International Pole Dancing Competition in Denver: Meet the contestants (PHOTOS)

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Pole Dancing Universe's International Pole Dance Competition is coming to Denver on August 6 and 7 at the Oriental Theater — click here for more information. And the contestants slated to face off, over, up and down in the professional division definitely have roots across the globe. Page down to see photos of the nineteen women (and one dude!) planning to clamber a mile high, accompanied by bios courtesy of Pole Dancing Universe. Anjel Dust (US) I've been performing and teaching aerial pole in Hollywood for many years. I am the founder and organizer of the California Pole Dance Championship held every year in September. I am also a founding member and the manager of a Hollywood pole company called "Pole Revolt." I'm very excited to be apart of this competition and showcase. I think it's a great opportunity for everyone to show their skill, strength, creativity, and most of all, their love for this art. I look forward to being surround by the all the talented performers. Carolyn Chiu (Hong-Kong) Carolyn Chiu is a 2nd generation Taiwanese American who resides in New York City as a multi media artist with an early childhood background in gymnastics. Her experience and interest in performing arts started at a young age. It gradually developed while competing on a southern California gymnastics team. She continues to be inspired by teaching at Long Island Dance Fitness and at Shockra Studio New York City. Her current passion is producing photography shoots of pole dancers at her own company, PoleOgraphy, the art of imaging pole dancers. Carolyn's primary focus is to spread the art of vertical dancing as a respected, graceful performance demonstrating health, fitness and balance as an artist and Yoga Pole instructor. Derick Pierson (US) I started my pole addiction two years ago thanks to my friend Tara who got a pole. Less than a week later I was watching YouTube and attempting different moves on a pole of my own. I was hit by a drunk driver when I was younger. So when I found pole dancing and was able to do it without feeling pain I was very enthusiastic. Now I am teaching at Cheeky Fitness in Royal Palm Beach Florida. This is where I took my first real pole classes, and Michelle the owner encouraged me to enter my first competition IPC. In Japan I received second in pole art and can't wait for the Denver competition. To see how I have grown in the past year is what keeps me motivated. Just never doubt yourself, and always remember you can do anything you put your heart into. Elena Shishkova (Russia) She has been dancing since the age of 10. In 2007 she opened the 1st pole dance and pole fitness studio "POLEDANCE" in Moscow, Russia. And nowadays she's considered to be the founder of poledancing in Russia (www.poledance.ru) Since 2007 till 2010 she worked as a choreographer and a leading performer at the Moscow club DIVAS. Since 2010 till 2011 she worked as a choreographer and a leading performer at the Obninsk club Portfolio. She took part in the World Pole Sport and Fitness Championship 2009 (finalist) and the World Pole Sport and Fitness Championship 2010. She is a co-organizer the Russian Pole dance unity. She is an organizer of the Moscow monthly project Pole Angels. She is an organizer the Russian pole dance competition 09/10 and 10/11. She is a performer in Ink-N-iron festival in LA, USA. She goes in for aerial silks. She is an inventor of her own aerial loops. "I love teaching — develop students personality. I love dancing — open my heart. I love performing — try to be different." Hanka Venselaar (Netherlands) Hi! I'm Hanka Venselaar, 28 years old, from Nijmegen, The Netherlands. In my daily life I'm a PhD student in bioinformatics at the Radboud University Nijmegen. I've always been interested in music, dance and acrobatics and I used to do competitive gymnastics for over 14 years. When I retired 5 years ago I was looking for a new challenge and I found poledance! I loved it from the start. This sport enables me to use my gymnastics abilities and combine them with my life for music, dance and show. When I started poledance I expected to do 1 or 2 classes a week, but before I knew I was teaching students, doing workshops, performing and yes...doing competitions again... In 2008 I won the Dutch Artistic Pole Dance Nationals, followed by the Benelux Championships in 2009 and 2010, and Europeans 2010. Poledance has brought me to the most amazing places all over the world. I'm truly honored (and still a bit surprised) that people invite me to do workshops or perform at their event. I've met lots of wonderful people in this world, everyone with the same love for this special sport. Since this year I'm the proud owner of my own little company Studio Ad Astra. I teach workshops and private classes (using Skype if you wish!) in both poledance and aerial silks. Irina Savina (Russia) I live in St. Petersburg. Doctor-laboratory education, now go and teach Pole Dance. When I Was a child 4 years has been in the circus Studio like a aerial gymnast. In my life I had a First place in the Championship of Russia on the pole dance and fitness, fitness category, 2011. Third place award for adults, solo women professionals Russian Cup Pole Dance fitness 2011, first place in the category of Acrobatic Pole Dance professionals, solo, women Miss Pole Dance competitions Russia in the qualifying round in North-West Russia. I like riding a bike, swimming, knitting, crochet, acrobatics inside the ring. Jess Leanne Norris (UK) I have been doing Pole Fitness now for just over 3 years. I am self taught and currently own 2 Pole Fitness schools (JLN Pole Fitness) This is my first pole competition I have entered into and I am thrilled to be given this opportunity to perform with likeminded people in the USA! I live for Pole, I truly love all aspects about it, the training, teaching, performing and the rewards of seeing peoples progression through my school is overwhelming. Pole fitness is my life without a doubt, I can't switch off, I dance in my sleep too! So looking forward to this experience!! Julia Irinina (Russia) I'm from Russia, Saint-Petersburg. I dancing since childhood, chose this kind of activity for a lifetime. Pole is my passion. I think that pole it is hight art . I'm holder and director of "Pole Show Studio - Trash," instructor of pole dance , choreographer, fitness instructor, I supervise first pole theatre in Russia. Every year, I participant and prize-winner of the Russian and World Competitions of various dance. And also, participant of dancing ballet. The actor of movies and the TV presenter. The active, creative and kind person!!!

