Thursday, September 8, 2016

Pole 2016 - Creating a Psycho

It has come to my realization that, during times of prolonged stress, I put aside the things that bring me joy.. riding, creating, writing..  But, in truth, those are the things I should make more space for when I'm struggling to smile.  We should spend MORE time in with these things to remind ourselves that the struggle, stress, and depression are just a small part of the world we live in.  So, with that in mind, I'm challenging myself to make that time for myself to do that which I love.

With that being said, I've finally carved out these moments to tell the story of my Psycho. From dream to reality...

In June of last year, I heard the song "Psycho" by Muse on the radio and was instantly obsessed.  My first thought was "I will create a pole routine to this!".  Shortly after, I received an invite to perform on stage with the first ever Dolls on Parade at Mill City Nights in Downtown Mpls.  A paid gig! Are you shitting me?  Of course, I screamed YES and began the preparation.

As part of my process, I printed off the lyrics and began scribbling down my ideas.  What tricks do I love? Which ones am I close to getting, want to learn, fit the part, match the lyrics?  Pages and pages of scribbles, costumes and make-up saved on Pinterest, scouring YouTube videos for inspiration from other pole, ballet, and contemporary dancers.  Lucky for me, my dear friend Freaky is an AMAZING musician and tech genius and helped me cut the 5 minute song to just the length I needed (plus helped me cut all the 'fucks' out per comp guidelines)!

Come December, I began working on my choreography, training with the amazing Jamie Wagner and Abbey Eff.. two of my biggest inspirations and two amazing coaches I'm blessed to train with.  When it was finally time for the February 2016 show, I was nervous, excited, and so stoked to show an audience of 400+ what I'd created.

It was the most fearful I've been on stage yet.  Lucky for me, my straight jacket-wearing lil Psycho was twitchy and weird, so the hand tremors were lost in the dimly lit stage.  I hit all my tricks and musical cues.  I creeped a few people out as I crawled to the edge of the stage as the music waned.  It was a success!

Photos thanks to Lions Mane Photography!

My body, all bruised and sore from months of training, needed a brief break following the show, but I wasn't worried since we still had months before competition.

 After a couple weeks, I was back in the studio, working on fine tuning the Psycho I'd created.  She never had a name, but she was never innocent.  The story, stuck in a psych ward, shackled in a straight jacket, she fought off the memories of the monster that created the killer she was.  Until she broke free...

Before we made it to competition at the Central Pole Championships in Chicago over Memorial Day weekend, we held three shows at our studio to prep the team for the stage.  In each show, I forced myself to try something new.  A new facial expression, hand movement or twitch of the foot.  Each show was different, but all amazing in their own right.  I was enjoying each moment of sharing my Psycho with the crowd, playing to the beat, PERFORMING.  It was exhilarating!

One of the greatest things that came from the Showcase performances was the feedback I received from our mock judges and my friends who came out to support us.  The biggest feedback I received was the power of my character, but most got a feeling of a zombie or a vampire...  not at all who I intended her to be.  Looking at the photos, I see what they saw.

So, with just weeks to go and my routine done, I switch to three weeks straight of character practise.  I would sit for an hour with my headphones in, the song blasting in my ears, staring at myself in the mirror and make faces to each moment or lyric.  I watched The Shining, studied Heath Ledger in Batman - Dark Knight.. I practiced my facial expressions in the car (probably creating utter fear in the drivers near me).. all in an attempt to recreate her before the big day.

Then, finally, it was here:  CPC 2016.  But for some reason, I still wanted more.  The night before comp began, Jay, Doreen, Itly and I went to dinner and talked about the competition to come.  Something Jay said to Itly (a first-timer) struck me.. "the audience isn't listening to each word of the song to see how you translate it"... and there it was.  There was one part of my routine that just didn't feel 100% natural to me because I was trying so hard to interpret the lyrics.  It was then that I decided that, during my performance, I was going to do something I am terrified to do even when alone... I was going to freestyle.

Sunday morning came fast, but I was calm as I ratted my hair beyond repair and blacked out my eyes.  Everything was packed, my headphones were on, and I said my goodbyes to Jay as I rode my bike from the hotel to the theater where I was set to perform.  "Don't change anything" he said.. I didn't listen.

Once I stepped behind the curtain a handful of minutes before performing, I caked myself in grip aide in some desperate attempt to stop sweating.  But I was ready.  I knew in my heart this was the last time me and my Psycho would come out to play.  The field of women I was competing against was fierce, and I just wanted to entertain the audience if nothing else.  I knew they were talented and strong, so I resolved myself to have the most fun I possibly could have on stage.  After eight months of planning for the 4 minutes I'd have on stage, I knew that if I achieved that goal of having the best time ever, it didn't matter where I placed.  

Here's the performance:

I did it... I had the most fun I'd ever had on stage!  I played, I freestyled, I made all my faces and creepy hands I'd practiced.  I'd crushed my goal and couldn't have been happier!  

Afterwards, we headed straight for food.  Starving and exhausted, we saddled up at a local restaurant with Jay, my coach Jamie, and teammates Doreen and Margie.  Sometime during the meal, Jamie leaned over and asked if I wanted to know my results.  I really didn't.  But, judging by the twinkle in her eye, I knew I had to look at the picture that lingered on the screen of her phone.  

2nd place!  2nd place in the Senior Level 3 division!  What the? How the?  I cried immediately... Yes, I cried.. but after 8 months and endless hours of preparation to achieve something you believed impossible, I didn't have any strength left to pretend it wasn't the greatest news I could have received.  Part of me was sad for it to be all over (and kinda hard to stop the facial expressions for a few weeks), but the other part of me was just so overjoyed with what I accomplished against my own doubts, the great performances by my entire team (who friggin dominated the stage!), not to mention all the fun that was had.

Of course, the greatest joy at looking back at this journey is holding my pride in myself close to heart as well as the gratitude for everyone who helped me get there.  My Dad and step mom, who came to see me perform for the first time during this prep - your support means more than you will ever know.  My mom, who cheered me on and spent her time caring for our lil fur baby as we ventured off to Chicago - thank you for being such a huge fan and super fur-grammy!  My team for helping provide feedback as I created my Psycho.. I couldn't have done it without you!  Abbey, for helping me explore my own weirdness, I will forever cherish all that you taught me and all the ways you inspire me!  Jamie... don't ever leave me!  You see right through my fears and hesitation and challenge me to be better.  Thank you for everything.

And Jay, my sweet, never faltering, never wavering, supportive beyond all things husband..  your love is a constant shield trying to protect me from myself. Your hugs make all things better.  And celebrating with you is the greatest joy in life!  

So happy to have moments like these to reminisce on,
Kristy "Once a Psycho" Kreme