of travelling workshops:
…it’s a lot harder to take a group jumping picture than I thought! But my new goal is to take at least one group jumping picture at each studio I visit. After 14 tries at one of my latest workshops, (at least, it felt like 14) we got this! Thanks to all the fabulous ladies at Paradise Poles, who were so enthusiastic about getting an unexpected jumping workout… ahah.
And if you’ve taken a class or the polished spins workshop with me, this video may remind you of a particular phrase I say in class : ) Thanks to Cayce for sharing this with me, I haven’t ever seen this movie and I learned I have a kindred spirit in her thanks to you! (if you’re reading this from email, click here to see the video hehe)
What have you learned about taking workshops? What do you have to add to this list?
Tomorrow’s post: Thursday Tips…