Pole Competitions Empower Women, said Naz Smyth.
Last weekend was the Pacific Pole Championships in Downtown Los Angeles, California. Hundreds of women of all shapes and sizes, of all levels of skill came out to either participate in the competition, or to rally on their friends competing, or simply just to watch the incredible competitors.
Competitors Gain Self Confidence by Competing with their Age and Level
a pole dancer for two years, competed in this last championship as a Level 3 Dramatic Senior. There are different levels and divisions based on age and skill. For Pole Sport Organization, Juniors cap out at age 29, Seniors starts at 30, and Masters start at 40, and Grand Masters start at age 50 (Pole Sport Organization). Other competitions, such as the National Aerial Pole Art competition, have no age or level division, simply professional and amateur (United Pole Artists).
There was a bit of controversy this last weekend. Exotic Level 2 Seniors got combined with the Exotic Level 2 Juniors category because of not enough competitors in each grouping, and according to Naz Smyth, there were a couple of unhappy pole dancers. “I’m 36 years old, I do not want to be competing with 18 year olds,” Naz overheard one competitor saying. Naz turned and told the competitor “Your 18 year old opponents are probably more intimidated by you than you are of them.” With pole, some of the best story tellers are older dancers. The point of a pole competition is not just showing who has the best tricks. In some categories, such as the “Dramatic” category, the biggest factor is who can tell the best story with their movement.
Dancers at any age get to compete with their general age group and skill level. This year, Naz went on the stage as a Level 3. Last year she took bronze in Level 2, so this year she was required to move up one level. She competed against thirteen other women in her category. In the end she was beat out by fierce competition. “I still feel great,” Naz says. “I feel like I went out there on that stage and conquered my fear and body insecurities.”
Pole Championships are becoming more common. Pole Sport Organization is growing quickly, and is currently the largest competition world-wide. It’s participation in the United States is about 30,000 (The Sun). It currently has many branches of competitions throughout the United States, and some even in Europe.
Naz Smyth: Exotic is Back!
In previous years, Pole Sport Organization had very strict rules regarding dress code and styles of dance it allowed in the competition. Because the pioneers of mainstream pole dance were trying to break the stigma of pole being a seedy night club form of entertainment, the organization had required that participants adhere to a certain dress code. The gluteus fold was not allowed to be shown when a dancer came on stage. The gluteal fold basically translates to butt cheeks. This was a pretty frustrating challenge for many contestants, as even basic bikinis showed gluteal fold, and many dancers had to custom order their bottoms to be almost a boy short to cover their butt cheeks. Also in previous years, there was no exotic category. Now that pole has become a more accepted sport, this is the first year that dancers were allowed to enter in the exotic category, and showcase classic sexy pole dancing with 8 inch shiny heels. And also, the gluteal fold rule was tossed out this year, allowing more freedom when it came to costuming.
Plus Size Dancers Gain Confidence and Boost Self Esteem
Because pole dance is an inclusive and versatile sport, all women (and men) of all shapes and sizes are welcome to join in the sport. Not all pole dancers are ex gymnasts or ballerinas. Some pole dancers enjoy the low flow activities of movement on the ground, even doing floorwork, or “low flow” as dancers call it. Low Flow involves more dance like choreography that involves a lot of being on all fours on the ground, and using the pole to do lower to the ground tricks. Pole classes at studios are inclusive and every size and shape of person are welcome, but there are some workshops and studios that are specifically geared towards curvier or plus sized women to help boost their confidence. In Sydney, Australia, there is a pole dance class dedicated just to plus sized clientele. The studio is called Pole4Curves and empowers curvier women to dance with women of similar size. Some women have revealed that they like to dance alongside women of similar sizes, so classes like Pole4Curves gives curvier women the guarantee that they won’t be dancing next to very thin and tall gymnasts (Daily Mail).
Pole Dance Becoming Mainstream Fitness
The future is bright for pole dancing. Worldwide competitions are pushing pole dance from a stigmatized art to a fully fledged mainstream sport. The countless women that are involved in the sport gain confidence in their sexuality and body image. Naz believes that pole dancing will one day be in the Olympics.