Wait, really? Okay I sort of understand the sentiment that Olympic poling will not feature the same motions and themes as say a class at your local pole dance studio. But ruined? I would say that is a bit extreme. After all have you not heard of Olympic weight lifting? Yes? Has that stopped anyone from going to their local iron pit and throwing weights around? No. If pole sport were to make it into the Olympics there would still be classes that featured strutting more than climbing, body waving over splits, and anywhere from 5.5” to 8” high heeled shoes. Why? Because to many pole lovers out there those aspects of the sport of pole are still the most appealing parts of pole. At this point there are so many subcategories of pole dance/sport/fitness that the old cliché “to each their own” really applies.
Yet there still seems to be a part of the community regardless of what they believe pole should be (sexy, sporty, dance-y…) who can’t see that other disciplines are just as valid as their own. Some people found pole because they were already strong gymnasts and they wanted another avenue to express themselves. Some came to pole through their occupation and while they may have aged out (or burned out) of that lifestyle they still enjoy the movement and freedom of dancing around a vertical apparatus.
Pole fitness like any other endeavor worth the time isn’t something one can practice minimally and expect to get maximum results. Many people don’t realize that working out with a pole really is challenging enough to replace other exercises in the traditional gym/health club setting. I’ve heard people in pole class say they have to get to the “regular” gym. If they are going there for strength training machines that a pole studio does not have I can understand--but for cardio training any pole class is all you need. People also have very unrealistic expectations. They see pictures on Instagram and videos on YouTube of experienced polers and how easy it looks and think they should be able to emulate it after one class. I’ve heard people say they have begun a new stretching routine and hope to have their splits within a week. They are over a foot off the ground and over 12 years of age. I read a blog post from a woman who after one class decided pole wasn’t for her because she couldn’t do a fireman spin by the end of class. Wow. How about recognizing the challenge of pole fitness and giving it it’s proper due before arrogantly writing it off as something you should be able to do (because of what great shape you are in) but just can’t.
Many in the pole community seem to have forgotten how and why they got into pole fitness in the first place. They get caught up in the latest move going around social media. They get upset they are not progressing as fast as their friend or that girl in class. They have a term for this as well called “keeping up with the Jones’s”. I suppose it’s completely human to do though not altogether healthy. In this age of reality tv if you are paying attention you can see there is a “celebrity” in every field. Even fields [occupations] and communities that aren’t main stream have their “stars”. They did not stumble into this role. They have to work for it, posting their videos, pictures, blogs and creating their own websites, dedicating their time and energy to the craft. They put themselves out there by holding seminars at conventions and giving workshops. Many have their own dvd collection, too. If there is an opportunity to perform they are the first to sign up or they have earned a reputation through competitions.
To compete or not?
It seems every weekend there is a pole competition. One weekend there were two of them on the east coast of America alone. Okay one might have been in the central time zone but Nashville and Herndon, VA are within a day’s drive. There are “world” competitions and local competitions that still attract people from all over the world. There is the practice of sandbagging where a contestant enters a category they are far more skilled for in hopes of ranking better in the competition. Of the “legitimate” competitions out there the use of the word amateur can be as off-putting as it is misleading. None of the contestants in a competition where there is an amateur and a professional category look like amateurs.
From dictionary.com, a few definitions of amateur:
2. an athlete who has never competed for payment or for a monetary prize.
3. a person inexperienced or unskilled in a particular activity:
4. a person who admires something; devotee; fan
None of these definitions applies to any pole dancers that have made it into these competitions. So how do you decide which competition to even bother applying for? At this point most require an application fee and depending on the comp this can be quite significant, especially since it’s just an application fee and not even a guarantee you will be in the competition. Application fees range from $25 to over $100 per contestant. Once you decide you are willing to pay the application fee, you must then decide which competition to enter.
With so many out there, there is one for every type of expression and discipline. There are “dramatic” categories where people pick a song with a particular theme or emotion to express through their dance. These categories will most likely come with their own financial burdens as elaborate often expensive costumes are usually employed as part of the act.
There are trickster competitions where the better and riskier your pole tricks the better you will do in the comp. If you have the ability, the best way to choose the comp that is right for you is to get a hold of the rules and requirements for the competition. A reputable competition knows transparency is important and will usually make the rules clear for all before the event. If you can master the requisite moves there are still other rules such as music timing to keep in mind. I have heard of competitors losing points off of their final total due to the music being too long or too short. These points lost can and do make the difference in placement ranking in the comp.
Read everything very carefully. Talk to people who were in the competition before. If it’s a new competition the only thing you can do is look up the producers of the comp to see what kind of business they are running. What is their reputation? You can find a lot of chatter online about almost everyone who dares to put on a competition or showcase at this point. As it is online and usually on a social media site with the most popular one on FaceBook you may miss some of the drama. This is actually a good thing because it’s never pretty but it may give a clue into an organization’s reputation. Take it with a grain of salt.
See me, don’t judge me
What of the people who decide not to compete have absolutely no desire to be judged, but still learn new tricks, still strive to improve and expand their repertoire and most importantly still would like to be seen? What happens to them? Fortunately there are many online forums and spaces people can still share their art. The avenues to share skill and ideas thanks to forums like YouTube, FaceBook, Instagram etc. are limitless.
There are showcases and pole charity events where anyone who meets the event criteria can participate. Showcases differ from competitions in that no one is formally judging you and there are no prizes to win. One of the best ways to get into a showcase is if the studio you go to has one. Many studios have an annual or semi annual showcase/open house. Students can invite friends and family and perform in a safe environment. By safe that means expectations are open. No one really knows what to expect, they know it’s not a competition, not an entertainment club environment but a talent show feel. Some showcases even allow for other aerial apparatuses such as lyra or silks. If it seems like competition outnumber showcases, they probably do. Hopefully soon that won’t be the case and there will be a showcase every weekend to write about.
I used to be frustrated with the sentiment that “I don’t need to see pole in the Olympics” at the time I did. I also thought unity was an important thing and that we should strive for it in the pole community. Right now though unfortunately that is a long way off as a major player in the community hasn’t figured out how not to really tick people off and the rest of us can’t even agree on the names of moves. Now I don’t need to see it but it would be very cool and I have no doubt I would not miss an event.