Pole competitions can seem like a minefield. There are so many out there, with varying levels of details on their websites. It can feel like an intimidating scene if you are a newcomer to the world of competitive pole. Here at London Dance Academy, we are incredibly proud of our reputation for competition winning teachers and students.
Many students asked us about competitions following London Dance Academy’s recent success stories, so we asked one of our most experienced pole competitions coaches and a recognised professional competitor all your burning questions.
Ayesha Agogo teaches levels 3 to 4, Exotic Tricks, Pole Practice and Poleography at London Dance Academy. She is an experienced competitive poler, winning Pole Theatre UK 2016, placing third at Pole Art UK 2018, and winning the best choreography award at UKPPC 2018.
What are some of the well known pole competitions for instructors?
The best instructor or experienced competition is UKPPC (Ayesha won the 2016 Instructor category, and best choreo in 2018 Pro category). It took a break this year but is coming back next year, and we’re all very excited for its return!
The PSOs are an internationally recognised brand, they are based in America and do them across Europe. London Dance Academy teachers Jackie and Magda really enjoyed the Swiss edition. The Pole Art franchise is also internationally recognised, I did the UK one last year and it was amazing and very well run. Ayesha placed 3rd in the Pro category. London Dance Academy teachers Hannah and Anna also competed in Pole Art France 2018 and spoke highly of it. It’s a good one if you’d like to do one abroad.
Which are best for amateurs and first time competing?
For amateurs I would recommend Pole Theatre Amateur. Stacey Snedden runs it, and I can recommend her competitions to everyone. I’ve had good personal experiences with the Pro version. It will be well run, it will be safe and your money will not be misused. Pole Revolution is another one that we had lots of students do very well in this year. It was very well run, ran to time and everyone was looked after, so it would be a good one to start on. I’ve also known amateurs enjoy the Bristol Pole Championships.
How about exotic pole competitions?
Stacey Snedden also took over Exotic Generation UK and it was great.
Floorplay is a really well run competition, it’s a good one if you like doing exotic floorwork, but you can do almost any style with it, contemporary, chairwork etc. Anything you can do not on the pole.
A good rule of thumb is to look at the organisers: for example, there’s a new one called Eden which is run by Lauren Elise and Dominique Stagg. Those two as polers have a good reputation and are experienced so I would like to think they’ll run a good competition.For amateurs, it’s nice that there’s a showcase category too and it’s focused on dancing more than tricks.
In these kinds of competitions, what do judges typically look for in video submissions?
Each competition will have its own judging criteria, so have a really good look at what’s on the website and email the organisers if you have any questions before entering.
My one tip as a video judge would be to make sure your moves are safe. I don’t want to see people looking like they are struggling in moves on a video. I’d be more inclined to put someone through who executes standard tricks perfectly, over someone who is trying to go for bigger tricks that don’t look safe. Go with moves you feel comfortable with for your pole competition video submission. Whatever you do make sure they are clean and neat first and then just add a bit of extra wow factor: whatever it is that you do really well, try and find a way of putting that in.
What are your tips for video submissions?
I’m guilty of not following my own advice all of the time here, but you should try and give yourself as much time as possible to prepare. Think about your favourite moves that you are already executing really well, and start thinking about the song. There’s no hard and fast rule but I would prefer to have the routine done at least 4 weeks before the video deadline, so you have as much chance to run it as possible and make it look really nice.
How important is the creativity / drama / storytelling aspect for scoring in pole competitions?
It really depends on the competition. For example, London Dance Academy teacher Andrew’s IPSF competition was pole sports, so his emphasis was on tricks, neatness and being really dynamic. If you’re doing something like Pole Theatre, it’ll be a lot more about how you interpret the music, tell a story and sell what you’re presenting. Pole Art is a combination of the two; good tricks that meet your category criteria, but also interpreting the music really well and floorwork and dance. A bit of creativity does help you to stand out in the majority of pole competitions. For me personally, I prefer the artistic side more than the tricks, but getting the balance right is the difficult part.
Where do you draw your inspiration from when it comes to the creative side of pole competitions?
Anything! Sometimes it’s stories: so for my first routine for Pole Theatre semi pro, I looked at the story of Pandora’s Box. It could be a human emotion or experience. I use pole as a form of expression, so I take inspiration from whatever’s going on in my mind or my life. My broken doll routine for Pole Art was about a break up for example. Everyone’s different but I like to get out some kind of emotion.
If you’re not naturally that creative just try to remember some stories that made an impression on you, or even pictures. I use a lot of imagery, art and photography for inspiration. Or you can go more simple with a song you really like and try and interpret that. It doesn’t have to be complicated or deep and meaningful. If you are really struggling you can work with a pole competition coach to help you.
What are your other “steps” and stages when putting a pole routine together?
However I would usually recommend picking a song first, then making a list of moves you enjoy and moves you can do well. I have a lot of moves I enjoy but I feel a bit wobbly with, or moves I do really well but find boring. It’s good to get a mix to make things interesting. Then just start playing around seeing how they fit together. There’s plenty of great videos out there that you can look at for inspiration. I personally really love Phoenix Kazree Sergia Louise Anderson, Sasha Fierce and Marlo Fiskin. When I’m stuck in a rut I go to their videos to motivate me, and help me to remember what I love about pole and why I started. If you’re struggling I really do recommend getting a coach.
How long do you think inexperienced or amateur competitors should give for pole competition prep?
As much as possible. I would say minimum 2 months, but maybe more if you’ve never done it before. You should really give yourself the best possible chance. For example if you entered Pole Theatre UK Amateur which is in February, your routine should be complete by the end of January.
How do you push through the inevitable pain and tiredness during pole competition preparation, and balance this against the risk of injuries?
It’s a really difficult one and because it is inevitable like you say. I still get to the point where I hate my song and wonder why I am doing this to myself, but it’s natural. Everyone feels like it but you will find it is worth it. You really need to listen to your body and rest when you can. Sometimes you need to step back from a move that’s causing you frustration. You could try working on your floorwork and transitions away from the pole, but the key word is rest.
Should you keep up your normal class schedule during competition run up?
No, definitely not. In the early stages of preparation you can. In the immediate run up you need to conserve your energy and your body for getting the routine and moves perfect. You can always do some dancing and stretching classes, but don’t try anything risky. Your body will tell you if you are doing too much! Take a few days off before the competition to ensure you are performing at your strongest, similar to if you were running a marathon.
What tips do you have for the big day itself? How do you stay calm?
Staying calm is difficult for everyone, even after years of competing I still deal with nerves. I stick my headphones on and find somewhere quiet to sit and be still. Everyone has their own way of staying calm. I recommend having a chaperone so you don’t feel lonely or get too into your own head. Sometimes it’s good to have someone completely removed from the pole world to get a sense of perspective!
Just remember that even the most seasoned pros get nervous. You have to find a way to ride the wave of adrenaline and use it to your advantage! Don’t let it overcome you.