Tuesday, November 12, 2013

California Pole Dance Championship - 2013

The fifth annual California Pole Dance Championship was held in Los Angeles, California on November 3, 2013.

As I was down in LA for Comikaze, I decided to extend my stay for one night and go to the competition. 

The competition was slated to be held at Circus Hollywood.  Literally one day before the competition, I started seeing posts on Facebook that the venue had changed (to Arena Hollywood, which is in the same parking lot at least).  Also the time was moved up by an hour and a half or so, which bummed me out since I was supposed to go watch a panel on women and size diversity at Comikaze.  I was also disappointed because I never got an e-mail announcing the time change.  If I hadn't noticed the posts on Facebook, I would never have known.  I found out later, that was because I was not on "the list."  Luckily, I was able to show the door the receipt for my $99 ticket and my reserved seat had been left empty, so there was no harm, no foul.  

My shirt from Poleitical Clothing
It was great to run into Leen Isabel and Danielle of Poleitical Clothing, two of the vendors with tables.  I know there were a couple of other vendors there but I didn't have a chance to stop by the tables.  There was also a photobooth there.  They were asking us to pose with stickers from United Pole Artists, so I hope the photos will be published on their website at some point. 

The Circus nightclub is a much larger venue than Arena.  I felt like the tables were really squashed together in order to get the same number of people into Arena.  The stage was also smaller and there was no awesome sparkly background.  At the same time, watching an event of this magnitude in a smaller venue is kind of cool and makes everyone feel like they have a front row seat.  It appears that the venue was at fault for over-booking.  CPDC was forced to start earlier and literally the minute the show was over, the lights went on and everyone was told to go home so they could set up for the next event.  Considering how many events Anjel has now done with this club, you would think they would have a little more respect for her.  I seriously hope she was given a large refund for this mistake.  Despite all of this, the club was packed and the show went on!  I saw Nadia Sharif (last year's winner) working her booty off as she hustled around the club keeping everything on schedule. 

There was no video allowed at this event so I haven't been able to go back and re-watch performances to give a better reaction.  If you are interested in watching performances, I believe United Pole Artists and MFEO.tv are offering them for 99 cents.  Therefore, I am commenting on this contest only by memory and notes.  My phone also didn't take many great photos because the lighting was whiting everything out. 

Judging this competition: Natasha Wang, Mina Mortezaie, Amy Guion, Flying Laura Martin, Kelly Maglia and Josiah "BadAzz" Grant.   BadAzz started the show off with a reprise of his winning Midwest Prince routine.  And Flying Laura closed the show in the only way she knows how -- with her bad ass flying tricks and spins. 

Neo Division

Neo (amateur) category included: Drusilla Ray, Nancy Ly, Uyen Hoang (took third place in amateur division in 2012), Moana Moon, Tehera Nesfield, Jhasmynne Hider, Candi Vastlik, Venus Manuel, Adrienne Strauss, Heather West and Margarita Evans.  

First off, let me start by saying holy f*cking $hit.  The Neo category was off the hook, and these performers could hardly be called amateur.  I counted at least four performers out of eleven attempting a Fonji.  THESE ARE SUPPOSED TO BE AMATEURS.  I was caught between being ridiculously impressed and slightly frustrated that these are supposed to be the non-professional competitors.  They completely raised the bar for competitions in the pole community.  I still remember when I saw Natasha Wang do a Fonji for the first time and I was like, that is some voodoo magic and I can't believe I just saw her flip on the pole like that!  But that's Natasha-Freaking-Wang.  Now the "beginners" are doing it??  Let me also say that, despite this being a competition, it seemed like some were willing to sacrifice fluidity for the shock of a crazy trick.  There was a lot of slipping out of moves in both categories, which I realize you can't always control, and must be insanely frustrating for the competitors, especially at this level.  But at this level, I did have high expectations for quality routines.  I would like to see cleaner routines, and less dramatic tricks for a more well-rounded performance.  If you are starting with a Fonji, where do you go from there??  I guess maybe a Death Lay into Fonji into Spatchcock, then just dance off stage because no one can beat that with a stick and you win!

Indeed, I felt like the winners did put on well-rounded, and often emotional performances.  Margarita took first (with her cooking-themed routine, which I saw showcased at Pole Expo in Las Vegas; she was also crowned Champion in Level 3/Senior at Pacific Pole Championship earlier this year).   Venus (one of my personal favorite people in general) took second with her very, very emotional routine.  She also won People's Choice Award from Mighty Grip and X-Pole.  Moana placed third.  She also had a very beautiful routine. 

