See pics of the dancers in our Melee on the Bayou Pole Dancing slideshow.
Art Attack knew not to expect unbridled sex appeal from Houston's first pole dancing competition, Melee On The Bayou, but other than that we weren't sure what else might be in store.
We left the event marveling at some of the feats of strength we saw, and thinking to ourselves, "We want to learn to do that!"
The show started with organizer Crystal Belcher dancing to a spoken word performance by master of ceremonies Se7en the poet. Afterwards, judges were introduced, each assigned a specialty including fitness and technical prowess. Among those judges were Amy Ell of Gyrotonic Houston, Amy Henderson, Miss Texas Pole Star and Josiah "Badazz" Grant, whose pole moves look like something from another world altogether.
The coolest thing about Melee was that it was truly an event for amateurs. Think of it like a high school piano recital, if you will. Which meant that performers came in all shapes and sizes, various fitness levels and from many different backgrounds. There were mothers, break dancers and even ballerinas. In fact, tutus were a common costume element.
Several of these girls were performing for the first time in front of an audience. As the night progressed the acts got better and better, culminating with Sarah Mahmoodzadehkhoei, a.k.a. "Satin Star" (seen in the video below with red eye makeup), who won the Supreme Amateur competition, and rightfully so. She was extremely athletic, and one of the best dancers on the stage.
Lindsay Vila, a.k.a."Ravelous" (also in the video, at about two minutes in), won the Extreme Amateur competition. Her performance was not as impressive athletically as Mahmoodzadehkhoei's, but was more feminine and very pretty. Art Attack's favorite costume was worn by a red-headed mermaid.
Some of the girls relied heavily on floor work and props, which makes sense if one's chops on the pole aren't completely developed. But it's the gravity-defying pole work that makes performances like these fascinating to watch.
Grooves of Houston, a swanky EaDo restaurant and club, was a decent location for the competition, though if Melee lives on in subsequent years, the organizers will have to make a few tweaks for the sake of atmosphere. For one, don't have the lights on full blast throughout the performances. The crowd was super talkative and that made hearing the announcer difficult. Dimming the lights so that the spotlight only shines on the performers will help the audience get, ahem, more in the mood, if you feel us.
Second, they'll need to make sure the staff can handle the crowd. It took forever to get a drink at the bar and Art Attack only saw two cocktail waitresses for a room of several hundred people.
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And that room...was cram packed. It was difficult to get around, especially on the side of the building where vendors had lined up tables to sell products like lucite shoes and Mighty Grip, a non-slip substance for hanging onto the pole.
But the biggest distraction of all was the poles themselves. Two portable poles stood on the stage, screwed into bases but unsecured at the top. The result was that many of the dancers found themselves wobbling on poles in the middle of difficult balancing tricks. "Pole technicians" came out after each set to clean the poles and make sure they were screwed tightly back into their bases after all that spinning.
Art Attack gets that Grooves probably doesn't normally have fitness poles on their stage, thus the poles must be portable, but in our extensive YouTube research of pole dancing competitions, we've seen poles with a kind of framework at the top to connect them and keep them sturdy. Industrious pole dancers sometimes even used this framework for tricks.