Off the Pole focuses on non-pole exercises – so you can learn about different training methods to help strengthen and balance your body. Here you can find different tips and tricks for equipment and training.
This week I’m interviewing the talented and beautiful creature that is Lorna Walker. She was Miss Pole Dance UK 2013 and recently won Pole Theatre Drama Pro in Germany.
She is a Master Trainer for XPERT Pole and Aerial Fitness, teaches workshops around the world as well as running her successful studio Pole Athletes.
I wanted to get her on to discuss her upcoming project Lorna Walker Choreography as well as some tips and tricks for helping you be more creative with your choreography – hope you enjoy!
Really hope you guys enjoy the 9th episode in the podcast series – you can subscribe to our pole podcast on iTunes to keep updated with all the latest episodes and it would mean the world to me if you could leave a review!
Hit play above or watch or read the transcript below.
Sarah: Welcome Lorna Walker to my podcast. Thank you for doing it such short notice. I pounced on you yesterday with like, “Lorna, do my podcast!”
Sarah: How are you doing, lovely?
Lorna: Well now, I’m great. It’s a pleasure to do it, Sarah. So yeah, thank you for asking me. I’m doing really good. It’s just in between classes and juggling things so yeah, you called at a good time.
Sarah: Your background is so much more interesting than mine. If you’re listening to this and not watching it, you have to go to YouTube and watch the video. You’ve got fantastic wallpaper. Just going to put that out there.
Lorna: Oh, thank you. It’s my office. This is my creative space.
Sarah: I can see. Very inspiring. So the reason why I wanted to get you on the podcast was to talk a little bit about your new project. And so I’ll let you kind of explain what it is and maybe what inspired you to do it.
Lorna: Yeah, well my latest project is I’m starting some online choreography courses. So it’s all in the process. The website’s kind of being built at the moment, but hopefully we should have it released within the next four weeks. And it’s basically, you can learn full routines online with me.
And I kind of had the idea … I teach choreography a lot at my studio and I create good routines for my students and then they’re kind of just done and that’s it, and then they never get used again.
And it just seems like a lot of work to be kind of wasted to only teach it to a handful of people, and then those routines never get used again. So I kind of thought, well, maybe I could put them online. So yeah, that’s what I’m gonna do.
Sarah: I think it’s a fantastic idea. When you first told me about this it was like, “This will be amazing!” When I used to run my studio, it’s amazing to offer your students choreography classes all the time, and I think I saw a post that Jazzy put up the other day, she was like, “I hope my students realise how much time and effort it takes to make up routines and put it all together and like have new content all the time.”
And to have the potential of having it already done for you as like a space you can go to and pick different routines to learn is … I don’t think there’s much out there, especially for pole dancers, so I think it’s a great idea.
Lorna: Yeah, I think there’s a lot of online resources for pole dancing, but it’s usually-
Sarah: Usually tricks?
Lorna: Maximums of one minute. Or even if it’s flow or choreo-based, it’s kind of a maximum of about one minute or just a handful of moves linked together. Whereas what I do at my studio is I teach a full song over the space of four weeks. And the idea is that it will be exactly the same. You’ll buy a routine, and it will be taught over four lessons so you can hopefully, by the end of it, you’ll be able to run a full routine.
So it’s good cardio workout, but also good for you to learn to dance to a whole song. Because it takes a lot of stamina and-
Sarah: Yeah, it does. There’s a lot of endurance. Yeah, I do a beginner’s routine and I’m knackered!
Lorna: Yeah, me too. Thinking like, “Why did I choreograph this?”
Sarah: I know. Those backwards bends get tiring after a while, goddamn. And are you going to be doing … Like, what different styles are you going to be having on there? Because I know you were going to, you said you were going to use different ideas
Lorna: So, yeah, it’s going to be all different styles. Again, I teach all different styles at my studio so it’s going to be a mixture of … At the moment I’m keeping it, it’s just beginner levels so there won’t be any big tricks or anything like that.
Potentially that could be something that I bring in at a later point if it’s working well. But it will be sexy choreo, contemporary choreo, I’ve got spinning pole choreo as well on there, which is quite a good one for people that are not used to spinning pole. Learning to actually do a full routine on a spinning pole as well.
So yeah, hopefully, it will be a good mixture of different styles and it should cater to lots of different tastes.
