Another Missing Puzzle Piece
The last time we talked about pole dance industry standards, we discussed the judging and scoring of competitions. The article was titled “Where’s The Standards” and can be found by clicking here. Fresh from a pole competition in New York in February, this journalist wrote a commentary on what could have been construed as misconduct on the part of the organizers: score sheets were added up incorrectly, what seemed like favoritism by the organizers, etc. Unfortunately, because there is no single governing body that sets and enforces guidelines, this sort of “Wild West” environment often permeates pole dance competition arenas. Just as there are wide discrepancies in the judging and scoring of competitions, however, there are also big differences in the physical staging and setup of competitions. In this article we examine some of the problems we have observed. Case 1: Pole Vixen Los Angeles 2010 Inexperienced competition organizers found a beautiful property at which to hold their event. However, the stage was too small and only accommodated a single pole. Between the height of the pole and its semi-permanent state, it had to remain static (set to “not spin”). The competitors were not alerted of these conditions until a few hours before show time. Case 2: Pole Vixen Atlanta 2011 A competitor was forced to end her performance early due to the pole becoming unsecured at the ceiling. The base of the pole had been (temporarily) bolted to a plate in the floor. As the pole fell, the base was ripped out as well. Case 3: Pole Dancing Universe 2011 The poles were too short for the truss that had been set up. As a result, blocks of wood were placed in between the ends of the pole and the base. This caused the spinning mechanisms to malfunction and impacted the performances of several competitors. Case 4: California Pole Dance Championship 2011 The venue had not been properly assessed to ensure that the stage area would hold the poles. It turns out both the ceiling and floor was too soft to hold the poles in place securely. This would present a real danger for the performers. With just hours before show time, temporary pole stages had to be brought in. But temporary stages have legs and are above the floor, which changes how a dancer moves around the poles. So, while this may have seemed like a good solution, it created chaos for the organizers and performers who were forced to change routines they had practiced for over a month. We could go on, but you get the picture: the lack of standard stage and setup practices causes unnecessary stress on organizers and performers, but more importantly, a real danger for the performers. There are organizers that have been getting the stages right, and that was the East Meets West (EMW) competitions held in 2009, and the Southern Regional Pole Dance Competitions (SRPDC), held by Moses Carroll. These stages were set they way they told their performers they would be, which is extremely important. The ultimate goal is to get every competition on the same page as far as equipment and floor space is concerned. SRPDC’s have 50mm poles, EMW had 45mm poles. Shouldn’t our competition poles be one standard size? What about the distance between the poles themselves? In Miss Australia, the poles look like they are really far apart, where at USPDF, they looked like a smaller distance apart. So which is it? Shouldn’t we have stages where the distance between poles and distance outside the poles on all four sides are always the same? Here are some things that should be taken into consideration when regarding stage standards: Height of poles (Minimum and Maximum) Circumference of poles Material of poles (not stainless steel) Distance between poles Distance to the front, sides and back of pole to stage edge (Minimum and Maximum) Type of floor on the stage (smooth but not slippery or carpet) Secure, permanent poles (set on a truss system) Stage left pole, stage right pole, one should always have a spinning setting and one always have a static settings for all competitions. For pole competitions, the most important thing is the pole and the stage. Dissatisfied competitors talk about these issues after particular events. In most cases, they realize it’s not the fault of just one person, and that situations could be rectified with attention payed and action taken. It’s time for these things to be heard out loud, and not just behind the scenes. Besides the obvious problems of last-minute fixes that the current state of affairs causes, there is the bigger picture issue: bringing the pole dance industry mainstream in order to continue growth. Whether pole dancing ever becomes an Olympic sport or not, participation in the art form is currently growing, with more people (women and men) starting every day. If that is to continue, we must look at our faults and do what we can to address them, and creating standards should be the first step in that direction. Whether it’s guidelines for judging or protocols for staging, the lack of standards creates performer dissatisfaction, lower audience turnout and less sponsor support. This is where you come in, Pole’r Bears: we want your feedback. Tell us your thoughts about industry standardization. Are you happy with the way things are currently being done? Tell us about your best and worst experiences. Who held the best event and what made it so satisfying? 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