In early November, I was lucky enough to sit down for a chat with Karrie Hammersley, the creator of Kick Ass Curves and owner of Karrie’s Pole Fit in Ripley, Belper, and Matlock Bath. Having been part of the pole community for over 10 years, Karrie has competed in events such as UKPPC, the North East Pole Championships, and Miss & Mr Pole Essex, and she’s eager to build her experience into something new for the UK pole industry.
As Kick Ass Curves is the first UK pole competition specifically for folks who wear a size 16 and above, I was eager to chat to Karrie about Kick Ass Curves 2020, her plans for the future of this game-changing competition, and her thoughts on the UK pole scene.
Hey, Karrie! Thanks for having me today. First things first, what inspired you to start Kick Ass Curves?
So, I was talking with a friend who’s been competing for a while, and she won a private lesson with me in my pole garage. We got chatting about competitions, and I asked her if she had any coming up, but she said she was fed up with entering the mainstream pole competitions because she’d either not get through, not get very far, or not place at all.
Then she mentioned there was a plus-sized competition in America that she’d like to enter, but obviously the problem was that it was in America, which is a long way to travel just for a competition! She mentioned how great it’d be if someone did one in the UK, which got me thinking.
The standards are getting so much harder in competitions; I started poling ten years ago, and an Ayesha was really advanced, but now you’ll see people doing drops in the lower levels, and the higher levels include super advanced things like Jade splits.
And if you have a background in dance or gymnastics, you might be able to do these advanced moves quite quickly, but that doesn’t happen for everyone. It’s great to see them do so well both at competitions and during class, but for people without that background, that level of progression is unrealistic. It’s feeling more unachievable for people to compete.
And, on top of that, a lot of plus-sized polers like me can find that things take a lot longer to get, because at times the “traditional” ways of teaching pole moves might not work with our bodies.
That’s why I like how you’ve divided up the categories, so in the very first level, it specifically says that it’s open to people who have been poling for no more than two years, and it doesn’t allow anything more than a basic invert.
And the reason for that is because I’ve seen in a lot of competitions, competitors will join the beginner category because it’ll specify that you can’t have any prior competition experience, but they might have been poling for five years. Their skill levels are better suited for the higher level categories, but they’re doing it to stand a better chance of winning, which isn’t fair on other competitors.
I wanted to make sure it was fair for everyone who wanted to compete, and for Kick Ass Curves, the best way I thought I could make that work was to specify how long a competitor has poled for within the category requirements.
What are you looking forward to with Kick Ass Curves 2020?
We have a bigger venue, which is awesome!
Last year, we held Kick Ass Curves at The Fishpond in Matlock, which is where I normally teach my Matlock class. It’s a beautiful room and venue, but we could only seat 100 people. We had 27 competitors, and I gave them the option of buying up to three tickets each before I released the tickets to the public. Within two weeks, the tickets we released to the public had sold out, and I had a situation where our host last year wanted to bring some folks along, and I had to tell her there was literally nowhere for them to sit.
And I felt really bad, because if I was hosting, I’d want to bring people along so they could have a great time in the audience!
So this year, we’re holding Kick Ass Curves in the Grand Pavilion, which is actually just across the road from The Fishpond. It’s pretty great, because it means people can come and do the Roz workshops on the Friday night, stay overnight, and then they’re already there for the competition on the Saturday.
That’s great – I saw you had a competitor come all the way from Greece last year, so people can really make a weekend of it.
Exactly! And we’re really excited that we’ve got somewhere where we can fit more people, and have more vendor stalls too. It’s big enough that we can even fit the vendor stalls in around the side of the competition so they can be part of the audience too.
Who’s sponsoring Kick Ass Curves 2020?
We have Pole Amor, Pole Boutique, Pole Crush, Pink Giraffe, Polehog, Hoodlum Fang, IPAAT, Shoegasm Designs, Pole World Festival… I’m excited to have so many wonderful sponsors this year who wanted to get involved!