Sarah: I’m excited.
Lorna: So we’ve got some rocky music, we’ve got some rock songs in there, we’ve got some contemporary emotional songs-
Sarah: I hope there’s some power grabs in that. Whenever I feel contemporary I’m always thinking about power grabs!
Lorna: I’m going to put a power grab in for you. I’ll put a few in.
Sarah: Sam King taught me a double rainbow power grab, which is like around and then both in at the same time-
Lorna: I thought you meant like double dream hands.
Sarah: This is why I can’t do choreography, you know, videos myself because I’m just not advanced with the power grab enough, but I’m hoping to learn so I will be so …
Lorna: I’ll make sure there’s plenty of power grabs in there just for you.
Sarah: And you’re kind of known for your choreography style. Like, all your routines, they’re all really different but they all have like a very heavy choreography element to it. Even though you’re, you could obviously do all the tricks and things, you doing those, do like starfish and horrible things like that. But you do, like, you’ve got a very advanced level of tricks but you’re known for your choreography. But what would you say … What elements make up a good routine in your opinion? I know everyone’s going to potentially have different …
Lorna: I think the biggest tick box for me is the feeling. Like I think that it’s feeling the music. I kind of see the dancer as the person that conveys the message between music and audience. So for me it’s making sure that whatever you’re doing, whether it be tricks, floor work, flow, that you’re actually, I suppose, conveying that message of whatever that song means to you and trying to help your audience understand that.
I think that’s kind of one of the biggest things. Musicality is obviously really important as well. And yeah, tricks and floor work and flow are important but I think they’re probably the least important on the list. So I don’t know if that’s controversial or not.
Sarah: Oh, well. We like a bit controversy. Do you think that getting the feeling of a song is like a learned skill, or something that people are just born with? Or some people find it obviously easier than others. But I know a lot of people struggle with choreography to really kind of connect with the song, because they’re thinking about what they have to do tricks-wise or movement-wise. So is there tips that you can get people to … How they would get that feeling with the song?
Lorna: I think that kind of depends on what your tastes in music are, definitely. I mean I’ve always been a massive music lover and always, even before I started pole, I kind of loved all different genres, and I’d go and watch a lot of live music. And so music’s always been a massive thing for me but it’s just nice that I now have dance to kind of back it up and to be able to do something with it. I can’t play any instruments or anything, so I’m not musically talented, but at least now I can do something with my love for music.
But yeah, I think it is. We do … Everyone gets kind of hung up on what should be in a routine. And the beauty of it is that there’s no right or wrong. It’s subjective, isn’t it? It’s personal opinion. So I think trying to stay true to yourself and do what feels right for yourself is far more valuable than trying to please somebody else. So yeah, don’t really worry about what should be in it, just move however you think you should move. And it will be right, you know? It doesn’t … There’s no kind of … That’s the beauty of pole. It’s not like ballet where there’s set kinds of movements that you have to do and they have to be executed in a certain way. Pole dancing is completely open to whatever you want it to be. So yeah.
Sarah: We’re lucky devils like that.
Lorna: Throw away the rule book. Yeah.
Sarah: And I get a lot of … Or I see a lot of people question in pole dance forums and things like that about freestyle. You post a lot of videos and you’re like, “Just freestyling before class,” or I’m sure you’ve even told me you’ve done performances freestyle and you’re just like, “Oh, I’ll just go on and see what happens.”
Lorna: Most of them are..!
Sarah: Exactly. And when people hear that and they’re like, “How do you do it?” Because that’s terrifying for a lot of people. So is that something you’ve always found comes naturally or is that like again, a skill that you’ve had to … Like a muscle that you’ve had to train to get good at?
Lorna: Yeah it’s definitely a skill that I’ve had to train. I didn’t used to be so confident with freestyle. I think it’s the same as anything. If you train tricks a lot, then you’ll be really good at your tricks. If you train your floor work or your flow a lot, you’ll be really good at that.
And it’s the same with freestyle. If you train yourself to freestyle, then you’ll become more confident in it. And I think that’s the biggest thing as well. When I go on stage with just a song and kind of a start position and no other clue what I’m gonna do for the rest of the three minutes thirty, I kind of have the confidence that I know the song well and that I’ll move naturally to it. And usually my best work is freestyle. The hard part’s trying to sort of redo what you created. It’s quite a spur of the moment thing. So yeah, I think freestyle is definitely my best work, I’d say.
