There's always a pole to practice on ... like this one on New York's L-Train
Amber, Miss Poledance NSW
WITH THIS, my third – or is it fourth? – multimedia posting about poledancing, I'm starting to get funny looks at the confessional.
How long can I keep up the line "I only do it for my biceps/triceps, honest" when, with all my gallivanting around Oz for Bike Friday, I've barely had time to shin up the $550 chrome wonder propping up our living room ceiling?
After my first multimedia post about the school, the principals Vanessa and Bobbi gifted my mother and I with two ringside, or should I say, bathtub side tickets, to one of their July Showtime evenings.
Yes, the third 2-hour, champagne-drenched recital by the teachers featured a smoking act involving a couple of plastic shell-shaped bathtubs, ankle deep water, two sea sponges and the reigning Miss Poledance Australia, Candice, and Miss Poledance NSW, Amber. (As a duo, I reckon they should call themselves "CandAmber" – after the "Canned Amber" beer shop in Canberra). For the 90% female audience it was all scrupulously clean fun, their hollering and whooping and shrieking completely overwhelming the two sheepish males in the audience, clearly roped in by sisters/cousins.
The week before, the crowd was more 60/40 gal/guy.
These "recitals" are certainly the most innocuous way to view this "sport"; any men present are clearly bros, pals and paramours of the students, not gramps in gray raincoats.
"There'll be a bit of stripping, so it's a little bit naughty," warned Candice of the recitals, leading my mother and I to surmise there'd be full nudity, and so severely edit the already scant list of friends we felt we could invite.
"Seen one, you seen 'em all," said my mother.
My sister's beau, a good Irish lad, came along at my mother's invitation but had firm plans to get his World Youth Day blessing from the Pope the following day.
There was no nudity, thankfully, and it certainly isn't necessary. Chilli, a STOMP alumna did a sensational burlesque/showgal number using large ostrich feathers that she managed to stay well behind.
Then followed a thigh-slappingly funny ABBA sendup, complete with a bewigged Bjorn and Benny strumming cardboard guitars, and a Frieda and Anna belting out "(Pole)Dancing Queen".
"Is it a proper sport?" asked one of our gal-gaggle.
"Haven't you heard of the Polelympics?" I said.
"Polelympics? Are they going to Bejing?"
Then, semi disaster struck. Candice, for her audience participation act, picked one of our group. Given that there were only two men in the audience, and one stayed pressed into his back row chair, she didn't have much choice. But perhaps a better judgment call would have been to pick one of the young female students, because our forty-something friend found the semi-lapdance very unfunny after a few minutes, and left in tears.
Oh my! It put a momentary dampener on the evening, but the show must go on ...
"She should have picked you," we said to the guy behind us.
"No thank you, I'm having a hard time with this myself," he replied, pressing himself even further into his chair.
We looked across at the other male, pale, perturbed and crossing himself after his participation stint. Certainly a completely different bunch of guys from the week before!
Thinking about it, I doubt many of us have had a sequinned female fanny reading distance from our foreheads, so it's hard to call it an overreaction. Who knows how I might have reacted? Although, I tend to think of it as what baboons and peacocks get away with daily ...
The following week my mother and I were again invited to occupy front row seats of the Miss Poledance NSW finals, at the Dancer's Cabaret in King's Cross. This was a decidedly more edgy environment, without quite the same lightheartedness of the recitals, as this was serious competition. Among the judges was a well-known principal mainstream male dancer. The audience was also augmented by non-students including the twitchy gent in front of us who was forever getting up and down to visit the bar. We were not able to stay long, and a borrowed video camera (after mine busted) failed to pick up enough light, so you'll have to be content with the recital footage above - which showcases the best Bobbi's has to offer, in my opinion.
Again, we were mesmerized by the sheer flexibility and strength of all these performers. With BMX and - inexplicably - beach volleyball now Olympic sports (which should open the floodgates for ultimate frisbee, kite surfing, touch football and extreme macrame in 2012) I suspect it's only a matter of time before poledancing takes its place beside the floor, horse and uneven bar routines - with music that doesn't remind you of your 3th grade piano syllabus and a stroppy teacher to match.
And we appreciated the originality. I'm going to be howled down here for sure, but the other day, I saw Circ du Soleil's "Dralion". Though technically flawless with some amazing super humanity, there wasn't the same freshness or surrealism it was once famous for; it was more like Chinese acrobatics meets ballet meets world music. The clowning was fairly unremarkable and mainstream, as a lot of clowning seems to be - they could learn a lot from Slava's Showshow . It didn't come close to the edginess of Philippe Genty or Circus Oz as I remember it twenty years ago; in fact, I had a Star Wars Episode One experience during the show - I fell asleep for 15 minutes. With their Abba skit and some subtle moves that had the audience shrieking with mirth, Bobbi's is a breath of fresh air in its genre. It knows how to smile at itself, and we have to applaud anyone who doesn't let their edge get dull or fall into that corporate mainstream quagmire.
So how did my mother like the show, she, at 70, being the most senior citizen present?
"I'm afraid a wet sponge doesn't do it for me," she said. "Needed more bubbles in that bath. More bubbles!"
Bobbi's Pole Studio Website
More Galfromdownunder on Poledancing
Ride 'em, cowgals!
One of the few shots that worked on competition night. Now you can't say this ain't good for your biceps, triceps, abs ... not to mention your shrinking forty something ego!