This month the wonderful Yvonne Smink has answered 10 questions.

I must confess that I have noticed Yvonne only recently. We both visited a Heidi Coker workshop and only after that I started to draw a closer a look at what she does. It is actually quite hard to find information about Yvonne’s background and with full certainty, I can only say that she has started Pole in 2011 and won the Dutch championships with this legendary choreography in 2014.

I am deeply impressed by Yvonne’s unique Pole style. Her choreographies seem almost unearthly because their music is always unconventional and the moves do not seem to come from any known Pole Dictionary. Also, her floorwork is based on mostly completely new movements and it would be impossible for me to categorize Yvonne’s style. However, Yvonne’s choreographies make my jaws drop and her strength seems to be endless. Let’s ask her how she does that:

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  1. There are the craziest stories of how people have come to Pole Sport. I have read that you went to a club with a friend where they had a Pole and that, since then, you simply could not stop. How did your Pole life evolve until you won the Dutch championships in 2014?

First of all, thank you for interviewing me, Lydia! I feel very honored. Before 2014, I just trained a lot. And with a lot I mean A LOT. I spent every free minute with pole training (and I still do :)). There is this famous quote: hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard. I guess that quote describes me very well. I do not think that I am an overly talented Pole dancer. I simply worked very hard to be where I am now.

In 2012, I installed a pole at home, put a mirror up the wall, turned on YouTube and then I just went for it. I tried moves, failed, tried again, and explored all the amazing possibilities my body offers. In the same year, I won our national championship. Yet, people in my country (Netherlands) first heard about me when I participated in the TV show Everybody Dance Now and made it to the finals, in 2013. In this TV show, I also made first contact with dancing. Until then, I only practiced separate tricks that I saw on Youtube. I performed these to music, but more in a fitness-sport-like way. In this TV show, I saw all these amazing dance acts live and I realized how it touches me. This was the moment when it hit me: I am a pole DANCER, not a pole SPORTER. I started to freestyle and to attend break dance-, trick-, and hip hop classes. You know the rest of my story.

  1. How did you decide to participate in the Pole Championships? Don’t you suffer from stage fright and what was the key moment in which you have decided to pursue your pole career as a living?

Interesting question, no-one has ever asked me for the reason I compete. I consider myself a pole dance hippie: I do not care about my placement in competitions at all. I am not motivated to be the Nr. 1 because I think that you do not gain something by focusing on being better than someone else. In the end, Nr. 1 is just a number. It does not tell you anything about yourself or your performance. It is just the opinion of a few people sitting behind a desk. I basically search for a good stage to share the dance/art I create with the audience, the pole community, the world. And since there is no ‘showcase’ in pole dance, I always end up in competitions.

There was not really a key moment which made me decide to pursue a pole career for a living. Pole just eventually took over my life, LOL. I had another job for quite a while, but I could not combine it with running my own pole school, teaching all over Europe, and still trying to train for myself. So one month ago, I decided to quit my dayjob and I have never been happier since!

  1. Before Pole Sport, you climbed. Most people have a dance or acrobatics background. To what extent did your climbing background help you in Pole? Is it the reason that you simply seem to have no fear to execute dangerous moves at high altitude?

Yeah, because of climbing I am not afraid of heights at all, but I do not consider poles high (4 meters is not that much really!). I still have a common sense of fear, though, and I always train my moves carefully, with mats, and try to avoid risky tricks. Also, I only put tricks in my performances which my body knows well and can execute safely.

Climbing certainly helped me with Pole dance. I often notice similarities between the body control in Pole dance and climbing. Points of contact are important in both sports, such as balance, body tension, and strength. The biggest similarity, however, for me is the movement therapy both sports give me. (This is also a reason why I started Pole). When Pole dancing, I can shut down my brain, think about nothing, and simply enjoy the feeling of the movement. When climbing, it is just me vs. the wall, going up, pushing, re-grabbing, pulling, and never letting go. When Pole dancing, I put on music and then it is just me and the pole, floor, ceiling, and all the movements that are possible in between. I love the magical feeling of movement therapy. I am addicted to is as you probably noticed. 

  1. Climbing might not require the same level of agility as dance or acrobatics, so I am just supposing you were not overly flexible when starting Pole. How did you manage to become so flexible now? What are your tips?

