Karen Chaundy comes to LAPD
When we heard that pole champion Karen Chaundy was coming to LAPD for a masterclass we all put ourselves into full-on pole training. For not only is she super flexible, but Karen is notoriously strong, with handstands and handsprings being very much 'her thing'.
Karen arrived and gave us one of her legendary warm ups, which is a great combo of cardio and pole conditioning. We then took to the poles to practice our climbs including one footed pull ups and my favourite the monkey climb; which really is where you climb up the pole like a monkey with the balls of the feet on the pole... lots of fun!
It was then time to learn some tricks. We worked on a one handed handstand - which is kind of half handspring, half handstand - in which we opened the legs in a v and turned and descended down the pole in a straddle... a tad confusing and a little scary but a fun little trick. We also worked on a spinning vertical split with the sole of the bottom foot on the pole, a mini handspring cartwheel, and a great kick out transition. Probably the hardest move was a cross between a shoulder mount and a split, this required hanging out in genie, feeding the arm behind the pole and then dropping backwards... terrifying on your first go but I'm assured that it gets easier.
It was fantastic seeing Karen in action, just such a shame that the class was over so quickly! She did let us see a couple of her iconic handsprings, hopefully next time we can have a workshop just dedicated to these... she is of course the master.
Handspring Karen chaundy pole masterclass Sadler's Wells
Polespiration: Vladimir Karachunov
We're always on the look out for new pole talent, tricks and inspiring routines. So, imagine how excited we were when we stumbled across this fantastic video by pole supremo Vladimir Karachunov. Not only is he fearless, a joy to watch, crazy flexible and strong, but he also appears to have a great sense of humour with it. Whilst we love our male pole dancing peers, we can't help but feel a little envious... all that natural upper body strength, it's like they don't even try! Well nevertheless, watch Vladimir's video for some amazing pole tricks, but there is one thing you need to know... he's not on a spinning pole... the mind boggles... enjoy!
advanced extreme pole pole inspiration pole tricks Vladimir Karachunov
10 tips for handspring success
Handspring is the move every pole dancer wants to get, the twisted handspring is now the must-do move overtaking the Aysha and shoulder mount flip as the daredevil trick. But as anyone who has ever tried to do a handspring will know, it can feel like the impossible dream, however much you try, you never get any higher. We've all been there, and everyone conquers the handspring in the end. Here are my top tips for nailing the much loved handspring.
1. Work on your long grip: this is where you place your left hand low with fingertips pointed down, your right hand is outstretched and high on the pole you then take your weight onto your arms and raise up the legs into a v or swan. This will strengthen your left wrist and arm, whilst teaching you the all important mantra: The top arm pulls the bottom arm pushes.
2. Try twisted grip first: A long time ago pole princesses could only handspring with a normal grip, but then one day something magical happened and a twisted grip was discovered, making it much easier to complete the handspring dream. Yes, we're not sure who invented the twisted grip but we're so glad they did, it's a much stronger grip that does improve the likelihood of achieving handspring. To get into it, stand to the right hand side of the pole, place your right hand high - above head height, and then walk around the pole to the other side. Do not turn in on yourself, walk around the pole facing the front. This will twist the wrist around the pole and give you the correct grip.
3. Lead with your hips: Handspring is all about balance, and it's your hips that get you where you need to be. Imagine that your hips are raising up, and the rest of the body follows. You're aiming to get your hips further up and over than you would have previously thought, don't worry you won't flip over. As soon as you get your hips up you'll then start to balance your body and you will fall effortlessly into the handspring.
4. Don't be afraid to kick: Just like when you first learnt inverts, it was the kicking part that probably made your heart flutter, your brain spin and your legs wobble. Handspring is a true leap of faith, it requires a gung-ho attitude and a touch of daredevil spirit. You need to kick, you need to kick really hard and really long. The handspring is in truth a handstand up a pole and just like when you used to throw yourself against the wall to perform a handstand as a child, you need to do the same now. My suggestion is to kick up, don't worry yet about kicking over into a straddle, start kicking straight up, getting the height, getting the hips up, and then you'll be able to drop into a straddle once you've got the lift.
5. Use your core: You need to engage your abs in order to help you up. It's as much about your stomach muscles as it is your arms. Imagine your zipping up your middle, and don't flare your ribs. If you need to work on your core strength, then try sit ups, multiple inverts and pilates which will help you to understand how you can engage the muscles.
