The Supreme Poledown: Sports vs Sexy 2017 took place in the Wirral on 18th March. I was there to compete in the Open Sexy category, and to also give my readers a scoop on this brand new competition and what it was like.
I’ll start off with the venue. I arrived in the morning after a leisurely drive over as for once I had a competition that wasn’t a 4-6 hour drive away, praise be. The competition was taking place in the Gladstone Theatre, Port Sunlight. Honestly, as a competitor you get used to getting changed in tiny cramped changing rooms with no natural light and no mirrors, and no heating – so rocking up to find warm, welcoming dressing rooms with big mirrors to do your makeup, space to warm up and even a green room to chill in right before you go on stage, was an awesome surprise to say the least.
The stage itself was gorgeous, with a black star spangled background and plenty of floor space to do your routine on. This year the competition was on stage poles, but everyone’s routines went smoothly and the use of these style of poles didn’t seem to have any impact on the success of everyone’s routines. Although, rumor has it that rigging may possibly be making an appearance in next years competition rather than pole stages, which would be great if so.
The running of the day was smooth, and although the competition started a bit late (when do they ever start on time?) the schedule was soon caught up and the day was well-organised. There were one or two technical issues with music, but they weren’t disruptive and were quickly remedied by the technical staff.
The two comperes, Harriet and Melissa of Creatures of XIX (an awesome brand of pole t-shirts, knee pads, sticky leggings and more), absolutely rocked our socks. They claimed that they’ve never done presenting before but you wouldn’t have guessed. Their ability to engage and entertain the audience (particularly when unforeseen technical blips happened) was admirable, and they managed to keep lively, friendly and fun throughout the competition .
All of the performers did so well. For many of the competitors it was their first ever time performing!! Although people were obviously nervous, the friendly and supportive vibe backstage meant that everyone felt comfortable and ready to smash the stage, which they certainly did. There was a range of ages, body shapes, experience levels and styles, which made for a fabulous, interesting and varied competition like no other.
I ended up winning ‘Judge’s Choice’ for my routine, which was such a great prize! My aim is always to be one of the most entertaining performers of the day, so to get that recognition really meant a lot to me, and I appreciated the title. 💖💖💖 Thank you Kara! I am looking forward to taking the stage for her competition in July, the Authentic Pole Dance 2017, after watching and reviewing it last year.
Without further ado… here is an interview with Toni Misty Mansell, the organiser of the Supreme Poledown competition and crazy legged, stripper style, political pole dancer.
Peach: Explain a bit about what the Supreme Poledown is and what your ‘mission statement’ is with the competition?
Toni: The format of Supreme Poledown is a world first, designed to showcase both the choreography and creative skills of performers of every style and ability, and also to take down the ‘4th wall’ between the Performer on stage and the audience, and bring interactivity to this Competition through a final showcase of freestyle showmanship. We wanted to create an inclusive safe space for personal comfort of expression, to unite all the artistic and passionate outlets that encompass our Pole community and give them a fun, friendly and supportive environment to own a stage and show what Pole means to them. To elevate and spotlight performers of every ability level and artistic faction, with equal love and respect.
Why did you choose to have a sporty vs sexy competition?
There have been a lot of uncomfortable politics in pole, which often cause divide and resentment between Sport Pole Dancers and Sexy Pole Dancers. It’s no secret that I write in detail about the dangers of gentrification and historical whitewashing, and that I take great umbrage with the denigration of Stripper Style Pole. But I also think it is wrong to disparage Sport or Artistic Pole conversely, I believe in a completely equal and united community where all styles receive the same credibility and respect.
So I thought that it would be a novel and unique concept to make a light hearted, friendly ‘Showdown’ between the factions, to unite everybody both backstage and upon it, have everybody exposed to the widest variety of performance specialities we could get on the stage, and hopefully change a few conceptions along the way from people who are staunchly entrenched in their own style preferences. The actual rivalry is referred to in a very ‘tongue in cheek’ manner, the atmosphere was described backstage as one of the most supportive and inclusive competitors had ever experienced.
How was the reception for the first year?
We’ve been absolutely humbled and overwhelmed by the amazing reception we received. We went into this taking a huge risk doing something completely new and without much of a baseline to work from in terms of how it was going to run or be received.
The audience unanimously said the entertainment value and smooth running made it a hugely enjoyable experience for them, our main Sponsor Laura from Everything Pole Dancing said “She’d attended more competitions than the poles” (lol!) and ours was “not only one of the best run, most well organised, but also the most engaging and inspiring, and made her want to put her Pleaser’s back on”. That’s a huge compliment to us.
Our competitors loved both the backstage rapport and the venue was a huge hit too. Overall, our premier competition was received as a huge hit, but we of course had a huge learning curve along the way and have taken all Feedback both positive and constructive on board for next year.
What do you think was the best thing about this year’s competition?
The amazing competitors. Without a doubt. They made the show, they put in so much time, effort, energy, and creativity and the atmosphere was just wonderful both front and rear of house. I was floored by how professional, friendly, supportive and charismatic they all were, both on and off stage.
What is one thing you would’ve done differently if you had the chance to do it over?
We were really unsure of how to run the actual ‘Showdown’ at the end, as we didn’t want anyone to have to unfair advantage of having prepared to the music before hand and taking away the authenticity of freestyle, but we also didn’t want to be accused of any favouritism or bias by giving one competitor one song and another competitor another. We tried to keep it fair by using the same song and letting the competitors hear it only once the champions had been announced, and for me it just didn’t work as well as I’d anticipated, and the Showdown ended up a little staggered.
