[Kelley Tantau | Stuff]

“Of course there is still a stigma, but we embrace every side of pole dancing.”

Evey Sjardin is one of New Zealand’s most flexible women.

That is, at least, when it comes to showcasing a high level of fitness and strength in the Hamilton woman’s favourite exercise – pole dancing.

Competitions and qualifications for pole dancing are now commonplace. It is a form of performing art, which combines dance and acrobatics centred on a vertical pole.

Sjardin, 20, has been dancing for more than three years and last month was recognised at a national competition that showcased New Zealand’s top pole dancers.

Pole Legends was a “one night extravaganza”  combining competition and show.

There, Sjardin won the Marion Crampe Flexy Award for the most flexible competitor.

Pole Legends is New Zealand’s largest pole dancing competition in which 30 athletes perform their routine and compete for various awards, each represented by a pole dancing legend.

A standard routine for an advanced level performer is between three and a half to four minutes long.

“The hardest thing is probably the extreme flexibility, the extreme strength, or the extreme pain,” Sjardin said.

“You’re exhausted afterwards. Your grip starts to go.”

The routine is judged on flexibility, strength, drama, tricks and sexiness, but sexiness doesn’t mean a provocative performance, Sjardin said.

It’s what makes the judges go “wow”.

Sjardin was interested in starting gymnastics while she was living in Tauranga, but was told she was too old and too inflexible to start.

She moved to Hamilton in 2014 to study a bachelor of science and found pole fitness class The Studio, located on Commerce St.

When she’s not studying, she’s instructing other pole dancers, aged between 14 and 60.

“Of course there is still a stigma, but we embrace every side of pole dancing,” she said.