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Marlo Fisken Interview – Part 3

Marlo’s tips and advice

This is the last third of the interview with Marlo.
Don’t miss the second third >> Marlo Fisken Interview – Part 2

What would you say is the biggest struggle or obstacle among pole dance students that you come across? What would be your advice to them?

I think that your performance in the classroom is a reflection of what you do outside of the classroom. If somebody is coming in and they feel like they are not growing, or suffers chronic injury, probably what they’re doing outside of the classroom is the reason. It could be nutritional (and I mean lack of nourishment, I’m not a proponent of dieting), it could be psychological, or it could simply be a lack of rest and restorative outside movement. Your entire lifestyle will affect what happens in the classroom; it’s not just what you do in class that determines success.

If you want to be good, or great, or see improvements, your other choices should be in line with that goal. Organizing your life in a way that supports your goals is key. If the goal is something you truly desire, making the changes necessary isn’t so difficult.

If you feel like you are always struggling to make decisions that match your goal, then maybe the goal isn’t important enough. Maybe you need a different goal. Often, if your focus is on aesthetics alone, it’s not deep enough for you to restructure your life.

I believe that if you find something that you really care about, it won’t be hard to make decisions that support your success.

For me, going to bed late at night. No. Not an option. I feel terrible, and the next day my physical performance will be down. I’ll be fatigued. I’m not productive, I won’t be able to teach very well. And I hate that feeling. I feel like I have wasted a day.

And you respect that …

Yeah, I know it. [laughs] It’s never a good idea. Unless the next day there’s nothing important and the reason for staying up is truly incredible, I won’t do it.

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So, how to deal with the inner negative dialogue…? This is something that I came across with more or less all the colleagues. How to stop it, how to overcome the feeling “I’m not capable, I cannot do this, she is much better” and all the things that go round and round in our heads?w is important, but I don’t know how to put this in words. What would you say, and what tip would you give to someone who would like to freestyle more?

That’s a big question. You can dedicate your life to studying that very thing.  I think that you hear a lot of  your own “talk” when you’re not focused enough, or the task is overwhelming (which is totally a matter of perspective). Flow state is concept from phycology— it’s about immersion and being so focused on what you’re doing that there’s not space for other stuff. In this state, time gets distorted,  creativity streams, and you perform at a high level. So, training yourself to focus in is key. And focus in regards to movement, and the body, has a lot to do with breath. Most people will …

They’re holding their breath…

Yeah, right, exactly. Not actually exhaling, completely exhaling. I had a teacher named Leslie Kaminoff who’s very renowned for yoga and breath work.  He would often say “just exhale, the inhale will take care of itself.” Basically, if you exhale fully, your body will take in more air on the next breath, so if you can just focus on breathing out…

All the tensions go out…

Yeah. Like at the end of the day; if someone sighs (audibly exhales), they are sub-consciously trying to create relaxation in the body. Physical tension and mental tension are interlaced. You can’t have one without the other. So internal dialogue changes the way you breathe. If you change the way you breathe, you will change the way you think, and what your body is capable of. After a full and complete exhale, your body is more receptive and has more potential.

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Great. As you were saying before, you’re quite a nomad; you travel a lot. Ten months per year, you are traveling around. You’ve met many, many people, and all that workshops and all the students – what would you say is the difference between, let’s say, Slovenian or European students versus American or South American or Brazilian …?

Even within Europe, you have a lot of variety. I’ll say some places are much more distant. Sometimes as a teacher, at the end, I have no idea if anybody liked anything because they’re just stone cold. I’ll give exercises intended to make people laugh, but because they’re so serious, I’m like “I have no idea if this is a disaster.” You get that in some places in Europe. I won’t mention where. [laughs]

Is Slovenia a country like this?

Not the worst that I’ve seen. But the reality is, every studio creates a culture. I’ve been in eastern European country where I went to one studio and they were just fun, and laughing, and friendly, and I went to another and it was drastically different. So there’s not just the culture of the country, but a culture within a studio. You might find quite a difference just from studio to studio. Some places talk a lot, like talk over me while I’m talking, and until I start screaming and having to whistle, they won’t stop talking…

In Japan, they’re very quiet, and they watch. Many don’t understand English, but they will do the movement correctly because they’re very observant. Meanwhile, in America sometimes, I say something in English, in an accent they understand, but they are not hearing me and they’re not seeing me. So language is not necessarily the obstacle. It’s more cultural, how observant people are, or how focused they are.

