PSO’s 2015 US National Pole Championships: Event Recap
On Friday, August 14th and Saturday, August 15th, 2015, Pole Sport Organization crowned the new King and Queens of the US Pole Dance scene. Spanning a total of three days, PSO’s 2015 National Championship was held in the Los Angeles enclave of Redondo Beach, CA. The Professional Division events were hosted Friday and Saturday evenings, while Saturday and Sunday days were dedicated to the amateur competitor categories.
The Pro Event kicked things off on Friday evening, and featured the Men’s Pro Championship and the Women’s Pro Artistic Championship. While the events appeared sparsely attended, the competitors could not have had a more beautiful stage on which to perform. Set in a proscenium style, with ample floor room and beautiful red, comfortable seating that sloped slightly to provide panoramic views, the stage at the Redondo Center for the Performing Arts created a magical atmosphere where performers told their stories.
PSO chose to zipper the performances, meaning that two judging panels were working side by side, allowing for competitors from both categories to perform back to back. This format worked to help the audience from fatiguing on either category by trading off between the men and women for each new performer. Opening the show was Derick Pierson of Pixie Fitness, taking a brave chance and bringing a strong comedic, PeeWee Herman themed piece to the Nationals Stage. The men all brought varied pieces and themes to their work, and each had something special to share. The ultimate winner of the Men’s event, Brandon Grimm of BeSpun in Los Angeles, delivered as expected in a routine that stuck with the signature style that we’ve seen from him throughout this year’s competition circuit. Arguably the most interesting performance in the category came from second place winner, Sai’Len Jaeger, whose explosive piece showed real growth and evolution in style from his playful qualifying run at PPC, this past March. We look forward to seeing what’s next from him! Rounding out the placements was Job Bautista, of Polecats Manila and Twirly Girls Pole Fitness in NorCal, delivering a lovely and ethereal performance.
The Women’s Pro Artistic category featured a diverse group of performers, with stories ranging across the board, including a Tron inspired piece by Jen Schofer of Ecdysiast, whose musicality, beautiful lines, and interesting transitions stood out. Third place winner Jordan Kensley, of The Vertitude and BeSpun, brought out all the guns, literally, with a twisted Santa themed routine that showcased her bombshell looks, big moves, and killer stage presence. Second place was captured by powerhouse Ashley Fox, of Foxy Fitness, combining daredevil tricks and intense strength in a piece about bullying. Body + Pole’s Irmingard Mayer was the overall winner, taking first place with a gorgeous, quietly emotional performance, captivating the audience and judges with her seamless flow and elegant movement.
Saturday brought the first day of Amateur events, with Levels 1 through 4 vying for titles across three categories: drama, entertainment, and championship. The Amateur events also had performances in Level 2 and 3 of Lyra, toward the second half of Saturday. One stand out performance came from Sharonette Briggs of Secret Pole Dance Studio, in Pole Level 4 Entertainment Masters. Her moving piece including some powerful floor work and emotion that inspired the judges to award her with first place. Another memorable performance came from The Vertitude’s Vyque White in Pole Level 3 Entertainment Senior/Masters, who creeped out the audience and judges with her murderous marionette performance. She ended up with a third place medal for her dedication to character. All of the competitors put in amazing efforts, from those with light, entertaining routines, like an adorable take on Disney’s Lilo & Stitch, to darker themed pieces, such as one inspired by the book/film Gone Girl.
The Pro Lyra and Women’s Pro Pole events capped off the Saturday festivities, starting at 8pm. Audience attendance perked up for these events, and familiar faces included many of the West Coast Pole-ebrities, reps from Bad Kitty Exotic Wear, and an illustrious panel of judges, such as Natasha Wang, and last year’s Pro Champions, Shaina Cruea and Seanmichael Rau. Opening the show with an exhibition piece, Seanmichael displayed a sexy, slinky side we haven’t seen from him in previous performances. Competitors from the Lyra and Women’s events were zippered, like Friday night’s event, which broke things up nicely for the duration of the performances. The field of competitors for Lyra was significantly smaller than the original pool of qualifiers, but was mixed across gender lines. First place in Lyra was taken by US Aerial Champion (in Men’s Lyra) Oliver Pavick of Body + Pole, whose piece included some beautiful transitions and lovely flexibility. Tamarind Halstrom of Four Elements earned second place with a gorgeous routine. Dressed as Marilyn Monroe, Tamarind showcased enviable and creative transitions and beautiful movement. In third place was Jocelyn Wetherington of Active Athletics, whose sprightly acrobatics were well-showcased through a series of thrilling drop tricks! The lyra competitors were treated to a much nicer set up than the one at PPC, where performers were forced to use the carpeted floor in any floor work, due to the restraints of that venue. For Nationals, the switch of location to a true stage allowed the competitors to be seen clearly by all audience members and judges, giving them equal status as the pole dancers. It was a welcomed change for performers and viewers alike.
In the Women’s Pro Category, the competitors were wildly varied in their styles and storytelling. While certain themes missed their marks, others were quite intriguing to watch. One stand out was Divine Em of The Choreography House, whose Mad Max/Steam Punk inspired routine was choreographed by Phoenix Kazree. Featuring fantastic musicality, note-perfect costuming, and good audience connection, she was one of the more impressive performances of the evening, ending up with a 4th place finish. Third was taken by Rafaela Montanaro of Pixie Fitness, with a Kill Bill inspired piece featuring her signature power moves. Angela Nelson of Onyx Pole & Aerial Fitness gave a luminescent performance, full of strength, grace, and luscious stage presence, earning her 2nd place. The 2015 Women’s Pro Champion ultimate winner, Maggie Ann of Paradigm Pole Fitness, owned the stage with a routine set to Moulin Rouge’s version of “Roxanne.” Maggie’s routine stood out from the pack, featuring impressive displays of flexibility, beastly power, and flares of musicality, as well as a stage presence that filled the room.
Sunday’s events saw more Amateur pole performers take the stage, to close out Nationals for 2015. A smaller event than PPC, Nationals saw fewer overall competitors in most categories, so the days seemed to run a little shorter. This feeling was helped by the zippered judging panels, which were also standard for all Amateur events. While the competitors for the Pro events were from across the US, the Amateur categories swung largely toward California based studios, as well as a collection of competitors from other West Coast locations, and a small number of performers from other areas of the US. The geographic diversity of the Pro events led to some interesting viewing, as styles varied wildly depending on the area from which the dancer came. This breaks down a little differently for the Amateur events, where the difference in style is more across studio lines.
Throughout the weekend, attendees were treated with shopping opportunities from vendors like Kelly Maglia, D-Construction Arts (an event sponsor), and LeeLee Jewels, as well as a chance to snag PSO Merchandise, be interviewed by outlets like Pole World News and local radio station KROQ, and play on an X-Stage Lite, provided by event sponsor X-Pole. As with past PSO events, Alloy Images was on hand, providing professional photo and video services to all competitors, available by purchase ahead of time, or at their vendor table in the lobby.
Overall, while the attendance seemed low, this year’s Nationals put on a good show across all categories. The venue was a lovely update from the convention center usually used for PPC, and the bonus of having some food trucks on hand, plus the close proximity to the beach, made for a fun change of pace! Congratulations to the PSO Team on another well-run competition, as well as to each and every competitor, and our new Pro Champions!