Written By Jessica Anderson-Gwin

Owner of Jagged Vertical Dance & Fitness and Founder of JAGGED: A Contemporary Pole Dance Company


What is the difference between being a pole dancer and being an artist? Potentially nothing. As in the sign shown above “It’s not art unless it has the potential to be a disaster.” Today I want to encourage you to be an artist, and if that means being a disaster so be it. Create something that makes you uncomfortable. It is far more interesting to watch something disastrous than something safe. Whether it’s an action movie, a live comedy, or eating food, the experience is always so much more memorable and alive when there’s risk involved!

Many of us in the pole community are so influenced by each other because there is a constant stream of media being uploaded every day. I think we need to remember to take our own risks and not replicate something that already exists in someone else because it seems like the safe way to do things. Do not try to be Natasha Wang or Oona Kivela, be yourself! Use your disabilities to your advantage to create new movement. Explore one idea or one move in ten ways. Say something that matters to you even if the audience doesn’t pick up on what you’re showing, they will feel and appreciate the honesty. Fad tricks come and go but memorable art is something that can be connected with and recalled years after it has been performed and will mean much more to you personally.

Taking risks is not always an easy or natural process to navigate. In order to take risks you have to be ok with looking stupid from time to time. If you are afraid of this you might be good but you will never be great. Plan and plan all you want but if you can’t do and let something come out, all it will ever be is an idea. Let fear rule you, and you will always be stagnant. Fight through your perfectionism, fight through your challenges, and I promise you will grow.

“It’s not art unless it has the potential to be a disaster.”

Step one: Set a deadline. The most practical way to start taking risks is to pick a day to take it. Sign up for a competition, a studio showcase, or choose a date to post a video online.

Step two: Dedicate yourself to given risk. Make a schedule for yourself to work towards this deadline on a weekly or daily basis. Maybe two hours a week at the same time every week to focus on this one risk and put everything else in your life on pause for that moment in time.

Step three: Persevere through discomfort. As a trained technical dancer, transitioning to hip hop was horrible for me. I was always pointed my toes when they should have been flexed, and standing straight and stiff when I was supposed to be loose and grounded. I still work on these things, but it took me about an entire year of weekly classes looking awful before I could blend in with the other dancers. Many come through class once or twice and then gave up, but I became a hip hop dancer because I was the one that stuck it out.

Step four: Result. Perform, film, or showcase your work on your given deadline. This may feel like torture. It’s ok! Refer to back step three if you make it to the other side, you will grow one way or another. My first pole show I put on in 2010 was horrific pole wise. I had a lot of great ideas and cool visuals with dancing but we could barely invert correctly! I had to go through that time to grow as a choreographer, pole dancer, leader, and artist. If I had never done the show despite being at a very beginner level, I would never have advanced or learned anything.

Step five: Repeat! Do NOT quit. All good things take time for most people. I remember a time when all I wanted as a pole dancer in 2009 during my first class was to be able to do an outside leg hang. I saw a girl hanging by one leg and thought “if only I could do that trick I’d be happy.” Now in 2015 I know that is one of the most basic pole moves. Now I think “if only I could do the eagle (name your advanced trick) I’d be happy.” Never be complacent! Always strive for the next, or whatever scares you not only in pole dancing but all areas and you will lead an exciting and beautiful life!