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The Aussie Invasion

On Sunday, June 2nd, I was lucky enough to nab a ticket to Girl Next Door Show – A Pole Dance Soiree: The Australian Edition, featuring six of Australia’s best pole dancers! It was an epic show, filled with incredible and incredibly diverse performances from the Aussies and some of the American GND cast.

I have had the pleasure of seeing four of these dancers before, at last year’s International Master’s Cup and Pole Con 2012, but it was so special and inspiring to see them again.

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(photo from the GND Facebook page)

Bailey Hart

I had seen Bailey perform at Master’s Cup and at Pole Con, and let me tell you – she’s spellbinding. When I was watching her at Master’s, I was also volunteering to run the video camera for the event, and I could not watch her through the lens – I *had* to look up and see her “live”…she brings so much emotion to what she does, and she chooses what I think are unconventional moves that combine strength, grace, and emotion in a beautiful way. I ended up falling in love with her performance at Masters and Pole Con – it was my favorite of the night (no shade to anyone else), and her performance at Girl Next Door was also beautiful, with a gorgeous sensuality to it. Here is a link to her performance on Facebook – if I can find a YouTube link to embed, I will update the post:

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10151483866836028&set=vb.205514531347&type=2&theater

Gracie Buntine

Prior to GND, I wasn’t too familiar with Gracie, other than hearing her name now and then. I can say, without hesitation, that she made a fan of me that night! Her style is gorgeous – she floats, combining power and grace with a beautiful ease of movement. Our entire group fell in love with her performance. Check out her Australian Pole Championships performance.

UPDATE: Gracie’s GND performance is now online! See it on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10151500112546028

Michelle Shimmy

I think Shimmy is familiar to most pole dancers, and I know I have watched a number of her videos – tutorials, performances, freestyles, you name it, she’s got it online! I had seen her before at Master’s Cup, where her choice of music really stood out to me – it was like she was dancing for my 15 year old self. 🙂 Anyway, if you know Shimmy, you know she is power and sass and beautiful form. Her lines are always gorgeous, and she knows damn well how to work a crowd! Her performance was cheeky and filled with ballsy strength and beauty. Shimmy put her performance on YouTube, so you can watch it in the post!

Carlie Hunter

I love Carlie‘s strength – every time I watch her, I’m struck at how powerful she is, and how much she COMMITS to her character of choice. There’s a true fearlessness to what she does, and it’s awesome. I saw her perform at Master’s Cup, and then a day or two later, saw her at Pole Con, and the performances were so different in content, but equally impressive. Carlie chose to do her famous (and award winning!) Grandma Clementine routine for GND, and if you haven’t seen it, you have missed out! Here’s the link to the Facebook video – I am hoping it goes up on YouTube, so I can embed it!

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10151477549736028

Kristy Sellars

Kristy opened the show, and she’s just the cutest thing ever! She really dances and commits not only to character, but also in the way she connects to the audience. She doesn’t just dance, she really PERFORMS, and it’s SO MUCH FUN! I loved her routine – her costume was a gorgeous Kelly Maglia creation, and she had adorable styling to go along with it. Everything fit her music perfectly. Unfortunately, her performance doesn’t appear to be online yet, but in the meantime, do yourself the incredible favor of watching her KILLER winning performance from Miss Pole Dance Victoria. She does an amazing job of using her props to further her character and story! Her costume is amazing, and she sells that character 100% – her spirit is infectious, and on a personal note, as a pole dancer with curves, I love that she’s got some curves, too – she’s totally hot!

Maddie Sparkle

After Maddie‘s performance, I think our entire group of girls wanted to BE her. She’s just got this energy that is absolutely compelling – she’s got power, flexibility, sass, sexiness, and there’s that smile…you fall in love with her when she’s on stage. I remember her from Master’s Cup, too, and it was the same thing – I just instantly LIKED her, and I think she’s incredible. Maddie’s GND routine is on YouTube, so here you go!

Overall, the night was amazing – the ladies of The Pole Garage made it an event (I really don’t even know how many of us were there), and it felt like 90% of the pole dancers in LA were in attendance. I recognized people all over the place! It was like the Pole Oscars or something. 🙂 Keep an eye out for the videos for all of these ladies – I’ll post them if I find them!

Happy Poling!

xoxo

Quick Survey – stretch & flex – shoulder mount!

Hey Polers – would you please take a few minutes to fill out this survey for me?

http://freeonlinesurveys.com/app/rendersurvey.asp?sid=4rrveu3f9tq23ag90969

We’re working to get our pole apparel line up and running, and this survey will help us focus on what everyone out there is looking for in their choices for pole shirts/tanks/shorts, etc! If you’ve got any pole sisters (or brothers!), please share it with them as well! THANK YOU!

