* This post has been updated from its original publish date*
When I started FreeStyle Friday I never imagined how quickly it would grow. The support from studios, pros and students has just been incredible. I am thrilled to hear from so many instructors and studios that have been inspired to start a FreeStyle Friday class at their studio.If you’re thinking about scheduling a weekly FreeStyle Friday class or jam session, I have a few pieces of advice to share:
One of the hardest things about free styling is the lack of structure and direction. Like seriously, how do you freestyle when you don’t know how to freestyle? Not knowing where to start or what to do can be frustrating and is a common feeling amongst new freestylers. Freestyling doesn’t mean that you go into your movement empty handed or empty-brained. There are so many things that can serve as the base for your movement: A specific trick or combo you want to execute A body part you want to accentuate A mood, feeling or color you want to emote A story you want to tell Start by asking your students this question or offering them one of these starting points.
After your warm up, you can explore some sexy basics, transitions, previously taught tricks or combos. Ask them to play around with the moves and try them on like playing dress up. Mix and match the movements to see what feels good. This will not only offer students a starting point but it also will help with getting all of their muscles warmed up and engaged.
My suggested format for FreeStyle Friday classes is that they should be minimally structured classes that resembles a guided open pole session. This allows for a little bit of instruction and then plenty of free time for students to pole around and explore on their own. Most likely you’ll have a mixed clas with a variety of skill levels, so it’s always a good idea to keep it on a level and focus that everyone is comfortable with.
DJ, Play it Again
Put the FreeStyle Friday song for that week on repeat. (Students can tune in and out during warm up and initial instruction.) This will introduce the song to those that haven’t heard it and allow everyone to get a feel for the music and come up with some moves they want to incorporate. Encourage students to listen and look out for the highs and the lows in the song. Having a solid music map will help in putting in and connecting moves, and hitting those musicality and accent points.
Always encourage students to record their movement. Recording is important because it allows you to track your progress. Even if the video is never shared or posted, having it to refer back to, and to learn more about your body’s movement is priceless. Give students 2-3 chances to record as a group, but also encourage them to record individually. Often we may feel more comfortable recording as a group, but what can happen is that we can stop focusing on our own dance and instead tune into what others are doing and mirror or try to keep up with them. Or after the recording when we are reviewing, we often make the mistake of using that time to compare ourselves to those that we were dancing with/nearby instead of critiquing ourselves. It’s great to work as a group but I want to emphasize the underlying goal of personal growth.
You’ll also have students that are shy and won’t want to record. Encourage them, give them a little push but don’t force them and don’t single them out. Asking them to join you for class next week will make them feel more connected and encouraged…and maybe next week they’ll feel more ready. Also, you can let students know that it’s OK to record and NOT post. Just because they record that doesn’t mean they have to post. At the end of the day my goal is just for everyone to monitor their progress, identify what they do well and where to improve so that they can see their growth. Keep the recordings to themselves or sharing with instructors or FSF admin is quite all right.
Options can sometimes ease the mind and help students relax enough to get through their dance. And I know from experience, once you get through that first dance, it gets easier and easier from there. So to help with this, remind them that they are welcome to change things up in any way that works best for them. This includes skipping pole work and doing FreeStyle Floorwork, FreeStyle wall work and FreeStyle chair work (let them know they don’t have to be on the pole). For those that do want to incorporate pole work let them know that they don’t have to invert or do any hard tricks. Working on spin combinations or putting that often forgotten left side to work is always a great option!
Reminder to breath
Breathing is key to movement. Very often in pole and aerial, students hold their breath. I find that many associate the ability to hold a trick with holding their breath, when in reality you need to breath properly in order to execute a move. Maintaining controlled breath takes practice, so feel free to even incorporate some breathing practices into class.
Less Is More
Doing too much can be problematic. Not only can it look and feel rushed or sloppy, it can affect your breathing, balance, coordination and flow. Let students know it’s better to do 3 tricks that they can fully extend and hold, with a clean entrance and exit, as opposed to sloppily doing 6 rushed tricks.
A fun way to keep students on their toes is to play musical poles by having them rotate and switch poles throughout the song. This encourages more movement and variety in their dance. You can rotate them through verbal direction every 45-90 seconds.I will often add in an additional challenge like having them do floorork or standing dance a transition to the next pole.
Often the idea of having to make it through an entire song (especially when first beginning FreeStyle Friday) can be the element that holds students back from recording. Let them know that they do not have to dance to the entire song. It’s okay to only dance the intro, come in during the middle of the song or take a break as needed.
I hope this information helps! If you need help setting up your FreeStyle Friday class or have any questions please let me know!