6. Stick out that chest: Once you've got the height and you've started to master the straddle you need push out your chest. This will give you more strength across your shoulders and improve your balance. This doesn't mean you need to arch your back or contort yourself into circus performer, rather as you leave the ground work on pushing through the shoulder blades and opening the chest. If you keep your chest concave then you will struggle to get the strength to keep you up there, the push through is vital.
7. Starring down the barrel of the pole: This is for those who have now started to get the straddle, if you're struggling to balance and keep the pose you may need to adjust your position. Make sure your shoulders are pushed back and your chest open. The top of your head should be parallel to the pole and you should be looking directly up the barrel of the pole. By looking straight up the pole you will create a strength-enhancing position and the focal point will allow you to balance.
8. Tip it: Once you've got the height but not the straddle, you need to think about tipping the hips. So, I mentioned earlier that the hips were key and help you get up, they also help you balance. In order to get your desired move you have to tip the hips towards the body. Keep the hips level and roll them towards your centre, dropping the legs towards your face in a straddle formation. The hip tip will now balance you, if you feel yourself going over the head push them back, and if you feel yourself dropping down you need to tip them up more.
9. Play with the move: Don't be afraid to try your hands in different positions, and your feet at different starting points. I like my right arm really high and my left about hip height, I then draw a semi-circle with my right toe and push myself up. This means that I push my hips right out to the front. Others prefer a lower hand grip and kick from behind the pole and across the body. See what other people are doing and try as many variations as possible, you'll soon know if it works for you.
10. Don't give up: It can feel like you'll never handspring, but one day it will just click, I promise. If you keep at it, your body will start getting higher and higher, then you'll start to feel the balance and then you'll have it. It took me months of just kicking up at the ceiling, not knowing what I was doing or what I was aiming to do, then one random day I went up and hovered for a few seconds. That was it, after that I knew what I was aiming for and now handsprings are my favourite move.
So you've mastered twisted grip handspring, where do you go from now? First try different grips, you can try a 'normal' top hand instead of twisted (this is tougher than it sounds) and you can try a cup grip. The cup grip is incredibly hard and should only be tried with a spotter or two present. You turn the top hand so that thumb points down and the thumb and fingers are all on one side of the pole - creating a cupped hand.
Then there are the positions; there's jacknife where the legs are straightened next to each other across the body, this can be done on both sides of the pole, jacknife can also be flipped - ask your teacher for help. Pencil is a favourite, which is where you shoot the legs straight up the side of the pole with the body turned towards the pole and toes pointed. From this you can go into rubber monkey where you bend the knees behind you and you arch the back - creating a C shape with the body. You can also go into scorpian which is a cross between brass monkey and rubber monkey. If you're super flexi then try your splits mid-air.
Of course there's X-men and chinese flag, these are the pole moves we all aspire to, and require incredible strength. You drop into these from the handspring and hold parallel to the floor for as long as you can. Very difficult, but not impossible, a great goal to have.
aysha Chinese flag Handspring jacknife long grip pencil rubber monkey scorpio twisted grip X-Men
Pole position: Teddy
Pain factor: High
Need to know: That this will hurt the first time you try
Train Teddy from the floor before attempting to do it up the pole. Stand to with your right hand side to the pole.
Place your right arm around the back of the pole, and bring it around the front, so that your hand is resting on your right thigh. Your shoulder is behind the pole, not in front.
Here comes the tricky bit, place your left arm high on the pole and grip, as you grip take both legs off the floor in a straddle position.
Now, the grip is in your right armpit, allow your body to drop into the grip. By this, I mean don't try and force yourself up or squeeze too much at the top of the arm, the grip should be felt in the lower part of the armpit, towards the side of the breast.
Once you have allowed your body to drop slightly into this grip, remove your left arm and place this on your left leg. Squeeze with your armpit grip and engage your stomach muscles - these will keep your legs up and your back in place. You are now in Teddy.
To advance Teddy, once you have mastered it from the floor. Climb up the pole, using your feet to steady you, begin weaving your right arm around the pole as before and securing the leg with the right hand. Take the left hand high on the pole, as before to steady yourself, whilst you bring the left leg off the pole, now place the left hand on the left leg and you are in aerial Teddy.
Top Tip: Keep training this move to build up strength and pain resilience in your armpit grips, as you progress you will use more and more of these grips in a range of breathtaking moves.