The poles had no margin of error at Saturday’s Golden Gate Pole Championships, the Northern California regional tournament on the competitive pole dancing circuit. San Bruno’s Skyline College theater played host to a contest organized by the Pole Sport Organization, “the world’s largest pro-am pole competition,” and SFist was on hand to get pictures and video as the most talented women (and men!) of the Bay Area pole dancing scene flew to new heights of elegance, artistic magic, and acrobatic agility.

Are you skeptical that pole dancing is a competitive sport of elegance, artistic magic, and acrobatic agility? Take a look at the night’s winning routine below, in which 2017 Golden Gate Pole Champion Renee Wu skillfully destroys any seedy stereotypes of pole dancing and transcends the technical limitations of my crappy handheld mobile device.

You see how my too-bright lighting of the subject ironically corresponds to her use of the song “I Am Light”? That was not intentional. You can get vastly better pictures and videos from this event by contacting Alloy Images, who specialize in photography of the pole dancing circuit.

“There’s a national competitive circuit for pole dancing and we are it,” said Amy Guion, Pole Sport Organization events organizer. “We go to 15 different cities all around the country and we’re looking for our new national champion each year. If you come to one of our shows you’ll be surprised by the grace and athleticism and just how much fun everyone has.”

Image: Joe Kukura

Competitive pole dancing is a lot like strip club stripping, except without any actual stripping. Pole competitors perform in tiny exotic dancer outfits, strut in stripper heels, and engage in a lot of spread eagle poses. But there is more emphasis on acrobatics and contortion, and there is indeed a panel of judges.