I really appreciate that you went to the effort to get sponsorships from brands that cater to plus sized polers.
It doesn’t make sense that we wouldn’t! Polehog and Hoodlum Fang go up to size 20-22 as standard, which I love. There’s so many brands out there that don’t go above maybe a size 14 at best, which doesn’t even cater for the fact that the average dress size in the UK is now a 16. Plus, these brands tend to run small anyway, so while I normally fit a Medium, I have to go into a Large with these brands.
Do you think that Kick Ass Curves will help to change the UK pole competition scene?
I really hope so! We’re the first plus sized pole competition, and we specifically say we want competitors who are a size 16 and above. With Kick Ass Curves, we really want to show how diverse the pole community really is, which you don’t always get a sense of in the competition scene. Pole is a lot more accessible than it was ten years ago, and I really wanted to represent that.
I know we’re small right now, and there’s not a huge range of categories, but I think that’s the same with a lot of small competitions. For 2020, I’ve split some of the previous categories we had because of the demand, but I’ve also learned a lot about how these categories actually work for competitors.
There was a bit of confusion last year actually, and some competitors thought that Classique was the only category that you could wear shoes in, so I’ve clarified that in the rules for this year. You can wear shoes outside of Classique, but to keep it fair I’ve specified that you can’t wear boots outside of Classique as boots can help with grip.
So yes, you can do shoes – I know a lot of people pole in shoes all the time, and that’s how they feel comfortable when they dance.
What are your long term goals for Kick Ass Curves?
So I actually just got Kick Ass Curves trademarked, which is exciting!
I want to see Kick Ass Curves grow in the UK, but it’d be awesome if we could expand into Europe and start putting on competitions in other countries.
When Dimitra (one of last year’s competitors) came over from Greece last year, it really got me thinking about how there’s nothing like Kick Ass Curves anywhere in Europe either. We need to make competitions accessible for polers everywhere, so I’d love to take Kick Ass Curves abroad so more polers have the opportunity to compete without having to worry about travel costs.
What’s the one thing you never expected to deal with when you started organising Kick Ass Curves?
About this time last year, there was some controversy about the judges. Someone publicly stated that one of our judges wasn’t big enough to be on the panel – she was wearing a size 16 at the time. I was just trying to do something positive and uplift the plus size pole dance community, and I felt a bit attacked for not being good enough.
Obviously, there’s two sides to every argument, and there was a lot of discussion around the judging panel. Someone was completely awful and compared me to a white supremacist, which was really hurtful and inappropriate. At the time I was two months pregnant too, so these comments hit me pretty hard. Two of the judges dropped out, too, because of it all.
Most people were really positive about Kick Ass Curves, and so many people approached me about sponsoring the competition or helping out, and I really appreciate all the support. So many people sent me messages while this was going on, saying “just ignore them, don’t let them get you down” and “you haven’t done anything wrong”, so I want to say thank you to everyone who reached out.
I remember you responded on that thread to clarify that one of the key things you looked for in judges was that they had experience with teaching plus-sized polers.
Yeah, and we did have plus-sized judges – and world champion judges, a male judge, and judges who practice loads of different styles of pole. And just because they’re not plus-sized themselves, that doesn’t mean they can’t judge someone who is accurately, fairly, and with experience.
I remember last year you had Emma Haslam on the judging panel, and she’s been doing pole for 10 years. Plus-size polers still face some stigma within the pole community – Alabama Whirley did an interview with the BBC where she said some pole dancers messaged her and told her that she shouldn’t be representing pole dancers, because she was too fat – while pole dancers with smaller bodies have been recognised for years.
Exactly, and I think that there’s not that many plus-sized polers out there who are qualified to be a judge, or have the experience to judge a pole dancing competition. Emma Haslam is an amazing poler, is plus sized herself, has been on Britain’s Got Talent, and has run IPAAT for years, so she has all those years of experience under her belt. She knows the pole competition industry and how to judge fairly, but there’s not that many Emma Haslams out there.
