VERTICAL ATHLETE: Pole athlete Tamara MacKenzie will take on the state's best in Brisbane on the weekend.
VERTICAL ATHLETE: Pole athlete Tamara MacKenzie will take on the state's best in Brisbane on the weekend. Contributed ROK020719p

Pole champion heads south for a crack at Queensland's best

POLE DANCING: Tamara Mackenzie will be taking the stage at the 2019 Queensland Pole Championships at Gardens Theatre in Brisbane this weekend.

But it was pure stubbornness that brought a battered and bruised Mackenzie, from Rockhampton, back to the pole after her first class ten years ago.

She described herself as a person who does not let anything get the better of her, and after a doctor told her to improve her core strength to mend a lower-back injury, she went to the pub for a second opinion.

A fellow patron told her of an exciting new way to build her fitness which was unlike any other form of orthodox exercise - they had suggested attending a pole dancing class.

Today, Mackenzie operates Full Metal, a local pole studio of her own in the Rockhampton CBD, and is Central Queensland's only professional pole dancer.

However she is no stranger to the world of competitive pole dancing after her victorious debut at the State Championships in 2015.

Her impressive catalogue of achievements to date includes amateur finalist at the 2015 Miss Pole Dance Queensland, amateur finalist at the 2015 Australian Pole Championships, semi-pro finalist in the comedy division and, most recently, professional finalist at the 2018 Queensland pole championships.

Mackenzie brings a unique brand of character performances to the world of competitive pole dancing, having assumed the role of Marty McFly, Napoleon Dynamite and Marvel anti-hero Deadpool during some competitions.

However, last year saw her shrug her character performances to adopt a more personal and insightful routine.

"Last year I decided to push myself and do something a little bit different, and a bit more personal - it was more me, raw and brash."

"It was a lyrical piece and was slow moving," she said.

But the change in direction paid off, as she secured a finals berth at the 2018 Queensland Pole Championships.

For the last three months, she had spent 10 to 12 hours a week on the poles between full-time work - all for just three minutes on stage come the weekend.

She says over her career in the sport, she has seen a 180 degree reversal of the stigma surrounding the sport.

"Today, it's more like people saying 'I heard that it gets you really fit' or 'I heard that's really good for your body'," she said. "The stigma these days is that people think it's almost (physically) impossible for them, not the exotic, sexy style."

She likened the sport to many others in the gymnastics and dance arena.

"It's essentially the same thing with a vertical pole," she said.

Competitive pole is judged on the criteria of strength, flexibility, dynamics and dance.

MacKenzie said her performances set her aside from fellow competitors because she has no prior experience in dance or gymnastics.

She said most other competitors had moved from dancing in clubs or competitive gymnastics into the sport.

Not letting her background faze her, MacKenzie said in a way, her fresh approach gave her a competitive edge.