by Alessandra Izzo
2016 has been a bumpy ride for many of us. But this year has seen all manner of triumphs, tribulations, hostility and hilarity. It’s time to relive some of the most memorable moments in our pole world from this year!
11. Chilli Rox won her first sash and life got better for all of us
Our beloved national icon Chilli Rox has been part of all of our pole journeys, from the moment we were initiated into pole competitions. She has emceed practically every competition on the Aussie circuit, most notably the Miss Pole Dance Australia series, since 2007. If you haven’t seen Chilli live, most likely you’ve never been to a pole comp and if you aren’t supporting our local talent then we need to talk. But leave that for another time.
So in late July, Chilli competed in Pole Theatre Pro (Comedy division) and won her first sash. It should be noted this was a shared win with Coco – so applause and all that for her gorgeous and talented partner, but Chilli’s win became the gift that kept on giving. Her relationship with “Sashie” has become the stuff of legend. Chilli paraded Sashie around every stage she has since emceed (we believe it has been a record number this year) in various states of undress (who can forget the nude appearance on the MPDA stage when she flashed her “jootz” at an unsuspecting audience member).
We’ve seen videos of her receiving complimentary drinks in shops because of Sashie, we’ve heard wild rumours of a sash-on-sash love fest with Chris Talbot, and we’ve had a gazillion sashie selfies that have continued to warm the cockles of our hearts… Over, and over again!
10. Shimmy creates unapologetically feminist performance, pole dancers everywhere go nuts
Michelle Shimmy is one hell of a businesswoman. She’s smart, successful and isn’t afraid to be outspoken. It’s no wonder she is one of our most respected role models. When she steps on stage, people take notice – but at Miss Pole Dance Australia she vindicated the feelings of so many of us that it created one of the biggest synchronised air punches for 2016.
To summarize, Shimmy has for many years been unapologetically exotic in her performance style. And because of this she has borne the brunt of many haters, trolls, pearl clutchers and Judgey McJudges – so many people who felt it was their place to loudly express why her chosen dance style is disagreeable to them. Her MPDA piece was a forceful push-back on all the shit that’s been thrown at her, a big “FU all imma gonna do what I please because it’s my body, my choice”. She gave a voice to so many of us who have felt demeaned and belittled because we do something we love. It was a powerful moment for pole dancers everywhere!
If you didn’t manage to see the performance, it is currently available for download at
9. Kristy Sellars creates landmark routine with interactive projection
Kristy Sellars is known for creating stand-out routines. But this creation took it to a whole new level. Kristy, in conjunction with graphic artists Ryan Talbot, re-imagined a projected dance piece that Ryan had previously created with choreographer Andrea Taylor for a grounded dance routine.
Together, Kristy and Ryan worked to re-create the piece using the added aerial dimension, and debuted it at Pole Theatre Sydney in July. At the time, it was not without some controversy, but regardless of this it was genuinely a ground-breaking routine in the pole world.
Interestingly, not even a month later Meri Burgess performed an interactive projection piece in Pole Theatre USA. Obviously neither artist could have known about the others’ plans beforehand, and both must have simultaneously been working on their pieces for months or possibly over a year prior. But it was a striking co-incidence that both pieces debuted so closely to one another using the same medium. It has opened the door for all sorts of future creations!
8. The Mannequin Challenge hit pole studios and the internet lost its shit
Apparently a movement started by teenagers in the USA (makes sense), this seemingly nonsensical viral challenge grew legs and did a Usain Bolt. Like a runaway freight train within a month this craze had infected the world, and along the way picked up all manner of celebrities, sportspeople and even politicians.
The pole community got swept up in the proceedings after a video filmed at Pole Dance 411 showing around fifteen polers all doing the #mannequinchallenge (most of them aerial) got picked up by news outlets across the globe. Soon it seemed like every second pole studio had filmed their own version of the mannequin challenge – and thousands of us got to try out our skills at staying perfectly still while holding a pole move!
7. Miss Filly wins Miss Pole Dance Australia title for second time, makes history
When Miss Filly won the MPDA 2015 title, it was an historic win. It was the first time the title had gone to a non-Bobbi’s pole dancer. This year she made history again, being just the third person ever to take the title more than once – and the only non-Bobbi’s poler to have achieved it (watch out, we’re pretty sure Carlie will be hot on her heels next year!).
Filly’s flawless routine left the entire audience holding their collective breath and her win was well deserved. This girl is absolutely on fire, and we are so proud to have her as our MPDA queen for 2017!
6. Cleo does pole routine in her third trimester, muggle world goes into meltdown
Cleo the Hurricane is accustomed to making a lot of noise. The fierce and flexy two-time former MPDA winner has built an empire off her ability to wow an audience. But late into her pregnancy she decided she wanted to relive feeling “sexy” instead of just feeling “pregnant”. So she donned a pair of Pleasers and shimmied around the pole with all the requisite sass we know and love.
