Monday, July 2, 2012

Vertical Art and Fitness Magazine - Issue 4

Last September, I attended the California Pole Dance Championship in Los Angeles.  After I got home, I received an offer from Claire Sterrett, editor of Vertical Art and Fitness Magazine to write about my experience!  I was very, very excited, as this was my first opportunity to be part of a published magazine (as most of you know, print media is going to be a thing of the past soon).

As it was my first article, I didn't fully understand what was expected of me.  I was supposed to write a 500 word wrap-up.  Instead I initially wrote a small piece on every single dancer.  A little over-kill.  Whoops.  My bad.  I cut it down and decided that after it was published, I would post my entire original article in my blog.  

The magazine was published in early 2012.  The cover was graced by the beautiful Zoraya Judd.  I was waiting to post my piece after the online version posted to their website.  However, there were some timing issues due to a partnership with Barnes and Noble and there were some issues with the online version of this issue of the magazine not posting to their website.  I noticed Issue 5 is about to be released.  So I guess, nine months after the competition, it is time to share my entire article since I put four or five hours into re-watching the performances and writing this up.

I want to thank Claire for giving me the opportunity to be involved with Vertical.  I am so, so excited to be part of the family!

California Pole Dance Championship
Submitted to Vertical Arts & Fitness Magazine -- November 1, 2011
By Lori Myers

