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LOS ANGELES, CA, 05/26/2011 By:  ANNEMARIE DAVIES Recently, a competitive pole dancer, put it so bluntly and honestly: these pole competitions and organizations “only exist in ours and their minds”. If you say USPDF, PFA or UPA to someone who is not involved with pole dancing, they wouldn’t have any clue, would they? It’s largely the goal of many to change that  along with the industry’s growth. We all want our names to be universally recognizable, but how can we achieve that?  By being just, fair and by staying true to what we love; or by stepping on and over each other and by playing by our own  sets of rules? Some of us may differ in our personal set of standards, which brings us to the point: Setting standards within the pole dancing community is KEY! It is a must do, a must have and is what will help legitimize this industry.  Let’s take a look at who is setting a good example, and who is playing by their own rules. Not only has the Pole Fitness Association (PFA) delightfully answered all questions sent to them by this writer, they have, in November 2010, exposed their judging system to all of us in a recent interview. They purposely educate the pole dancing community about their step-by-step judging system, comparing it to gymnastics and ice skating. “The PFA has a judging sheet that judges on Artistic, Difficulty, and Elements. We have used this system when judging East Meets West Events, and were very pleased with the outcome. It is very detailed, and we would love to share it, and utilize it at more PFA sanctioned events. Our judging standards include 3-5 judges, and competitors must choose their elements and turn them in before the competition, just like in Gymnastics and ice-skating.” (Lizz Schofield, PFA) In September of 2010, during an East Meets West Event that took place in Charlottesville, VA, PFA organizers handed score sheets directly to each competitor immediately following the announcement of each placed winner. In contrast, US Pole Dance Federation (USPDF), at their April 2011 National Competition chose to e-mail results to their contestants two or more weeks later. In addition to this delay, the results received were not even the scanned originals. Instead, the score cards were transferred from original to e-mail form, with at least three score cards tallied incorrectly! (Although this information was verified with said contestants, they are choosing to remain anonymous.) So, the questions are: Were the original score sheets added incorrectly? Were the scores altered during the transfer process? Was there a typo, and if so, how often does this happen? The biggest question is, How can we trust you after knowing this? When asked about this particular discrepancy, Anna Grundstrom replied “USPDF has responded directly to the individual competitors in regards to the matter.” Not exactly, according to two of the contestants who’s scores were wrong.  They were still anxiously waiting for a reply from this organization. So, again, the question, How can we trust you? To be clear, the score differences were between a .25 to a 1.0, in a system where the max points that can be given in each round is a 10.0. When the numbers were given to the competitors, they were shown a total, but there was a different total after adding every category together. In many sports, a .25 or a .50 or especially a 1.0 makes a HUGE difference in placement.  Understandably, there are bound to be mistakes. Sometimes a finger slips on the calculator, right?  But, where is a letter of apology to the individuals who may feel cheated? Where is the public acknowledgement for these mistakes? Better yet, how can we avoid this from happening in the future? These competitors work their hearts out for these events. They diet, train, lose sleep, run routines over and over again, miss work and at the end of the day, don’t know their real score or where they really stand in the competition. When this mistake was brought to the attention of USPDF, their response was, ooops, sorry, we’ll send you a new one. When was the last time you watched a sport where the score wasn’t right where everyone could see it? Where competitors were e-mailed their scores incorrectly two weeks later? No one else would stand for it, why should we? Even at the Purina Incredible Dog Challenge, all scores were visible. C’mon! Dogs know their scores before we do?! I thought we all want pole dancing to be taken seriously. Let’s get back to PFA, who has been working on a more transparent judging system for their competitors. They have created a handbook with a standardized vocabulary of moves, or “visual dictionary”. They have judges whose job is to focus on specifics of each performer. “Each judge has a specific function. There is a one deduction judge, one judge for specified elements being scored (D E or Difficulty and Execution score) and two artistic/connectivity judges. Each judge is given personalized score sheets for each competitor. The judges score during the performance, and then a “judge liaison” takes the score sheets to the “runners.” The runners tally the score and abolish the judges’ ability to change scores. There is no communication between judges during the scoring process, nor the runners to judges.” (PFA) During the East Meets West Event in 2010 on the west coast, the top three competitors for each category were announced to the audience. What a concept. PFA only had the chance to put on 2 competitions in 2010, but I’m going to start the rally: “Let’s have more!” I’m curious and excited to watch this judging and scoring system grow and improve and lead us on our way to legitimacy. Before we introduce ourselves as a main stream competitive sport, we must be legitimate in our own eyes. This is what will change people’s minds about pole dancing and get some of those closed ones to maybe open a little bit more. We need to support each other and those who have the integrity to get us there. So, one day, PFA, UPA, USPDF and all the others will be recognized by everyone, the same way UFC, MLB, NBA and the NCAA are. We can get there, but, we need to do it right– with standards, regulations and proper communication. Let’s unite as a community, and demand that our competitions be as fair and transparent. If we know what we’re worth and what we deserve, then everyone else will as well.

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