On May 22 Kyra Johannesen and Kyle McBeth hosted and directed Polesque 2011, A night of burlesque performances and a pole dancing competition at Galapagos Art Space in Dumbo Brooklyn. Here is the interview with winner Roz Michelle:
Where are you from originally?
Huntington, New York. It is a suburb on Long Island.
I know Huntington. I lived in Woodbury and Huntington for a while as well. What is your pre-pole dance background?
My pre-pole athletic background consists of 8 years of softball and soccer (this was in middle and high school . . . does it still count, lol?) and 4 years of hip hop dance class.
Of course it counts! What inspired you to start pole dancing?
I was inspired to try pole because it was the funkiest class on Crunch’s schedule. I became addicted to it because I loved the combo of strength and sexuality. I was hooked from the first class. It was so much fun and helped me build so much strength!
How would you describe your style?
I would describe my style as bold, sexy and confident. I do everything I can to live up to my name, The Diva. I love drama, over-the-top personality and making the crowd go wild. My #1 goal is to turn everyone in the audience on.
What other kind of dancing or exercise do you do besides pole?
About four years ago, I turned into a gym rat. Besides pole, I take hip hop, ultimate conditioning and occasionally hit the elliptical.
Do you ride a bike? If not, why not?
I don’t ride a bike on a regular basis . . . don’t hate me! I think bikes are awesome, but I just never thought of riding one in the city.
No hating here! You should try it. You can borrow my guest bike and take it for a spin in the park anytime. Please describe your experience competing in Polesque.
Competing in Polesque was very special to me. I’m not one for big fancy tricks, so a show that focuses on stage presence and performance quality is perfect for me. I cannot tell you how much my heart soared when I won. It was the culmination of years of hard work and lots of bruising.
Would you like to see an Olympic pole team?
I would be in the front row cheering everyone on!!
Tell us about pole classes you take and/or teach.
Crunch will always hold a special place in my heart for introducing me to pole. Additionally, I love Body and Pole for their terrific workshops. However, nobody beats my new family at Sacred, the studio where I teach every Sunday 2:00-3:30 (197 Clifton Place, Brooklyn; www.sacredbrooklyn.com). Teaching pole is my new favorite way to enjoy the sport. Unlike a regular office job, this atmosphere allows my vibrant personality to thrive. I love watching my students develop a stronger relationship with their bodies and their sexuality. I’m in talks with other studios to start teaching there, too . . .
What are 3 or more cool websites you would like to share with readers?
Lindsay Mays’ blog is freakin’ hysterical:http://thebutchersgotbeef.blogspot.com/
Believe it or not, I do have a day job. I’m a career coach:www.RozMays.com
I’m a huge foodie and love Serious Eats:http://newyork.seriouseats.com/
What is your ideal vacation activity and destination?
When I vacation, I believe in totally spoiling myself. When I went to Sydney last year, I did two really awesome things: 1) took a class at Bobbi’s Pole Studio, and 2) went diving with sharks. Next, my sister and I would love to take a trip to Antarctica (no lie, we really want to go)!
Sounds cool and cold! What are your current favorite songs to dance to?
Nasty Naughty Boy by Christina Aguilara, my winning Polesque song, is my favorite pole song of all time, followed by Pony by Genuine. In general, I am a big R&B and Hip-Hop girl.
If you could spend a few hours with any person from past or present history who would it be and what would you do with them?
I would love to give Michelle Obama pole lessons! Have you seen those incredible arms?!
I think America is ready for that. What do you do for fun when you're not working?
When I’m not working, I’m in the kitchen cooking. I love cooking as much as I love pole. My favorite thing in the world to make is ricotta pancakes from Bisquick.
What advice do you have for someone who would like to take pole classes but are intimidated?
Pole dancers are a diversified as the rainbow. I am living proof of that. I guarantee that if you take one of my classes, all your inhibitions will be out the window in no time!
Anything else you’d like to share?
Thick girls rock!
Thanks Roz! Here is a review of the event http://www.sacredbrooklyn.com/
And here is a review of the show by Michelle Stanek originally published on the X-Pole blog:
Polesque, once again lived up to its reputation of the most fun and wildly entertaining pole dance competition out there. Held for the third time on Sunday, May 22 at Galapagos Art Space in Brooklyn, 16 competitors from New York, Pennsylvania, DC, Virginia, North Carolina and even Sweden performed to a sold out and very rowdy crowd who came to be entertained! People lined up over an hour in advance, some still seeking tickets to get in. During the show, the floors were shaking and the walls were vibrating with thunderous applause, screaming, stomping and chanting. There were guns, flips, breakdancing, crystal balls, glitter, tatas and tassles a plenty.
Judges included California Pole Dance Championship runner up and "Most Artistic," Flying Laura (Martin) from San Diego, UPSDF Pro Alison Cox from Orlando and Ben, a tax attorney from New York. Sprinkled throughout the show were performances by some of NYC's best Burlesque artists including Sapphire Jones, Go Go Harder and Nasty Canasta who always deliver performances combining the sexy, hilarious, risque and beautiful. This unforgettable evening was hosted by TV Personality and host of the Fuse Top 20 Countdown, Allison Hagendorf, who is also a pole dance student.