                The third annual California Pole Dance Championship was held on Sunday, September 25, 2011 at The Highlands in Hollywood, California.  Featured performers included Natasha Wang and Alethea Austin.  Judges Jenyne Butterfly, Becca Butcher and Timber Brown also performed.  My good friend, Rita Pearson, also from Twirly Girls, attended with me.
                The competition, presented by Anjel Dust Productions, hit a small speed bump only days before the competition, as posts on Facebook pointed to problems with the poles.  X-Pole saved the day and portable X-Stages were brought in as replacements.   However, the change in poles lead to Amber Kittle (winner of the 2009 competition) having to drop out. 
The competitors for 2011 were Amy Guion, Faith Daniels, Flying Laura Martin, Jennifer Kim, Katherine Voorhees, Mary Ashton, Michula Nunez, Nadia Sharif, Nicole Williams, Phoenix Kazree, and Rhiannan Nichole. 
                The Highlands nightclub is located in the heart of Hollywood, near the famed Kodak Theater and Mann’s Chinese Theater.  The Hollywood Walk of Fame meanders past the entrance to the Hollywood and Highland Center, where the club is housed.  I imagine celebrity sightings are common, and indeed a special event was in progress with a stage, tents and lots of security to keep unwelcome guests out.  We saw many people dressed to impress.  The Highlands is located on the fourth floor of the center and we had a beautiful view of the sunset and Hollywood Boulevard as we waited for the doors to open.  We were in line behind Kelly Yvonne from the Choreography House and the Girl Next Door – A Pole Dance Soirée.  Kelly was the choreographer for three competitors that night – including Nadia Sharif and Jennifer Kim.
                Once inside, we found our seats, and then wandered to the back of the club to visit the vendors.  We shopped at booths with clothing and shoes, accessories, pole dance studios, and, of course, we visited the Vertical Booth where we met Editor-in-Chief, Claire Griffin Sterrett, and picked up our subscription to the magazine!  We perused our program and saw that Kelly Maglia was clearly the costume designer du jour, as Natasha Wang, Amy Guion, Nadia Sharif, Flying Laura, Jennifer Kim and Michula Nunez were all sporting the line.  Major sponsors of the event included X-Pole, United Pole Artists, Aerial Pole Artist, Mighty Grip and Honey’s Artistic Pot.
                The competition opened with a featured performance by judge Jenyne Butterfly.  One thing I love about Jenyne is how she reinvents herself for each performance.  She performed to The Beatles’ Come Together, and she did not disappoint, as she performed her signature move – the Iguana Walk – down the pole. 
Next up was featured performer, Alethea Austin, who was nursing an injury, and performed a sultry chair dance.  She proved that you don’t need a pole to showcase flexibility and sensuality.  Alethea is so beautiful and sexy.  She moves so slowly and smoothly – she is the definition of liquid pole (or chair) dance. 
                The first competitor of the evening was Jennifer Kim, who performed as a beautiful Geisha.  She removed a piece of her costume in the middle of her routine while sitting cross-legged on the pole.  It takes so much strength to move that slowly while essentially floating in the air.  Jennifer ended her routine in the hip-hold splits, which is always impressive!  Jennifer is an instructor at BeSpun and The Choreography House.  She is also a regular dancer in Girl Next Door – A Pole Dance Soirée.
                Amy Guion was up next.  Amy manages BeSpun in Hollywood and is also a regular in Girl Next Door.  I had met her the day before while taking a class at BeSpun, so I have to admit I was rooting for her.  Amy did not disappoint either.  Her costume and routine had a dominatrix-feel with black patent leather and a red velvet rope.  There were points in the routine where she was only attached to the pole by that tiny little rope.  I loved her choice in music as well – a bit of a chaotic dubstep song.  She shared third place with Mary Ashton.
                Faith Daniels, a former ballerina, Mika yoga wear model and USPDF pro, followed.  Faith sported a bondage theme, and is rocking an amazing body.  She performed to the Kings of Leon song, Closer, and her routine was very slow and calculated.  I thought it was very powerful. 
                The next competitor also teaches at The Choreography House and dances with the Girl Next Door show.  She has participated in many pole dance competitions around the world.  Her routine included a chair and had a burlesque feel to it.  She often looked like a parallel bar gymnast – it’s just that her bar was vertical.  It was pretty amazing to watch.
                Rhiannan Nichole, who owns Premier Pole, performed in a soft white and flowing costume.  I read later on Facebook that the pole issues possibly affected her routine and she was disappointed with her performance.  It seemed like a very personal dance and I thought Rhiannan looked lovely. 
                Mary Ashton performed next.  She competed previously in the 2010 Tri-Pole Challenge.  Her performance was very emotional and beautiful.  I really felt like it told a story.  Mary shared third place with Amy Guion.
                Michula Nunez, who owns Antix Fitness Studio, is a founding member of the East Meets West events.  She probably had the most muscular body of all the competitors, but was extremely flexible and had a very athletic routine.  I really loved her song choice – a female covering the Stone Temple Pilots’ Creep.  I’m a down and dirty rock girl at heart so this was my favorite song of the night.    
                Nadia Sharif, a resident of The Choreography House and Girl Next Door, was a clear crowd favorite – causing the entire club to erupt in cheers and applause throughout her performance.  She rocked a school girl outfit and I felt like she had the most theatrical routine.  Nadia took second place, as well as most artistic and (a well-deserved) most entertaining.
                Katherine Voorhees was voted into the competition by the pole-loving public.  She has participated in an East Meets West event and Girl Next Door; however this was Katherine’s first competition.  Her costume was gangster-esque and she started her routine wearing a fedora.  She certainly catered to this rock-loving girl by performing to a Led Zeppelin song.  Katherine won most flexible in the competition, due in part, I’m sure, to the spatchcock she nailed near the end of her performance.
                Flying Laura Martin is an aerial artist who performs full time in San Diego.  She represents X-Pole and Bad Kitty Exotic Wear.  Laura looks so tiny on stage, and reminded me of a wood nymph.  She performed to one of my all-time-favorite bands:  Tool!  Known for her flying transitions, there were definitely a couple of times I was concerned Laura was going to fly off the pole.  She never lost control, though!  Flying Laura was voted most athletic. 
                Phoenix Kazree has competed all over the world and was the ultimate champion of the evening.  When her music stopped half way through her performance, she did not bat an eyelash, and finished as if the music had never ended.  Even without music to use as a reference, the lines her body created were beautiful and her strength was obvious.  The audience was extremely supportive of Phoenix and they cheered and clapped to fill the void left by the silenced music.  It was actually very touching. 
                Nicole Williams was the final competitor of the night.  She owns Allure Dance & Fitness Studio and has performed in competitions and showcases all over the world.  Nicole’s performance started out slow and beautiful.  However, in a surprise ending, the song changed, her flowing skirt was ripped off, and Nicole demonstrated how to really pop the booty.  It was completely unexpected and I loved it.
                The evening was rounded out with performances by judges Becca Butcher and Timber Brown, and featured performer, Natasha Wang. 
I had never seen Becca perform live before but remembered her from the Dew Point promotional video.  She has a beautiful body, stunning moves and I am a sucker for a performer in white – maybe because I know I can’t trust myself in white because I would spill something.  Plus, I love her dreads. 
Timber gave us a very dramatic sampling of his skills.  Less traditional pole dance and more acrobatic Chinese pole, Anjel Dust called it “just playing around” for Timber.  He is so strong and pulled off some jaw dropping moves.  There was one point that I thought he was going to pull the X-Stage over on himself!  It was an amazing off-the-cuff performance and I am looking forward to seeing him again.
Natasha’s performance was an industrial-influenced piece, complete with a back-lit fan that made me feel like I was in a warehouse watching a secret fight club-style pole competition.  I must admit my bias here – Natasha is one of my favorite pole performers.  She is very down-to-earth and makes her fans feel like friends.  Her performances always convey so much of her emotion, and she is so strong and flexible.  I always feel lucky when I get to see Natasha perform live. 
                Although there seemed to be small issues with the poles, the competition starting late and some early videography issues, the competition as a whole was a fantastic experience.  Although I had been to a professional show once before, this was the first competition I had ever attended.  I realize that the purpose of a competition is to crown a champion, but I would like to applaud all of the competitors and performers for entertaining me and keeping me in my seat with my eyes glued to the stage for two full hours.  Merely being performers of that caliber made them all champions in my eyes.
If you are interested in the published version of this article, please check out the Vertical website and order a copy today!


  1. Loved the article! I'm glad I got to read the whole thing. Why would Amber Kittle have to drop out due to the poles?

    1. Amber does those super fast, jaw-dropping tricks. She requires a full rigging and pole. Stage poles didn't work for her. :-(