Wednesday, April 10, 2013

To compete or not compete? The era of pole competitions.

I've debated this topic for quite some time now.  A few years ago, I decided to enter my first competition.  It was a new competition- the first of it's kind for the region.  One of the competitions to bring about a variety of performers that had not previously been recognized.  It was promoted well and I felt like this was the competition for me.  Like so many pole competitions, the first round was based on online video submissions.  A panel of judges was selected- all of which were well known pole performers within the industry.  These selected judges reviewed all video entries and would judge your performance based on a scoring system and add a comment for improvement.  I received a fairly decent score and some great constructive criticism.  I did not move on beyond round 1.  The following year, after working hard towards improving, I re-entered that same competition.  This time, I received less feedback and still did not move on beyond round 1.  After reviewing the entries of the competitors that did make it through to the next round, I found myself becoming very discouraged.  When you're watching the videos of those who got in and comparing yourself to these people, it could result in a very negative mindset.  How have I been working so hard and much longer than these people and they are getting in on their first try and only poling for 6 months?! This is the point in time I began to feel a great shift in the community.  There was a divide- those who compete and are elite within the community and those that were not good enough.  It started to feel like a popularity contest after awhile- the same people kept getting into the same competitions.  I understand there is a lot of hard work- I've worked hard too.  So hard I worked myself into an injury because I pushed myself to be that "image" of what the judges comments said I should be.  I should be inverting a certain way.  So I pushed myself to invert and make my body do what I was told I'm supposed to do.  And then I got to thinking about what competitions are and how they affect the dancer.  I have friends that have competed and it's hard on their bodies. I've known people who feel as though they need to prove themselves because their fans expect a certain element of entertainment.  I've seen competitions change people into divas.  There were times I was expecting them to make requests for a bowl of M&M's without any of the green ones in their dressing rooms just because they didn't like that color.  I've seen competitions hurt people and turn their self image from positive to negative.  Thoughts of I'm not good enough, I need to be better, I can do better...just to name a few.  I've also witnessed a massive online debate via social media sources where people have lashed out against certain competitions and the way they are run.  Some have been accused of being unethical.  I've seen so much negativity surrounding competitions in a community that embraces positivity that in the end, I don't feel like competing is a culture in the community I want to be a part of.  It's a subjective event where there is no formality across the board.  I think competitions have divided the community.  It's unfortunate that there is such a strong emphasis on competing.  I'd rather take part in showcases where you don't have to be the next pole star eager to be the next big name.  I could care less about the super human moves someone can do that looks just like the competitor that was on the stage before them.  I like the individuality of someone who doesn't have to stress their entire being and can just perform.  I'd like to see more shows incorporating real dancers who enjoy the movement and don't have to be better than everyone else.  But that's just my opinion.  After all, the best performers I think, are the students in my class.  Those are the performers I'd rather pay to sit in front row to watch any given day of the week. 


  1. Well said! I absolutely agree--the most enthralling performers are usually just people baring their souls. The girls (Flexines) and I have talked a lot about the "trickster type" that values accomplishing tricks with wow factor over attaining flow and expression. I think it's great that some people excel with this system and the more I read opinions like yours, the more I feel like that is only a small piece of pole. Pole at large is really about being yourself, regardless of if you can bend in half or air walk.

    xo adAstra

  2. Sounds like you had a terrible experience. I personally want to compete eventually, and I definitely fall much more solidly into the category of trixter than I do flowy or dancy. One of the things I love the most about pole is that it is open for all voices. Sounds like this openness was not part of your experience, and that makes me a little sad. Thanks for sharing.