As an instructor for pole, I am always looking for fresh ways to incorporate core work into class. Obviously, students want core work and need core work, but being creative and making core moves part of a routine or choreo helps keep class exciting. Traditionally, the way of teaching exercise class was to insert core work at the end of class, but when core is treated like an after thought, it becomes an after thought. For pole, the core work is crucial for progression and strength building. Without core strength and core connection students will not achieve the difficult aerial moves.
As instructors we can be inventive with core work, we can raise the importance of core work, and we can turn core work into choreography. When choreographing, whether for an actual routines and flow class or just a small four move combination in beginning pole consider adding at least one unexpected core more into the floor. As dancers, it is good for our brains to take a traditional movement pattern and make it expressive. How can a Tip and Tuck express emotion or tell a story? I know it sounds a little bit interpretive dance coo-coo, but think about all the ways a Tip and Tuck could be done; different legs positions, different speeds, and different moves in and out of a Tip and Tuck can all change the emotive message behind one move. The other thought is to move core work into the warm-up, dance flow and even as a way to rest the upper body muscles for a moment.
The three moves selected are often thought of only as exercises to strength the core. Let's look at these three moves in a different light and consider how we could refresh and flow them into choreo.
Flamingo Crunches Hook the leg in a front flamingo, use the core to reach down to the floor, use the core to return upright. This move works the obliques and can improve balance. If students are struggling with balance they can keep the upper hand close to the pole on the lower down. Consider the speed of this move, slow movement means more control an can be balletic, but fast movement can be dynamic and create attitude. Think about what dance moves, spins, lifts etc., could be added in front or behind this move.
Tip and Tuck with Eccentric Lowers
The Tip and Tuck is a very common strength move not just for the arms and upper back, but also for the core. Encourage students to activate and connect with the core before even lifting off the floor. Engage the shoulders and upper back in scapular retraction with shoulder decompression. Pull the core inward and tighten, place the hand on the pole in a strong grip. Try not to use momentum and roll up through the body into a basic inversion. Begin with the knees in a tuck; this is a better position to be in to learn how to control the abs. Lower with control. If this move is not challenging enough -- seriously, be honest and ask yourself if your abs are engaged and your form is perfect -- try focusing on the lower phase of the movement. This eccentric movement is often hard to control. The next step is to add a straddle up and down into the movement chain. The straddle extends the lever system, meaning the legs are extended and will put more work on the core. If you are not warmed-up, not engaging, or tired this move is a place where overuse in the hip flexors can occur.
This move can be flashy and powerful and can add some serious texture to choreo. Turning this into a slow eccentric lower not only builds core and upper body strength, but also can be dramatic dance movement. Consider adding spins before or after this move, or adding a floor tranistion after an explosive version of a straddle.
Shin Touch Roll Ups Begin on the back, roll from the core without using leg momentum and touch the shins on the pole. This move is a total ab activation move, the roll with the feet on the floor activates the transverse abdominus and then the rectus abdominus with the shin touch. The twists activate the obliques. The beauty of this move is that is can also be a sassy little burlesque dance move and hard core ab work all at once.
This Roll-up could easily be choreographed into floor work. First, think about what other floor work or floor work using the pole could be transitioned in and out of the move. Think stylistically about how to make this traditional abdominal move, flirty, sexy or modern dance austere.