This weekend, with my usual Lyra class canceled for the holiday, AND my back-up Lyra class canceled, I opted to finally try a stretching and flexibility class over at The Choreography House in North Hollywood. Overall, it was a good experience! I LOVED the content of the class: at two hours long, it’s a ball-buster! My class was co-taught  by Kelly (owner of the studio) and Carolyn, who took turns leading us all in different stretches. We focused a lot on splits and middle splits (ow), and there was an entire section on back flexibility that still has me hurting! Since I am not particularly flexible, there were moments where I struggled a bit, but I still felt like I could keep up with most of it. I hope to get there, though! I also hope to be able to take some of it with me, into my regular pole class at The Pole Garage, or even at home. It seems like the classes fill up quickly, but I did manage to book another one in a couple of weeks. I was able to introduce myself to Carolyn before I left, which helped me feel a little more welcome: in my two experiences at that studio, I haven’t felt like the gals were particularly warm or welcoming toward new faces, but Carolyn was so sweet and such a good instructor that I am looking forward to the next class. About 3/4 of the way through the class, they have a tradition of stopping to watch a video for inspiration – this is the video that we watched, which blew my mind:

INSANE, yes?! Amazing.

I did a make-up pole class yesterday, since my usual class is canceled for the holiday, and I was kind of useless because of the stretching class (really: it packs a punch), but I did manage to work on holding my shoulder mount for a while. Abby, one of the newer instructors at TPG, wanted us to all work on holding our shoulder mounts in a splay before shooting up to connect to the pole. I was so surprised that I could do it!! I usually just shoot up into the mount, but was thrilled to see that I could hold it – even while tired. I have a shoulder mount variation that I would love to be able to do in the future, and it requires a ton of power in holding the shoulder mount (Bailey Hart has an entire sequence of shoulder mount work in her Winter’s Child routine, which she did at PoleCon2012 and at the International Pole Dance Master’s Cup 2012, and a number of other pole stars have some amazing variations as well). A lot of great pole champs have amazing shoulder mount combos, which I always love to see! Check out one of Alethea’s:

Alethea Austin in a shoulder mount variation

 

Happy Labor Day, everyone!

International Pole Dance Masters Cup 2012

Um, wow!

This was really the first time I’ve seen higher level pole dancers compete. I was not able to stick around for the level 3 Championship round at PPC, so I didn’t get to see those performances (except online) – I saw some of the level 2 and level 3 Artistic Entertainment categories, which were great, but the Masters Cup was an entirely new sort of thing for me. There were group, doubles, women’s and men’s categories, all of which held something new and different!

(Note: I’ll try to update this post with links to the videos/winners as they show up on YouTube – not every video is available yet!)

Group:

The thing I came away with is how much of a challenge this must be for the performers! To choreograph a dance with 4 or more dancers, hitting everything in sync or reflecting/mirroring moves or even doing complimentary moves…wow. That’s a lot to take on, and every performer in that category should be proud of getting up there. Two groups had unfortunate technical difficulties during the show (one even had a performer not present because their flight was delayed!), but they still got up and performed, like pros! In the end, I think it was really interesting to see the elements that worked well and how certain things created a sense of unity amongst the performers on stage. Jag6ed ended up coming away with the title!

Doubles:

Again, much as with the Group Category, I have so much respect for what it takes to work as a team in a pole routine. What impressed me on top of that was how GORGEOUS the routines can be! When a pair hits their stride and is REALLY working together – not just doing the moves in unison, but working off of each other, feeding off of each other…it’s incredible to watch. It reminds me of watching the very best kind of acting scenes, which is one of the things I loved about it – it seems to double the power of the energy and emotion of the performances, so that you’re absolutely drawn to the stage. While Jennifer Kim & Sergia Louise Anderson were performing, I could barely take my eyes off of them and had to actively remind myself to keep checking the camera (more on that later)! I’m excited to see more doubles routines in the future! The winners were Nadia & Mina, by the way! 🙂

Women’s:

This was an interesting category, mostly because the women were all so different. Everyone had their own style, and when I talked to Courtney (who was also volunteering), she said her favorite performance was a completely different performer than the person I picked as my favorite. Some ladies took risks, some did more traditional routines, some had more flair, some had more grace, some had more emotion, some had more character, but all were super talented. The woman that ended up winning the category – Charlee Wagner – only had a year of pole experience. A YEAR. And she was up against some huge hitters – but she was amazing! The kind of amazing after only a year that makes me want to sit in a corner and cry about still not being able to nail my aerial pencil, but hey, good for her – not only was it amazing that she’s only been doing it a year, but her joy for the dance came through, and that was the thing I noticed more than anything else – she was having SO MUCH FUN. The performance I ended up really being drawn to was an unusual one, when put up next to the others in the category – very contemporary, with a lot of emotion behind it – congrats to Bailey Hart of Australia, for being so compelling that I (again) had a hard time focusing on the camera I was manning. While she didn’t place, I walked away remembering her name. This is her performance, which was one of my favorites of the night – I’m embedding it because  loved it so much:

Men’s:

I had never seen men perform live, so this was a treat! The strength is amazing, but the flexibility blew me away – and the artistry is so interesting, because again, the styles are so different. I really loved getting to see when the guys either allowed themselves to be fully immersed in the artistic expression, but what made me even happier was to see when there was JOY pouring out of them, like when Derick Pierson performed. He’s friggin ADORABLE. Such talent and SO much joy when he dances. I loved it! And I have no idea how he kept his hat on THE ENTIRE TIME. Ravan took the title – he was a beautiful performer!

