Pole dance bully

 I go through my newsfeed in facebook and it`s full of spatchcocks. I wonder if it`s a flashmob, but when I find the reason for it, my mouth hangs open. I tell my wife about it and she pauses for a second, then gives me her phone. I scroll down her emails and I see three letters. So… I have been bullied by KT Coates, too.

 I have never been bullied in my life before. I had an older brother who was strong and protective. Then I grew into quite a strong and sporty guy myself. I was a dancer, I was a break dancer, and this is a very supportive community. Like pole dance. And never in my worst dream would I imagine, that I would be bullied in pole dancing community.

 I wasn`t the first victim, though. I don`t know, who was the very first one. But the first I have been aware of – was Emma. She was the star of Britain`s Got Talent, she got «yes» from all the judges, Simon Cowell included, she was on the front page of the «Sun» - the most popular of the British tabloids. Emma is the plus size pole dancer that I had a luck to meet before, because she was one of the first British school owners to host my workshops. Emma is beautiful, very nice and has extraordinary sense of music. More than that – she is extremely strong, for example posing in Starfish for one of the pole posters. Emma has a very warm and welcoming family – caring husband and pretty little daughter. But who cares? For KT Coates,  Emma was not an appropriate representative of pole dance. After Emma appeared in the «Sun» KT wrote an angry post that she believed plus size people couldn`t represent pole community, because it was a sport. I did write my words of supoort to Emma, reposted her video. But looking back, I see it was not enough. I should have done more, I am sorry, Emma.

 Then I started noticing things. Many pole dancers from the top ten ones to the future champions, told me that they asked KT politely how to get to the IPSF World`s, and got very rude and arrogant answers. Some decided never deal with it (which is such a loss for a championship, any championship), others still tried and succeded. It was tough then, nobody understood the complicated rules, most still don`t. A smile and calm explination is the least any pole dancer deserves. Or not?

 When I came to the championship last summer I looked through the magazine, issued by organization. We all were there, all the previous champions. Except for one… Little Olga Trifonova. Why not? The girl got more hits on her performnace on youtube than all of us together. What did she do wrong? Was she just forgotten? Could she be? She fought the hardest battle of us all – people judged her, underage, competing in pole competition. What did she get from it? Fame? Money? Satisfaction? Nothing. In a year she was forgotten.

 Here and there, everybody is wrong for KT. Other championships are stupid, pole dancers who are not interested in IPSF are loosers, exotic pole dance – is a pornography.Nobody stood up to her, just shook their heads in disapproval ad deleted her from friends on facebook, she was sure she did the right thing. And then she hit the queen.

 How can you say anything against Felix? How can KT say that spatchcock – Felix`s signature trick is ugly? Felix is the reason pole dance exists! She took it to the next level. Her and Bobbi are the ones who we all need to thank for what we have today. Miss pole dance Australia is the sold-out event unlike so many others. If not for Bobbi and Felix, I would never start pole dancing. My wife saw Felix and signed up for pole class. Then in several years, I fell in love with her, because she was was so beautiful and serious, doing her bossy work, and then during coffee break told me that her hobby was pole dancing. And it blew my mind. In three years, I started pole danicing myself. If not for Felix, I wouldn`t be writing all this now and you wouldn`t be reading it. And by the way, I still claim, that Mr Pole Dance Australia is the best organized event I have ever witnessed and this is a tremendous honour to me I won it.

 And from that… I will tell you my story.  I won many championships. Some were sporty, some were artistic and some were sexy show style. I am equally proud of them all. I did put my health, time, money, imagination and effort into each one of them. I am an artist. I am professional. I was professional before pole dancing, I worked as choreographer, as teacher, as coach. I have never been accused of anything so ridiculous before.

 It all started innocently. I won IPSF championship, was happy and giddy. We had such a great company of winners there – little Olga Trifonova – Russian prodigy, amazing and inspiring beauties Greta Pontarelli and Lisa Szabo – masters` winners, crazy and sexy Terri and Lisette – best pole duo you can imagine, and one of the kindest and most talented pole dancers I have ever met – world champion Alessandra Marchetti.  I do remember, that some things confused me even then. I was doing a flip from fonji – first time in history of pole. And the floor was not even. By not even – I mean it was like a ski track for beginners. To be honest, if I was there now, with much more experiance and much less ambitions – I wouldn`t jump. Because it is just too dangerous. The second thing were the poles. In the information letter we were promised chrome poles, but there were the powder poles. I don`t mind powder poles. Actually, I absolutely love them. They have good grip and you can have any colour. But you can`t do drops on them. You just can`t. Because your skin gets ripped out. Well… Due to the IPSF rules, you had to do a compulsory drop. I was ok – I flipped. But there were girls, who ripped the skin so hard, medicians were putting stictches on them right near the stage. I thought – ok, that`s only the second time the people are doing the championship. Everybody can make mistakes. It will get better. God, was I wrong.