I feel like if you’re being judged, you want a wide variety of judges who all have experience with different styles. We had Sam King last year, and he’s amazing for giving constructive feedback. He’s won tons of awards in multiple competitions, and he’s a fantastic teacher too. So I don’t think it’s fair to say to someone “You can’t judge, because you’re not big enough”.
On a more positive note, Roz Mays is hosting Kick Ass Curves 2020 – how did that come about?
After the success of last year, I got to looking at Roz Mays and her work. I saw she came to the UK earlier this year, and I remember I got so excited when she asked in Celebrating Plus Sized Pole Dancers how Kick Ass Curves went.
I was really excited that she noticed us, so I messaged her and I said “I know you’ve just been to the UK, but would you be interested in coming back next year and being a part of Kick Ass Curves?”, and we talked about how she’d want to be involved and about running workshops in the UK. And she said yes, she’d love to!
So as part of Kick Ass Curves we’re hosting her in four studios – Pivot Pole Studio in Edinburgh, Tiva Pole Dance in Stockport, Opal Dance in Wigan, and of course at my place, Karrie’s Pole Fit and Aerial in Matlock – and she’s going to be doing two workshops at each studio.
And the response we got was amazing! Everyone was so excited!
I was buzzing! I did a workshop with Roz at Feelin’ Peachy earlier in the year, so I’m really excited you’re hosting her. As soon as you announced the dates for the competition this year, and the workshop dates, they went straight in my calendar.
Everyone’s really excited to meet her, which is awesome. And it’s really nice because then, even if folks can’t make it to Matlock for the ones that I’m hosting, there’s more going on across the country.
What was the atmosphere like at the first Kick Ass Curves?
For the audience, there were so many people in such a small space – and there was a bar – so everyone was super chill. As the day went on, you can imagine things got a bit rowdier as people got more alcohol in them, but everyone was so supportive of all the competitors. Everyone was cheering for everyone. The Classique category was last, so you can imagine how rowdy and noisy the audience were with their support!
Backstage was one big room, where all the competitors got ready together, and honestly, there was just glitter and fake eyelashes everywhere. The venue was really great too, and the competitors could order food from backstage and they’d bring it up to them, so they could sit and chill. It was a long day for everyone, so it was great that they could grab something to eat and chill backstage.
I think all the competitors are still in touch with each other, which I love! We have a group for the competitors to keep them updated with news, which was full of messages of love and support after the first Kick Ass Curves. Lots of friendships were made that day, which makes me really happy.
Dimitra wrote an awesome article about Kick Ass Curves that really highlights just how much fun the competitors had.
One of the other competitors, Elise, was also featured in the local newspaper talking about her experience in the competition.
It makes me really happy to see that I’ve been able to organise a competition that people want to compete in, and that there’s such a sense of family and connection with fellow competitors. Honestly, I’m so proud that it went so well. I was so nervous in the week leading up to it because there was so much to do, like paperwork and stuff. And I hadn’t even put the prize bags together, so I was rushing to get those done too. Did you see what was in those things? They were frickin’ awesome!
Yeah, I saw the photo of last year’s overall winner with her prize haul, and I couldn’t believe she won an aerial hoop as well as her prize bag!
I was so happy that we had these amazing prize bags we could give out to our winners. I mean competitors put in so much hard work, so if you win, it can really suck if you get something that doesn’t feel like it was worth it, you know?
Our winners last year got a back warmer from Pole Crush, a £20 voucher for Polehog, a £25 voucher for Hoodlum Fang, pole grip from Powergrip Sport, training aids, and yeah the overall winner won an aerial hoop from Pole Amor! She got the most points in the whole competition, so she won the aerial hoop, as well as a vest top from Heidi Hildersley-Lye.
I know entries have closed for Kick Ass Curves 2020, but for people out there who might be inspired to get something together for the competition in 2021, what advice would you give them?