In the end, some of the groups/duos/people that placed were obvious picks, but some really were not, at least not for me. I think I just respond to certain things in certain ways, which is an interesting thing to realize, because I’m sure that’s also true of the judges. I recently received my own scorecards from PPC, and while they did not contain a ton of notes, the scores were wildly different in range. I had the highest single judge score in my category, for example – and it was 30 points higher than another one of my scores. I think that tells me a lot about the fact that people look for different things and respond to different things – I had positive notes about my lines and pointed toes from one or two people, but middling marks in that category from others, for example. Some liked my character and emotion, and thought I did well with connecting to the audience – others didn’t. I can only imagine it must be tougher at the higher levels!

As for me and my overall night as a volunteer, I ended up being moved from being an usher in order to man one of the cameras for the event. By switching jobs, I ended up with more responsibility – don’t fuck up the master shot of the performances! – but also had an amazing view: dead center, just behind the table section. So it was there I stood, most of the night. Very early on, I had an audience member complain that I was blocking the view (which I’m not sure I could have helped, since the camera was positioned for me, so I was not allowed to move it), so I spent the first few performances crouching, then spent the rest trying to blend in with a support beam/pole that was maybe 8 inches in diameter. As a result of having to man the camera for the event, I wasn’t able to take any personal photos of the performances, which bummed me out a bit. Still, I had an amazing view of everything!

My view

Jenyne Butterfly was hosting – and boy, is she cute and kinda dorky (which she admitted up front, so I don’t feel like I’m labeling her as such). She’s SO tiny! Actually, almost ALL of the major stars I saw last night are tiny – as are the other recognizable polers, like the cast members of Girl Next Door. In attendance, I spotted a bunch of GND girls – some of them were competing – and a few of the Champions: Jenyne was hosting, like I said; Felix Cane was there to judge and also had a booth (all of the judges were famous polers, like Steven Retchless, Fawnia, Jamilla); Natasha Wang was in the audience (went up to say hi at the end – she gave me a hug and said she’d been trying to get our mutual friend to come, without success – I haven’t seen her in person since we went on the Haunted Hayride with said mutual friend a couple of years ago, before I started poling again). I also saw Becca Butcher from across the room and thought she was Zoraya, just because it was dim in the venue and she has all of that hair! 🙂 I definitely got my geek-out on over the course of the night! However, the only famous poler I actually spoke to – besides Anjel Dust, who was producing the event –  was Natasha, and that was really only because I have a previous connection to her and felt comfortable saying hi. I think I’ve lived in LA too long, where it’s usually taboo to approach anyone famous. 🙂

Jenyne Butterfly hosting (and pole bunnies cleaning the poles)

I did get to talk to some of the other folks working the event, like Joe from Alloy Images, who shot the photos for PPC. We talked about my pics and the photos in general for the event – he told me some great advice for making sure that you get good still photos (which was advice Drea also gave me, but it was awesome to hear it from a photographer). He explained that some of the performers that are incredibly dynamic to watch never actually hit their tricks – they don’t go all the way into them and don’t hold them for long, so the still photos are flat and not very clean, but the videos look great. The people who commit to the tricks and hold them (Drea recommended holding everything for at least a 3 count, so judges/audience can see it, but also for photos) are the ones that get beautiful stills. He also talked about facing (as Drea did) – he mentioned that a lot of the girls had beautiful jade splits and Russian splits, but they weren’t facing properly, so the view from the camera was all crotch and no extension of the legs.

The gal running the cameras was Suzy Q Williams, who has created the documentary Pole Life – we talked a bit about how she came to create the production and how she found pole, what it had done for her – she was super sweet and very helpful in giving me a crash course in how to operate the camera. I didn’t do much with it, other than turn it on and off, and replace the battery when it was dead, or swap out the memory cards when they were full – since I was the master shot, I just had a SUPER wide shot of the stage and had to make sure the shot stayed the same. (I desperately hope it didn’t look too bad – I was afraid to try to adjust it, so I left it alone after she set it up and made sure it was focused correctly.) Anyway, Pole Life debuts at the Vegas PoleCon in September, so if you’re there, check it out! There is a kickstarter set up for the film, so if you’ve got a few extra bucks, please consider donating to help fund the project – they’ve reached their “official” kickstarter goal, but every bit helps – I know that for sure! I think it’ll be an amazing piece!

I also got a chance to meet Lori of Confessions of a Twirly Girl! We’re friends on Facebook and follow one another on Twitter, and she had been in attendance at PPC – and gotten a few great photos of my performance! – but I hadn’t had the chance to meet her until last night! I hope to see her again at the Convention, which I’ll be at tomorrow – more volunteering!

I love all of this – I love seeing more of the pole world and how amazing it can be! I’m sure I’ll update more after the Convention, and I’m starting work on my piece about what it took to compete for PPC. 🙂