The Participation in the Pole Dance Competitions: The Pole Dance Championship of Russia semifinal 2009 — 1?st place The Pole Dance championship of Russia 2009 — 3?d place The Russian Pole Dance & Fitness Championships 2009/2010 — 2?nd place Semifinal of competition Polepassion 2010

I'm a creative person in love with life and dance. When I hear music I can not stand without movement. I love to meet new people, new country, kindness and heat. I try to do my show very bright for spectators. I want stay long in their hearts. Lucille Holmes (US) I am 27 years old and I am from Virginia Beach, Virginia. I have been involved in pole fitness for a little over a year now and love everything about it. I was a gymnast for well over a decade. I love pole fitness because it gives me the same feeling and challenge that gymnastics did. I am an Instructor at Esteem Fitness in my home town in Virginia Beach. Maria Luz Escalanta (Argentina) I´m 31 years old from Argentina, South America . I started taking ballet lessons at the age of 5 and never stopped! From 19997 till1999 I played various key roles in Don Quixote, The Nutcracker, Corsair, Carmen, Paquita, La Fille Mal Gardée,etc. I have a Degree in Human Resources.At 23 years old I became a fitness instructor specializing in spinning, stretching, cardio strip dance, gymnastics located, reggaeton, Latin rhythms, pilates mat, etc. In May 2007, I finally met the pole dance world and soon started to teach beginners level in the first school of Pole Dance in Argentina. A year later I earned the title of "Best Pole Dancer" at the Pole Dance Championship Argentina —2008. In 2009 I won again in Miss Pole Dance Argentina 2009 and became the first runner up at the Miss Pole Dance South América 2009. Last year I took the 2nd place at the Miss Pole Dance World in Zurich, Switzerland and looking forward to a new challenge at the competition in Denver. Michelle Shimmy (Australia) Michelle Shimmy is the proud co-owner (with her wonderful sister Maddie) of the Pole Dance Academy in Bondi, Sydney. Shimmy has a background in rhythmic and artistic gymnastics, belly dance, and aerial circus. Shimmy took her first pole dancing class about 4 and a half years ago, and has been completely pole-crazy ever since. Shimmy was a finalist in the 2010 Miss Pole Dance Australia competition, and a semi -finalist in the International Pole Dance Fitness competition in 2010. She is a finalist in the Asia Pacific Pole Dance Championships 2011 doubles division. When she's not wrapped around a pole upside down, Shimmy works as a lawyer. She believes she may be the first person to have put herself through pole school by working in a law firm! Michelle Stanek (US) Michelle Stanek's pole dancing career began after her first frustrating yet intoxicating class at Crunch Gym when she realized it could be an incredibly fun and challenging and art form utilizing her classical and modern dance background. Four years later, Michelle is the 2011 USPDF Amateur champion and now a USPDF Pro. She also earned first place in the PFA's East Meets West "Pole Drama" competition in September 2010 and also Polesque in January 2010. She is beyond humbled and excited to be a part of Pole Dance Universe and to have the opportunity to share what pole dance means to her—something inherently but unusually sensual, creative, unique and expressive. Michelle is one of three master trainers for the new instructor certification program, X-Pert, a partnership between Crunch Gym and X-Pole. Michelle cherishes every opportunity to dance — her childhood dream, finally realized, with the addition of a pole apparatus. In addition, Michelle earned her BA and MA in the theory, history and criticism of art and design. She taught art history survey courses at Pratt Institute, worked as the program curator of AIGA, the professional association for design, and traveled to Italy each summer to lecture and lead tours on Italian art and history. She also loves bonding with nature and seeking adventure. Nadezhda (Mexico/US) I'm Nadezhda, I am a cheerleader and a senior in high school. I have been in the pole fitness industry since I was 15 and ever since then, I've loved it. I am currently a pole instructor, fitness trainer, and aerialist at OC Pole fitness. Although I am young, I believe age isn't important, everyone has something to offer and an experience to share. I enjoy being around people and helping others achieve their goals. I am bilingual, fluent in Spanish, as well as English. I absolutely love all the benefits pole fitness has to offer; better health, great as a hobby, and creates enduring friendships. I am a certified in sports medicine and as an emergency medical technician. I will shortly begin my journey majoring in journalism and broadcasting with my life long aspiration of becoming a news anchor. I love animals, care for others, and strive for a better world. Pole fitness is for everyone. Phoenix Kazree (US) Phoenix Kazree, a native of Los Angeles, CA, is married and the proud mother to a beautiful son. She began her journey on the pole in September, 2010. Phoenix is a former gymnast and currently travels the US with the touring company of a hit Broadway show. With the constant traveling, Phoenix hasn't had the opportunity to establish a home base within a particular pole studio. But, she has been welcomed to many studios across the country and would like to thank those studios and instructors who have helped her make it this far. Rafaela Montanaro (Brazil)

