How America’s Got Talent pole dancer Kristy Sellars has helped to redefine the sport

When she was 16, Kristy Sellars left Warrnambool in south-west Victoria school to chase her dancing dreams, moving to Melbourne and enrolling in a diploma of performing arts.

She has just won second place on America’s Got Talent, stunning audiences with a unique routine that has redefined what pole dancing is.

The winner of the competition was Lebanese dance troupe Mayyas.

Over her years of competitive pole dancing, Sellars developed a unique form of pole theatre or artistry.

Her routines include scaling a metres-high pole, performing incredible tricks such as candle-stick holds and death-defying inverted drops, all while interacting with an animated backdrop behind her.

The routines tell a story and require perfect timing, theatricality, incredible strength and the illusion of effortlessness.

Saluting the ‘pole mama’
Bonnie Williamson, 20, manages a pole fitness studio in Warrnambool that is part of a franchise built up over years by the now-famous Sellars.

With more than 2,000 students at 17 locations across Australia, the franchise has become a home to pole dancers in regional areas.

Ms Williamson said the regional pole dancing community considered Sellars to be the mother of pole dancing and fitness in the area.

“I grew up at Physipole,” Ms Williamson said.

“‘She’s our ‘pole mama’ – that’s what we all call her – and that is how a student of pole refers to her teacher.”

Ms Williamson says Ms Sellars, who won Australia’s Got Talent in 2019, has helped change the public perception of pole dancing.

“It’s a win for Kristy’s talents, but it’s also a huge win for the industry that has been highly stigmatised for so long,” she said.

Strength trumping stigma
Pole fitness is now seen as a legitimate fitness activity and has become so popular that even in regional cities like Warrnambool classes for “tiny tots” to 65-year-olds are on offer.

Ms Williamson said there were still some negative preconceptions about the sport.

“Parents are a little … unsure,” she said.

“But then as soon as they come through the doors and they give it a go, they very quickly realise that it is a sport and it does require so much strength.”

But to get as good as the professionals takes a lot of practice — and access to a pole.

“I have one in my lounge room and I know a lot of girls in our studio also do,” Ms Williamson said.

“If you walk into many of our girls’ homes you’ll find a pole in their lounge rooms.”