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Something I hear often from people who start to REALLY get into pole dancing is “I don’t know if I should do competitions?”. Competitions were a big part of the development of pole, and now it seems new ones are popping up everyday, with junior, amateur and semi-pro levels, so everyone starts wondering if they should do it too.
I have done 12 competitions in the span of 5 years, and have won or placed 5 times, so I feel I can give a pretty detailed opinion of the good, the bad and the ugly of competing. Obviously it is a very personal subject so you might have a totally different experience, but here is how I’ve felt in these 5 years.
Pole Theatre UK 2015 – Picture by Fotocad
People who have never done a pole competition often assume that the atmosphere backstage is terrible, with no one talking and everyone trying to push each other down the stairs before they perform Showgirls style.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. A pole competition is basically a gathering of people absolutely OBSESSED with pole, so it would be very hard not to bond over it. I have met so many lovely and amazing people at pole comps, and some became very close friends. If you manage to forget the stress a bit, you will probably have a great time backstage 😉
Backstage at the Felix Cane Pole Championships. Picture by Nina Otranto
Generally, the audience at a pole comp is GREAT. Occasions to see high level pole routines live are rare, so people get super excited about it and will cheer a lot.
I also think it is an amazing experience to perform for your peers. I am a burlesque dancer and work in a cabaret, so I do get to perform quite often (on average once a week) and even though every audience can be amazing and supportive, the ones who don’t know anything about pole dancing are often more impressed by a simple but pretty spinning bird than a super crazy advanced move. I have pretty much stopped doing deadlifts at the cabaret, because I get more applause from jades and birds (so I was like “Why bother?” 😉 ). Pole dancers will know the true difficulty of your routine, and it is very rewarding to have an audience who appreciate all of your hard work and is not impressed simply because you can do the splits.
This matters mostly if pole dancing is your job or you would like to make it so. There are other ways to become known in the pole dancing community, like creating amazing pole videos or tutorials, or be really good at social media, but in my opinion competitions are still the best/fastest way to do it . You do not need to win or place (also it does help A LOT), as long as you try your best to be unique, there will be people who appreciate your style. And the more “famous” you are, the more opportunities of work you have!
For me, that is the most important part. I have progressed so much because of pole competitions. There is something about them that makes you want to give your vey very best (mostly the audience of fellow polers, and obviously the judges), and you will spend months thinking about every little detail of your routine, the theme, the music, the tricks, the costume… Your rehearsals will probably be very intense, as you try to polish every single move. All this work WILL pay of, maybe not with a prize, but it will make you a better pole dancer, and hopefully you’ll have created and performed a piece that you’re really proud of. That alone was worth it for the 5 years I have been a pole competitor. Here is a playlist with almost every competition performance I have ever done, in case you want to see how far I’ve come 😉
Picture by K.Limmany. French Pole Dancing Competition 2014
AND THE BAD…
Unless the competition is in your city, or in a place where you can go and stay for free, it will be expensive just to go there. There is also the costume, which can be pretty cheap or VERY expensive, especially if like me you are obsessed with Swarovski rhinestones. Maybe you have to pay for the space where you practice, or a coach? Competing can get costly pretty quickly, especially if you compete internationally and fly to the other side of the world to do so.
It does happen (thankfully, it is pretty rare). I know judging is very hard, and sometimes it can be a matter of personnal preference between very amazing performers. But other times, it is very clear when you see the scoring that the judges did not do their job properly and were biased (towards their friend, or their favorite style of pole, or favorite body type…). And it is absolutely heart-breaking when you have worked really hard for months to get bad scores… But trust me, if indeed the judges were mistaken, the audience is no fool, and it is much better to be the crowd’s favorite than to be the winner but with the audience thinking it was undeserved.
If you got a fair judgement (which is generally what happens!) but your performance was just not as good as others, use this as a chance to analyse what could be improved. In some competitions you can even get feedback from the judges, which can be super helpful!
- The pressure and obsession
This is actually the reason why I decided to stop competing (or at least take a break from it). When I do a competition, it is pretty much all I can think about for months. I feel like it is devouring my soul and I have no life outside of pole (not to get too dramatic here 😉 ). It gets very intense.
That being said, once I won the French championship and had decided that I was not going to compete anymore, I went through a weird time where I felt I had no purpose in life and did not know what to do with myself, and pretty much spent all my free time playing video games… (I actually played from beginning to end The Legend of Zelda- The Wind Waker AND Twilight Princess in the span of 3 months :p I had not played video games for years even though I love it, because I needed to focus on competitions – and spend all my free time affixing Swarovski on my costumes).
Picture by Emmanuelle. L.
There is more good than bad in my experience, but competing is a very personal decision, and it might be amazing for you, the thing that will motivate you to get better, or paralyze you with fear. If you choose to compete, do not do it because you’d like to win, as winning is out of your control (other people might be better, there is nothing you can do about that). What is in your power is to decide to do YOUR ABSOLUTE BEST. The one you should be competing with is yourself. Surpass yourself and it will make competing worth it.
I hope you enjoyed this good/bad rundown about competitions, if there are some specific things you would like to ask me, I’d love to help 😉