Dallas, TX – The first thing I saw after taking my seat at the Lakewood Theater for the 2012 Miss Texas Pole Star (MTPS) competition literally made me jump and utter an unprintable word out loud, but I bet the reason is not what you think.
Karol Helms, one of the 2012 MTPS judges, was performing a demonstration routine ahead of the Ultimate division finale. She climbed to the top of the 20-foot pole, then moved into an inverted position where she was holding on only with her hands, then she lets go and falls straight towards the stage face-first (there is no padding or safety harnesses). This is the point where I jumped and said, “$%&*!” as professionally as possible, right before Ms. Helms arrested her fall using only her legs just a few inches above the floor. Having learned a lesson about what daredevils these women are, I prepared for the competitive portion of the evening to begin.
Holly Marsh performs at Miss Texas Pole Star 2012. Photo Credit: Art Cantu, Jr. – SportDFW Staff Photographer
In addition to the obvious physical skill required, the choreography and attention to detail were evident from the very first competitor, Ariel Xenia. The purposeful, deliberate, artistic transitions from strength move to inverted hold, to hands-only hold, to a legs-only hold to splits (all while suspended on a pole, mind you) reminded me of how Olympic ice skaters or gymnasts perform their routines. They flow from one skill move to another while smiling at the crowd and making what is obviously an incredibly difficult routine look easy and effortless. Some of the competitors utilized their experience in sports such as ballet or cheerleading to their advantage while performing, but when Holly Marsh took the stage, her gymnastics background was obvious and she took the competition to a new level.
Miss Marsh moved with a fluidity and speed that few of the other competitors could match, and every one of her power moves were held while in perfect form. Miss Marsh spun around the pole fast enough to remind me of the old black and white video of g-force tests from the space program; then she topped off her routine with a death drop while in splits straight enough to use as a level. Holly Marsh went on to win the well-deserved Miss Trixter Award, which is given to the performer who has the best mix of difficulty and creativity in her skill set. She was rightfully very proud of her performance:
"“I was extremely excited to receive the Miss Trixter award, because I spent a significant part of my training creating new spins on existing tricks as well as inventing new tricks all-together. I strongly believe that originality is critically important in all pole performances. Regardless of how difficult certain pole tricks are, if everyone does them over and over again, the performances can become dull. In light of this, I feel like the “Trixter” award gave me recognition for the hours I’ve spent attempting to break free of the stereotypical performance repertoire.”"
Jennifer Huff performs at Miss Texas Pole Star 2012. Photo Credit: Art Cantu, Jr. – SportDFW Staff Photographer
Jennifer Huff and Lindsey Dement both turned in excellent performances as well, but for different reasons. Miss Huff (along with Amy Henderson) had the most impressive flag moves. A ‘flag-move’ is when the athlete holds onto the pole with her hands and then pushes her entire body away from the pole so that it is parallel to the ground; then, they’ll perform a core-ripping move such as a slow body wave (like a flag in the wind), splits, or another transition down or even up the pole. Trust me when I say that you can’t do it, weekend warrior.
Miss Dement, on the other hand, was extremely technical and made high-difficulty tricks look like they were no more difficult than falling out of bed. Her choreography was also spot-on as she had no wasted movement; much to the delight of the crowd, her routine worked well with her choice of Metallica for accompanying music. Miss Dement and Miss Henderson were named the Runner Up and 2nd Runner Up, respectively.
Lindsey Dement performs at Miss Texas Pole Star 2012. Photo Credit: Art Cantu, Jr. – SportDFW Staff Photographer
But all competitions can only have one winner and Miss Texas Pole Star 2012 belonged to Crystal Belcher. Miss Belcher, like Miss Huff, executed her moves with a speed and athleticism that was clearly a step above the rest of the competition, but it wasn’t really her superior physical skills that set her apart. The artistry and aesthetics of her routine were spectucular. She got the crowd (and clearly the judges) on her side with her playful transitions from pole to pole and truly seemed to put on a performance that was meant to be entertaining as much as it was technically impressive. After she was named the winner, a (pleasantly) surprised, gracious, and humble Miss Belcher said:
"“I’m still flabbergasted! This routine was really not even for me. It was for my entire team, just because they all wanted me to go out there and try it again to see what happened. So many people just believed in me and this was more so about them today. I’m excited. I’m at a loss for words, even though I’m still talking.”"
Crystal Belcher performs at Miss Texas Pole Star 2012. Photo Credit: Art Cantu, Jr. – SportDFW Staff Photographer
Asked what she would tell anyone who was considering trying pole, the MTPS Ultimate Champion said,
"“If you could try anything once, I would say try this. It is a great bucket list item to at least go and get your kicks in. For most women, especially those that are very apprehensive about themselves, this it that way to rediscover things that may have laid dormant in themselves. And whether it be stresses from work or relationships, it’s great for that aspect as it’s a good confidence builder, for both men and women – you’d be surprised.”"
Miss Texas Pole Star 2012 was very entertaining, but the athletic skill and physical strength of the performers made it an impressive sporting event. The competition was clearly a hit with women of all ages: the packed theater was probably 70% female.
As the father of a young daughter, I would not hesitate to take her to MTPS 2013. In fact, I would be proud for her to aspire to work as hard and perform as exceptionally as all of the women did that evening.
For more information on Miss Texas Pole Star or pole fitness, please visit www.misstexaspolestar.com.
Crystal Belcher is named winner of the Ultimate Division at Miss Texas Pole Star 2012. Photo Credit: Art Cantu, Jr. – SportDFW Staff Photographer