Yes, it’s true what you say … I’ve been to several different studios in the same city, and they have completely different energy. So it much depends on the owner of the studio…

The energy of whoever is in the studio the most is there. They impact how people  will feel before about the place before they even open the door. Everything, your logo, your website, the greeting, the warmness, matters… And it doesn’t have to be luxury, but there’s just…

An energy.

Yeah, it’s just an energy. This can really determine the success of your business. People will come back if they’re getting something positive, and feel free within the space. This depends on what the owner, staff, and other students are putting out.

But also, structural details, like the ability to modify lighting is really important. I’ve been to some places where the only option is like the office, painfully fluorescent and bright, or dark.
I want to turn off the aggressive lighting to free inhibitions and set the mood but then it makes people want to go to sleep. So that’s an important piece of studio energy as well.

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If we want to be better at pole dance … what are your top three books that you would recommend?

I like to always say that my recommendations about anything are not just for pole dancers; they are for humans. [laughs] Whatever you want to be good at.

Number one is Move Your DNA by Katy Bowman. This book makes sense out of the concept of natural movement and explains why it’s important. If you want to understand why footwear could make such a big difference on your entire body, this book will explain that and many other similar concepts. It explains a healthier way to envision movement. The idea that “exercise” is required for fitness, is troublesome. I know this sounds crazy, because this idea is so ingrained in the modern mindset, and is marketed to us constantly—but it is wrong.
Separating exercise from the way you simply live and provide is an unnatural thing to do. The book is tremendous. I’ve recommended it to a lot of people, and everyone comes back and says “I’m so glad, you told me about that.” It’s easy to read, and it’s entertaining. It’s essential reading.

If you want to gain more understanding of anatomy, the series of Bandha Yoga, has a series of books. It’s geared toward yoga, but the illustrations are like CGI pictures of what’s going on inside the body. They have the highest level of clarity that I’ve ever seen. They do a really good job at helping you understand muscle activation within a position and how that role of activating the muscles – both the ones being stretched, the supporting structures – brings balance tho the body. Rarely can you really learn anatomy or movement science from a book, but I think that they’ve probably done the best job at making that something you can understand. And they’re pretty to look at, too.

And the third that comes to mind – I don’t know if it’s my top 3, but it’s called Talent Is Overrated. It’s a book about what goes into being amazing at something. It can be enlightening if you feel like you’re struggling to be good at something, to realize just exactly what  goes into excellence.

Oh also, Jill Miller is somebody that I really respect. She created the program called Yoga Tune Up, which is basically self myo-fascial release (using balls to release tension). She recently put out a book called The Roll Model, and it is a guided book on how to do these techniques. It’s really well done, and very clear. If you can recognize “Okay, I struggle with raising my arms overhead. I tried stretching my shoulders and that doesn’t work.” It’s probably because stretching isn’t what you need. If your tissues are dormant, or in a protective state, this book can offer relief and insight.

Both Katy Bowman, Jill Miller, and the Bandha series,  have a lot of free stuff online. You can listen to podcasts, you can watch interviews, you can read articles that they’ve written. They’re all organizations that you can rely on for a lot of continuing education, not just the books I mentioned.

Perfect! Very helpful tips. I thank you for that. Now I know which will be my next book in line to read [laughs]… And to conclude the interview, what is your tip or the wisest thought for today? A message maybe …

If you ever have the opportunity to be on the floor rather than sitting in a chair, take it.
Be in a position that’s not seated when it’s available. And sometimes that means that you’re the weird one, or inappropriate, but you have to be okay with that. I’ll be in a squat or in a cobra in a hotel lobby sometimes. That’s part of putting more movement throughout the day and not just in your training time.

And with this Marlo’s though I conclude:

“Your entire lifestyle will affect what happens in pole classroom; it’s not just what you do while you’re in there.”


You want to know Marlo better? These links are “a must”: – Marlo’s official site – Marlo’s YouTube channel – Aerial Amy’s interview with Marlo

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Photos by Pole Ninja


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