Interview with Pole Factor organiser Catherine Dachtler

Posted: Apr 24 2012

Ahead of the upcoming Pole Factor finals we talk to event organiser Catherine Batty Dachtler who also runs Little Sapphires pole sports and dance studio. 

1.Tell us more about Pole Factor? How and why did you start the event?
Pole Factor is actually a non-competitive based event for all levels of pole dance enthusiast, although oddly it has become a competition because as it has developed more people have got involved and there is now fabulous winning prizes being given but that is not the main drive behind it. It was actually a friends idea, after a few drinks and a political pole chat, but was developed by all the little sapphires to enable any dancer / performer the chance to produce a routine worthy to be a performance, as well as a chance to play with styles and ideas, and a chance to perform in front of a friendly viewing crowd.  A unique characteristic of our event is that the 'contestants' receive live feedback from the judges who include reputable pole dancers who understand dance and understand what it takes to pull a performance together for crowd pleasing, its ideal practice before a main stream competition or for an audition maybe. The judges explain what they like, what they think could be improved upon so that no matter what level of pole dancer the entrant is, they still get feedback relating to their personal performance only, no one is compared, there are no levels separating categories, there isn’t even any rules.. the only guidelines being that you must choose your style, and that the performances must be seen as a pole sports event only.

2.What’s it all about? Where will it all take place, who’s taking part and what can we expect to see?
The idea was created to give any person the chance to get on stage, this also enhances training aims, it gets different schools together, it produces a fair playground for points to be awarded to the individuals, it also gives the spectators the chance to hear what judges really think, and for score cards to be seen.  We also video the performances so entrants can review their show with the written feedback.
I found and still find it difficult judging performances that vary so greatly, it seems some polers find it difficult to develop their unique style so Pole Factor makes the entrant choose their style, they are asked to pick there category.... Rap/Hop-Hop = Freestyle (traditional pole, i.e. bikinis & heels encouraged, little story to be told, but very dancey)   Rock /Pop = Sporty (no dance, linking moves, gymnastic style, holding power moves for longer etc)  Classical / Contemporary style, (telling a story, ballet style I suppose)  .. this is my opinion on these styles, and the entrants are definitely developing these further, and then with judges feedback and perception we’ve also realised this will help non-polers, general public understand the styles, which in turn will help people develop their training regime.

Now the final will be in Sudbury, Suffolk, where we have held competitions and sports days before, we open doors at 7pm and we have our lovely Precious Burlesque troop performing, they have covered a few of our events, including little sapphires big Christmas party and the last round of Pole Factor and I cant wait to see them perform again. We also have live singers, we have the judges Zara Berry and Davide Zongoli performing, we have IFilm London recording the event, and we have Kyla White from MTM Radio singing. Kyla White and MTM radio are also offering the unsigned band of their chosen category as the winning prize for the video shoot, we also have a winning makeover, a photo shoot, a Platinum Stage Pole and lots more,

We started in September 2011, on the 17th, it was my birthday, we had Jess Norris over for a class too and she judged along with Zara Berry (UK Pole Artistes Champ. Instructor division) and my friend Michelle Slatter who owns AheadOfHair.
We have seen over 25 entries this season, local polers and from much further afield too, I was surprised how much interest there was, so then decided this has something going for it, so from each round we had 3 top scorers go through to the semi's, contestants are placed to 6th place, but we also gave a few honorary positions to the semi finals as scores were sooo high, but as there were more entrants in some of the rounds they weren’t placed in the top 3 so we gave honorary places to those considered worthy of a place in the final.

Contestants can enter more than one event, and their scores accumulate over the season, this may also result in a honorary position, i.e. if someone keeps getting 4th, their points are credited, and at the end of the year there total scores may mean a prize, other wise its just 1st, 2nd & 3rd that go through to the semi finals, which can be hard if at one event there’s only 6, and another 14 entries, so you see to travel to the different rounds is beneficial, so its a great social event too!

We have had 12 finalists, how ever only 8 have re entered for the semi final, (those that cant make it have automatic entry to next years semi finals because I know some were quite upset they couldn’t make it) I think some have used it for what they wanted, and have gone on to be placed at main stream events so there for don’t feel the need to pressure them selves for another competition type performance.

3.How and did you first get interested in pole dancing and what made you become an instructor/performer?

My main drive behind teaching was to give students, new to fitness or pole the help they needed, having seen others teach pole 'fitness' I could understand that how the body functions is very relative to pole dance & fitness.  I’ve done massage for sports for years, I was then a gym and fitness instructor and had already been pole dancing but found going to class could be detrimental to my longevity in the sport due to strength and flexibility training not being given in the correct stages.  I went to 1 lesson, I was in my heels but the girl didn’t know me from Eve and on class 1 we were inverting and covering a routine she had been performing for 12 years, no warm up I tore my deltoid!   I spent the next 3 months getting fatter watching you tube and really focusing on lines, correct functionality, using my knowledge from personal training and exercise to music I made programmes to suit all levels.