If I could do it again, I’d have pre-prepared a 4 minute mix that all competitors had access to a few days before just so they’d heard the music, as they’d have no idea which order they could end up in and thus which minute they would get.
As said earlier, it’s been a huge learning curve and there are many tweaks we will be making to improve upon our first year. I’ve been in both business and performance long enough to have humility about my concepts and ventures, not all decisions we make are the best ones and not all ideas we have are good, but there’s no way to know often without hindsight.
Are there any changes you are making to next year’s competition that you can give us the scoop on?
Well, we will use this opportunity to announce our biggest introduction to Supreme Poledown 2018 which is another World First addition… Sport vs Sexy Hoop! A brand new category competing artistic/sporting Aerial Hoop against Hoop in Heels, which as a category in itself has never been done before! Pretty exciting!!
When and how can people enter Supreme Poledown 2018?
Keep an eye on our Fb Page ‘Supreme Poledown – The Ultimate Sport vs Sexy Showdown’ for official entry details – due to the popular demand for spaces this year we will be running entries through Video Heats for next year, this also gives competitors a better idea of what the judges are looking for and want to see on the stage by providing feedback before the Live shows. We expect Video heats to run from August to October 2017.
Where can we see you performing this year?
My biggest appearance this year is as a Professional Finalist in the Classique Category of Pole Theatre (Hatfield, 20th May!!), which I am absolutely humbled to be featuring in alongside such a top class calibre of Pole Dance superstars and virtuoso’s. My performance is both very important to me personally, and something I took quite a risk submitting, and I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity to take my creation and message to the stage, as it’s something rather different than what we’re used to seeing in the category definition. I will also be competing in The Authentic’s run by the lovely Kara Owen in July. I will be organising and performing at several events designed to elevate and fundraise for Sex Worker charities and promote inclusivity within our Industry. You can follow my Fb page ‘Toni ‘Misty’ Mansell – The Political Pole dancer’ to keep informed about our work in this area!
Tell us a bit about what else you are working on?
My blog (www.thepoliticalpoledancer.com) which shares my work in academia looking at both the Sex Industry and Pole Dance Industry alongside other Feminist issues such as Rape Culture and Sex/Body Shaming is a huge focus of my energy, which as stated above crosses over into practical, positive activism. I am really passionate about creating platforms for the most oppressed people within our society, and particularly within our own cultural coterie of the Pole Dance Community, so I will be very involved in projects within the industry moving forwards that aim to achieve and maintain acceptance and equality.
I’ve also devised a new set of Workshops for 2017 that focus on the Aesthetics and Formula of creating successful performances, and integrating Flow and Movement into routines, so I’m very excited to be bobbing round the UK after my Pole Theatre appearance to share them!
“I went to support my girlfriend (Imogen Smith) and had never been to an event before. The first thing that struck me is how empowering it was for the performers, leaving everything of themselves on stage and performing their hearts out. The atmosphere was incredibly supportive and, after not knowing what to expect and knowing virtually nothing about the sport of pole fitness, I fell in love with the vibe of the event and it has made me want to go to more events as a result.” – Nathaniel
“I signed up for Supreme because I liked the unique format and the ethos of it being a supportive environment for new performers/competitors to find their style. I was also pleasantly surprised by Toni’s response to my questions she was so lovely! As the competition approached I got an ear infection which meant me emailing in a bit of a panic asking more questions and again Toni was lovely and helpful. On the day everyone was lovely! That supportive ethos that she had put on paper came through in the competitors, judges and audience! It was a brilliant day. Great choice of compères, they were amazing! The guest performances and the all of the competitors were so inspiring and it was so nice to see that there were others there who were just a nervous as I was. I am totally going to try for this comp again next year. And it was lovely to meet you too Peach!” – Brenda
“I really really enjoyed and loved it! It was eye opening and very inspiring! Not for performance because I don’t think I’ll have the balls to do it ever but I love how every single lady just oozed confidence and “hell yeah look I’m fantastic”. I love the wide variety of concepts towards their performances, the various costumes. I found myself shazaming their routine song and inspired to work better/work on things I am poor at. I blushed a lot but also had lots of fun!!!” – Felicia
“From audience perspective it was captivating because it was so varied and fun. The ‘competitive’ nature of the two styles was presented as friendly and respectful of each other. The running of the show was slick… Perfect timings and lengths of breaks, well ordered performances and not too long overall (which many pole comps are). The standard of the competitors was high throughout with the beginner and intermediate categories in particular standing out as creative and thoroughly entertaining, it was amazing to see novice performers look so confident on the stage (shout out to their instructors/mentors needed too, I’m sure). The compering duo were fabulous and the audience really responded well to them. The unique concept of the showdown freestyle at the end worked beautifully: a fitting climax to a truly exceptional competition. Lastly a superb venue, highlighting that pole dancing should be appreciated on a stage worthy to host the plays of Shakespeare and many other greats. I extremely proud that such a fabulous and celebratory competition is hosted in my local area.” – Gemma
*All photo credits to the amazing Pammie Cameron Photography, what a babe!*
Did you go to the competition? What did you think?
Will you be entering next year?
What do you think of a sports vs sexy competition set up?
Let me know in the comments below!