Presented by Adamek Productions
Reviewed Tuesday 27th November 2012
The first time a pole was seen in a strip club was, apparently, in 1968 but, by the 1980s it was a standard fitting in most strip clubs, or gentlemen’s clubs. In the early days, it seems, its potential was not being exploited, with the women making only minimal use of it. A few then realised that they could make the pole a feature of their act and developed a range of dance/acrobatic movements. The pole itself also developed, from a solid floor to ceiling fixed pole, to the free standing, rotating poles used in this production, and even to plastic poles that can be illuminated for special effects.
By chance, Cathy Adamek saw pole dancers in a local Adelaide strip club, when taken there by a friend, and she knew that there was much more that could be done with these poles. They have, in fact, become legitimised by their use as an exercise device, greatly divorced from the original use as a prop for a series of girls to slink around while undressing. Adamek saw the possibility of incorporating pole work into a highly choreographed production. Beginning as a 2007 Fringe production, which garnered rave reviews, she knew that she was correct, and has gone on from there to sell-out performances last week at the Sydney Opera House. She has now brought the production home to Adelaide for a short season in the Space Theatre.
The innocence of the devise itself is clearly stated in the opening as Pole Kitten, Zara Thomas, a tiny lass with a big smile, looking like a little fairy in her tutu, skips happily from pole to pole, spinning around on each of them in turn. It was then the turn of the big girls, entering one at a time to present a short solo, before the five then worked in ensemble. Adamek not only came up with the idea, and was one of the original performers, but she is also the choreographer and her dance background is obvious in this production with its very tight ensemble work and graceful, yet technically difficult solo work.
Each performer has a particular persona that they maintain throughout the production, affecting the way their characters interact. Their characters have quite exotic names: Bailey Hart is Mistress Tutu le Pointe, Samantha Williams is Desert Queen, Carlie Hunter is Wild Cat, Cat Smith is Exotic Cat Girl, and Carlie Angel is Madame Melancholie. Poles need cleaning regularly to remove anything that might make then slippery, and so the Pole Monkey who takes care of them is the character played by the only male member of the troupe, Luke Quadrio.
There is more than just pole dancing involved in the production, though, as ballet, jazz ballet, and contemporary dance techniques are all drawn upon when the performers are not actually working on the poles. Pole work demands strength and stamina, poise, balance, and enormous flexibility. As if it was not already hard enough, two of the performers even engage in a ‘pole’ de deux on roller skates, the weight of which must surely have a serious effect on balance, but you would not know it watching them work on the poles.
There is also a good sprinkling of Burlesque running through the performance alongside, what Adamek describes as an overall air of a “Japanese pop ballet”. In other words, there is something of a dark side to the work, and although it is not blatant sexual exploitation, it is not quite pure and innocent, either. The performance is more sensual than sexual, more erotic than explicit. Even the partial nudity is handled with taste and style. It is not without comedy either, as the Pole Monkey decides to have a go at it himself, while the girls are not around.
Mariot Kerr’s stunning costumes and accessories hark back to the elegant, haute couture styles of the 1930s and 40s of Hollywood and Paris. Nic Mollison has risen to the challenge of lighting this show, making good use of both light and shadows. Some technical issues seemed to cause a few problems for DJ HMC but, otherwise, his choice of music fitted the performances very well and the often explicit lyrics made a connection with the less than salubrious aspects of pole dancing’s not too distant past.
Polecats present a fast paced, high energy production, with a never ending stream of amazing moves and plenty sensual interplay between the members of the troupe and in their relationship with the audience, whom they include in their performance through glances, smiles, cheeky grins, and seductive poses. They will leave you breathless and amazed, but don’t wait a moment in booking a ticket if you intend to see this incredible, high quality production.
Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Arts Editor, Glam Adelaide.
Venue: Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre, King William Road, Adelaide
Season: to 1st December 2012
Tickets: Adults $49
Bookings: BASS 131 246 or online here
Warning: This performance contains partial nudity. Parental Guidance is recommended.