By Micaela Mamede
Earlier this year, I received an email from a friend asking if I'd like to perform in a pole dance competition. Having only been pole dancing for two years, inconsistently, and teaching for one of those years, I had every intention of politely replying: "are you nuts?". But on a second thought, what a great opportunity to meet others sharing the same passion for the sport! And how exciting to be able to dance on a professionally rigged stage in front of a large audience! Quickly, that second thought turned into delusion and, almost instantly, I signed up to perform not one, but two routines in two distinct divisions. The Atlantic Pole Championships are broken up into four levels ("4" being the most advanced) and three divisions: Championship, Entertainment and Artistic Dramatic. I signed up for Level 2 Championship and Artistic Dramatic. Apparently having to practice for one routine was not enough...
What followed were two months of intense practice, creative downpour and scheduling every commitment around "pole life". There were songs to be picked, outfits and accessories to coordinate, choreography to be figured out and, ultimately, a body to educate. For the Championship division, I chose an overtly sexy song by the Eagles called "Those Shoes". This title inspired my outfit: sparkly red shoes and Mika's Papaya Tula Top and Lucia Shorts, which I baddazzled with a vengeance. For the Artistic Dramatic division, the inspiration came from a name my beloved late Grandfather called me throughout my life, "Pardalito", meaning "Little Sparrow", in our native Portuguese. I enlisted a designer to come up with a feather ear cuff to match Mika's Blackberry Lucia shorts and Mango Kora Top. I was to dance to "Scribbled Paper", by Little Dragon, through an organic, fluid choreography. All set to go! Or so I thought...
In the last week of practice, the inevitable happened: broken toe, dislocated rib and pulled hamstring, all due to over training. I was devastated. So sad to see all my hard work and dollars spent go down the drain. Thanks to advice from friends, I embarked on a mission to heal, attending acupuncture and chiropractor sessions, and resting as much as I could. The pain was unbearable and the frustration heartbreaking. I was asked to pull out of the competition, but instead chose to do whatever I could, regardless of the outcome.
On day one of the competition, I woke up at 6am with difficulty expanding my lungs. The irritation on my rib had reached new heights. Determined (or mostly stubborn), I joined a group of pole dancers to practice before the performance. After doing a few moves around the pole, I wasn't able to go any further. Back in my room, I laid in bed unable to move, crying from pain and disappointment. I finally gave in and called a friend whom, minutes later presented me with a pack of "miracle" Advil! I picked myself up and joined the other pole dancers in the dressing room. The atmosphere was friendly, all the girls were supportive and caring and there was no room for anxiety. One by one, we were called up on stage. As my turn approached, I tried focusing on doing the best I could, honoring my body and its injuries, and putting on a good show for everyone to enjoy. And so I did! Being on stage, in front of a cheering audience, gives you an indescribable boost of confidence. I remember not being able to hold the back bending poses, which are usually my forte, but it was fine - I was enjoying it so much! After the performance, I went back to my room, accompanied by two handsome ice packs, and just relaxed, so happy to have performed and gone through with the plan! Moments later, I got the most unexpected text message from a friend, saying I had placed third. This was my first competition, I was injured and this was the furthest from my goals. The surprise, excitement and overall unicorn flying over rainbows fest in my brain was just what the doctor ordered!
The following morning, I got up to perform for the second time in the Artistic Dramatic division. Much more relaxed than the previous day, I went on stage and just danced, carelessly. Perhaps a bit too carelessly, given that most of the time I lost track of where the audience was! After the performance, I mingled with friends and colleagues and spent the afternoon sitting in the sun, soaking in such an eventful weekend!
Exactly two weeks ago from today, I was arriving back in NYC after my first competition. My body ached badly and exhaustion sunk in, but I couldn't be happier for having given it my all!
* To all the performers at APC: we truly are modern day warriors, making time in our regular tax paying lives and sparing room in our wallets to accommodate pole practices, trip planning, outfit coordination and much more. We compromise our work, social life, rest and even our health to dedicate ourselves wholeheartedly to a passion that often proves to be bitter. We have outstanding discipline, drive, creativity and artistic ability. Hats off to ALL performers, regardless of level, experience and pole affiliation. We did it!