Sarah: And is it something like … I know, because people will be almost wanting a bit more layers to it. Because again, for you, you do it so naturally. And I know it’s something that you’ve had to work on. But is that … If you were explaining to a student, how would you start freestyling? Because I think a lot of people, they just … Their mind goes blank. They just stood there like … All the pole tricks that you know just fly out of your head. So what are some basics that you know how to get started?
Lorna: Basics are let’s say, make sure you start with music that you know really well, and that you enjoy listening to. I think if you know what’s coming up in the music, it will give you more of an idea as to what your body is going to do.
And also, repetition. I think repetition is key. People always say to me, “Oh, when I freestyle I just do the same thing over and over again.” And it’s like, well so do I. That’s kind of what freestyle is. You keep on repeating the same movements until something changes and something else comes in, and you add to it. So yeah, definitely start with a song you love and don’t be afraid to just do the same, I don’t know, dip pirouette fireman spin for an entire three-minute song. It doesn’t matter. Eventually, your body will start going, “Oh I could maybe add a body wave in.” Or it will start kind of coming to you. It’s when you put that pressure on yourself of, “I need to do something different.” And you don’t. You can repeat the movements for as long as you like, until you feel comfortable to move to another movement.
Sarah: Do you film yourself when you do freestyles and watch them back? Or is it-
Lorna: Always. Yeah.
Sarah: Something that you just like … Because I always find if I do that, if I don’t film myself, I always do something that I’m like, “What did I just do?” And then you can never remember what it is. If you have that on film, you can always watch it back and then take that and then develop it into something different.
Lorna: Yeah. It’s usually the way I choreograph most of my routines is from freestyle. So I tend to pretty much always freestyle. I always film my freestyles. I always start, I mean that’s how I warm up if I’m training, even if I’m training tricks. I’ll put a song on that I like and just flow around and move around. It’s kind of after I’ve done my proper warmup, it’s kind of my warmup on the pole.
Yeah, I make sure I film it because, like you say, you do some stuff and you’re like, “Oh, what did I just do? I don’t know.”
Sarah: What just happened? Yeah.
Lorna: But even when you film it, you look at it and you’re like, “How did I do that? I don’t even know how I did that.” And you’re looking at your camera trying to sort it out on the pole, and you can never replicate it.
Sarah: No. But you can at least say-
Lorna: But you can at least have an idea-
Sarah: Exactly, yeah. I think that’s when you say if you’re confident with freestyle, and then your … Some of the best work can be freestyle because it’s so relaxed and so kind of …
Sarah: Natural, yeah. It’s really authentic for the song, because it’s how you felt in that moment. But it is a scary thing just to do initially, I think. But if you just … You don’t have to show anyone the video. I’ve done some terrible, terrible freestyles. But it doesn’t matter-
Lorna: Yeah that’s the big thing. People-
Sarah: They’re not a bad … Nothing is a bad freestyle. But you don’t necessarily even have to show anybody. You just film it to get ideas.
Lorna: No. And you have to do … I think probably out of, I don’t know if I film 10 freestyles maybe one or two of them will be Instagram worthy. Most of them are awful, but you’ve kind of got to be at peace with yourself being awful, I suppose.
Sarah: Yeah. That’s definitely part of the journey.
Lorna: Yeah, to kind of get better. If you kind of don’t want to do it because you’re scared that you’re going to look bad, it’s like well, you kind of have to go through that process in order to come out the other side I suppose.
Sarah: Yeah. No one starts off looking polished in anything.
Sarah: So yeah, I think that’s a really very important message. Do you ever feel like you get a creative block? Is there … You know when you go into … And you’re just like, “I don’t know what I’m going to do.” Is that when you have pressure to make something up maybe? Or is it just in your general training as well?
Lorna: Yeah, usually with my own routines I get creative blocks. It’s weird, with other people’s I can see it in my head and I can kind of instantly be like, “Right, this is what’s going to happen.” But when it’s my own, I just overanalyze it. And I think that’s where a lot of creative blocks come from, it’s you overanalyzing.
So yeah, I get them all the time and I usually just try and kind of come away from whatever it is I’ve been working on, work on something completely different and come at it with a fresh set of eyes. Or maybe try freestyling to a different song or something like that, and come up with some new movements.
