Cathy Adamek didn't know what to expect the night that she wandered into a seedy Adelaide strip club. As a classically trained ballet dancer and performer she was hardly their usual clientele, but had promised a friend that she would come along to help research her latest novel. Amongst the tawdry ‘80s décor and cheap cocktails, Cathy had anticipated little more than a few laughs, but instead she encountered inspiration. “Suddenly there was this incredible kind of physically amazing acrobatic form,” she says, “and quite beautiful as well. And I kind of went, wow, that’s amazing.”
Until recently, pole dancing has often been regarded as the domain of sleazy nightclubs, designed to attract and titillate their drunken male patrons. The incredible strength required to pull off a 'Diva Dive' or 'Backwards Showgirl' was often lost on an audience who had far more salacious interests. When Cathy first encountered pole dancing in 2005, she immediately realised that it had the potential to be much more. “This is just an art form waiting to be recontextualised and just discovered and brought out into the light,” she said, “Here it just happens to have been taken up as a stripper burlesque form, but I think it’s just one increment away from it being a male and female both artistic and sports form.”
Just two years after that moment of inspiration, Cathy’s pole dance extravaganza Polecats had a sell-out season at the Adelaide Fringe Festival. The show combined her newfound love of the pole with her lifetime of experience in more formal performance disciplines. The result was an intriguing amalgam of contemporary dance, ballet, pole dancing, physical theatre and burlesque cabaret that went on to amaze audiences and win several awards including “most enthusiastic audience member”.
Now after taking a break to study and have her first child, Cathy Adamek is bringing Polecats back for a national tour that will include performances at The Sydney Opera House and Melbourne’s Gasworks. The soundscape for the show has been designed by techno legend DJ HMC, who has been a part of Adelaide’s underground scene for the last two decades; the performers hail from a variety of dance backgrounds, including one male dancer who trained as a Chinese acrobat. So if you’re still under the impression pole dancing is all smut and no style, Polecats is sure to shake up your preconceptions and have you slipping on a pair of plastic stilettos in no time.