Tiff Finney Pole Physique

The joys and woes of preparing a pole piece. Mainly woes. Basically woes.

Most pole dancers will put together a pole performance piece at some point in their pole journey. Whether at professional level or student, I reckon that most of us go through the same painstaking, gruelling, soul sucking process. How many do you agree with……?

1. Endless Possibilities Stage

This is the exciting part. As in, the part where we haven’t done anything yet. Our imaginations run wild with all of the amazing tricks and death defying flips that we could do that will be remembered by all forever and ever, amen. Sure, we haven’t actually ever tried 90% of the stuff that we plan to include and the other 10% is stuff that we have tried but can’t actually complete to full standard yet but we think, “fuck it, I’ve got aaaages to practice. The show/comp is months away yet so shed loads of time.”

We also think, “I am going to make sure I practice the routine for at least 6 days a week for at least 2 hours at a time”. “I am so up for being like the guys on “Got To Dance” that say they practice for 10hrs a day until they can’t walk. That is soooo going to be me”.

2. Paper Stage

So, that first month of practice time kind of just disappeared somewhere. But it’s cool because there is still quite a while to go til the big day. This is where we start to write the 35 trick combo with flips for practically every spare beat on a nice clean white sheet of paper and a pen with a cute heart dangling from the top. Alongside the Guinness World Record Combo is a list of 25 other tricks that you want to draft in-between everything else. The main issue here is deciding where to put all these extra listed tricks. Right now, you feel spoiled for choice. That’s comforting.

3. Dip The Toe Stage

So another month just came and went without you noticing since you wrote your list. Slight panic but it’s the alarm call to actually take your leggings off and try out the list on your sheet. Ok, session over. What was achieved? Well we sat and chatted about the routine with everyone else for an hour. That’s progress right? Then I watched the videos of everyone else doing the tricks that I want to do. Then I had a little bash at a couple of them. Failed. Did some nice Beginner spins to make me feel better.

4. Realisation Stage

After repeating the previous stage approx 3 times, realisation hits that 80% of the combos and tricks list on that clean A4 sheet with lovely handwriting are just not possible for your body, flexibility, style or in the time frame you now have left. Fuuuuuck. Ok so it’s time to re-evaluate. Commence with scribbling, changing and halving your lovely World Champ routine.

5. Dip The Toe Stage Part Two

Time to try out your new, more realistic sections. Chat a lot, stretch a bit. Leggings off. Grip on. Fuuuuck. Still too hard.

6. Realisation Stage Part Two

Re-scribble and re-write the routine to contain stuff that you know you can actually do with one or two tricks that you may get by the time show day comes. A bit miffed that the one hand somersaulty thing has had to go but at least I can actually realistically perform the new routine.

7.  Mind Block Stage

How do I go from standing to the floor? How do I go from the floor to standing in 0.2secs? How do I get from this pole to that pole? Why do I have so much/so little time to fill this verse? Why have I forgotten everything I have  EVER learned/created. All the stuff I loved suddenly seems PROPER shitty. I bet no-one else has mind block. I bet everyone else started their routine 8 months ago. I bet the crowd will be silent with disgust.

8. The Thick Of It Stage

Ok, the routine is practically made (any time between 1-4 weeks prior to show day). Time to run it through…. What. The. Actual. Holy. Fuck. Did I just run a 4 minute marathon? Why do I want to die? Why do my limbs feel like they don’t belong to my body? Am I really this unfit/unprepared/rubbish/doomed?

9. Plough Through Stage

The stage of running your routine through as often as possible. Purely so that you can actually get from the start to the finish as non-pathetically as possible. Mental and physical anguish is particularly rife. Not just during the routine. It plagues your free time, your sleep, your meal times and your general daily life.

10. Light At The End Of The Tunnel Stage

“Ok, things are getting better. I was able to stand up at the end of the routine for the last 3 days. So I should just about be ready if I’m lucky.” There is now only 30secs of the song that needs to be choreo’d properly which should be sorted in the next few days

11. Fear And Self Loathing Stage

Nope. Had 3 crappy run throughs in a row. NOTHING is right. Or good. Or passible. I am a joke. Why did I sign up for this shit. Why me?? Cue a good cry and tantrum to whoever is closest. Tell them that it doesn’t matter what they say because it won’t change the fact that you are truly awful and that everyone else is much much better. Even your hamster can dance better. And you don’t even own a fucking hamster!!!

12. Acceptance Stage

The day before the Big Day. You’ve packed your costume so it looks like you’re going to this bloody place. Fuck it. Not much can be done now. Only hope can see you through. And that couple of cool passes that you managed to sort out just in time. And you never know. You just never know. People may just enjoy it.