Sarah: Yeah, that’s what I do. I always do like the same-
Lorna: You just have to break the-
Sarah: The same routine, then I’ll do it to a different song. And then you can kind of come back to the proper song and then you’re like …
Lorna: Yeah. That works for that. So yeah, you kind of … I think creative blocks are kind of part of the process. And again, you’ve kind of got to embrace them a little bit because they do serve a purpose, definitely. They’re frustrating as hell, but yeah. I suppose it’s learning not to get too angry about it and just take a step away.
It’s exactly the same as if you’re training tricks. You’re blocked on a trick for ages, and you’re not able to get it. And sometimes you just need a bit of time off just to step away. Maybe you need somebody else’s input or something. And then-
Sarah: Yeah. Well, you’ve helped me with mine before. She choreographed one of my routines, which was glorious. You got it like … You were like, “Oh I think we’re just going to do this, this, this, this, this, this, this and this.”
Lorna: We did it in about two days as well, I believe. You executed to absolute perfection, and I was like, “I can’t believe it!”
Sarah: But you took what I did, but changed it … Like you kind of looked at my videos and the tricks that I was doing around that time, and then you adjusted it so it wasn’t just me. Because I wanted some different movements. I was stuck in a bit of a rut of just always kind of doing the same thing. And so it was like based on what I already did, but you put your layer on top of it, and so it just made it completely different. Like movements, I wouldn’t have chosen myself at all, but it just matched exactly how my body moved. It was really, really interesting. But you’re very easy to work with. Yeah, we did it in like, yeah, two days. It was amazing. It was like, “This is the easiest thing I’ve ever done.” Yeah.
Lorna: I have to stalk people a lot. If I’m choreographing for someone else, I have to like-
Sarah: I do that anyway, and I’m not even choreographing-
Lorna: Well I do that anyway, yeah. But I have to really watch people an awful lot, and it helps. I mean I know you quite well and I know what sort of mover you are and stuff. But if I don’t know the person maybe personally, then yeah. I have to really basically spend weeks on end stalking them and finding lots of stuff and saving lots of videos, and seeing how their body moves.
But it’s also people finding their own way I think, as well. I might suggest a movement that works for my body, but it doesn’t work for your body. But it doesn’t mean you can’t do a similar style. It just kind of has to evolve into your own. I think that’s a really important thing. I don’t want people to be going out doing routines I’ve choreographed, and just looking like little mini versions of me. I want them to get their own style and kind of stay true to their own style as well.
Sarah: Yeah, like use that as a foundation and then build on it as something that they … Say like it definitely knocked me into using a different style of movement, but then I could then put my own little ‘shazam’ on it. It was a really interesting exercise because I hadn’t been choreographed for a routine before. But I would definitely do it again. It was … It made my life a lot easier.
Sarah: Now I did post in the group that I was going to get you on to interview you. I only gave people like a day, so I don’t give them a lot of time. But I have a couple of questions. One from Bridget. She asked, “WTF is her shampoo?”
Lorna: Oh that one.
Sarah: I like to ask the questions. This is from the people, the people want to know. Your hair is glorious. It’s your own fault.
Lorna: It’s messy today. I don’t have a particular hair routine. I get my hair cut probably about once a year.
Sarah: Yeah, but you could like bring out your own … I would buy your products. Even if it was a lie, and you were like, “I use this all the time,” and you never did. I would still buy it because you told me to.
Lorna: My one … I think my one thing is that it has to be cruelty-free, so I use … I do a lot from like, if I’m running on time, I’ll buy from the local co-op because their stuff isn’t tested on animals. And if I’ve got a bit of time, I might get it from somewhere like Holland & Barrett or something. But yeah, I don’t use-
Lorna: Any particular hair products. Cruelty-free. If you don’t hurt the animals, your hair-
Sarah: Your hair will grow glorious.
Lorna: Will be luscious and be gorgeous.
Sarah: I think that’s a good message to spread. We’ll go with that, that’s fine.
Sarah: And then Sam Lowe asked, “When trying to choreograph a routine, is it better to try moves where you think they’d go, note them down, and then work on floor to string the tricks together?” So I guess she’s trying to say, is it better to try and think about where the tricks will go and kind of place them? Or as you’ve said more freestyle and try and dance that way? Or are you basically saying it depends on what you like?
