Sunday, September 30, 2012

Pole Dance Athletes Look for Credibility at the USPDF Championships

Amateur USPDF Competitor Tracee Kafer
Yesterday afternoon and evening, 20 women competed in the fourth annual US Pole Dancing Federation Championships, Amateur and Pro Divisions, held in NYC at Symphony Space. Don't you dare confuse these women with strippers or exotic dancers (despite the sparkly, revealing outfits, and high heels). They may be beauty bombshells, but they are seasoned athletes, gymnasts, dancers, and performers, and they are full of creative talent. Pole dancing is a sport that has only recently begun to gain popularity, both internationally and within the US, while also taking the city by storm as the latest fitness craze. Currently, there is even a controversial discussion going on about whether or not pole dancing should be accepted as an official Olympic sport.

The USPDF Championship event offered just one more place where these athletes can demonstrate the art they have worked hard to master, and gain some credibility for themselves in the process. Challenging moves, tricks and combinations on the pole require flexibility, stamina and endurance, not to mention some kick-ass arm strength. Just like in yoga, every move has a name -- such as the "Peter Pan Spin" or the "Firefly Spin." Enter "pole dancing" into the search box on You Tube to find these and other examples. Experienced pole dancers, such as USPDF judge and guest performer, Jenyne Butterfly, admittedly have You Tube to thank, in part, for the recent rise in popularity and acceptance of their sport. Butterfly, a pioneer in pole dancing for sport, won the first USPDF Championship, in 2009, and has performed as an aerialist, dancer and actress in the recent movie musical adaptation of "Rock of Ages," as well as on tour with Cirque du Soleil.

Both divisions of the 2012 USPDF Championships featured a compulsory round and an "optional" round. During compulsory rounds, athletes had 90 seconds to perform a routine incorporating both pole and floor work, and were judged based on factors such as flexibility and extension, difficulty of routine, and overall performance. During the optional rounds, judges placed more emphasis on difficulty, and looked for performers to really let their personal style shine with their respective choreography. Many of the women performed the optional rounds barefoot, forgoing customary stilettos.

During the Amateur Division, serious spinning gave way to graceful movements that played out like a ballet. Sarah Jade, owner and lead instructor of Buttercup Pole Dance Fitness Studio in Tampa, Florida, owned the pole with original, challenging moves that kept the audience completely fixated on her, and she won overall second place in the competition. The overall first place winner, who also won the Amateur optional round, was Sergia Louise Anderson. Anderson, an NYU-trained actress when she's not pole dancing, and currently a principal cast member on The Girl Next Door, was captivating and fluid on the pole. She certainly earned her titles, which will be her ticket to the Pro Division next year, should she choose to compete again (performers must place in the Amateur Division before they can enter the competition as a "Pro").

Surprisingly, no Amateur awards went to Los Angeles pole instructor, Jennifer Kim, whose creative routines were sexy, thrilling, and breathtaking. During the compulsory round, Kim emerged in red stilettos, and spun around to a French version of "These Boots are Made for Walking," demonstrating highly difficult combinations that demanded attention.

WGINY was unable to attend the Pro Division competitions, so you'll have to follow USPDF for updates on the final winners of the Championship this year. Keep an eye on these athletes as pole dancers continue to rise up in revolution (pun intended) as aerial performers.

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