The 16 competitors each had three minutes to tell a story, utilize the pole, but most importantly, entertain the crowd.
"Polesque is a pole dance competition, but it is all about performance art and entertaining the audience," says Kyra Johannesen, producer of the show. According to Flying Laura, "concept, costume, performance quality, connecting with the audience and emotional expression are scored higher than technique and level of difficulty." And it was not easy to judge!
Tracee Kafer seemed to channel all the ferocity from the depths of her soul for her thrashy, angsty, emotional and riveting piece about not wanting to let go yet.
Roz, The Diva, seriously worked the pole, her curves, the audience and even Roland, one lucky pole cleaner, to Christina Aguilera's "Nasty Naughty Boy." This performance left the audience chanting "Diva! Diva! Diva!" it was that good. She was truly a crowd-pleaser.
Cyd Sailor, dazzled the crowd with her rendition of "Singing in the Rain." She one-handed-climbed the pole, with an umbrella in her other hand, naturally. She exhibited her amazingly flexible back and picture-perfect poses, made even better by her cute yet intoxicating smile. She truly seemed happy on the stage. Ending in a recliner, swinging her tassles wasn't bad either!
Ryssa served the sass in pink fringe, sequins, feathers and sparkles as she shimmied, kicked, hip bumped and leg switched right on queue to "I am a Good Girl" from the Burlesque soundtrack.
Jill Anne fully committed to her Clint Eastwood-Spagetti Western-cowboy-character during her routine to the theme song from "The Good, The Bad & The Ugly." She wore a cowboy hat, slid off her chaps, shot her gun and smoked a cigarette the ENTIRE time.
Meritza Chang's piece to Muse's "Feelin Good" had everyone feelin good! She was sharp, smooth, soulful, super sexy and mesmerizing. I could barely take notes as I watched. My pen just made incoherent scribbles. She was on fire.
Lauren Goldstein opened her piece sweet and girly and ended with smeared make-up, messed up hair, one shoe on and exhausted! She told the story of breaking expectations, how we are seen versus who we really are and the dualities that exist within us.
Lucille Holmes closed the show as a sultry Jessica Rabbit. She had dim lights, long hair, luscious curves, long legs, sick tricks and even flips!
All the competitors offered something unique and each one was incredible.
After all the competitors performed and the judges were busy tallying, debating and finding it very difficult to pick three dancers who would make it to the final battle round, the audience got yet another treat—the premeir of Aera Dance Foundation Inc. Aera is an aerial dance company that is redefining pole dance and performance art. Set to "Monster" by Nicki Minaj, the 2 silk artists and 4 pole dancers (Kyra Johannesen, Steven Retchless, Marlo Fisken and Rebecca Starr) emerged from a large, black, ominous monster-like structure and continued on to destroy the stage with a dynamic and visually complex work of art. The all-star cast, powerful choreography and creative composition brought the house down.
After much debate, the judges finally chose the three finalists to battle it out for the title of Polesque 2011 champ. And those three were...Tracee Kafer, Lauren Goldstein and Roz, The Diva! During the battle round each dancer had 30 seconds to work the pole and entertain the audience one last time. It's their time to pull out all the stops, show their best tricks, shake their booty like they've never shook it before and get the most reaction from the audience! The final winner was chosen by audience response. And the audience spoke, chanted, screamed, stomped and clapped the most for...Roz, The Diva! The crowd roared and the Diva cried!
She said, "Winning Polesque was a dream come true. This is, by far, the biggest accomplishment in my pole career. I have wanted to claim this title since the very first Polesque. I couldn't help but burst into tears on stage when Allison called my name. Never has my heart wanted something so badly. Tonight was the culmination of 3 1/2 years of sweat, tears, late night practices and tons of Dry Hands."
She also adds, "Believe it or not, I struggle with self confidence and accepting my body for what it is. However, something happens when I hit the stage. The Diva is addicted to the roar of the crowd! I will do almost anything to keep the cheers coming. This competition is special to me cause it is a safe, supportive environment for me to let my sexuality come out in full force. Nothing is sexier than a strong woman with a pole by her side. I was floored by the outpouring of support I received. Being a thick woman, I have to constantly remind myself the I belong on the same stage at everyone else. Tonight proved that sexy knows no size." Amen!
Congratulations to Roz and all the amazing competitors! Polesque was a raucous, entertaining and inspiring evening of pole dance, burlesque, creativity and artistry at its best.
If you are a pole dancer and live to entertain an audience, have a story to tell through your pole dancing, or just don't want to miss this show (and you shouldn't!), stay tuned for more information on the fourth Polesque in October 2011!
-Michelle Stanek, Polesque 2010 winner and UPSDF Pro