| HONG KONG, March 16
HONG KONG, March 16 Scanty costumes,
glitter, grace and athleticism all went on display in Hong Kong
this week as competitors vied for the "Ultimate Pole"
Championship, hoping to reap renown as the world's top pole
Once known mainly to strip club aficionados, pole dancing
has over the last few years evolved into a popular pastime and
way of staying in shape, with devotees promoting it as a
legitimate form of dance and acrobatics.
Now in its sixth year, the International Pole Competition
brought together 29 of the world's leading names in pole dancing
to compete in two categories: Pole Fit, which focuses on
fitness, and Pole Art, which focuses on originality and
"I think probably the hardest thing is finding a balance
between strength, grace and flexibility," said Australian Chris
Measday, winner in the men's division, who was inspired to take
up pole dancing after breaking his back warming up for a
"I'm not the most flexible guy in the world, I'm not the
strongest guy in the world, but I am graceful. Trying to find
something that balances and ticks all those boxes is probably
the hardest thing."
The competitor with the highest scores in both fitness and
art won the title of Ultimate Pole Champion in each of four
divisions: men's, women's, disabled, and doubles.
To receive the maximum amount of points, performances need
to be well-executed with careful attention paid to the
synchronization of dance moves to music. Stress is also placed
on energy, enthusiasm and strong stage presence.
Competitors, seemingly effortlessly, bent their bodies
around poles and spun their way up them, arms and legs moving
with balletic grace.
Australian Deborah Roach, who is missing an arm, claimed the
Ultimate Pole title in the disabled division and said she had
always loved to dance.
"I actually got into an underground Goth scene in my teenage
years because I didn't fit into normal society. I loved dancing
the night away on the dance floor, and that led to stage dancing
in clubs," she said.
In 2006, inspired by a circus-themed double act she saw at a
club she was dancing in, Roach took up pole dancing and aerial
acrobatics, and hasn't looked back.
In 2009 she won a pole dancing competition against
able-bodied dancers, which spurred her to quit her job in IT,
become a personal trainer, get her first prosthetic and learn to
ride a bike at age 28.
Other winners said that they had to unlearn habits from
their past athletic experiences, such as dropping poses from
artistic gymnastics and the like.
And some, like Measday, said they were not above a little
sleight of hand -- or body.
"I cheat," said Measday. "I use spin like there's no
tomorrow so I look strong."
(Reporting by Elaine Lies and Paul Casciato)