Miss Pole dance Brazil 2009 Miss Pole Dance South America 2009 Best Tricks at Miss Pole Dance World 2010 3rd Place at Miss Pole Dance World 2010 Pole Fit Champion at International Pole Championship

I started my sports carrer at the age 3, when my mom needed to find an actvity that would make me spend all the energy I used to put the house down! So she took me to a gymnastics school...When I was 6 I received 2 gold medals at national championship! When I was 16 i joined a local circus school, and then I got a spot at école nationale des arts du cirque in France, The whole program was 4 years long but I only stood 1, due to financial and family issues. So when i came back to Brazil the gym I went to had Kung-fu classes, I started to play with it and the next year I made it to the national team! By the end of college, in 2008 I stumbled across Felix performing on Miss Pole Dance Australia 2006, and I imagined I could be good at that!

Rhiannan Nichole (US) Certified pole and yoga instructor, personal trainer for women, and proud owner of Rhiannan Nichole's Premier Pole. After making a name for herself on YouTube, Rhiannan's signature dance style developed into advanced transitions between sexy body movement and physically demanding aerial tricks. Already with an understanding of fitness and the human body through her personal training career, it wasn't long before Rhiannan began teaching pole fitness at a prominent studio where she fine tuned not only her physical abilities but her instruction skills as well. Rhiannan soon realized that the health benefits of practicing pole dance fitness are just as much emotional as they are physical and her passion for teaching deepened as she was touched by the effect of pole on her students' lives.

The women in her classroom; moms, professionals, old and young, of all body types and fitness levels, were losing weight, getting stronger, feeling sexier, and expressing themselves more confidently.

Past competitions include Vertical Pole Challenge and the California Pole Dance Championships. Rhiannan is featured in the Platinum Stages catalogue as well as the Pocket Pole iPhone application and has performed consecutive years at the International Pole Performers Showcase at the Ink & Iron Festival in Long Beach, CA. Credentials and experience include 10 years of yoga, 9 years of pole, 5 years of personal training, and certifications in all fields. Rhiannan is married with a daughter and 3 dogs and looks forward to growing her already beautiful family.

Sabrina Woods (US) Sabrina Woods, Certified Personal Trainer, Aerial Dance Instructor & Studio Owner also performs on Lyra, Trapeze and Aerial Silks. In 2011 the North Carolina Pole Dance Champion became an APFA Masters Division Finalist shortly after gaining artistic pole experience by performing in Polesque. In 2010 Sabrina was delighted to place 3rd in the East Meets West Tri-Pole Challenge-Pole AM, to be a Trixpert Division finalist in their Polarity Competition and to become an East Coast Regionals Finalist for the USPDF. Sabrina is very grateful for every high and low she has experienced on her amazing journey through all forms of Aerial Dance, especially pole, and is sincerely honored to participate in the inaugural international event for Pole Dance Universe. She lovingly adores her husband Dave and acknowledges his support in her success. Sabrina also holds every one of her friends and their kindness close to her heart. Her efforts are relentless and her values shine through in her dance! Veronika Mikhailova (Russia) I was born in Saint-Petersburg and I live here till now. I had never tried gymnastics or dance prior to my first "meeting" with a pole. Since autumn 2008 I begun to study pole dance under the art direction of Julia Irinina. Since summer 2010 I'm the instructor of Pole Dance and pole fitness in the "Julia Irinina's Pole Dance Show Studio - Trash" and I'm second manager of "Julia Irinina's Pole Dance Show Studio — Trash"! My dynamics, force, speed, fast rhythm, strong, endurance, expression, dramatic nature, skills of improvisation, feeling of a rhythm and little bit trash makes me the best candidate for the competitions and all of this a part of my personal style! For me, First of all 'Pole dance' is dance and creativity, it is an art form, it is not only sports and gymnastics! I have experience in competitions:

"The Third Russian Cup of Pole Dance 2011? - 2?rd Place (29?th April 2011) The finalist of Aerial Pole International 2011Championship March 19th Bern Switzerland! "The Russian Championship of Dance and Fitness on the Pole" - 2?nd Place (9?th October 2010) "Miss Pole Dance Russia 2010? North-West" - 3?rd Place (6?th June 2010) "The Second Russian Cup of Pole Dance 2010? - 3?rd Place (29?th April 2010)

Waeli Wang (US) Waeli Wang started pole dancing one year ago and is incredibly addicted. She has been dancing for over 10 years and spent a year living in Los Angeles pursuing her dance dreams, appearing in several national commercials. She is now a student at CU Boulder studying film production. Being chosen to be a part of Pole Dancing Universe to inspire and be inspired is very exciting for Waeli.

More from our Follow That Story archive: "Denver Nuggets Dancers finalize 2011-2012 roster (PHOTOS)."

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