If you thought that pole dancing was just for the exotic crowd, then you're not alone, but something has been quietly happening behind the scenes for the last decade and it's getting louder and louder...

As of this past October pole dancing has been officially recognized as a provisional sport joining the ranks of other up-and-comers like arm-wrestling, dodgeball ("if you can dodge a wrench..."), 'match' poker, footgolf (???), table soccer and kettleball lifting. This is step one on the journey for a sport to become considered for the Olympics and I have a personal tie to this effort given that my sister is a competitive pole dancer.

While the sport has it's roots in the clubs, Kristina joined the tree from a bit of a different branch. Dancing has always been in her blood in one form or another and this is her latest effort in a very colorful, albeit arduous journey.

photo of Kristina and Keith: Craig James Photography

Growing up two years apart, Kristina and I both studied dance and music together, but as time went on we each emerged as naturally cut out for one more than the other. We both now enjoy being professionals in our fields, although her more on the cutting edge than I. She started studying ballet at several area schools like John Hayes O'Neill Studio of Dance, the Mohawk Valley Ballet, and the Leatherstocking Ballet and even started her own dance studio before leaving for the upper Midwest some 15 years ago. Somehow that all led to her competing at the U.S. Masters Championships for  Synchronized Swimming and then she went from the pool to the air doing silk, trapeze and slingwork (much like you see in Cirque du Soleil) for one of the nation's largest circus schools. The latter led her to her latest aerial form: pole dancing, but she didn't do all of this without some MAJOR obstacles.

She suffers from a cocktail of connective-tissue debilitations that cause her constant 24/7 pain, joint dislocations and a whole mess of other complications that should've kept her from dancing, but in her words...

Dancing takes me out of my head to a space where it's just the music and my expression of it. It takes me out of my body and away from the pain.

To put her pain she in perspective, when she wasn't dancing she would be forced to use a walker (and her husband) to get around all of the time, essentially trapped in a body much older than her twenty-something years. She's a far different girl now than she was a decade ago; then nearly fully bedridden, barely able to even dress herself or even so much as hold a fork to eat or a pen to write her name and was even considered a strong candidate for a nursing home. She even underwent three spinal surgeries, all of which failed, but who knew that the types of dancing that she's been engaged in would be the ticket to improving her condition by either reducing the effects of gravity on her body (like in the water) or providing traction for her spine while in the air.

Kristina says that while she's in the upper eschelon of the sport, she's just beneath  Nationals where the uppermost girls will go to the Olympics should pole dancing become offically sanctioned in the years to come. She doesn't think she's got a shot at landing on the US team, but considering what she's already accompished despite the odds, she could move the moon if she wanted to, at least in her brother's eyes anyway.

Below is a shot of her doing her signature trick which she originated and has yet to name (photo: courtesy Chris Meyer)...

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