A graduate with a first class degree has been crowned the world’s best POLE dancer – despite having never visited a lap dancing club.
Pretty Kate Czepulkowski, 23 – known as ‘Bendy Kate’ – took up the sport while studying at university four years ago and has since bagged numerous awards.
The blonde refuses to enter lap dancing clubs and is desperate to shift pole dancing’s sleazy reputation.
Last month she was crowned winner of the World Pole Dancing Championship – beating more than 50 rivals from around the globe.
She impressed judges with her flexible routine – which involved supporting her entire body using just her armpit.
Kate, who is from Bristol but now lives in Harrogate, Yorkshire, said: “I couldn’t believe it when I won. I was on top of top of the world.
“I did work very hard on my routine, but to beat top pole dancers from all over the world is just amazing.”
Kate pipped athletes from 26 countries to pole position, after spending up to five hours a day working on her routine.
Pretty Kate, who took up gymnastics as a child, now works as a circus performer and acrobat, as well as teaching pole dancing classes to instructors all over the world.
Organiser Steve Penney was proud to see the event won by a Brit because this year was the first time it was held in Britain, at The Hawth Theatre in Crawley, West Sussex.
He said: “This is the first time the championships have been held in the UK, so it was quite an occasion. This is completely different to girls dancing in strip clubs.
“This is an art form to our competitors, they are so fit. Club girls wouldn’t stand a chance against this lot, they are incredible.”
Pole dancing was first seen as a performing art in the 1980s, but has since been seen as a more seedy form of entertainment in strip clubs.
Since the mid 2000s it has been used as an exercise and fitness technique with instructors attempting to change its perception to a non-sexual style of dance and acrobatics.
Steve added: “It isn’t about g-strings and flashing body parts, this is a skilled competition.
“There is no nudity and even a slight wardrobe malfunction could see competitors disqualified.
“Our competitors come from all different backgrounds, one of the top males at the moment is a former lawyer.”
Judges scored the dancers in a number of categories including moves, originality, costumes, use of props and their ability to tell a story.
Former gymnast Kate started pole dancing four years ago after spotting an advert for a free class at Spin City, a studio in Bristol, where she was studying Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation at University of the West of England
Kate reckons her newfound success is just the start, as she battles to bring pole dancing into public acceptance.
She said: “It’s more of an exercise routine than a sexualised activity. I am an acrobat, so I have body awareness – I know just how long I can hold myself up with each body part.
“It’s very tough – you end up developing hard skin and callouses on the more sensitive areas of your body you use to grip the pole, such as your armpits and backs of your knees.”
She added: “I’ve never been in a lap dancing club in my life. Some people say to me I should go to the clubs because I could make a lot of money but I say no.
“What I do isn’t seedy, and I don’t ever want to put myself in that position. I think the problem with pole dancing is that people don’t really know what it is.
“They think of boozy trips to nudie bars or that dreadful Demi Moore film Striptease. Pole dancing changed my life. I can be myself. I would love to be the face of a new type of pole dancing.
“I think attitudes will change. People just need to be more aware of the skill that it involves.
“Bare skin is very important in pole dancing as you have to stick to the pole for some moves. That’s why pole dancers always have their midriffs showing.”
Both of Kate’s parents are GPs, and they fully support their daughter.
She added: “My dad told me that if he could, he’d quit his job and travel with me whenever I get paid to fly somewhere to teach a masterclass.
“My parents have been so supportive, as has my boyfriend, and that helps so much.”
Kate hopes to work as a sports therapist when she is too old to perform.
The performers at the championship were subject to strict rules about their clothing and act – and would have been disqualified if they suffered any ‘wardrobe malfunctions’.
Dancers like Kate would have been booted-out if they exposed nipples or more than 50 per cent of their bottoms.
The rules state: “If clothing moves during any part of the routine, purposely or by accident on or off the stage to expose the groin, bottom (showing more than 50 per cent of a bottom cheek to the top of the shorts) or breast area (female nipple showing), immediate disqualification will occur and you will not be able to proceed or repeat your performance.”
Competition founder Kay Penney said the strict anti-nudity rules were in force to prevent the event being surrounded by sleaze.
She said: “Boobs on show is something we want to move away from.
“The performers have got to make sure their bottoms do not ride up into a g-string. It’s to professionalise the dancers.”
The competition was organised into three categories – solo female, won by Kate, and solo male, won by Russian acrobat Kristian Lebedev.
Irish duo Lisette Krol and Terri Walsh won the difficult synchronised doubles category.
Every performer had six minutes to showcase their pole dancing skills.
Kay added: “Kate won because she was exceptionally fluid.
“Her combinations of moves were so graceful and effortless she had a demeanour around her that made her seem weightless about the pole.
“For Kate she was just incredible and very very exquisite.”
The annual competition is due to be held in China next year.