by Alessandra Izzo aka Ally Cat
If you live in Sydney, you can be sure the rest of the country is jealous of you right now.
Between January 27th and February 24th, the Aussie pole community will witness for the first time ever, what I’m dubbing “The Sydney Pole Showcase Festival”.
Professional pole showcases, very different from an in-house student showcase, are a rarity both in Australia and internationally. But over the course of the next month, Sydney will be treated to not one, but FOUR pole showcase events. This is literally unprecedented.
“What’s so great about a showcase?” you ask. Fair question! A showcase is a completely different experience than a competition for an audience member. While you may head along to competitions to see polers pull out their best tricks in order to “battle it out”, or to see if you can pick the winner, or just to support your friend who is competing – the hard truth is that many competitions become quite repetitive and, let’s face it, a bit exhausting.
This is because by the very nature of a competition, it requires a large number of solo performances – all of whom must conform to the same set of criteria. That’s a boner killer for diversity.
Have you ever been at a competition and thought *yawn* “oh yeah, another fonji… she only did two in a row, but the last competitor did three”. DUDE, EVEN ONE FONJI IS CRAY. Competitions force you to become nonchalant about mind-blowing tricks, purely because they expose you to hours of repetition. One performer on stage is great for a while, but for many hours it just gets… well, boring!
A good showcase will reel you in and keep you engaged from start to finish with its diversity of acts. You will see a wide variety of performance types – including group numbers or multi-genre pieces. Without the bounds of criteria, you may not see the highest level of tricks, but you will see the artistic vision of the performers come to life. This is almost always a far more engaging experience for an audience member than a competition.
Some competitions feature impressive diversity, and I love them (Pole Theatre will always be a favourite for this reason), but the whole point of a showcase is that it’s about the creation, not the criteria. That is a key element in creating a surprising, fascinating and fun night of entertainment.
So back to the Sydney Pole Showcase Festival! First up we have the longest running showcase in Australia, Encore! Sydney Pole Show. This will be immediately followed the next day by the Heartstoppers Showcase. Two weeks later Chilli Rox will be debuting Dance for a Difference, and two weeks after that will be the debut of the Royalty Showcase. What a month!
If you are not sure which one to head out to, I’m going to give you the rundown, the who’s who, and the most important things you need to know about each of them.
Encore! sydney pole show
Saturday 27th January, Factory Theatre Marrickville
Tix $49.50 + BF
I have performed twice at Encore, and can say from experience that this is an exceptionally well run show. The venue is comfortable and spacious and the stage is huge and elevated so you can see all the action.
Encore chooses their acts based on diversity, so you can be sure you’re going to see a wide range of show types, genres and styles. They will showcase performers with high profile as well as low – you are likely to see a Marchenko, but sometimes you’ll just see someone with stunning presence doing an outside leg hang. Encore isn’t about the tricks, it’s about supporting creativity in our community.
Encore is also the only showcase to offer payment to all performers – and for this reason it’s well worth supporting for the opportunity it provides us as a community.
Sunday 28th January, Leadbelly Newtown
Tix $30-$50 + BF
Heartstoppers is a pole, lyra and burlesque showcase where the vision is to create an evening where audience members are moved and feel inspired by the performances. There are only fifteen performances, and these are screened closely by the organisers to ensure they are not culturally appropriative or discriminatory against minority groups. They also do not allow acts displaying the sexualisation of women in the workforce e.g. sexy secretaries, nurses etc.
This type of vetting of acts is admirable, and I believe we should be seeing more of it. While the idea of sexy secretaries seems harmless enough, I think as a community we should be encouraging the portrayal of strong sexy female role models rather than diminutive, submissive female sexuality – particularly with the stereotyping we tend to get thrown at us as pole dancers.
Cultural appropriation is also a bug bear of mine, though I believe we are seeing less of it these days as people become educated about it. However, it’s great to see a showcase employing these ideals, and makes it well worth supporting. So vote with your feet to make sure this night is a raging success!
Dance For A Difference
Sunday 10th February, Enmore Theatre Newtown
Tix ~ $100
DFAD is the brainchild of Chilli Rox. She had a really tough year last year, and in the midst of a meltdown she became inspired by the positivity and optimism of Jason Lam – an aerialist who suffered a spinal injury and has spent the last two years learning how to move again.
DFAD is a fundraiser for Spinal Cure Australia, but even though this is a charity event and you can feel happy that you’re supporting a great cause, there are so many reasons why this event is worth getting out to. Not least of all the fact that pretty much every pro poler in Australia will be performing! For reals, check out the line-up – I’ve literally never seen a more impressive list of performers. Ever.
True to form, this will be an event as quirky and crazy as Ms Rox herself. Where else but a Chilli Rox event would you find a BLUE PHOENIX KISSING BOOTH???
VIP DISCOUNT! Use Code “vipd4d18” for $20 off ticket price!
Saturday 24th February, Cronulla Sharks Leagues Club Woolooware
Tix $53.65 (includes BF)
Summer Blazin is the brains behind Royalty, and her goal is to create a platform for pole artists to enjoy their performance without the pressure of a competition. This night is not limited to pole, and will include burlesque, aerials, classic dance and group pieces.
Summer is more of a show pony rather than a trickster, she just enjoys entertaining and making the audience smile. Thus, the acts she has chosen will be very much the same – so you can be sure this night will be full of crowd-pleasing moments!
This is the kind of platform so many pole performers among us desire, so it’s well worth your while getting out there to watch people who have put their heart and soul into their acts.
I have a huge amount of respect for event organisers. I know from experience what a thankless task it can be, and what a huge gamble putting on a showcase or competition is. We all want the opportunities to get on stage and perform, and these opportunities wouldn’t exist without someone behind the scenes putting up their own time and money (think of it as a full time job with the possibility of losing thousands and never being paid for the hours you put in, and you might come close to understanding the experience of an event organiser).
For this reason, you should never take an event for granted. If you like the sound of it, what it stands for, or what it gives the community, you must vote with your feet and go along. Support the future of performance opportunities for pole dancers, because we are still considered so niche that muggles rarely attend. We are therefore an extremely limited pool of audience members, and that means it’s up to each and every one of us to keep these events alive.
What that means is that this may very well be both the first and last time the Sydney Pole Showcase Festival ever happens. It’s up to you to make sure it happens again. So, I hope to see you there!