After their debut last year, we thought we’d catch up with Louisa Best (President) and Katie Askew (Kit Secretary) of the Pole Fitness Society to see how they’re preparing in the build up to this year’s Varsity.
What’s it like to be a competitor in varsity?
Louisa: It’s nice to be recognised at last because before we were just a society and we didn’t really get recognised by the university as a club that achieved things, so by taking part in Varsity we’re starting to come up to the same mark as everyone else which is really nice.
Katie: It was such a big deal for us because we’ve done inter-uni competitions for a few years, but now we’re taking part in a competition as part of Team Southampton [they only became a member of AU last year]and we’re so excited to finally be a part of that.
Last year was your first year. How did it go?
Louisa: We won! It was a really, really good experience. Portsmouth were lovely and it was a nice friendly competitive atmosphere.
Katie: I can’t remember the exact score but it was in the 200s. We did really well!
What’s the scoring system for pole fitness?
Louisa: You judge it like a dance routine almost, you have criteria like ‘Fluidity’ and ‘Technical Ability’ – which is how complicated a particular move is and is quite similar to gymnastics. There’s also ‘Interpretation of the Music’ which I think is quite a subjective one but it means you can’t just throw a load of moves together – it has to flow and make sense. In terms of difficulty of moves, if you’re entering a certain category (we’ve got beginners, intermediate, advanced and doubles), the moves that you do have to fit with those criteria. There’s a Pole Dance Community website that have split moves up in levels 1 – 6 where beginners is 1- 2, intermediate is 1 -4 and advanced is 1 -6 so if you get to advanced, you’re expected to do levels 5 and 6 – 6 are insane!
Katie: We kind of say that anything goes when you get to advanced. You can do what you want if you can pull it off.
Were there any memorable moments from last year?
Katie: Our president and vice-president improvised a doubles routine on the day and Kat [last year’s President]ended up kicking Emma [last year’s Vice-President]in the head half way through. That kind of thing happens when you’re doing doubles.
Louisa: But they still won doubles – considering it was improvised as well, they did really well.
Have you ever had to improvise routines or has anything ever not gone to plan?
Louisa: All the time!
Katie: You find that when you’re performing, you’re so focused on trying to get the move you’re trying to do at that moment perfect that you sometime forget what comes after. As for disasters, I fell off the pole in the middle of our showcase last year onto my head. When you’re upside down, you don’t want to let go – and I let go. I won’t be doing that this year. But I came back after the interval and did my routine again and didn’t fall off twice so it’s all good.
Louisa: It was epic! It was such a good routine. I was so proud of you for getting back up and doing it again
Katie: You have to, you can’t just stop. I had to face the fear because I thought ‘if I don’t get back on this pole now I probably never will’ so I went for it and it worked the second time.
So what would you say to the people who don’t see pole fitness as a sport?
Louisa: I’d like to invite them to give it a go! It takes a lot of strength. I usually compare it to gymnastics. Yes, it’s a performance and you’re pointing your toes and trying to make a routine but it requires so much strength, stamina and technique as well. If you don’t have the right technique, you can be the world’s strongest man or woman and you won’t be able to do it so it’s the combination of all those things. Anyone who says it isn’t a sport, I invite them to try it!
Katie: I think people don’t appreciate the amount of training that we do to get to where we are. I’ve been doing pole for 3 years and there are moves which at the beginning I thought would be really easy to be able to do and I’m only just achieving them now. I think people look at it and think ‘oh that’s really easy, anyone could do that’ and anyone can start doing pole and in time get really, really good – we’ve got loads of girls who started a few years ago and are amazing – but there’s a lot of training that goes into it
I’ve heard that there’s lot of bruises and burns involved..
Louisa: There is! They’re a real constant thing.
Katie: You get used to them. Every time you try a new move you get a new bruise.
Louisa: They’re trophies, not bruises. We call them pole kisses. They’re evidence that you’ve worked hard that session.
Katie: You know you’ve achieved something new when you get a new bruise.
Do you have any signature moves?
Louisa: Yes, mine’s my knee hold (picture). I consider myself to be a leg person because I’ve always been stronger in my legs than I have in my abs or my arms so even though the knee hold is quite an advanced move, I managed to get it when I was at an intermediate level.
Katie: Mine’s a one-armed embrace where you’re hanging on with one elbow and everything else is off the pole – it’s great, I love it!
How does it feel in the moments before your routines?
Katie: Terrifying! I was so scared before the show case last year.
Louisa: We have a practice pole out the back to warm up because you do need to do some spins and get your hands slightly sticky and conditioned. You’re on that pole in the back room thinking ‘I can’t do anything!’ but once you get out there you forget all of the nerves.
Katie: Something just clicks and you just think ‘I know my routine..’
Katie: And you kinda just run with it and if things go wrong you just keep going.
Louisa: It’s scary. But it’s the same with anything, if you’re going to do a performance or a game or any sort of competition your heart’s going to be going and your hands sweating – which is especially unhelpful for us! – and you’re going to be nervous.
Can you sum up what Varsity means to you in three words?
Louisa: Reputation, Scary and excited! It’s something to look forward to.
Katie: Chance to represent! It’s so good for us to finally be a part of Team Southampton and be able to do our bit. I’m so proud of the society for being able to get to this point, because although we do compete nationally in other competitions, it’s just so nice to finally be recognised by the uni.
Louisa: And amongst the other sports too. It’s not just being part of the pole competition, it’s being part of the whole sporting community here and to be part of that is just amazing.
Katie: It’s such a big deal!
Good luck for Varsity! If anyone’s interested in seeing for themselves the Varsity routines amongst others, the society welcome you to attend the SUPS Showcase on the 21st March in the Cube.