 Next year I went back. I had such a bad injury, I could barely walk. My wife had a baby. But people were writing me that they bought tickets just to see me, and I decided – screw it. I will do my best in that situation. I left my wife with a five days old daughter, iced my foot and went to London. But I didn`t deserve even a simple thank you, just was treated like a piece of meat, who HAD to come. Sorry, other word is much more commonly used by KT – obliged.  The medal I won only by power of my love to my little daughter (I couldn`t bare the though that I left her for nothing) was never mentioned anywhere, as it didn`t exist.

 More than that, I loved the idea of pole getting to the Olympics so much that I did a judges training. I wanted to take pole sport to Ukraine, my country, to help talented guys get prepared for the worlds, show their talent (do I need to say that we have Championship in March and I set all my busy schedule to get there, I suddenly found out I need to pass and pay for one more judging course, because some rules had changed. When? Where? I don`t have a day just to take my daughter to the playground!). I also wanted to help judges with judging flips as they obviously struggled with it. I mean, the shoulder mount flip (or a gainer, as it is commonly called) can`t have the same ammount of points as Fletcher flip that I performed, as the Fletcher flip is way too dangerous and difficult. Before doing the judges` training I wrote down the system I could suggest about grading the flips and other acrobatic elements alike. And I also wanted to ask about different venue. Uneven floor and plus 34 C on the stage – it is deathly dangerous for anybody who performs acrobatic tricks. Of course, nobody listened to me. What do I understand about flips? Why should flips get more points then transition from Jade to Allegra? After many years of training children what do I know about safety in acrobatics? I threw my notes away and decided to let it all go.

 I loved the idea of pole getting to the Olympics and I watched it dying slowly and painfully. Ambitions of one person were ruining it so fast it was fascinating. First, she couldn`t deal with gymnastics, saying pole can not be the part of gymnastics. Then she established the rules when by performing you can actually get minus points. How is it possible?! Can you imagine in sports gymnastic the athlete getting not 9.2, but minus 2?

 She bullied the organizers of the championships. They had to pay for everything – the venue, techicians, poles, judges etc. They had to pay for head judges from IPSF. And still whatever they did – it was wrong. The venue was red, the seats were plush, the poles were X-poles…  I saw people literally crying after talking to KT.

 And then there was me – somebody who really got on her nerves. I was the one who spoke his opinion, who wrote pole dancing is boring with boring tricks. I still was poplar (she couldn`t understand why) and I got invited to the championship in Switzerland, the Art one. I was asked to do choreography with a queen of French exotic dance and Burlesque – Doris Arnold. Then something happened, I don`t know what, but plans of the organizer changed. Doris and I were asked to open the IPSF championship that was happening the next day after the Art one. I had no idea IPSF was also happening there, nor I was going to attend it. We did our routine, which was funny and silly. But I took my coat off (to do fonji), and Doris performed a little bit of booty dance – her signature one. And I got suspended from IPSF.

 I have two medals of this championship, one of them gold. But I was treated like a silly puppy, who peed on the carpet and was forced to smell it to understand his fault. I tried to stay as polite as I could, my wife tried to explain to KT that this is not the way to treat pole dancers.  Or any person, to be honest. But every letter was getting more and more rude. My wife tried to explain her that I couldn`t deal with any pole dance matters at that time. I was in Ukraine with my parents who live on the border with military confrontation. The terrible crisis is shaking our country now, my parents having good salary before now barely earn 70 euros per MONTH. Every time my Mom calls I pray she has good news not someody killed, not my father getting called to the army, not Russian tanks entering my hometown. But of course, this all is nothing, my own little troubles in the face of my «erotic» performance on the IPSF championship. KT told me I should have rejected to perfom, rejected the money I earn – to make some point or something. She doesn`t care that money I earn are now not only for me, my wife and my baby, but also for my parents and 91-year old grandmother.

 You know what – they suspended me, whatever. I can`t keep up with the rules changing every month. But I am afraid what is going to happen next? Will I be punished for having sex? I obviously had at least once, as I have a baby. Will I be punished for having and speaking up my political position? Or will we all be measured and weighted and if we are a little bit bigger than KT`s standart we have no right to represent pole sport? What else? Who will be her next victim? What if it`s some sports` official, because he is gay, black or wearing a red suite – and all that would be so inappropriate in her world, which to me personally is a paralell universe! And by the way, when we had revolution in Ukraine, I was IPSF champion, and nobody expressed me any support from this organiztion. At the same time, beautiful Bobbi and her team, who are not «appropriate» were raising money and promoting truth about all the events in my home country in a faraway Australia. This is sportsmanship. Not the pointed toes.