Nek minnit, she was picked up by Buzzfeed, Cosmo, The Daily Mail and The Mirror amongst other outlets and her pregnant poling was flooding everyone’s newsfeeds, getting a surprising level of support from the muggle world. Naturally the haters were there, but overall the coverage was positive – a nice change from the past where any kind of controversy involving pole dancing was met with a barrage of negativity.
5. Pole falls at Vertical Limits competition, puts safety in the spotlight
The shocking footage of a pole falling down in the middle of a routine at the Vertical Limits competition was enough to make every pole dancer sick to the stomach. One thing is certain, it scared the bejeezus out of competition organisers and pole manufacturers alike. Every single person who saw it must have thought the same thing: how the hell could this happen in 2016?
As a silver lining, it would appear that everyone has since pulled up their socks and all the right questions are now being asked. However, refer to the official statement from X POLE Australia to clarify any questions you may have. We also recommend if you are entering a pub competition next year to please educate yourself as to the risks and requirements for safety. Ask the right questions. If you don’t know what to ask, you can contact X-POLE Australia to discuss with them what information you should request from the comp organisers in order to assess any possible risks.
4. Adam Lin breaks ankle performing at Pole Dance Championships, still places first
If you didn’t already think Adam Lin was invincible, this mind-blowing feat must have clinched it! Our favourite adopted son, master of stage and twice crowned Mr Pole Dance, took his electric presence to compete at the inaugural Pole Dance Championships, Prague in February.
Unbelievably, during an ill-fated flip Adam hurt himself early in his performance yet continued to power through the next couple of minutes fearlessly and flawlessly. He took out a well-deserved win, and it wasn’t until afterwards that the world discovered he had performed the majority of his routine on a busted ankle!
3. Jason Lam has shocking aerial accident, pole community pulls together to crowdfund rehabilitation
Many of us didn’t know Jason personally before his accident, however his story touched all of us. On May 5th he suffered a terrible fall and was forced to undergo neck and spinal surgery to save his life. He woke up paralysed from the chest down.
His friends in the circus and pole communities stepped up instantly to ensure he could afford the best possible rehab treatment, and over 1,300 people have since donated to raise $80,000 for Jason. This was a silver lining to an horrific situation, however Jason is a trooper and his rehab is coming along in leaps and bounds.
Donations are still possible via the GoFundMe page if you would like to get behind Jason – even a small donation makes a huge difference in knowing there are people out here who care for him!
2. Kirstie Tancock dances her story at Pole Theatre UK, loses battle with Cystic Fibrosis
Kirstie Tancock had featured in a BBC documentary “Love on the Transplant List” and become the face for organ donation in the UK before she tragically lost her life at 27 years old to Cystic Fibrosis on December 1st.
Many of us became aware of Kirstie’s story this year as she blogged about her battle and her double lung transplant which gifted her a few more years of life before her body rejected the organs late this year. Her doctors advised that she was too sick to undergo a third organ transplant.
However, she still managed to put together a performance telling her story for the Drama Semi-Pro division of Pole Theatre UK earlier this year. The gut-wrenching performance really shows how incredibly strong spirited Kirstie was, and she will remain an inspiration to so many of us who can only imagine what an emotional and physical strain it must have been to persist with her passion for pole teaching and performing, despite her chronic weakened condition.
Our thoughts go out to her husband Stuart and mother Lyn who must still be processing their devastating loss.
The Great Feminist War of 2016: Radical feminists declare pole dancing perpetuates sexism, cue shock and outrage
The war began in Canada, of all places. An organisation claiming to protect abused women made a huge song and dance about pole dancing being part of a Take Back the Night rally, removing support for said rally. They then created a meme suggesting pole dance “normalises violence against women” using an image of Marlo Fisken instructing a class to demonstrate their point. The pole community understandably went into meltdown.
Seeing this uproar, one radical feminist decided to troll the community, writing a blog piece about how pole dancing perpetuates sexism. It was particularly galling for pole dancing feminists to read that misinformed, condescending drivel – however most of us took the bait and sent this radical feminists web stats through the roof.
Fortunately, some voices of reason piped up and managed to quell the explosive tide of outrage, and eventually we all realised there was no point giving air to the haters and we resumed life as wondrous unicorns in our magical world once again.
We would like to make special mention to a few noteworthy incidents that didn’t make the list, but nonetheless added to the monsoon of melodrama that was 2016 in the pole community:
- Katy Eve started the “Love Your Pole” challenge, which went viral worldwide and led to a flood of pole reminiscing, our favourite instalments being from the likes of our Issue 9 coverboy, photographer Brad Edwards
- We were gifted a wonderfully detailed memoir of the sexual misadventures of T-Mac & Filly
- Chilli Rox became immortalised as a butt plug
After all manner of crazy that hit us this year, we can’t wait to see what 2017 has in store for us! Have a wonderful and safe new year celebration and don’t forget that voting opens soon for the APDM Top 50, so start thinking about who you’re going to vote for this year!