BELFAST will welcome the largest group of pole dancers to the Mandela Hall next week for the All Ireland Pole Dance Championships.
Over 300 spectators will attend to see 35 professional and amateur pole dancers and athletes from all over Northern Ireland, Ireland and the UK take part in the massive competition on Saturday September 19.
What was once considered a seedy skill only found in backstreet strip clubs, in the last decade has grown into one of the most popular sporting activities amongst women – and now men – across the country.
Highly toned competitors and athletes will spend the day demonstrating their skills in a range of choreographed routines designed to wow the audience with their strength and agility.
Sponsored by UK company X-Pole, who sell pole and aerial fitness equipment, the event will also feature specialised aerial, pole and burlesque performers.
Former four-time winner of the Irish Championships (2010-2014), well known performer Jo Robinson and owner of Polelicious won’t be competing this year but will be doing a featured performance at the event.
She said: “For me pole dancing is art, a creative pursuit like any other type of dancing.
“I love competing, especially in the All Ireland competition as it really gives you a chance to express yourself through the medium of dance as well as show off any athletic ability you might have gained whilst learning and performing.
“Winning the competition in the past opened so many doors to me. Since then I’ve performed in Miami and I travel to America throughout the year to teach others as well.
“For me pole dancing opened up a new way of life and to get the chance to work hard and represent my country worldwide was an honour.”
But not everyone gets involved in the sport for athletic reasons. Because it’s multi-faceted Kash Suntharamoorthy from sponsors X-Pole said that the classes cater for a lot of different people.
She added: “Pole fitness combines dance, strength training, endurance and flexibility into one workout, and uses every part of your body, strengthening muscles and providing a full cardio workout, as well as improving coordination.
“Unlike traditional fitness classes, that can sometimes be boring and feel unprogressive, pole dancing is incredibly rewarding. As you improve you’ll find that you’re able to do more and more fun things on the pole, all the time increasing your strength, fitness and coordination.”
And El Fegan, organiser of the championships and the first person to set up pole dancing classes in Ireland through her company Polercise in 2005 says it’s growing so much in popularity that this year they’ve seen the number of men taking up the sport increase.
She added: “Pole dancing has gained popularity as a form of exercise with increased awareness of the benefits to general strength and fitness. These forms of exercise increases core and general body strength by using the body itself as resistance, while toning the body as a whole.
“Pole dancing is also generally reported by its schools to be empowering for women in terms of building self-confidence, in terms of which its erotic components are still the subject of some controversy.
“But a growing number of men are incorporating pole dancing into their fitness programmes. In Australia, the UK, the US and here in Ireland dance studios now offer classes just for men.
“With 27 studios across Ireland and Northern Ireland recorded last year there is an ever increasing number of athletes taking part in the national competitions.
“I think it could be one of the country’s fastest growing sports
“The All Ireland Pole Dancing Championships has grown to become the country’s most prestigious pole competition and people will be travelling from all over to compete.
“This year we’ve also seen the number of male entrants double from last year’s event.”
Winners of each category on the day will be crowned Pole Dance Champion in their category and automatically entered into the preliminaries for the World Pole Sport & Fitness Championships 2016 to represent Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Tickets for the All Ireland Pole Dancing Championships on Saturday September 19 at the Mandela Hall in Belfast are £10. For more information log onto www.theallirelandpoledancechampionships.com.