13. Sign Me Up Please Stage

So you performed. It went amazingly/good/pretty good/ok/not good. Either way- it was all SO SO worth it. So you signed up again for next year. Cue the “Endless Possibilities” Stage and prepare to start all over again. You are defo defo going to practice everything a year in advance, especially that Politov flippy over catchy thing when you get back home. Well, after Dominos and 3 gallons of gin.

Is this you? Share your stories and thoughts on the thread below. Lots of love, Tiff Finney x






  • omg I thought I was the only one! My students can write and produce amazing performances but I suck at doing it myself!! Too much expectation, fear of failing/looking stupid!! I’m always procrastinating and leaving till the lSt possible second!! Please tell me how to break the cycle!!

    • Tiff says:

      Yup, I feel you haha. You will put extra pressure on yourself too because you want to prove your worth to your students. Reality is that your students are too busy worrying about their own! The hardest part is the big brick wall in front of you. If you think about breaking it down rather than actually smashing it down then you just can’t break the cycle. Even when you do smash the wall down, the process is still basically the same but you will get more satisfaction generally during and after your rehearsals. What I do is try and create cool little movements rather than just trying to do as many advanced trick combos as possible. People mostly remember nuances over combos. For example, if you’re performing a split grip (inverted straddle), think “what can i do whilst I’m here that will make it cool” rather than “how many tricks can I squeeze into 20 seconds”. So in that split grip, if there is a big beat then whack your legs in time, cross them, flick them etc. Performing a climb, stop half way and look out to the audience on the beat. This will be more effective than just climbing to the beat or ignoring the beat. Usually, its the simple things that stand out. Listen to the music and think of the tricks as being dance moves rather than just squeezing tricks in for the verse. Watch Nadia Sharif- prime example of this. Mainly, be yourself. Think of the music genre that makes you feel like you want to dance. Add the way you dance into your tricks. So I listen to a song and I may hear a part that has a weird sound that is different to the rest of that bar. Rather than think “I have to hit into a trick” think instead, “what arm/leg/head movement would go well here”. Then you can either do this standing up, on the floor or add the movement to a current trick you feel good with already. Honestly, it’s flair that makes a routine stand out. A clinical piece of trick after trick is no match for someone that dances with the music. The tricks are just an extension of the dance. Thinking like this should make creating a routine more fun. Let me know how you get on!! xx

  • Sam gee says:

    Haha this is hilarious! I’m only intermediate level and only ever done a showcase at the studio for 70 family and friends but this was totally me lol apart from I changed my song several times and became obsessed with listening to song possibilities, the whole thing took over my life..I’m doing the next one though lol x

    • Tiff says:

      Yeah, it doesn’t matter if it’s a comp or performing to friends, you still go through exactly the same process! Props to you for getting through it and doing it despite how hard it is in the lead up. And fantastic that you’re doing it all over again. The feeling when you get those cheers at the end of your song makes every second worth it!! Congratulations and good luck at the next show!! x

  • Yes!!!!! 100% agree!! I’m at number 8 with 2 weeks to go and a third of the choreo to do! I’m thanking my lucky stars that I decided to do a Rumba, Street & Pole mix, I’m hoping that means it’ll be like a half marathon rather than a full one

  • Nina says:

    I am so Paper Stage right now. The comp is in September. I have plenty of time, right?

    • Tiff says:

      Ah, Paper Stage. You’re all good yet then ha. This is the perfect time to Dip The Toe if the comp is in September. Get on it. Paper Stage lulls you into a false sense of security haha. The sooner you Dip The Toe, the sooner you know exactly what content you can put into your routine. Go for it. I’d love to know how you get on!!

  • Kirstie tancock says:

    So I’m gearing up for my first comp currently in stage 11 with 2 weeks to comp. This comp is part of my bucket list! With cystic fibrosis and having 2 double lung transplants, my most recent 2 years ago and I’m coming up to a yr being bk at pole. Life is short and I know this opportunity may be the only one I get but now I’m crapping myself big time!!!

    This was so good to read, I just hope it goes well on the day x

    • Tiff says:

      Thanks for sharing Kirstie. Yup Stage 11 will probably last until the day before the comp. Just remember that pretty much everyone else is going through the same torture as you are. You will get through it. When you’re about to go on stage, just remember why you are there and all of the mental and physical endurance that you’ve put yourself through to get to that point when you are ready to walk on stage. This will give you that fire in your belly. I wish you all the luck in the world. Please let me know how you get on!! XX

  • Nadine says:

    Thank you very much! This article is great! It’s a comfort to read that other poledancers struggle with the same challenges, same problems, same self-doubting!

  • Mei says:

    I lol’d myself stupid! And I feel terribly encouraged too by your piece. So funny, and so true – especially the part about 90% and 10%! That’s me just about each time I start a new piece.

    Thanks for making me laugh, Tiff.

    Warm regards
    (Wellington, New Zealand)

    • Tiff says:

      Nice to know that people all around the world feel the same! I feel bad that I’m glad that you go through the same pain. Hahaha x

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