Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Fonji is the new Spatchcock

Today I wrote about California Pole Dance Championship's fifth annual competition, which was held a little over a week ago.  I realized as I was watching that I was witnessing the bar being raised to a ridiculous level in competitive pole dancing. 

I attended CPDC in 2011.  It was the first major live pole performance I had ever attended.  I was still fairly new to pole dance and was star-struck at every turn.  I had seen routines on YouTube and had pretty much pegged the Spatchcock as THE finishing move.  If you had the flexibility, the Spatchcock would show up at some point in your routine, generally at the end.  I feel like there are few graceful ways to get out of that move anyway so "the end" works.  Another "must-have" was the Jade Split.  I believe named for Jamilla Deville, this is the beautiful split while you're upside down on the pole, which shows you have no nerve endings left in your hip and tons of flexibility.   
This is about as advanced as I get

Enter the Fonji.  I first saw Natasha Wang do the Fonji through a Facebook video about two years ago (although a YouTube video shows her learning it from Timber and Steve about a year prior to that).  If you don't know what the Fonji is, HERE is a video of Natasha doing the Fonji to reverse Fonji combo.  Primarily a circus or Chinese pole move, advanced moves like the Fonji are quickly spreading into competitive pole routines.  You can see Skittles' tutorial on the Fonji HERE.  Although she believes the move is not as difficult or dangerous as it looks, I still consider it an advanced move. 

So imagine my surprise at the competition last week to find FOUR of the eleven competitors in CPDC's Neo category attempted the Fonji!  These are the amateur competitors!  Sure, they have to dance very well to get to this level of competition, but they are still not at Pro level.  And many did not finish the move cleanly, which means they are in danger of injuring themselves.  What is going on here?  

Where is competitive pole going?  So many competitors aren't just pole dancing.  They are taking contortion and acrobatic classes.  They are adding in Chinese pole and circus tricks.  Why bother with a simple (but beautiful) Allegra when you can do a drop from 20 feet up? 

Although I was impressed with the athleticism of all of the competitors, I was extremely happy that the winning routines were well-rounded with tricks AND spins.  And also happy that many had an interesting story to tell, rather than "just" being a dance.  I know I'm not one to judge since I can't do ANY of those high-level moves.  I just hope that competitors are not risking their safety and the integrity of their routines for the cheap thrill of a trick that has not yet been perfected.  

I am curious to hear what everyone else thinks about this subject.  Where do you think competitive pole dancing is headed?  Are there tricks that used to be common place that you aren't seeing anymore?  Which tricks do you think need to go and which do you wish would come back? 


  1. I agree about making sure you can do the move safely and cleanly first, but I push back at the idea of there being something wrong with doing this stuff in routines. When you've nailed a really hard move, why wouldn't you show it off in a competition or showcase? I also think the constantly evolving tricks and combinations make pole more interesting.

    1. I don't want people to think it's wrong necessarily but it is just surprising (I guess is the right word) that the amateurs are doing essentially the same tricks as the pros. Although I sat and thought about it (and discussed this with many people on Facebook) and I consider Olympic athletes to essentially be as strong or amazing as pro athletes, and they are amateurs. They train as hard, if not harder, than pros. So maybe I need to re-adjust my thinking of what "amateur" means.

  2. Like you I was a little starstruck by the athletic style at first. I really took my time easing into pole. The first competition I ever attended was last year, and I was only there for the amateur division. I'm glad, because had I seen the intense stuff competitors are doing now, I probably would have been too intimidated to pole!

    Pole is moving more towards a show of athletic mastery I think. I do notice that there is a bit of tricking out going on, but I also don't feel there is a right or wrong way to pole. Everyone has a different style. I appreciate power moves like the fongi because they show athleticism, but I don’t feel it’s a “pretty” move like the spatchcock. I think it depends on who is doing it and what their body can do. I have to remind myself that just because someone is strong enough to do the fongi does not mean they are better than me or anyone else, just different. The person next to them may be able to get into a spatchcock, but doesn’t have a lot speed or power. Some people have good transitions and flow, some people are great on spin… but I guess competitions are to recognize the people that master most of those categories. Maybe the question we should ask ourselves is, are we too focused on one aspect of pole to see the big picture?

    It makes me wonder, where is all of the sexy going? I mean, we have to be honest, the pole is here because of the exposure it got from stripclubs. Yes, there are many polers who practice the acrobatic style now, but how many of them actually started their pole careers there? Of all the polers I have met only 1 took her first class in the acrobatic style, and does not proclaim herself not to be a dancer but an aerial circus performer.

    Sometimes I wonder if we’ve become ashamed of the sexy side of the pole now that there is more exposure to the acrobatic style. I went to a competition a few months ago, and one of the competitors had mentioned that she was “moving away from that,” as in, the sexy side of pole, almost to say as if she had matured beyond that. Sometimes I worry that in the future pole will become so acrobatic that people will look back on the sexy style and treat it as if it were a novelty.

    1. Right, so now you've touched on a completely different subject. Why does the "sexy" have to come out of pole for the mainstream audiences to accept it? One of my favorite routines at CPDC was by Stacey Craven. She looks and moves a lot like Alethea Austin. She had also performed at Pole Expo. Very sexy and I really enjoy her performances! Also, Adrienne Strauss competed. She is from BeSpun and her style is a lot like Leigh Ann. VERY sexy and hot. I liked her routine as well. So, for me, I do enjoy the sexy performances a lot. But they do seem to be few and far between these days. I think the split is starting to happen where maybe the competitions will have the sportier/less sexy performances and maybe some of the showcases will (hopefully) retain the sensual dance.

  3. oh, tricks that have disappeared: the sundial spin. Can't remember the last time I saw that one. I did that one in a class like a year ago, and someone was like, that is so OLD. o_O

    Tricks I am tired of seeing: the Remi.