When I was fitter I got a job in a gym with basic wage and filled 4x2hr classes a week.  After 9 months realised I could do this off my own back and control the classes my self, so I did.  I decided to stick to pubs and clubs, and over the past 4 years have built up a recognised school and have 4 instructors in different venues, they all get a very decent wage, not like how I was treated I hope, and I’ve given them all I can to get their own classes established.  My instructors work hard and understand the principles and personal growth pole fitness gives every one and we have great classes and have a great 'pole fam'.

4.What is it about pole dancing that you enjoy the most?
Pole dance is obviously a great way of getting fit, it keeps you fascinated, its a great social thing too, so we pole, get fit, have fun and because you can do it at home, in the park, in a gym , in a club it creates a great place for people of many backgrounds to become involved, its because of this that I also love the music aspect of pole dance!! You can pole dance to nearly any thing, the same way you can work out to any thing, but when putting a routine together, its the music that binds it all together, I love music, I love pole, and the 2 together couldn’t be a better way for any one to express them selves and release tension and feel good whilst getting fit and changing your physical and maybe mental shape.

5.What are your 3 favourite pole moves and why?

1) I adore what I think is the Humming Bird, but have only pulled it off once for some reason, and feel more like a seagull coming into land rather than a beautiful humming bird...
2) I love the simple flowing moves, a link between some of the most basic spins when performed correctly look and feel amazing, such as carousel concorde to forwards attitude to reverse star, these kind of moves we link a lot in our classes, the individual can make them very unique, they’re challenging and yet so pretty and so amazing when you pull them off.
3)Other moves I would like to do nicely are the Jade, and Allegra! (flexibility.will.get.better....?!)

6.What are the main fitness benefits of pole dancing and how has pole dancing improved your fitness, strength or body shape?

Pole dance is very underestimated as a sports discipline in its own right. Co-ordination, and balance, flexibility, strength, power, and cardio fitness are all enhanced via pole when taught effectively. Stamina is increased and an over all feeling of wellbeing from the physical activity, but also via the feeling of accomplishment.

7.What’s your favourite move for strength training on the pole?

Little Sapphires have a fair few strengthening exercises for pole, most we use have progressions and adaptions to suit all, most work in a functional way that they are relative to pole moves, which ever you use, or are guided to use, we must say that along side correct technique breath is the most important thing! We teach this too, how to breath before a move, upon exertion to pull the move, how to breath into it to hold it and how to breath in conjunction to get ready for the next one.  The other huge aspect of strengthening training is make sure you rest and recuperate between sets!

8.What pole performers do you admire or inspire you?

All the performers that take this sport to the highest heights, the ones that are in the gym as well as on the pole,  the ones behaving like serious athletes, eating correctly, sleeping well, the ones who are focused on encouraging their fellow polers, the ones enhancing moves and styles, they are all my heros.  The one I hold dearest to my heart has to be the one and only Sally-Ann Giles.  She helped me so much and from day 1 made me feel 100% accepted into pole sports! I know she has made many many others feel the same, she has inspired, she shares every bit of info. she can and she parties like a trooper (which is always a bonus, because she trains like a trooper too!)

9.If someone has never tried pole dancing before how would you advise them they to get started?
Lol, bob along to Little Sapphires! Easy as that.. wear something not too loose, not too tight, prepare to be challenged but don’t ever feel you will be asked to do something beyond your capability, do not suspect to be bruised 'n' battered and end up like popeye when trained correctly, but be prepared that the training tool / dance  partner is a metal pole and if you treat 'it' and yourself with loving care you will soon see just what can be achieved.

10.What’s next for you in the coming year?
Personally I am not teaching evening group classes this year.  I have let my lovely instructors sublet from me, and we are training other instructors from any part of the UK to get their own fitness classes off the ground, they need ideally 3 years experience and dance / fitness qualifications. So this has given me more time to rekindle my love with Fuzzy.. My horse as she’s been as good as neglected for a while, as well as i still teach privately and now with summer on its way the 2 stages are out in the garden for jammage and to hopefully build on my own strength and recreate my own personality on the pole, I’ve lost a lot of strength and really want to get committed so by this time next year I am back on the pole regularly and enhancing my self again. 

11. What are your hopes for the pole dancing scene/industry in the UK for 2012?
Well thanks to Pole Sports Benevolent Fund (P.S.B.F.) and Pole Sports Committee I think wheels are in motion for a regulated, universal industry.  It's very hard when we don’t want to be dictated to, and we want pole to be free for all, but time has come for some lines to be drawn and some regulations to be brought in. Including fair pay for instructors from pole school owners, health & safety regulations in major chain gyms, and all the political fluffs sorted out so we can all move on healthily!!!  I already see a new influx of polers, like a new era of fabulous younger polers attaching to established schools and creating a new atmosphere which is very enlightening and inspiring. 

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