Honestly? Just do it.
A lot of people can be put off from competing because they don’t think they’re good enough, they think that everyone else will be better than them, or that they don’t stand a chance in the category they want to apply for. Getting on stage is terrifying – I started competing when I was already an instructor, so I had to go for the Semi-Pro category, and I had no dance or performing experience. And I ended up coming third in my first competition.
If you don’t do it, you’ll never know. I know it sounds cheesy and everyone says it, but it’s one of those things where if you don’t step outside your comfort zone, you’ll never know what you’re capable of.
There are so many points in competition training where you’ll question every single decision you make, and it’s up and down all the time. One day you might love your routine, but the next you’ll doubt whether it’s good enough or whether the judges will like it.
The best advice I can give is to practice some mindfulness. The last competition I did I was hyperventilating and panicking before I went on stage – I was totally buzzing afterwards, and I ended up winning – but having some mindfulness techniques to practice helped get me through that panic.
I went to see a mindfulness practitioner who gave me some meditations to do, so I could just lie on my bed and listen to get my head in the right space. You can do all the training in the world, but if your head’s not in the right space, you’re not going to have a good time.
Definitely get private lessons and practice as much as you can before the big day. The more practice you do, the more prepared you’ll be and feel. But rest the day before, so you’re fresh for the competition.
Get regular massages, take magnesium supplements, and take regular Epsom salts baths to keep your muscles in good repair too. And don’t forget to stretch!
So, before we wrap up today, is there anything else you’d like to add about Kick Ass Curves 2020?
Honestly, I’m so excited that Kick Ass Curves is back in its second year, and Matlock Bath is such a beautiful place to host it. If you’ve never been to Matlock Bath, it’s a really pretty area that’s well-known as a tourist attraction.
Matlock Bath is one of the best places in the UK for fish and chips, which you probably wouldn’t expect as it’s miles from the sea, but it’s true! If you need something to do before the competition starts on the Saturday there’s also the Heights of Abraham, which has cable cars so you can get a proper aerial view of the Peak District, and beautiful caves you can take a guided tour through.
We have a bigger venue this year which can hold 250, which is a bit of an upgrade over last year for sure! We’ve also got more vendors, so you can do all of your pole shopping while you’re at the competition. Not to mention that we have Roz hosting, which is going to be absolutely amazing!
With the venue being bigger, Kick Ass Curves is going to have VIP tables available to book which will be right in front of the stage. So, if you want to come with a bunch of your pole mates, you can get right up close to the action and have a great time!
I also want to say a huge thank you to everyone who nominated me for the Industry Contribution award at Pole World Festival in 2019! I was honoured to be the runner-up for this award, and I hope I can make you all proud with Kick Ass Curves 2020.
I hope to see you all there!
Kick Ass Curves is taking place on Saturday 14th March 2020 at the Grand Pavilion in Matlock Bath, Derbyshire, UK. For news, updates, and teasers, check out their Facebook, Instagram, and the event page.
Tickets for Kick Ass Curves 2020 are now on sale, and you can grab your seat here.
Please be aware that the Main Hall Theatre, where Kick Ass Curves is being held, is only accessible up a short flight of stairs. The venue is volunteer-led, and they’re currently trying to secure funding to install a lift to make the top floor fully accessible. If you need more information about accessibility, you can contact them here.
If you’re interested in going to one of Roz Mays’ workshops (and if you can, you totally should!), here’s her schedule:
Saturday 7th March 2020: Pivot Pole Studio in Edinburgh
Sunday 8th March 2020: Tiva Pole Dance in Stockport
Monday 9th March 2020: Opal Dance in Wigan
Friday 13th March 2020: Karrie’s Pole Fit & Aerial in Derbyshire (I’m going to these!)
Are you going to Kick Ass Curves 2020? Have you booked in to learn from Roz Mays while she’s here? Join the conversation on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter!
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