New Direction

*Blow dust off blog. Gets dust in the eye. Regrets our life choices.*

We hope you haven’t forgotten who are. We do, often. We haven’t blogged since August! It’s been an absurdly busy time, hence our absence from here, however, if you follow us on social media, you’ll see us all over there like the Black Plague. Let us take you back to August, when the weather was warmer, Christmas was a dirty word and we still had red hair.

Romance Is Dead burlesqueThe pole dancing studio we practically lived at, closed. We were bereft and drifted around other pole studios, travelling to Swindon, Salisbury, and three others in Cardiff, looking for a new home. We had a pipe dream that we would one day open our own studio and suddenly finding ourselves without a regular one, the idea began to grow. We started looking at rental properties. Too expensive or unsuitable hours. We drove around industrial estates looking for empty units then contacting the letting agent. Too expensive. We’d been doing our instructor course. We wanted to teach. Then somebody suggested we teach out of community halls instead.

burlesque

Photo by Dave Purcell

The Pole Vault was born. We bought three XStage Lites, which are ridiculously heavy portable poles. They’ve been living under our stairs since September. We had no idea how to start a studio. So we joined Business Wales, did their Starting Your Own Business course then met with a business advisor. They all loved the idea and believed it would succeed. Everyone we spoke to was very enthusiastic about it. This isn’t the usual response we get to our ideas. The Narrowboat of Terror is apparently ‘unworkable’. We’re normally the ones full of enthusiasm while everyone else drags us back to reality. We were scared. This was starting to feel too real. So we put it off.

Then we decided we wanted to write for a poledancing magazine. There are two that we’ve found. One in Germany, one in Australia. There goes that plan! Except…we wanted to write for a poledancing magazine. There isn’t one in the UK. What if…what if we started our own? We began putting the idea out there to people at poledancing events. They loved the idea. This could work! We started contacting people asking if they would do interviews for us or write articles for the magazine. Everyone we contacted agreed and was really excited. We started writing articles for it ourselves and collecting bios and photos of our team. We were scared. This was starting to feel too real. So we put it off.

Gothic City SirensIn November, we entered our first poledancing competition under our stage name, Gothic City Sirens. English Riviera pole comp. We’d put together a doubles routine to Smooth Criminal. The journey there was fraught with road closures, detours and an escaped horse. We arrived at 2pm. Doors opened at 3:30. The competitors were all upstairs, chatting, doing their makeup and stretching. We sat in a corner with our mum, eating vegan smarties. At 3:30, we were allowed to go and try out the poles. Ah. They were much closer together than we’d rehearsed. A LOT closer together. This would throw out our entire floorwork, which as a doubles act, is hard to adjust. We had about one go on the poles as there were loads of competitors. We would pretty much have to wing it when it was our turn.

Doubles was the last category. We watched the entire competition except doubles. Our nerves couldn’t take it. We finally got to perform at 10 p.m. Eight hours after arriving. By now, our nerves were so bad, we were shaking. Everyone seemed so confident, excited. We wanted to be sick and go home. We got out there, the music started and we began. Our nerves affected us quite a bit. The smaller space meant we collided doing our gymnastics kick over move. We forgot some bits, rushed others, weren’t in time with our meticulously planned timings. However, the judges seemed to love it and we were given a standing ovation by Andi Active Cherry. We escaped as quick as we could and sat back with our mum, shaking, hearts pounding and feeling a bit deflated. It had gone so much better in rehearsal. There were two more doubles competitors after us. They seemed so self-assured, like they’d done this a million times.

Then came the awards. There were 6 pairs in our category and only two prizes. We were certain we wouldn’t place. We didn’t expect to. It was our first competition and we screwed it up. Rather than feeling proud of ourselves for doing it, we were disappointed we’d done it wrong.

We came second.Gothic City Sirens

Second place. In our first competition. We were given engraved trophies. One of the judges, Zorena, picked us both up for a photo. We were in shock. We’re still in shock. All the way home, we were convinced the judges had got it wrong. We screwed it up – how could they reward us second place? Our joy was swiftly overshadowed by the feeling we didn’t deserve those trophies. Aren’t the Darkshines fun? We got back at 1 a.m. and showed our sister the video. We didn’t want to watch it cos we were convinced it would be terrible. It wasn’t as bad as we feared. The cockups weren’t too obvious (apart from the collision) and at least we laughed when it happened. We then felt a bit better and not quite so undeserving. Watch our routine here.

Fast forward through December, the norovirus, the raging disappointment of not releasing a book this year for the first time since 2012, a hairstyle and colour change, new tattoos on our fingers and finally getting our shit together to finish what we’d started.

