Monday, 19 July 2010

UKAPP Bristol Heats.

Last night I had the pleasure of judging at the United Kingdom Amateur Pole Performer South Wets heats in Bristol. The judging panel included Alethea Austin, Karen Chaundy Deb Riley, Chantelle Pritchard and head judge Annie Norris.

I arrived at the venue just before 3pm and was delighted to see the lovely Sally-Ann Giles sat in the VIP area. Sally-Ann is an accomplished pole dancer but was taking a night of the pole to compère for the event. Next to arrive was 'Bendy Wendy' herself Chantelle Pritchard, followed by super-strong Karen Chaundy from BodyBarre in Manchester. Karen had the most amazing jewel-studded shoes which she nearly 'lost' after she left me to look after them, I resisted the temptation to flee the club and returned them safely to her!

Next through the doors was the UKAPP organisers Stacey Sneddon (staceypole/Vertical Leisure) and Kat W (Pole Love). It was great to catch up with Stacey again and lovely to finally meet Kat. There was little time to chat as Stacey invited me to the dressing room for the pre-competition competitors meeting. The rules were simple, everyone was their to support each other, there would be no bitchiness or intimidation, anyone breaking the rules would be thrown out and banned from any future UKAPP events. The competitors were then advised on what they were and were not allowed to do during the evening and then Stacey gave them the chance to ask any questions. The whole thing was professional yet friendly creating a lovely atmosphere.

The lovely Kate Johnstone from Spin City had helped with the organisation of the Bristol heats and her hard work had paid off, it was great to catch up with her again and I will be looking forward to a pole jam with her in the not to distant future.

With just 30 minutes before the doors were due to open I saw two lovely ladies arriving; Deb Riley and Donna Gant whom I had not seen since last competing. Within just a few minutes the gorgeous Annie Norris (head judge) had arrived and we had just a few minutes to catch up before taking our places at the judges table. Last to arrive, but definitely not least was the ever graceful Alethea Austin (USPDF Miss Sexy 2009/USPDF Champion 2010), it is the first time I have met Alethea and she is a truly lovely lady who is extremely hard working, her schedule sounded exhausting! Alethea is currently touring the UK before returning the US for further master classes and workshops. Alethea is famous for both her pole dancing and her amazing chair dancing.

As the doors opened and the spectators started to take their places around the stage, excitement started to mount and I hoped that, as judges, we would ensure that the best person one each section.

Sally-Ann Giles took to the stage to introduce herself, us (the judges) and to explain the UKAPP ethos and audience rules. Sally-Ann is a natural compère and she was fabulous throughout the evening.

Before the competiton commenced we were treated to a stunning performance by Kate Johnstone and the Spin City dance troupe. They performed to Kelis 'Acapella', all wearing black with peacock feather details and amazing eyelashes. The routine was superb.

First up was the performer section; this section is aimed at beginners and the majority of points are awarded for entertainment factor e.g. crowd interaction, costume and dance routine. The performers are given a list of illegal moves to ensure they are beginners and not intermediate level students. For most of these ladies they have never performed in public before but despite this they wowed the audience and the judges, it was a hard decision but the win was given to Rebecca Hocking for her eye-catching boxing themed dance to 'Eye of the tiger'.

The next guest performer was the ever-flexibly Chantelle Pritchard who had been panicking about getting her 'spatchcock', she had only got it once in her rehearsal and was threatening to remove it from her routine but I am so glad she didn't. Chantelle danced to he U2 / Mary J Blige song 'One Love' and it was a beautiful performance including full death lay and the Spatchcock.

Next up was the Intermediate section with points now being allocated for slightly more complicated pole tricks. The competitors were all fabulous and had put some much into their routines. Again it was hard to pick a winner but we had to make up our minds and the win was given to Kerry Low. Kerry's performance included the use of a black ostrich feather fan and her sparkly gold outfit glittered throughout. I am dying to know what song Kerry danced to so if anyone knows please tell me so I can download it?

Before the start of the Expert section it was time for Karen Chaundy to entertain us with another show of strength and flexibility, I love Karen's unique style of dancing which is both theatrical and graceful. Karen danced to fire-starter by the Prodigy and included a fabulous power lift handstand as well as a Chinese Flag, very impressive!

So the standard was about to be raised as we moved into the Expert section. All the competitors demonstrated how the standard of pole dancing is just getting higher and higher but 2 ladies in particular stood out; Kate Czepulkowski and Jasmin (sorry I don't remember her surname). Kate's background in gymnastics gave her a clear advantage and the general view across the judging was that if Kate was going to go professional we should all retire now! Once again, all the competitors were amazing and should be very proud of their performances.

The final section was the instructor section, a new part of this year's UKAPP and a chance for a new instructor to shine. All the ladies were amazing but again 2 ladies stood out for very different reasons. Winner, Varie Anderson - click here for Varie's, performed a 3 minute song starting with a beautiful graceful start then, via a quick costume change, she finished her performance as real rock chick, a very entertaining and accomplished performance. The other instructor, who captured the heart of both myself and Deb Riley, was Spin City Instructor Kate Oldham - click here to view Kate's performance- whose 'Cupid' routine captivated the audience. Kate performed amazingly despite a rotator-cuff injury sustained just days before.

Before the results were announced it was time for the final guest performance of the night from Alethea Austin. Alethea had bravely (or stupidly as she suggested!) picked a 6.5 min song! The routine started with one of infamous chair dances which she performed brilliantly despite the very wobbly, unstable chair. Alethea then pulled out a series of floor moves, including a very strong and uber-bendy free-standing elbow stand, before taking to the pole and captivating the audience.

At the end of the night the results were announced including the judges award for overall winner which we just couldn't no agree on, we were torn between Kate Oldham and Jasmin and eventually, with the help of Stacey and Kat, were allowed to give them both the award meaning that they both get a place in the finals.

Before leaving for the long drive home I and the chance to catch up with several familiar faces; Robyn Rooke, Josephine Ford and Miranda Goldring. It is such a shame that we only got the chance to catch up so fleetingly but I hope to see them all again soon.

I must say that the UKAPP event is the best organised competition I have ever attended and I really couldn't pick fault with any aspect of the competition. The atmosphere was incredible and everyone seemed their to support each other. I can't wait to get involved with next years event and am so pleased that Stacey and Kat invited me to judge at this years event.

Stay Healthy,

Sam x

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