Pole Con 2015 Review
The 5th International Pole Convention was held June 3-7, 2015 in New Orleans. Pole Con is like any other convention—like-minded people from across the world come together to network, learn, share, sell, buy, teach, perform and have a good time. There were workshops from pole stars including Jamilla Deville, Natasha Wang, Marlo Fisken, Kristy Sellers, Pantera, Alessandra Marchetti, Sam Star, Sasj Lee, Nicole the Pole, Michelle Natoli, Heidi Coker and many more. As an attendee you can take workshops and learn from these international artists in one weekend without having to travel across the globe.
In addition, there were plenty of free workshops and lectures like “Coaching Plus Size Athletes,” “Modern and Ballet Meet Pole Dancing,” “Nutrition for Pole Athletes,” the “elevatED experience” in teacher training, a Liquid Motion Sampler and Pilates for pole dancers, just to name a few. There were numerous vendors onsite selling a wide range of pole related products. It was a one-stop shop for pole apparel, products and information. The backdrop for this event was the city of New Orleans—a brilliant choice. New Orleans is centrally located for those in the States and is a unique destination. Many attendees had never been to the city so when the doors of the convention closed, the city was theirs to explore. And that made the trip even sweeter.
One of the most provocative free sessions was “The Future of Pole Fitness*.” This forum had a panel of leaders in the pole community including Kyra Johannesen, Tracee Kafer, Derick Pierson, Karol Helms, Roz Mays, Natasha Wang, Mica Saunders, BJ Pettigrew, Dalijah Franklin and Tami Schlichter, and was moderated by Philip Deal. This kind of event is exactly what our community needs and it was an excellent addition to the International Pole Convention. When else will this particular group of people who have both strong opinions and a strong desire to HELP everyone succeed have the opportunity to get together, share their advice and experiences, and improve the industry? Some of the hot topics that came up in the forum included:
Touring pole artists — how can studios, students and instructors all benefit in this over-saturated market?
Black Girls Pole — what is it and how can you get involved?
Male and plus-size pole athletes— how can you attract, retain and support them?
What are the biggest trends in pole dancing across the country?
Setting standards of performance and payment for pole and aerial artists
Music licensing in the studio — do you need to pay BMI and ASCAP?
Valuing and supporting your instructors
Stopping the inter-competition and inter-studio competitiveness
An excellent next step would be to create a list of goals based on the outcomes of those discussions and assign them to people who can deliver on that goal (i.e. unionizing pole dancers). Pole Con could even deliver updates on these topics throughout the year or send the attendees a list of the issues with actionable steps to take (i.e. provide dance belts for men and plus-size apparel in your studio’s shop! ) Then, at next year’s forum, the forum could begin with a report on how/if these goals were accomplished. This is a great example of how we, together as a community, can affect positive change for the future of our industry.
Now for another kind of provocation from Pole Con. In my opinion, the real value of Pole Con was delivered on that stage. That’s where you get your return on the cost of your admission ticket. There were performances all day every day by incredible pole stars, up and coming stars and groups. If you attended zero workshops, networked with no one and bought nothing, at least you’d be constantly entertained and inspired. There were performances by Sasj Lee, Kristy Sellers, Natasha Wang, Sam Star, Karol Helms, Michelle Natoli, Crystal Belcher, Heidi Coker, Nicole the Pole Williams, Deb Roach, Vertical Joes (the list goes on!) brought their unique styles to the stage and made the weekend truly invaluable for the lucky audience members, which sadly, were too few.
Colleen Jolly, CEO of Pole Con said, “Everyone is welcome” at Pole Con. Meaning, this convention will become the place where all genres of pole dancing are represented and encouraged. After all, we are a community and we must support each other in our diversity — in gender, size, shape, color and style of dancing. Annemarie Davies headlined the Sexy Showcase
and the Men of Pole Showcase killed it! The showcase introduced up-and-coming dancers, Apollo Sa’Deek and Jonathan Nosan to the pole community. Apollo’s hair-whipping, heel-stomping performance and Nosan’s contortion solo stunned the audience. It was great to see such variety presented by the men.
Nosan even commented, “That piece and the experience of performing during the Men of Pole Showcase has become one of my favorite performance moments. The other was performing under the night sky in India. But honestly the energy of the room was transcendent.”
Overall, the content, organization, location and not to mention free lunches (!) were great. However, there were two weaknesses at Pole Con: attendance and scheduling. For those performing, it would have been nice to have a fuller audience. To those selling in the vendor area, it would have been nice to at least break even on the costs of being there. To those teaching it would have been nice to have full classrooms for both the energy levels and profitability. I think, perhaps, the abrupt cancellation of Pole Con in 2014 after a mediocre experience in Florida in 2013, left hundreds of polers in our community skeptical of the event in general. Plus with Pole Expo in Vegas and its consistency and reputation, many polers may have chosen to sit this Pole Con out and spend their dollars on attending Pole Expo.
Nadia Sharif couldn’t attend Pole Con this year because of scheduling. But says she “plans to next year based on the great reviews.”
Scheduling so many events is a logistical nightmare, but many asked, “Why are there so many workshops overlapping the performances?” And vice versa. Being forced to choose and then suffer severe FOMO is not fair!
When asked what she would improve for next year, Jolly said, “I have so many ideas! We sent out a survey almost immediately and have gotten so much great feedback. The one thing we aren’t changing is lunch. Everyone really liked lunch! We’re looking at tweaking some things like not holding free workshops during lunch and seeing how to improve the noise pollution between our main stage and free workshop room while still keeping everyone together as much as possible. We want to find more ways to improve the experience and give people more value for their money.”
Pole Con is an important event. Now that Jolly has taken the reigns, I hope she is able to cultivate an event that is sustainable and one that continues to bring our international community together for both inspiration and change.
* The entire forum was filmed by UPA and can be found here.