Lorna: I think it does vary routine to routine. But I tend to usually listen to the music and kind of map out what I can see in my head. And that will be really basic, like this section’s floor work, this section’s a pole combo, this section’s spinning pole. So I’ll kind of map out where I think I should be, with regards to either on the pole or on the floor. And then it usually is freestyle to kind of work out what works and what doesn’t work.
Lorna: And so I suppose if she’s got a set of combos that she really likes, then definitely you can put them in. But also listen to the music and see where they’d actually work. And yeah, you could definitely fill the floor work in around it, that would work.
Sarah: And she also had a second part to her question, because you know, I didn’t say they had a limit. She put, “Do you have any tips to get rid of serious jitters or just pole confidence in general?” I’m guessing she’s talking about kind of performing, and things like that.
Lorna: I think practice definitely is a good thing. So if you … The more you perform, the more relaxed you’ll feel about it. But even … I mean, I’ve been performing for about eight, nine years now, and I still get really nervous. And I think that’s a good thing. I think the nerves are a good thing to have, it’s just learning to change them into sort of positive energy.
Lorna: I do a lot of breathing and meditation before … Especially if I’m competing. Everyone’s kind of frantically warming up, and I’m the one sat in the corner with my headphones on and my eyes closed, just trying to sort my head out. So yeah, I get as well if I’m kind of comp coaching people and I’m chaperoning with them, before they go on I’m kind of doing some breathing techniques and stuff. I think your breath is really important. If you can calm your breathing down, in turn it will calm … It will slow your heart rate, slow the central nervous system, and actually physically help those jitters. So yeah. Practice lots, and start meditating.
Sarah: Very good advice. Nice.
Sarah: Well is there anything else that you’d like to add in regards to choreography or anywhere that oh, where people can find you? Like when potentially … I know you’ve got a new Facebook group you’ve also launched to kind of coincide with the choreography stuff. So maybe tell people a little bit about that?
Lorna: Yes. I’ve got a Facebook group called Lorna Walker Choreography. And it’s kind of just a bit of a forum for people to share ideas. But I’m also doing free live choreo classes as well on there, so people can kind of, I suppose, try it before they buy. They can follow me along for a class and see if they like it. And so they can do that.
Lorna: And you can also go to LornaWalkerPole.com, that’s my website. With regards to the choreography website being live, hopefully, fingers crossed, it will be about four weeks time. And it’s an awful lot of filming, editing, coding, and all sorts of stuff that I don’t really understand very well. So we’re almost there with it, but just yeah, about four more weeks and it should be live. And then I’ll be posting all the information onto my Facebook and my Instagram account and stuff.
Lorna: If they’re part of the group, they’ll get the offers and the freebies and stuff, so yeah. Join the group.
Sarah: Wow. Well, I’ll link down in the blog transcript of this interview. I’ll put it on my website, all the links to everything that people can go to. And obviously, I’ll definitely give you a shout-out in our Off The Pole community group when you go live, so people know when to go find you.
Sarah: So it’s exciting. I can’t wait to see it.
Lorna: I know, I’m really excited. I remember we were talking about this like last year, and I was like, “I’ve got this really good idea, and I don’t know how to do it.” And now it’s actually happening.
Sarah: I was like “Doooo it. It’ll be amazing.” I love watching your routines. And as you say you’ve got so many and they’ve just sat there, so why not kind of put them out there for the world to use as well? So I think it’s going to be fantastic. So I’m excited to see it.
Lorna: Yeah. Exciting, yeah.
Sarah: Nice. Well, thanks for coming on and sharing some of your choreography creativity knowledge bombs, much appreciated. And it was short and sweet but I like to keep it that way. And we’ll definitely get you on for maybe a part two when you’re live and rolling. And let us know how it’s all going.
Lorna: Yeah, very good. Well thanks for having me, and yeah. I’ll keep you in touch with what’s happening and yeah, hopefully next time we talk I’ll have it all available, ready for people to get online and have a go.
Sarah: Nice, fantastic. Well, I’ll speak to you soon then, lovely.
Lorna: All right then, take care.
Where to find Lorna:
Facebook: Lorna Walker – Pole Dancer
That is it for this week! Hit me up with comments and questions you might have and don’t forget to join us next week for episode 10!