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So I know about cheerleading, but what's the type of dance using Poms?

Well that’s Pom dance!

When people think of ‘cheer dancing’ what they’re actually referring to is the discipline of allstar Pom dance.



Allstar competitive dance routines are largely the same as any other dance competition routine, BUT the time limit is under 2.30 and there’s no stage: so no one leaves the performance floor. No breaks in the stage wings allowed!


Allstar dance divisions include jazz, lyrical/contemporary and kick (which hasn’t yet developed in the uk), as well as Pom which is my area of specialism. Pom is an exciting, high energy dance genre. I love choreographing Pom routines and seeing all the visuals come to life. Unexpected little highlights that pop out of nowhere, changes of direction using leaps or tricks across the floor and super clean turn sections are all delights for my eyes.


Pom as a dance genre crosses over heavily with jazz as it incorporates lots of traditional dance skills such as kicks, leaps, jumps and turns. As the time limit on the routine is so short it has to be fast paced (140 bpm +) and packed full of content.


Pom Dance’s unique feature is the use of small handheld Poms to create strong visuals and accentuate movements. Poms are often bright and contrasting, being made from stiff plastic material that doesn’t swish or flop around. The aim of the Poms is to show off the team’s uniformity BUT they are also going to show up any problems with synchronisation. So, drilling and perfecting movements is a large part of what we do in training.




Pom choreography uses sharp arm movements called motions which have strict pathways and placements - just like in a ballet port de bras. With fast music and complex motion sequences, the arm work needs to be slick and powerful. Good Pom should involve blocking through the arms and ‘hit’ of the motions. Bouncing, swinging and rebounding the arms only detracts from the clean, synchronised look we’re aiming for. Pom requires a lot of upper body conditioning which can often involve resistance training and the use of small weights.


As well as power, Pom needs a high level of aerobic and anaerobic fitness. There’s rarely even a single count pause in the routine and the skills will be stacked all the way through. There’s nothing like trying to execute a toetouch with legs feeling like lead at the 2 minute mark!


Dance skills, including jumps and turns, are also performed with motions to aid uniformity. Entrances and exits from skills are particularly important - everyone needs to be doing the same, with no excess arm swinging, because the Poms really show it up. Pom is about precision and control.


Typical jumps you might see in Pom include a toetouch (or straddle) and C jump (or ring jump). There are usually more synchronised turn sequences than you’d see in other dance styles - but turns aren’t compulsory. Turns in second (or fouetté a la seconde) are commonly performed in advanced combinations by higher level teams, but again aren’t required. One of my specialisms as a coach is technique for turning sequences to create uniformity and technical accuracy. The prep, timing and landing all need to be perfect to create the illusion the team is moving as one!


As a choreographer, most of the work in Pom is creating fabulous visuals. This might include ripples, cannons, mirroring, levels, opposition and group work. Transitions between routine events should be completely seamless and walking from one formation to another isn’t going to score well. Dancers should move around the floor in intricate patterns and much of the time during a routine is spent creating pictures and effects with the poms. Dancers perform together in synchronised turn and jump sequences: but for the most part are performing layered choreography meaning everyone on the team has their own routine counts unique to them!


Routines are scored both on their technical execution of the dance skills and the team execution of the Pom elements. Choreographers also need to emphasise musicality and help the audience connect with the routine through staging on the floor. Costumes are super sleek, again to reduce any unnecessary distracting movement, and allstar rules dictate that everything, from music choices to movements, must be appropriate for a family audiences.


There are numerous successful, longstanding Pom teams in the UK who regularly achieve impressive placings at international events. All of the UK nations are well represented at the World Championships in Florida each year.


Looking to international competitors:


Team Japan are always a masterclass in speed and precision (I promise this video is not sped up - they really can move that fast!)


A personal favourite team of mine, Dance Factory from Mexico always bring the musicality and dynamics with their incredible 50:50 male female split.

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