Name: Rebecca Howard
Weight: 8 stone
School: PDS (Pole Dancing School)
Location: Shoreditch London
Signature Move: Iron X
Favourite Song: Anything dance or dubstep
Splits or No Splits: Splits on left side, working on the rest.
P2P. How did you find Pole Dance? Or did it find YOU?
RH. Pole dancing found me when a group of girls from my old workplace went to a one-off Pole Taster class. They had been trying out different forms of dance and when I heard they were going pole dancing I thought it sounded fun and tagged along. I came away from the class with a few bruises but realised that I was naturally strong and wanted to do it again. I was instantly hooked and signed up for a beginner’s course at my local gym in Dartford Kent a few days later.
P2P. Who taught you? Or how did you learn?
RH. The Pole Dancing School (PDS) in Shoreditch London owned by Elena Gibson.
P2P. How did you think and feel back then, being a newbie?
RH. I seemed to take to it naturally and enjoyed the buzz of learning moves and pushing myself physically.
P2P. And now?
RH. The way I feel about pole dancing now hasn’t really changed since the beginning – I still get the same sense of achievement and have made many new friends along the way. I have been pole dancing for around four years and many would say that it has taken over my life.
P2P. Where/who do you get your inspiration from?
RH. There are so many fantastic dancers that inspire me and watching YouTube videos of the top dancers is one of my favourite pastimes to get new ideas for combos. Oona Kivela is my main pole idol. She is so strong and I love the dynamic fast combos she incorporates into her routines. The way she moves is so elegant and effortless, she is truly unique. I love the dance style of Michelle Stanek, I love the way her routines are modern, different and “edgy”. I find her very dynamic and each one of her routines is different, making her very interesting to watch. I of course have to mention my fantastic teacher Elena Gibson, she has taught me most of what I know and I can always hear her voice telling me to “point my toes” when I am performing. I see so many pole dancers throwing themselves at the pole in an ungainly way with flexed feet. Elena makes sure all her students have clean lines and pointed toes. If I could be 10% as elegant as her I would be happy. I try to attend master classes with top instructors to learn as much as I can – it is good to train with a variety of instructors to try different styles and combinations. I went to Summer Pole Camp in St Maarten in August 2012 to train with Laurence Hilsum and Michelle Stanek, I learnt so much from them, some of which formed the bases of my winning the British Isles Pole Dance Champion 2012 routine. I have met pole dancers from all over the world and keep in touch with many of them. I went to watch the World Pole Dance Competition in Zurich which was like a mini Summer Pole Camp reunion, which was nice. Pole dancing really is very social; I’m even going to be bridesmaid for my friend that I met in my first lesson.
P2P. Describe your dancing style in one sentence.
RH. I would describe my dancing style as ‘Sporty’, I do not have a dance or gymnastic background and I know that strength is my strong point, so my routines are trick based. I do however use the music and let it guide me as to where my combos should start and finish and try and hit the beat. The bruises and muscle pain didn’t bother me as the sense of achievement outweighed any injuries gained. I pulled a muscle in my back in my first lesson as I think my body went into shock using a muscle it had never used before, but that didn’t put me off at all, I couldn’t wait for the next lesson.
P2P. What training regimes/Diets do you have?
RH. I have always been fit and attended the gym regularly from a young age. I then drink protein shakes to help with my strength and try not to eat too much rubbish. I am vegetarian so I think the protein shakes are important. As a large majority of shakes contain animal protein the range I can have is limited. Since training seriously, I have lost about a stone and my body shape has changed becoming more athletic and I have gained a lot of stamina.
P2P. How often do you pole? And how long for?
RH. When I am working on a routine I train about 5-6 times a week. I know this sounds like a lot but I work full-time as a Web Developer in Central London, so I have to train every moment I get. I train for about 1.5 hours after work (in my garage ha ha), and then go to the studio at the weekend. The main fitness benefits of pole dancing include: strength training – all areas of your body will get stronger, mostly upper body and core. You also improve your flexibility and coordination as well as gaining confidence. While pole dancing is very beneficial, people need to remember that it can be dangerous and they need to be safe when training. I have had quite a few injuries along the way including a torn hamstring and muscle spasms in my back from over-training. Just before the British Isles Competition I kicked the wall while doing a Phoenix and had a suspected broken big toe!
