At the age of 16, Kristy Sellars dropped out of her high school in Warrnambool to pursue her dancing dreams, moving to Melbourne and enrolling in a performing arts degree.
She just won second place on America’s Got Talent, wowing audiences with a unique routine that redefined what pole dancing is.
The winner of the competition was the Lebanese dance troupe Mayyas.
During her years of competitive pole dancing, Sellars developed a unique form of pole theater or art.
Her routines include climbing a meter-high pole, performing incredible tricks such as candle holds and death-defying reverse drops, while interacting with an animated background behind her.
Routines tell a story and require perfect timing, theatrics, incredible strength and the illusion of ease.
Saluting the ‘pole mama’
Bonnie Williamson, 20, runs a fitness studio in Warrnambool which is part of a franchise built up over the years by the now famous Sellars.
With over 2,000 students in 17 locations across Australia, the franchise has become a hotbed for pole dancers in the regions.
Ms Williamson said the regional pole dancing community considers Sellars the mother of pole dancing and fitness in the region.
“I grew up in Physipole,” Ms Williamson said.
“‘She’s our ‘pole mama’ – that’s what we all call her – and that’s how a pole student refers to her teacher.”
Ms Williamson says Ms Sellars, who won Australia’s Got Talent in 2019, helped change public perception of pole dancing.
“It’s a win for Kristy’s talents, but it’s also a huge win for the industry that has been so stigmatized for so long,” she said.
Strength outweighs stigma
Pole fitness is now seen as a legitimate fitness activity and has become so popular that even in regional towns like Warrnambool classes for ‘toddlers’ up to 65 are offered.
Ms Williamson said there were still negative preconceptions about the sport.
“Parents are a little…unsure,” she said.
“But as soon as they walk through the doors and try it, they realize very quickly that it’s a sport and it takes so much strength.”
But getting as good as the pros takes a lot of practice and access to a pole.
“I have one in my living room and I know a lot of the girls in our studio have them too,” Ms. Williamson said.
“If you walk into a lot of our girls’ houses, you’ll find a pole in their living rooms.”