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"Pole Craft"" performing a Rocky Horror tribute at Pandemonium's Trick or Treat

by Alessandra Izzo aka Ally Cat

 

On July 29th I witnessed the birth of a wonderful pole event in Melbourne. It was called “Imagine”, and rather than being a competition, it provided a paid opportunity where pole artists could get on stage without rules, judgment, criteria and competitive insecurity. Pure creative spark and the joy of performing were the two main drivers of this show. Imagine was conceptualised by me and co-produced by myself and another.

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While the feedback from both the audience and the artists have been overwhelmingly positive, my experience as the organiser was a little more bittersweet. While I emphatically believe that the cast, crew and my co-producer, all put their heart and soul into making this event a wonderful and successful experience, unfortunately that came at quite an uncomfortable out of pocket expense for both myself and my co-producer.

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My skills as an event co-ordinator, artistic director and producer have been honed such that I am confident in the value I bring to shows like this. Yet, I don’t expect much in return for my efforts because I truly believe what I’m doing is an important service for the pole community. However, when “not much” translates to having to pay out of my own pocket for the privilege, I am forced to reflect on what is going wrong. And I’m pretty confident I know the answer. So, here it is.

Our community is flooded with competitions.

I know many competition organisers, and I get along very well with most of them. I don’t believe they are intentionally sabotaging our community. But I can no longer sugar coat my words. There are too many competitions, and it’s leaving no space for pole in a purely artistic setting.

My last count was around fifteen in VIC and close to twenty in NSW. It’s literally one competition EVERY THREE WEEKS, not even counting smaller studio comps!

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To run a successful show, you require an audience. Obviously for atmosphere, but most importantly, to cover costs. While many of you may grumble over ticket prices exceeding $50, when poles require proper rigging, a large venue and professional sound/lighting operators, costs skyrocket. I understand why tickets cost so much. What I don’t understand is why on earth people think we need another competition.

While pole dancing is such a niche subculture, it’s very hard to sell tickets to the general public. This means we rely mostly on family, friends and fellow polers to support our events. It also means we have a very limited pool of people who are going to buy tickets.

There are only so many times a spectator can justify paying the ticket price to see a pole event in a year. Every time you put another competition on the calendar you are creating problems not only for existing competitions, but you are crowding out any chance at survival for a showcase event like Imagine.

Pole FanaticsThis obsession with creating new competitions is literally draining the blood from the artistic heart of our industry – no matter how “novel” and “different” your competition idea is. It is also creating a competitive mindset in our community where sashes and awards are more important than the joy of performing, without the limitations of criteria and a judgmental environment. We are turning pole into a craft, while forgetting the value of it as an art.

For competition organisers, their job is a little easier than a showcase organiser. The expectation to go and support your fellow poler is definitely higher when there is a chance of “winning”. But by placing such an emphasis on winning, I believe we are all losing.

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I can’t guarantee that Pandemonium will run another event, as much as the idea devastates me. I just can’t afford to single-handedly support non-competitive pole dancing in Victoria. If Imagine does run again, I really hope you all support it. Believe me, I’m not doing it for the glory (and certainly not the money) – if someone else wanted to do a community showcase I’d support them in any way I possibly could. But there doesn’t seem to be anyone else willing to put their time, energy and money into creating it for you. And I for one don’t blame them.

 

 

About the Author

ALESSANDRA IZZO

AKA

ALLY CAT

ally apcAlly is a restless entrepreneur and passionate creative with a Piscean idealism and an aversion to authority. Having practiced as a Naturopath and Massage Therapist for 6 years, she abandoned clinic work in 2014 to spend more time doing what she loved most: working with her pole family at Bottoms Up! and teaching 80’s dance fitness under her own creation RAD Fitness.

It didn’t take long before her creative juices led her to conjure up Pandemonium Events, and under this brand she has produced and co-ordinated ten pole, aerial and variety performance nights.

Besides teaching and producing, Ally loves being on stage. She competed in the Victorian Pole Championships in 2013 and then again in 2015 where she won the VPC Amateur division and went on to compete in the national finals. She also joined APDM Editor Jane Blair and their Bottoms Up! family in a Rocky Horror group performance at Encore! 2016 (nominated as a finalist for Best Group Performance at the Victorian Aerial Awards 2016) and competed in the Pro Comedy division of Pole Theatre in 2016 and 2017. She was also honoured to be awarded the 2016 Trailblazer of the Year award at the Victorian Aerial Awards. 

Having toyed with the idea of starting a pole magazine herself in 2011, Ally watched the growth of Australian Pole Dancers Magazine with much interest, contributing articles to the publication before formally becoming a partner in November 2015. She loves being part of APDM as she feels it is something that the entire pole community can use as a means of connecting with one another, learning from one another and growing together.

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