P2P. What are your thoughts and opinions about the industry and pole dancing being more main stream now?
RH. I have seen many changes in pole dancing: when I first started I was amazed at anyone that could do a superman and it was considered advanced, it has now evolved to become an art form in its own right and moves have progressed so much that the dancers have to be contortionists to achieve the most challenging shapes. Working on my flexibility is now one of my goals so I can progress to the next level of pole. As pole continues to progress I hope it doesn’t lose the aspect of being accessible to everyone whether big or small, old or young.
P2P. How have things changed?
RH. It is fantastic that pole dancing is becoming more mainstream but it still has a long way to go before people’s perception has moved away from the “stripper” stereotype. When people find out I do pole they still assume I take my clothes off, I love seeing people’s faces when I show them a video and they are amazed to see something totally unexpected followed by “wow”!
P2P. What are your favourite moves?
RH. My favourite move, and probably one of my “signature” moves would be the Iron-x. Handsprings in general took me such a long time to nail, about a year to get solid. I remember thinking that I was never going to get it, I would try and kick up again and again and never manage to get up. One day I just got really annoyed and really went for it. I then felt the push and pull in my arms that my teacher had been talking about and got up for the first time. I was over the moon! I was only up for about three seconds but then I knew that I could do it and so kept trying again and again. I persevered and now I am now dead lifting! The next stage in this progression is dead lifting with straight legs and double dead lifting which I can just about do but it’s not clean enough to put in a routine. I have been told that when training moves, you should hold them for as long as possible so when you do a routine they will be easier than when you practice. I am working on the Spatchcock – I can get into it from the floor so I need to work on it from up the pole. After seeing the Worlds it was clear that it is one of the ‘moves of the moment’, along with the Russian splits which I am also perfecting.
P2P. What competitions have you entered? Or won?
RH. I have entered four competitions in total across the UK such as Miss Pole Dance UK Semi Pro 2012 and the British Isles Pole Dance Champion 2012. When I did the UKAPP competition I was so nervous and I had never been on a free standing stage pole before it was terrible using a stage pole for a pole dancing competition. Being on a free standing pole mixed with the nerves completely threw me and I screwed up one of the moves in my routine. I then went to pot and wanted to get off the stage as soon as possible which was a big mistake! I was so disappointed in myself and almost gave up pole afterwards I was so depressed, as I had worked so hard and really let myself down. I then did a charity pole show a few months later and loved it. That gave me my confidence back and I entered another competition a few months later and qualified for the final which I went on to win. I then competed and won Miss Pole Dance UK Semi Pro in the summer, beating fifteen other girls, which was totally unexpected. I competed with a Vampire themed routine with custom made cape and coffin (yes COFFIN) made out of MDF and hand painted. I thought if anything I might win best costume or entertainer, and when those awards and 3rd and 2nd had gone I thought I hadn’t got anything. Then I was announced as the winner and I was over the moon. I then entered the British Isles Pole Dance Champion Competition in October 2012. I have to say I have never been so nervous in my life. I think the reason was because I had never been on a stage with so many lights before. It was a strange feeling being on the stage as it felt like I was there on my own because I felt so far away from everyone and blinded by the lights. I ended up winning the competition, again to my surprise, because I felt like I messed up in a few places. Doing all of these competitions has taught me that the routine never looks as bad to the audience as it does in your head. Therefore if you make a mistake, carry on like you haven’t and don’t lose your energy as the audience doesn’t know your routine, so they may just think it was perfect when you know it wasn’t. I won the British Isles Pole Dance Champion 2012 amateur category, meaning I will progress and compete in the British Isles Pole Dance Champion 2013 professional category.
P2P. What are your future plans for pole dance?
RH. I am currently working on a routine for a video submission which will hopefully get me into a competition in early 2013. I am going to enter in the summer which will probably be my last competition entered as an amateur.
P2P. Do you have any upcoming events?
RH. I’m probably going to enter competitions in the professional category from now on to push myself harder as I feel I have come as far as I can in the amateur categories. I have a few exciting things coming up including being asked to be a judge at a competition in the summer, performing at a couple of charity showcases, and my first paid pole performance at a prime location in London later in the year.
P2P. What hints and tips would you like to share with our readers?
RH. Things are getting exciting.
Photos by: Jessica Gilbert, Sallyann Nason & Sue Tye