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Top 5 things that can go wrong on stage, and how to plan for them

Written by Fiona Perso

I have a recurring nightmare leading up to pole dance competitions. It’s the terrible, I’m running late and no matter what I do things just get worse and I become later and later and it’s just a big negative feedback loop of stress. I can’t find my clothes, my car keys are missing, traffic is terrible. The stress is so tangible during the dream that I wake up still feeling it, fumbling in the dark for my phone so I can check the time and date and make sure everything is OK and I haven’t slept through my alarm. Then there’s the nightmare of, I’ve forgotten my entire routine. I’m standing side of stage, sweating it up, frantically trying to pull anything out of my memory bank that resembles the routine I’ve been working on for the past two months, but nothing is forthcoming. That dream always ends before I make it to the stage, so for all I know it could end with me nailing a freestyle performance for the first time in my life.

These things are pretty unlikely to occur in real life, but there are other, not quite so dramatic things that can and probably will go wrong at some point in your performing life. The good news is, you can prepare and recover from most of these things and still put on a great show.

Forgetting part of your routine

I think this comes down to preparation, if you’ve given yourself enough prep time then you should be fine, your body will know what to do. Otherwise, hope you’re good at free-styling.

The other possibility is that you see the audience and freeze up like a deer in the headlights. Combat this by always looking at the audience as soon as you walk out on stage to take your position.  Look them dead on and mentally tell them you’re about to knock their little socks off with your awesomeness.


Make sure you do your run through and prepare the poles exactly as you want them for your performance. That’s as close as you can get to knowing what they’re going to feel like for the big dance. Don’t be afraid to change your pole prep either, trust me, the pole Monkey’s will understand.

Sometimes despite our best efforts the poles just aren’t on our side during our routines and there’s buggar all we can do about it. The worst thing you can do is go back stage afterwards and tell people who haven’t competed that the poles are slippery. Chances are it’s not the poles as much as it’s your skin and the stress of competition making you sweat more than normal.

Because this affects me a lot, my hands are always on the slippery side, I base my choreography around tricks and transitions that I know I can still do, even if I’m a little slippy. Yes it means I can’t do really cool stuff like pheonix’s, deadlifts etc. But it saves me a lot of stress and disappointment. 

Flaps out or nip slips

Avoid this easily by practicing in your costume beforehand to see if anything makes a surprise appearance, make sure you have someone else watching or have video it to watch back. Fashion tape is your best friend, if there’s even a little tiny shred of doubt, make sure you tape up, glue up, whatever it takes to keep all the bits in place.

Landing in the wrong spot, facing the wrong way etc

Again I put this down to practice and preparation. If you know there’s a place in your routine where you don’t always land in the ideal spot, make sure you have a back-up plan just in case. If you’re like me and can’t freestyle to save your life, the backup plan is essential. I’m one of those people who has to know exactly where I am and what I’m doing next every second of a performance so I always have a plan B.

Spinning too fast or not spinning enough

All the adrenaline zinging around in our bodies on stage can easily lead to us really launching ourselves into our spin combos a little too enthusiastically. Sometimes you can’t recover from this, there are forces in this universe that are stronger then the mightiest will. By the same token there are stage poles that don’t spin as much as your practice poles and your spin combo may end up a bit static looking towards the end. Hopefully you will notice this in your run through and be able to adjust accordingly. In these situations it’s good to remember there are things you can do to speed up or slow down on a pole. Speed up, pull in to the pole. Slow down, extend out from the pole. You may have to adjust slightly or hold a position for longer than intended but the important thing is to not PANIC! Always remember it’s better to be clean in your performance then do amazing tricks that are messy.

I’ve found that almost always something unexpected will happen when you’re on stage. I once kicked myself in the head with my heel during a performance, something that had never happened before. The important thing to remember is just to keep going, have a break down when you get off stage if you need to, but our time on stage for pole competitions is very limited, make the most of the spotlight and soldier on.

Fi xxx



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