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When you fall in love with pole dancing, a few things can happen. You create a separate Instagram account to document your pole journey. You develop an addiction to buying platform stripper heels. You wonder if you’re ready for a pole dancing competition.

If you’re thinking about registering for your first pole dancing competition, but you have a few doubts, you aren’t alone. Does this sound like you?

I’m not sure if I’m good enough to compete.

First and foremost, yes you are. Secondly, what does “good enough” mean to you? If what you really mean is, “I’d be so proud if I cold do a solid Butterfly in a routine onstage. Once I can do it reliably, and I feel comfortable in a Butterfly, I’m going to compete.” Well, okay, that’s great! I support having clear and measurable goals.

But if your definition of “good enough” is vague and undefined, or worse, defined by what others think is “good enough,” I’d say fuck that noise. You might not ever feel “good enough.” Why rob yourself of the experience? Just go for it. You are good enough as you are.

I’m nervous to get on the stage.

Well, yeah! Feeling nervous about getting onstage is totally normal! Every time I wait nervously backstage for my name to be announced, I think, “Why do I do this to myself?!” But the second it’s over, I walk off the stage and think, “That was fast! I can’t wait to do it again.”

You can try anxiety reappraisal and tell yourself, “I’m not nervous; I’m excited!” There’s no significant physiological difference between nervousness and excitement anyway; you’re responding to how your brain interprets the feeling.

Or you can do a dress rehearsal. A lot of studios do a competitor showcase a week or so prior to the competition. If your studio doesn’t, ask your studio’s owner if they could organize one. A dress rehearsal is a great way to field test costume pieces, perform in front of a live audience, and diffuse some of the jitters.

I don’t know how to put together a routine.

You mean you didn’t wake up one day and suddenly have the talent and experience of a seasoned choreographer? How dare you! Knowing how to put together a routine is a learned skill, and everyone starts from zero. The process looks different for everyone, too, so don’t think you have to work any which way.

Sometimes, my song choice comes first. Other times, I come up with combos before I even have a song. I’ve even choreographed in silence, stringing together movements that I like and noted in my Ultimate Pole Goal Notebook. I determine the tempo based on how fast or slow my body wants to go. Other people like to throw on their favorite song and just freedance to see what happens. There’s no single right way to do it, but I would recommend doing what feels like the right process for you.

And if you need help, enlist the instructors at your studio! Be advised, it will cost money; it’s the expertise you are paying for, but many instructors do private lessons for just this very thing.

I don’t know which competition to do.

These days, there really is no such thing as “competition season.” Much like the British Empire in the age of Imperialism, the sun never sets on a pole comp! It seems like there’s always a pole dancing competition going on.

Pole dancing competitions come in all flavors; there are different venues, levels, styles, and entry rules. Some are in person, while others are virtual. Some are more prestigious, so to speak, because they are qualifiers for national and international championships. There’s the Pole Championship Series, the Florida Pole Fitness Championship, Pole Theater World, Exotic Generation, International Pole Championship and so many more. But chances are, if this is your first pole dancing competition, and you just want to get on the stage and do your thing, you’re looking for Pole Sport Organization.

I’ve competed at Pole Sport Organization’s regional amateur events, and I fully support what they are all about. PSO believes that anyone at any level should have a chance to be on stage. They are a pay-to-play competition, which means there’s no submission video, no pre-requisites, and no required moves. You just register, and that’s it! Plus, they have a lot of great resources to help first timers figure out what level and category to do, so you won’t feel lost.

Think about that; how many grown ass adults get to have a moment on a real stage with professional lighting? I know without PSO, I wouldn’t have ever had my moment. Oh, and if you like the idea of getting onstage and feeling like a star but don’t love the competition part of it, there’s a non-competitive Showcase category. Want to put yourself out there, but not in person? PSO has virtual competitions too.

Okay, Bee! Any tips before I go register for my first pole dancing competition?

  1. Ask yourself if you want to compete. If you’re doing it because you think you have to for some reason or because everyone else at your studio is doing it, know that competing is not for everyone. It doesn’t make you any less of a pole dancer if you choose not to compete.
  1. Decide for yourself what your goal is with competing. If you want to crush the competition and place first, well, okay! It’s a competition, after all; it’s okay to want to win. But maybe your goal is to get out of your comfort zone and not care about where you place. Maybe it’s to watch some cool routines and get inspiration. Maybe you want an excuse to travel to a new place. Maybe you want to make new pole friends. Whatever your goal is for competing, you’ll feel better and more successful about the experience if you are clear about why you are doing it.
  1. Spring for the professional video and photo package. You won’t regret it. And if you wear your Bee’s Knees Knee Pads onstage, I want to see! I have a playlist of great PSO videos that Bee's Knees fans have shared with me over the years. Check it out and get inspired!