Pro Division

Pro category include: Shelly Lamb, Brandon Rosario, Sasja Lee, Brynn Route, Lily Huang (took first in amateur division in 2012), Stacey Craven (took second place in amateur division in 2012), Drea Roers, Crystal Gibson, Amanda Rose and Katherine Voorhees (not listed on the program).  Side note:  To see other past winners, click HERE

First off, little Amanda Rose sailed on to the pole competition circuit only this year after turning 18.  Keep an eye on her.  She has big things coming.  I believe adding Brandon to the pro line-up is the first step in adding a men's division to future CPDC competitions.  I was also slightly saddened that only one Northern California poler made it into the entire competition.  Congratulations to Shelly Lamb for representing all of Nor Cal.

After such a shocking Neo Division, I wasn't really sure what to expect with the Pros.  Will they dangle from the ceiling and do a death drop while twirling a baton of fire?  Will they have back-up dancers and sing while they pole?  I really didn't know where the Pros could go after what we had already witnessed.  What I believe we ended up getting are the well-rounded, story-driven routines that won for those in Neo Division.  There was, in fact, only one Spatchcock that I counted.  And I believe I stopped counting Fonji's, so I couldn't even tell you if any of the Pros did one!  I will be writing a post after this one about how Fonji is the new Spatchcock (just my personal commentary on where the future of competitive pole might be headed), so check it out. 

Sasja Lee (another one of my favorite people in general) took first place.  She also won Most Athletic.  Amanda Rose took second place with her energetic routine.  She also won Most Artistic and Most Entertaining.  Brynn Route took third, and also won Most Flexible.  Crystal Gibson (another of my favorites) won X-Pole and Glitter Heel's Miss Congeniality award. 

All-in-all, despite the last-minute monkey wrench, this was another fun pole event.  I am really glad I stuck around to watch and thank you to Nadia and Anjel for a great event!

Do you agree with my assessment of the performances?  If you watched any of them, let me know what you thought! 


  1. I definitely agree with you that the skill level of these competitions are getting out of control. When dancers like these are classified as "amateur", there's no wonder the rest of us feel insecure about our own meager abilities.

    I also do think that the change we are really going to see in the future is more and more focus on style/personality/stage presence/musicality in winning routines. When everyone is doing the same crazy tricks, something needs to improve and I really hope that will be the dance. Because there were a couple of routines in the Neo division that were kinda boring to watch, and it weren't the tricks that were lacking.. Right now we are starting to see more character-inspired routines (Sergia, Sam Star & Mary K. come to mind), but I want it to move past that, where a routine can stand on its own as a piece of dance, without fancy costumes and makeup. (Although those are fun too!)

    Overall I'm very impressed with the competition. I can't even imagine having my venue change my plans the day before the event, so I'm glad it all went as well as it did. And there were some killer performers on stage that night!

    And hey, it's not like they could have done a worse job than MTPS.

    1. Well, after discussions on Facebook, and realizing that Olympic athletes are also amateurs, maybe it IS ok that competitors are doing whatever moves they deem appropriate for themselves. I don't know. I'm still debating with myself. I do feel, though, that whatever move someone does feel like they want to perform, they need to make sure they can do it safely and smoothly. There was a lot of sloppiness in this competition. So I feel like people knew the bar was going to be set high so they put in impressive tricks that they had not quite mastered over medium-level tricks that they may have been able to perform flawlessly. Also, unlike other forms of dance, your partner (the pole) is a fickle bitch and you never know when you're not going to stick the way you want to. There was a TON of slippage and clearly missed moves at this competition as well. So it was weird. The performances had crazy tricks that seemed beyond the level of what many should have been performing. But at the same time, so many people were sloppy and slipping, it evened out the craziness of the tricks. Don't get me wrong, I still enjoyed it as well. But it was still weird. Like I was exhilarated from watching things I never thought I'd see, but also slightly disappointed because I was like, that many performers at THIS level should not have been missing so many moves. It was awesome to see people I do really like perform and do well though. I really adore Sasja, Crystal, Venus and Tehera especially. They are always really sweet to me when I see them in person. So it was awesome to see them perform well.