 We have to fight the bully. Pole dance is not about the tricks, it is so much deeper. It can be sporty, it can be artistic, it can be sexy. Nobody can change it! And as a teacher I am equally happy for a student who mastered a flip as for a student, who now feels the music rythm to do a hair flick. Because there is so much more in both of them. She might go through a break up, loose her confidance and after my class, finally feeling sexy and beautiful, say no to domestic violance or say yes to a new relationship. Pole dance is for everybody – straight or gay, black, white or Asian, young and older, men and women, dancers and sportsmen. I won`t let KT take it from me, from us. It is my family, we will stay togetehr, and fighting a bully will only make us stronger, won`t it? 

Last modified onFriday, 13 March 2015 10:40


  • Shelly

    I really appreciated this. I don't know KT, but I did inquire about some of the criteria in the her competition recently which stuck me as questionable. I received a reply from the "team", it was civil and very professional (unlike some other comps I have asked information about) but then she posted a snarky status update on Facebook about people asking questions about criteria- I was pretty turned off by that and ultimately decided that this competition wasn't really for me. I also noticed that several of her other posts on Facebook came across as pretty arrogant and sarcastic. The tone of her status update about the spatchcock didn't exactly shock me, it was the same sort of tone that I found in several of her other profile posts; arrogant, snarky, sarcastic. For the record, I am pretty indifferent to the idea of pole in the Olympics, however, since this aspect of pole is a part of the whole in the pole world, i think that it's important that the organization representing it act mature and professional or be put down the road.

    Shelly Saturday, 14 March 2015 07:36 Comment Link
  • EmKpole

    After just finishing my post grad project in "how pole could gain sport recogniton in the uk" one thing i found was that performers who had been in the industry longer were undecided about whether pole could become recognised as a sport. I use the term "pole" as i find there is different termninology for pole dancing, pole sport, pole fitness, pole theatre, pole arts etc. I find that "pole dancing" is something that incorporates all aspects of pole. "Pole Sport" is the strict competitive side. Pole Sport was is submitted to SportAccord and the International Olympic Committee and is using a code of points system for judging. If the the code of points includes minus points and SportAccord are happy the IPSF will have to explain why in the application for accrediation. If its not accepted thre will be more work to do to reapply. The IPSF will have to meet certain criteria for acceptance. Sadly, with SportAccord and IOC guidleines "pole dancing" wouldnt be accepted just due to the stigma attached. YET, there is nothing to say it couldnt be in years to come. Look at snowboarding, the slopestyle competition encourages the athlete to perform what they want and encourage them to make up new moves. The marking criteria for this is totally different to the other snowsport competitions. Slopestyle has only recently been introduced to the Olympics but it shows that a sport can be developed to include other area. Even snowboarding had its problems with the publics attitude towards it as a sport!! And still new people try it every year!!
    The whole process of becoming recognised as sport and then become accrediated by the IOC is a lengthy process. I think the progress of introducing Pole Sport into the olympics is a great step for changing the attitudes towards pole dancing if its done in the right way. Nothing is stopping anyone performing how they wanna perform, althought insulting and upsetting people who do not conform to one aspect of pole is wrong. We should embrace all aspects and help each other develop all these apsects to help breakdown the stereotype of pole. EDUCATION IS KEY for all pole dancers and non pole dancers!!

    EmKpole Saturday, 14 March 2015 09:39 Comment Link
  • Nathalie Machuca

    Hi thank you for this article, it's necessary to know that situation. In France we have an organisation called FFDanse that is very serious. if you want to join. this is serious: www.ffdanse.fr and facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ffdansepoledance?fref=ts

    I heard they look for djuges to judge the first French Championship. You can write them, they speak English. ;-)

    Nathalie Machuca

    Nathalie Machuca Saturday, 14 March 2015 10:08 Comment Link
  • Bor

    Pole dance is sport. Who cares about your personal situation or situation in your country? How could you mix sport and politics? Please separate these two notions.

    That is why IPSF did not support you or your country. Politics is just not they do. And that is why you was supported by Bobby and her team - because it is personal decision.

    Less emotions would be better. Both, in life and this piece.

    Bor Saturday, 14 March 2015 10:33 Comment Link
  • julia irinina

    Alex! Trash with you! All will be good! Pole really for everybody!

    julia irinina Saturday, 14 March 2015 19:32 Comment Link
  • Terrigi

    I would take this article straight to my lawyer, this is downright defamation of character, expressing an opinion about a pole move or your views on obesity are called "freedom of speech" this vitriolic rant is in fact an actual attack on an individual's reputation and character, shame on you Alex Shchukin...this is tantamount to forming an online bullying forum yourself, grow up this article is petty and childish and if it was aimed at me , I'd have you in court tomorrow!

    Terrigi Sunday, 15 March 2015 08:52 Comment Link
  • Angel_girl

    Terrigi, you sound awfully like KT… Freedom of speech lets Alex and all of us express our opinion. We can also protect the ones we love. You can take me to your lawyer, but you - Terrigi (even though I think you are KT GOAT herself) are stupid and KT is a bitch. I am glad people stand up to her.

    Angel_girl Monday, 16 March 2015 13:54 Comment Link

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