Wow, you are actually one of the first to call me flexible! I do not consider myself flexible at all and I think my splits are horrible. I gained my flexibility through a lot of repetition. Simple, but boring. As I started with flexibility in quite a later age (22) and I did a lot of outdoor sports (mountain biking) before which gave me very shortened muscles, I am not pushing myself to crazy bends. I have some great stretches based on yoga moves which my body likes and where I see that I am making some progression. Yet, what really helped me is to set-up a stretch plan with a professional, such as Bendy Kate, Marco Oranje and Jakub Kolasa. I would advise everyone to make a plan with a contortion trainer and work something out that is made for you specifically. Every body is different and requires different advice.

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  1. I read that you find gyms boring. What are your top three strength moves that you complete on the Pole?

Gyms are good for you! But I really never have (or make) time to visit them. Also, I almost never do repetitional strength moves, not even on the pole. When I cannot hold a strength move, I usually try it a few times per session, so it eventually gets better. I train by playing. I am pretty consistent with evening out the sides, though. I always stress the importance of this to my students, too. So I flag, lift, and do dynamic tricks on my right and left side but always in a combo and always as part of my training. If you want advice on how to build up on a specific strength move, I am able to give you a variety of specific exercises that build up to this move. Yet, it really depends on what you want to learn and the current stage of your body, your body knowledge, etc. Come visit me for some training, Lydia!

  1. Your Pole Bag always contains …

A LOT. I am famous for my huge bag (it is really almost as big as myself).  It is full of stuff I do not really need, but of which I think that I MIGHT need it some day. I carry a huge climbing bag with me every day and it always contains dry hands (which I seem to lose every time; Why are these things so damn tiny?), a small book to memorize pole moves (which I never look in) and some shorts (I love RAD Pole wear; they have great stuff!).

  1. I also read that you are not a big fan of protein shakes and powders. So what do you take care to include into your diet?

Every time someone asks me about my diet I immediately think Crap. I should pay more attention to my diet. The plan is I to visit a dietitian, but it never happens. I am pretty well-read in the subject, though. I have read piles of books about food, follow online blogs, worked in a health center for quite a while and follow your blog of course for its great recipes. Along the way, I have figured out what works for my body and what does not. I think everyone has a good common sense about what is healthy and what is not. For myself, I have a slight addiction to oats and every day I eat avocado, nuts, yogurt, and fruits.

  1. How do you find a new move? I notice that you always surprise the audience with your choreographies and that you never follow a move with a move one would expect. How do you make sure to never run out of creativity?

New moves just take a lot of training time. Usually, I am in a quiet place (train, shower, forest) when I suddenly think WHAT IF I…(insert crazy combo here). So the crazy combo turns almost always out to be impossible. In the process, therefore, I make up an easier version of that. What also helps is to put on music for freestyling. When I do not think and just flow, sometimes interesting things happen. I do not try to force new things and I never go to the studio with the pressure of OMG I NEED TO CREATE STUFF!!! I think if your mindset is right and you are open to taking a step back and looking at things from a different perspective, it allows you to grow and progress. I never watch myself online, but when I look at my movement in the mirror, I sometimes take a breath and notice the growth I made mentally and physically. (Insert proud moment here).

  1. In the age of Youtube, Facebook, etc. how do you make sure to remain true to your own style?

I am not sure how other Pole dancers do it, but I am simply too busy to try other people’s tricks. When I see something interesting or cool online, I usually make a screenshot of it and think I gotta try that Natasha Wang/Heidi Coker/Vladimir Karachunov trick and basically forget all about it in my next training. I hope I get more structured in the future… Also, my body has its limits. I will never do a Rainbow or an Eagle (although I tried them once or twice). I do not train these crazy flexible moves in every training. I try intermediate tricks that I see online from time to time for my students and try to make interesting combos for them. I feel as a teacher you need to be around and updated with the stuff that is going on in the pole world.

  1. What are your plans for the future?

I want to discover the world. I love meeting people with the same passion as I have for pole. It is amazing how pole dance can take you to places you would never have seen before. The plan is to enjoy life to the fullest, be grateful for what comes on my path and go wherever the wind takes me. Thank you for interviewing me, Lydia. I am sure I will see you somewhere again in the world!

Well, thank you, Yvonne. These last words were really poetic and this interview, again, was really inspiring. I am convinced we will meet again.

So how did you like this interview? Do you agree with Yvonne that hard work beats talent? What do you think about her mindset regarding fitness studios and nutrition? Do you know about this little Dryhands problem? Also, if there are any questions you always wanted to ask a pole professional, leave a comment below and I will try to include them in my next interview. Xxx

(Photography: courtesy of PixCel.fr – Caroline from PixCel is a French photographer based in the Netherlands, specialized in Pole Dance Photography – she loves creating creative images involving aerial arts. Check out her Facebook page)