Don’t pull your costume out of your bum – and other lessons from a first-time pole competitor

I have never been great at competing… I suffer badly from performance anxiety in competition and test environments. I remember back at school deliberately missing days we had to do presentations or orals, and I developed some serious ninja skills to get out of doing them at all. So it comes as no surprise, to me, that I have avoided competing in pole dancing for as many years as I possibly could.

This may seem unexpected to those who know me now considering my Burlesque stage persona and willingness to be on stage as Scar-lit Hearts… but performing always seemed worlds apart from competing to me.

Then they announced The Pole Factor.  

The Pole Factor promised to be a competition judged more on performance and showmanship than just big tricks… And being based in Cape town seemed like a perfect opportunity to start my Pole competition journey.

So my mind was made up and all I needed was the entry video… And boy, did I underestimate how difficult that would be. After many tears, about 13 takes on two separate occasions and many Magnum Almonds (irritated pole dancers like chocolate & food), mostly supplied by my fiancé to calm me down, I finally sent in my video for the amateur provocateur division.

It took a lot of training and focus to get to competition day – and no Magnums, which definitely was challenging. Once I arrived I was blown away with how supportive all the competitors were of one another. This may come from most being teachers and more inclined to build people up, and it was incredible to be around some of South Africa’s top professional pole dancers.

I went out, started my routine, got to my skirt peel, and…

nothing

… I blanked the whole beginning of my routine. Somehow I managed to perform it, didn’t stop, and I was able to improvise. I was pretty devastated at the end, but I learnt a lot more than I would have had I won.

So what were these great lessons..?

No1. Don’t pull your costume out of your bum… No matter how far it’s wedged itself.

No2. My bum eats all shorts/panties. All of them.

No3. Don’t sing along to your track… No matter how nervous you are.

No4. Even if you mess up, walk off stage like you owned it.

No5. Enter to win it… because otherwise when you realise you actually want to win, it will be too late.

No6. The pole community absolutely and unequivocally ROCKS

Next year I’m entering again… Probably in a g-string…. 😉

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On Burlesque

I will admit I never got into burlesque as a means of female empowerment or to express my feminine power to others. There was no great in depth analysis as to what drew me to it or the freedom I felt when on stage. I do it because I love it and I have learnt that there is nothing stronger than somebody (male or female) who loves what they do.

All that said however as a burlesque performer for the last six years I often find myself trying to explain why burlesque is in fact empowering to women ( strange how  the question is not why it is empowering to performers as there are male performers too). Burlesque’s strength, what I view as its ability to empower, is that the burlesque performer represents people who have broken free from body issues even if for just 10 minutes on stage.

Burlesque opens a window to view a world where sensuality is not seedy but a beautiful strength. That it is not linked to a partner or dependant on them and that beauty is not restricted to the tight constraints of a societal formula. It is through this window that burlesque has the ability to not only empower its performers but its audience members. While the performers on stage celebrate their varying female/male forms through creative self expression the audience members, especially the female ones, seem to feed off the confidence and freedom expressed on stage.

I feel truly lucky to be a part of this amazing community, surrounded by beautiful, amazing people who are constantly pushing their edge. I hope that more people get a taste of the mesmerising expression we call Burlesque.