20 December, 2013

The UK Pole Dancer Series - Pippa Loveridge!

This month's interview is with the lovely Pippa Loveridge; instructor and owner of Polenastics studio, Milton Keynes. You will probably have seen her sat at the judges table at a huge number of UK competitions or in fact competed in one of her own competitions. Pippa is going to give us an insight in to the other, lesser seen, side of competitive pole dance, read on!

You started pole dancing in your 30's, is that correct? How did you originally get in to it?

I was 36, it was 2006 and not many people knew about pole dancing for fitness… I was overweight (13 & ½ stone), unhappily married and looking for something edgy to make me feel alive. I HATED the gym, couldn't run for toffee but did like a dance, so thought Pole Dancing might be interesting.

I was terrified I would be the oldest and fattest so it took me a LONG time to make it to my first class. The only reason that I went to that first class was because I was chatting to some mates in a pub, and it turned out 1 of them had signed up for a 6 week course so two of us joined her. It was very scary that first class and it was HARD! The gorgeous instructor Emily (who still teaches for Polenastics on occasion), was not only stunning, but taught the WHOLE lesson in 6” heels! We generally did 30mins tricks and spins then 30mins dance learning a routine – which I actually hated at first as I felt like a right prat!

We told all of our friends that it was rubbish so that they wouldn’t come along and Natasha and I became addicts! I ended up, doing both Tuesday and both Thursday evening lessons and a Saturday morning one too! I don’t get to train that much anymore as I don’t have the time, but I LOVED it; getting stronger, feeling something get easier and easier the more I practiced… ahhh the good old ‘selfishly doing it for me’ days.

I fell into teaching in 2008 and got qualified to help out Emily as we had started teaching in Hitchin as well as Milton Keynes, then in 2009, Emily stepped back and Polenastics was born - it was Emily’s Vertical Art before.

You've been a judge at a number of UK competitions, what kind of training goes on behind the scene for this role?

Training to judge is mainly experience, I know that some of the more sport based competitions have very strict judging rules, but for the mainstream competitions rather than the technical ones, that don’t allow for personal interpretation as much, they choose most judges for their ability and/or their reputation. We have always chosen judges for our competition who we know and train with personally, are fair and competent, and have either competed themselves or performed. We choose them for their different styles, their ages and their personalities.
I originally had a full days intensive training on the gymnastics/cheerleading style of judging for competitions for the National Synchronised Pole Dance Squad national competition where I was joint head judge back in 2010, there they removed the highest and lowest scores. I have spent many hours studying videos of pole and gymnastics for lines and techniques. I have been trained by some of the world’s elite, including: Pantera, Felix Cane, Jenyne Mariposa, Jamila Deville, Maria Luz, Este Zakar, Alesia Vazmitsel, Sarah Scott (who won the NSPDS comp), Jess Leanne Norris, Suzie Q, Zoraya Judd, Rebecca Butcher, Karen Chaundy, Marlo Fisken and many more. I am a technique and line maniac, and have a huge respect for anyone who gets on stage; I have also taught well over 3,000 students which has ensured that I have a good understanding of mechanics and ability. 

I do not take my eyes off the competitor for their entire performance, I write as I watch which sometimes leads to a scribbly table! I was put under a lot of pressure to judge when I was asked to be a preliminary judge for the World Pole Dance in 2010 and again in 2011 where I was also the Tricks Judge for the final. As tricks judge, I had to write down each and every trick combo and spin and grade for level as the competitor performed (almost set the table on fire with my frantic scribbling for some of those routines!). These notes were to be used in order to calculate the Award for best tricks and in case of any ties where the tricks could be taken into account. I like to think I am fair, understanding and constructive with my feedback and comments, everyone wants to know what little tweak would have got them that place in the line up and I hope I provide feedback that helps them achieve that. I have been honored to have been asked to judge over 15 competitions in the last 3 years.

In particular I am very interested in scoring systems, in what ways do these competitions minimise personal bias with the pole industry being so tight knit?

Some competitions take out the highest and lowest scores, some won’t allow a judge to judge an entire category if they have a student or colleague competing, which is becoming much harder as some judges will have people in each category.

I know that I have discussed with some of the judges I have worked with how it’s hard to be as unbiased on our own students/colleague as we already know what they are capable of so we can be harsher than we would on a competitor that we didn’t know. As a judge its our job to ensure we have detached ourselves and see each competitor as just that, someone competing.

You're organising a new competition this year, what kind of work goes in to organising an event of this kind?

OMG so much! Luckily, Hollie and I are both from the event organising business in our day jobs so we plan to the last detail. The 2014 event is our 4th competition so we hope we have ironed out most of the bugs, from attending and judging at so many competitions we have a lot of information of what works, what doesn’t, and what is fair. So with this new competition the main issues are the rigging and safety aspects of an aerial comp that requires 7m drops!!! We take feedback after each of our competitions and do our best to improve year on year. For us the main people who matter are the competitors; the sponsors, judges and audience can all wait; it’s the safety and the enjoyment of the competitor that we work around as these are the guys under the most amount of pressure and who have made the most incredible effort to be there.

Have you ever competed or wish to compete someday?

I competed in the professional category of the 2009 Pole Divas Manchester heat and I shat my pants (thankfully not literally)! It was absolutely terrifying and something I would NEVER EVER want to do again! I do not do well with nerves and was a wreck. I competed against some serious contenders and have no idea where I came but I slid out of my elbow Ayesha and the music was played at a faster tempo to what I expected so nothing fitted where it should have done, the nerves literally took my breath away and as someone who never sweats I was wringing when I came off stage. I don’t remember a THING about being on stage, and I couldn’t stop shaking for about 3 hours after….. Boy! I have limitless respect for those who choose to do that to themselves! In my eyes, anyone who competes has already won it’s just a case of placing….

Is pole dance instruction your full time job? If not, what else do you do and why?

Nope, Polenastics is totally part time but pretty much full time part time. I work full time as a marketing manager in an office. I used to travel a lot with my work but now I am mainly UK based it’s a lot easier to do Polenastics when I finish work. I have just remarried and I have an 18 year old daughter and 2 new teenage sons that came with the hubs. I literally fell into running Polenastics, accidentally opened a studio and somehow manage to leave 1 job of 7.5 hrs a day to teach for another 2-5 hours most evenings and weekends then spend my spare time answering emails and arranging events, workshops and judging. I also do all the promotion and design for Polenastics, run all the social media and branding and try and fit time in to train myself… Polenastics is my ‘other’ kid hehehe. Luckily along the way, I have been fortunate enough to meet some incredible ladies who also wanted to teach with me. The Polenastics team is strong and incredibly supportive of each other. I couldn’t do any of this without them so if it’s ok, I would like to say massive thanks to Emily, Hollie, Michelle, Sarah, Layla, Carla, Laurie, Lauren, Alex , Emma, Lucy, Sam, Teri and Kirsty and hugs also to Christine and the delectable Jess.

What is your signature move?

Definitely Daredevil… But I can also hold a mean twisty grip in various poses (except iron x, waa bad back issues) for AGES!

Share your favourite ever pole routine.

It has to be this one:

A big thank you to Pippa for answering my questions! You can find more info on the Polenastics Championships, here.

If you'd like to take part in this series please comment below or email me at spinninglovestoryblog@gmail.com

- Bex