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Four levels, three categories and three age divisions. The Atlantic Pole Championships was the Pole Sport Organization’s first competition on the East Coast and an unprecedented event in the growing pole community. It was an opportunity for every level pole dancer to have his or her chance to shine in the limelight. Amy Guion and Bayleigh Pettigrew established PSO to provide just that. “We wanted to create a safe space in which every individual could have the opportunity to be on a professional stage, ranging from the seasoned competitor to the true first timer,” said Amy.

Saturday morning kicked off the two day event bright and early with competitors testing poles on the recently constructed stage in the Hyatt Dulles in Herndon, VA. Last minute jitters were peaking. Many were not only competing for the first time but performing for the first time as well. Dancers assessed the gripping quality on each pole, the spin on the spinner pole and the material of the floor. Amy entered the ballroom and asked how everyone felt. The room gave her a thumbs up.

Around 8am the competition began with Artistic Dramatic Level 1. It was early in the day, but spectators slowly began trickling in. Shaina Cruea of Body and Pole competed for the first time and placed second in the Senior Championship Level 2 division. She said the experience was “amazing” and “motivating.” There was excitement in the air as studios cheered on their students and instructors. Rachel Varga of Body and Pole competed in the Masters Dramatic Level 2 division. “There was such a feeling of mutual support and community, and a real sense of family with my amazing teammates, teachers and coaches,” she said.

Aradia Fitness

Competitors patiently waited by the results board after each event to see how they were scored. There were cheers and hugs all around regardless of outcomes. Heather Dakota Fox (co-owner of Aradia Fitness) described the positive energy. “Everyone was having so much fun at times you had to remind yourself that it wasn’t a big pole jam – it actually was a competitive event… which is a good thing,” she said. By the time Championship Level 4 was ready to start, energy was running low from over 12 hours of pole performances but everyone was eager to see who would take home gold and move on to the national competition. UPA’s Annemarie Davies hosted an livestream of the event alongside US Pole Dance Federation 2012 Champion Michelle Stanek.

Each performer was unique in her execution of tricks and dance style. However, none of the competitors wore shoes. There were a few memorable performances. Stephanie Skyy of Diva Fit performed an interesting piece based around a mental asylum theme. USPDF pro Lara Michaels had a very polished routine with the intricate spatchcock move at the end. Annemarie commented how she was the first performer to get the crowd really hyped and on their feet.

Danielle Romano, Photos courtesy of Alloy Images

Danielle Romano of Body and Pole was the next performer to make a lasting impression on the audience. She began her routine in the back corner of the stage. She was hunched over with a black covering over her face. The music began and she headed towards center stage to reveal completely white eyes, a black mouth and hair dipped in pink dye. The crowd knew then that they were in for a special performance. Her energy was visceral and palpable. Even though she performed some moves that others had, she did them in a completely unique way. She placed first in the competition.

Following Danielle was Samantha Star, also of Body and Pole. She was equally impressive but could not be more different in style. Her strength-based moves had every jaw in the room dropped. She ended up placing 2nd. After Samantha was Michelle Natoli of Body and Pole once again. She was a tiny powerhouse packed full of tricks. Her routine was mystical and hypnotizing. Again, she was very different from the others but highly skilled. Michelle placed third. The top three competitors will move on to the US National Pole Championship later this summer.

Dalijah Franklin

By Sunday everyone was exhausted but no less enthused with the final events. There was the Senior Championship Level 3 division, the largest in the entire event, which Dalijah Franklin of Body and Pole placed first in. APC closed with Dramatic Level 4 in which Tracee Kafer, also of Body and Pole, placed first with the highest score of the entire weekend. She noted that the event was “a magical experience of shared epiphanies and self.”

It was hard to ignore that Body and Pole had a prominent presence throughout the entire competition. Their students, instructors and work studies took home a total of 19 medals. Starsmith, a Senior Championship Level 3 competitor, expressed how close-knit the Body and Pole team was. “Their energy was infectious! It reminded me to be supportive and show love for others,” she said.

Body and Pole

There are still two regional competitions to go before nationals. It will be interesting to see the final Championship Level 4 line-up in the coming months. It’s already looking diverse and multi-talented. The experience has motivated many participants to train harder to get better and enter more competitors. “APC weekend made me remember how lucky I am to be a part of the B&P family, and kicked my butt into wanting to train 10x harder,” said Jalnar Dhanani (second place in Junior/Senior Dramatic Level 2). Dakota Fox praised the event and its organizers. “It was a huge success on so many levels and an event my girls are already talking about doing next year!”

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