The Pole VaultThe Pole Vault is now open. We had a trial lesson last week and we’ve booked two regular halls, who are excited to have us teaching there. We did it. The thing that absolutely terrified us, the thing we put off cos we have no idea what we’re doing, we did it. We have our own mobile poledancing studio. Whether it becomes successful remains to be seen. It will probably be us and the Sarahs, who have been with us from the start. We honestly couldn’t have done this without them.

Our poledancing magazine, When In Chrome, launches in February. We had no idea how to put together a magazine, until we asked Tom to do the front cover, then we forced ourselves to sit down and fucking learn how to use Publisher. It’s easy. We should’ve started this months ago. We have print quotes, a website is being built and we have 23 pages so far, including interviews, strengthening exercises, advice on pole and hoop moves, adverts, competition dates. It actually looks pretty cool. People are excited.

We’ve entered more pole competitions. Just waiting to hear back if we’re successful. We didn’t get in to two, but we didn’t expect to as they’re the top ones. We’re working on more routines.

Romance Is Dead burlesque

Photo by Dave Purcell

Oh. And we’re now burlesque performers. We joined FooFoo Labelle’s Cardiff Cabaret Club in September and did our first class performance in October with Sarah F from gym. After the performance, the mayor of Penarth’s right hand woman approached us and asked us to dance at their charity night in November. So we did. We didn’t know anybody there and it was terrifying! But the audience loved it, even if they weren’t expecting us to take our clothes off. We did another class performance in December and us, Sarah F and Sarah C, formed our own burlesque troupe – Romance is Dead – and we choreographed and performed our first group routine to Lady Marmalade. Watch the video here. We’ll be performing again on Valentine’s day, doing Halestorm’s Bad Romance and a chair dance routine with the class. It’s at Whitchurch rugby club. Tickets are available here.

It’s still January. And we’ve opened a poledance studio, started a poledance magazine, become burlesque performers and started training for more pole comps. We’ve been editing our next release, a gothic epistolary novella called The Curse of Ravenhall and we’re currently working on a serial killer article. We have also set up accounts on Buy Me A Coffee (or Red Bull) and Patreon, to help us fund the magazine. Six months ago, we did not see any of this coming. Now we just have to make it work…Romance Is Dead burlesque

Sisters of Spin

After the disaster that was the Horror Cons collapsing, which you can read about here, a lovely guy named Chris, who runs the Liverpool Horror Club, emailed us, offering us a free table at a horror event he was planning at the end of September. He wanted to do something to restore faith in the horror community. There are still good people in the world. Then he saw we do polefit and invited us to perform after the horror event was over. Hyped on excitement and pole addiction, we agreed. We’d been considering entering doubles pole competitions, but chickened out, so this would let us know whether performing was for us. We like challenging ourselves and this certainly counted.

What usually happens after we’ve been brave, is that the anxious brain wakes up and asks: what the hell have we done?

We’ve never performed. We’d never even SEEN a pole performance that wasn’t on Instagram. Luckily, we had tickets to the Welsh Pole Championships and Bristol Pole Championships, so we went, hoping to be inspired. It worked. And raised the nerves a little. But at least we wouldn’t be doing this in front of knowledgeable pole fans. And we had about three weeks to choreograph a routine. No pressure.

We spent those weeks in the pole studio we use, KT Wild’s vertical Fitness, choreographing a routine. KT let us have unlimited use of the studio, whenever we wanted it, for which we are eternally grateful. We’ve never choreographed a routine before. This whole thing was so far outside our comfort zone, it needed its own postcode. We feel awkward when we film sexy pole routines in front of other polers in the class! How the hell could we perform in front of a room full of strangers? This was a bad idea. But backing out never crossed our mind. We wanted to do this.

We instantly knew what song we wanted – Cry Little Sister by G Tom Mac. The song from Lost Boys. We were in the pole studio three, sometimes four days a week, sometimes for two hours at a time. Weirdly, we never got sick of that song! We even decided to throw in a bit of chair burlesque, just to make it a bit different. We thought a chair spin from standing on the chairs would be cool. It was. It was also ridiculously scary at first but we didn’t die on our first attempt so figured it would work. The last third of our routine was changed so many times, it’s wonder we learned it at all. But four years of zumba had prepared us for learning dance routines and we barely forgot a single move. Our last practice in the studio went really well and we were ready. We deliberately didn’t do anything stupid in gymnastics so we wouldn’t get hurt.

Our teacher, KT, kindly lent us her stage pole for the performance and allowed us to borrow the chairs we’d been using.

And it all started to go wrong.

