It’s one of those things that I’ve known, but didn’t really know until recently. When it comes to pole (and aerials, and dance, and probably other things too…) your hip positioning is one of the most important aspects of getting a move. Think about it: your hips are at the midpoint of your body, and they’re probably the biggest part of your body. It would make sense that they would control where your body ends up.
For example: in a basic chopper invert, the most important thing to think about is getting your hips up. We always hear “Put your head back!” to invert, but that’s really just a way of ensuring that your hips get up, because your hips generally go in the opposite direction of your head. Any invert requires your hips to be in control:
1) You can’t keep your hips low in a shoulder mount or you’ll never get up there.
2) Your hips have to be the body parts driving the power in a handspring. If they’re not and they get left behind, you will fall out of your handspring. Is it easier to hold yourself sideways if your weight is closer to the pole or further away? What makes holding an extended flag position so hard is how far the hips are from the pole. Look at the amazing Carlie Hunter:
Now, the vast majority of us do not have her incredible strength. (Yet.) So for us, we want our hips way up closer to the pole. I teach beginner handsprings by focusing on getting the hips up as high as you can at first. It doesn’t matter what your legs are doing: the easiest position is a nice little ball, or tuck. The weight of your legs splayed out can cause you to lose your balance in a handspring, either back or to a side, so just bring them in at first and focus on your hips. You want your butt to be the highest point of your body, so tuck your knees in to your chest (I like to think of it as attempting to knee myself in the chin) and get your hips in the air. After you feel comfortable in that position, you can extend your legs to another position, most commonly a straddle. Don’t forget: the balance still comes from controlling the position of your hips.
3) In an aerial invert, especially while spinning, think about your hips leading the movement. If I lift on my right side into a pull-up spin, I want my left hip to lead over and then up to invert.
4) For a nice, wide fan-leg/fan-kick, lead with your hips. It’s not really a leg move at all, it’s a hip move. If I’m standing with the pole on my right side, I turn my hips into the pole, right hip back, left hip front, as my left leg swings in, across, up, and over. Then I switch my hips so my right hip ends up in front as my right leg swings out, up, over and across. If you’re not twisting your hips, it’s just a hitch-kick straight up and down, not a fan-kick.
5) In a cradle hold, your hips should be even with or maybe a tad bit higher than your head. Everything that’s holding you on to the pole in that position revolves around your hips: your hands are positioned so that your hips are able to be held completely sideways. If your bottom hand is too high, your hips can’t get enough of a turn into the pole to get into the correct position. I like going into a side superman variation from a cradle – I’m not sure what the name for it is, but this:
Here’s a similar video to the one that screenshot came from:
The trick to getting into the pictured position is to roll your hips up and over into the pole. It’s all about the hips! A lot of times we focus on getting our legs into the right position, thinking that if our legs are there, our body will follow suit. I’ve found that almost always, the legs are the last things to get into position. Your hips should start getting into position before anything else: hips are up before you straddle in any invert, hips are rolled before you fan-kick, split, passe, straddle, whatever. I was talking about the tumble-down from a sit into an aysha with a friend, and we both had the same problem of randomly falling out of it even though we have the move down pat. It was all a matter of our hips getting too far away from the pole.
The second performance was one month after the first. I have the move down, but I wasn’t controlling my hips and I fell away from the pole. The same friend I was talking with about hip placement (the conversation that inspired this post: thanks Jane!) has been working on falling from a handspring into a shoulder mount, like this (I don’t know this person, but she’s doing a great job of illustrating the move):
I haven’t tried it, but she’s got it down, except for the random falls out of it, just like the tumble-down. Again, it’s where her hips go: if they drop too much, it’s game over.
I’m working on the Marion Amber, demonstrated here beautifully by the ridiculously limber Sarah Jade:
I cannot get it. I know it’s a matter of getting my hips up in the air, but I’m just not getting there. I know that one day I will, even if my split looks nothing like Sarah Jade’s insane oversplit.
So if you’re having trouble with a move, whether it’s an invert, a strength hold, or a pretty pose, think about what your hips are doing. Are they leading the movement, is that where your power is coming from? If they aren’t, if it isn’t, try focusing on where your hips are and see how much of a difference it makes. If it’s not your hip placement that’s the problem, it’s probably your head. But that topic is for another post…