The History of Pole Theatre

We are so excited to host Pole Theatre Sydney 2019 at the beautiful NIDA Parade Theatre on 28 September 2019. Be a part of the next chapter of Pole Theatre history. Get tickets at!

The Birth of Pole Theatre

My name is Michelle Shimmy. With my sister Maddie Sparkle, I am the co-owner of Pole Theatre World. This is a short history of Pole Theatre, the world's largest and most exciting pole competition!

Pole Theatre began in Sydney, Australia, in 2013, from a conversation between Maddie Sparkle and me, over coffee one day. We never thought it would be anything other than a Sydney-based competition that we would run together.

But after the very first Pole Theatre, to our complete surprise, the concept of Pole Theatre spread like wildfire across the pole world, and today Pole Theatre is officially the world's largest pole competition, with over 20 countries participating. It's crazy to think that there is a Pole Theatre on every continent except Antarctica (we're working on it - don't worry!).

But how did it all begin?

Well, it began with a pole dancing grandma, believe it or not.

In 2011, the incomparable Carlie Hunter began performing her hilarious piece as a crotchety old grandma who finds her groove when she is overwhelmed by the power of pole. Everywhere she performed it, the audience would be in stitches, screaming and crying with laughter as they watched an elderly lady gyrate and flip around the pole on stage.

The following year, the glorious Amber Ray performed a breath-taking routine at MPDA, stunning in its perfection and beauty, complete with snow white flowers cascading down from above. The audience was spellbound. It was beautiful. For me, it was a particularly memorable performance.

After watching the evolution of pole performances, I began to wonder, how could judges possibly compare two performances, so different in style? Carlie's performance was hilarious, impressive and outrageous, but Amber was also incredible - so graceful, beautiful and moving. How do you compare the two? It was apples and oranges!

"Really," I said to Maddie one day over a coffee, "There should be a competition that separates performance styles by category, so that the judges are comparing like for like."

And so the seed for Pole Theatre was planted in our minds...

The Gluteal Fold Ban

By way of background, it's important to remember that all this happened in 2011/2012, in an era of pole dance where people were trying to "clean up" pole competitions. Around the world, sexy style pole was being banned from pole competitions, shoes were forbidden, and costume rules were becoming more prescriptive. There was even a ban in some competitions on the "gluteal fold" being exposed!

In case you have no idea what the "gluteal fold" is, it's the area where your butt meets your thigh, creating a crease or fold. For some people, like me, even if I wanted to cover my gluteal fold it would be next to impossible! Everything I wear rides up my butt. So I was horrified on a personal level at the body policing involved in "banning" the gluteal fold.

The Gluteal Fold Returns With a Vengeance!

Watching all of this happening in the pole world made us upset at the new direction that pole competitions were taking. We loved the sexy side of pole, because that was what attracted us both to pole in the first place. Personally, I loved that it was a little bit wild, a little bit naughty, and a place where you could shed the rules and regulations of normal life and feel free. So all these rules about how to dress and behave didn't really appeal to us at all!

I wanted a competition that celebrated the sexy side of pole, but more than that - a competition that elevated sexy pole and held it up as the art form that it is, alongside and equal to contemporary/lyrical pole dance. I wanted a competition that considered all styles of pole to be equal and worthy, one that would bring the focus back to entertainment and performance.

So Maddie and I got to work. We mapped out a new format for a new competition, with different categories, for Pole Art, Pole Drama, Pole Comedy and Pole Classique. We called it Pole Classique because I'd heard a few jokes online about strippers saying that they were "classically trained pole dancers", and I thought it was a perfect way to describe the style of Pole Classique. Competitors were allowed (and encouraged) to strip down to g-string and pasties, if they so desired. Turns out, a lot of them so desired!

For the first time (as far as we knew), doubles, groups and soloists would be competing against each other, and men and women would not be separated into different categories. At the time, this caused a stir. People couldn't understand how it would work in practice. It hadn't been done before. But because we wanted the focus of the competition to be on performance and entertainment, we knew it would work - still, we were relieved that others felt that way too after watching the show!