We’ve never used a stage pole. It’s a foot and a half off the ground. It’s high and the pole wobbles and dear god it was terrifying. Even doing basic moves on this was scary. Doubts pummelled us like a furious boxer. We had two days to practise our routine. Two days to conquer our fear and sudden inability to pole. In one part, Cat jumps down from near the top. She was too scared to do it on the stage pole and kept bailing and sliding down. Lynx was too scared to sit and lean around right at the top as we could see our entire street from up there. Other parts needed altering to fit into the much smaller space we now had. And the chairs slipped on the stage’s metal plates. As Cat jumped off the chair, it fell, hitting her leg and gouging a deep wound into her shin, leading to a swelling and tender bone. Remarkably, her leggings were undamaged. A month later, the scar and swelling are still there. Then during a reverse grab spin, Lynx kicked one of the chairs, leading to a bruised and swollen toe. We behaved in gymnastics, only to injure ourselves practicing the routine. Every practise went wrong on the Thursday. By now, we regretted agreeing. We couldn’t do it. We were going to fuck it up and it would look awful. Our confidence was taking a battering. Annoyed, we went to a pole lesson then returned to practise in the dying evening light. Those two rehearsals went ok.

In one part, we cartwheel off the stage. Due to our sloped garden, we didn’t have room to practise this part together. We only hoped it went alright on the night. On Friday, it all kept going wrong. Again. The reverse grab spin just wasn’t working and it was one of the coolest parts. Cat’s arm ended up scrammed, either by her or by Lynx, and Lynx’s little finger got crushed in a spin. The final practise on Friday was the best one we did and even that wasn’t perfect. But we’d run out of time. We had to drive to Liverpool.

On the way up, we tried to think up a stage name. We couldn’t use our writing name, but wanted something that combined our love of horror and pole. We thought of Pole’s Ravens, or Sisters of Spin. Dave suggested Slutty Little Midgets and that became our unofficial name.

The trading event at the Sanctuary Bar went really well. Us and Dave were together and Neen travelled up with us to help out and film our routine. We did a reading from Silent Dawn and hadn’t even practised as all our attention was on the routine. All day we were nervous. Breathless, heart pounding, unable to eat type of nervous. We didn’t want to do it. The two other poledancers had performed or competed before. We were complete newbies, so asked to go first. We didn’t want the audience to feel let down by ours if we went last. We strongly considered backing out. The anxiety was overwhelming. It would go wrong, like it had in every practise with the stage. We’d hoped to be able to put the stage up and have one practise beforehand. All the performances were taking place in one room. We couldn’t put the pole up until it was our time to perform. So no last minute practise. The performances were then pushed back. We were meant to be on at 8:30. Think it was around 10pm we finally got on. Except fake blood needed to be cleaned up from the gorelesque girls before us. And tables and chairs needed to be moved out of the way. There wasn’t a lot of space. We didn’t even know if there was room to cartwheel. We didn’t have a backup plan. We hung out in what got dubbed the Strip Loft with the two poledancers, Lou D and Alabama Whirley, and the Enchantico gorelesque girls, Lex Cole and Kitty Massacre. That actually helped ease our nerves. That and the raspberry vodka and lemonade Neen made us drink.

Putting the stage together killed our nerves, as we became very stressed about it, conscious of time, speed and the audience watching our every move. Then some audience members refused to move. Neen told one woman that we needed to practise a kick out and she was in the way. She didn’t want to leave her friends. Neen kept insisting she moved. She wouldn’t. Cat told the woman we would be kicking out and she might get kicked in the face. She still wouldn’t move. So Cat high kicked inches from her face. She fucking moved then! Listen love, if a performer tells you you are in the way, you do not get to decide that you’re not. Take your drink and move the fuck away! Cat then warned two men she would be cartwheeling off and they may get kicked. They stepped back. She did the cartwheel and landed right by them. They were scared and impressed and agreed not to move even a step forward.

Then it was time. Oh god.

Our timing was a bit fast at the start but we compensated for it. And we did the reverse grab spin! That was the bit that was causing us the most anxiety. People were whooping and clapping in parts, especially when Cat stands on Lynx’s shoulders and Lynx stands up. Cat did the jump from the top without holding on. And Lynx did the lean around. We both did the cartwheels at the same time, even though we hadn’t practiced it! Yep. The first time we cartwheeled together off the stage was during our performance. That got a big cheer.

When we bowed, there was a big sense of “thank god that’s over!” And “Yay it didn’t go wrong!” The audience seemed to really enjoy it. Afterwards, people came up to us to tell us how much they loved it. One of the other pole dancers, Alabama Whirley, told us we need to compete. We’re probably not at that level yet! Once the adrenaline of finishing was over, we were starving, relieved and in desperate need of a drink. We were glad it was over and thankful we didn’t fuck up in front of a crowded room.

Would we perform again? Probably. But we’d give ourselves longer than two days with a piece of equipment! And maybe we’d be more forgiving of ourselves and not expect perfection. After all, the audience doesn’t know our routine.

And our injuries still hurt.

Here is our performance.