You arrive at the theatre through a drizzle of rain, the kind that is typical of Vancouver this time
of year. It is early, and the sun is barely up behind the blanket of grey clouds. Yet no rain or
ungodly hour can dampen the energy found within the theatre walls. It is the Canada West Pole
Dance Championships: your first pole competition.
In the foyer competitors are already lined up to sign in, nursing Starbucks coffees and nibbling
at breakfast sandwiches. Some already have their stage makeup on; glitter and fluffy eyelashes
contrasting against their sweat pants and raincoats. Beyond the lineup, you see more pole
dancers, along with boyfriends, sisters, best friends and makeup artists. Some are chatting
easily with friends and studio mates, comparing how few hours of sleep they had or how far they
travelled to be there. Others have already unrolled yoga mats, and are moving through
stretches with their headphones on. Still, others stand quietly by themselves, finding quietude
amidst the excitement.
You have never seen so many pole dancers congregate in one place! All around connections
are being made: Instagram acquaintances finally meet in person, old friendships are rekindled,
and new friends are introduced. You spot your studio’s other competitors nearby, along with a
small entourage of friends and family. The studio owner himself is there, eager to cheer his
Before long you follow the crowd into the backstage area. The green rooms are soon piled with
duffle bags, yoga mats and pleasers, and compliments start to fly as costumes are revealed.
Pole testing is underway on the stage, and all around you pole dancers are chatting amicably
about their shared passion. The sense of camaraderie has a soothing effect on your nerves as it
becomes clear that you are not alone. Any of the struggles you felt while preparing for this
competition: the minor injuries, the difficulties choreographing, the agonizing over costumes; all
part of this shared experience.
Bodies fill the theatre seats as the competition gets underway. Your force yourself to eat at your
friend’s urging; “Never go on stage on an empty stomach!” The MC’s voice and the applause
from the audience filter through the curtains as one by one competitors have their moment on
stage. Nerves and excitement leapfrog one another as you slither out of your sweatpants and
admire your costume in the mirror.
Before long, the backstage monitor is rounding people up for your category. Rolling and
shrugging your shoulders, you grip up: Tite Grip for the hands and Dew Point for the body. You
recall the advice from your instructor about calming nerves: deep breathes, long body lines.
Your name is announced by the MC, and the stage monitor smiles and nods. Your feet carry
you out onto the stage, into the bright warmth of the stage lights…
Backstage once again, you are breathless and elated as a special kind of pride seeps through
you. You join your friends in the audience and take in the rest of the competition, feeling nothing
short of inspired as songs, costumes and concepts dance through your mind. Is this what the
performance bug feels like? There is a short break as the competition comes to a close, while
the organizers prepare for the award ceremony. In your mind, the placements are
inconsequential: you don’t need to know the results to know you will compete again.
Later that evening the mood is high as your studio celebrates at a posh pizzeria. “This is the
best part!” your instructor had promised. “The post-competition meal!” The conversation is lively
and drifts between recounting the competition, talking about training, and stories that have
nothing to do with pole at all. But you find yourself distracted. You open your phone, and type in
the search bar: ‘pole dance competitions, 2020’…