Pole Dancing On RuPaul’s Drag Race, Ranked

The first episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race – All Stars 5 saw a fantastic pole dance number. Drag Race is no stranger to pole, so in this quick and light-hearted post I’ll give my pole dancer’s two cents on the pole performances.

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Disclaimer

I’m a pole dance performer, instructor and Drag Race fan (an over-excited fan, considering I’ve contributed to an academic collection about the show). I teach both choreography and tricks and I know how hard it is to learn how to pole and how long it takes.

As an instructor, I will shout: “POINT YOUR TOES!” at my students about 90 times during a class. As a spectator however, I’m fully aware that not all people doing pole dancing routines take the FKA Twigs approach of studying the technique and working on it for ages: they might be working towards a goal, towards that particular performance.

So this post isn’t about to throw shade. I’m not in the business of saying: “But she didn’t point her toes / that’s not the best invert I’ve seen” when watching someone who isn’t a trained pole dancer perform. This post ranks the episodes including pole dancing and doesn’t judge a queen for her technique. Whatever I write is judged on performance only. There is only so much you can achieve towards a series’ episode!

The fact that the queens are able to pole dance on top of everything they do – costumes, make-up, acting, comedy, singing, dancing, lipsyncing etc – is mind-blowing to me. I’m writing about Drag Race and pole is because they are both my passions and my ways to escape my daily anxieties, and following last week’s performance it seemed like the right time for a round-up.

#1 Drag Race Season 2, Episode 2

#throwback to the OG Drag Race, aka the slightly problematic era of Drag Race when “You got She-mail” and other non-PC comments were still around on the show. Tyra saying: “Pole dancing is a little hoeish” (with contempt instead of with glee) was also a low point.

BUT, this episode is gold. My forever idol Dita Von Teese was one of the judges, and the queens performed at a strip club style venue on Hollywood Boulevard, using choreographies taught by none other than EveryBODYVisible and United Pole Artists co-founder, Anne-Marie aka The Queen of Sexy.

This episode is filled with booty shakes, split drops, kips and upside down goodness and it’s still my favourite pole-based RPDR performance.

#2 All Stars 5

When Drag Race announced the All Stars 5 cast I nearly flipped: some of my favourite queens were back including Shea Coulee, whom I was lucky enough to see live at Club Kids – Twisted Circus in London in 2018.

A fierce lipsyncer, dancer, rapper, actor, Shea gets nothing wrong. And she’s one of those drag queens who confuses my bi ass, because I fancy her both as a boy and as a girl. So when she delivered her pole dancing extravaganza in the opening episode I was S H O O K.

Shea’s pole performance was gag-worthy – and apparently it only took 10 classes for her to get that confident. The red set she was wearing, her wig and make-up delivered those stripper style vibes I live for. She pole danced to her new song, “Collide”, with GESS and Mykki Blanco which can be found below.

She busted some classic moves like a hello boys and a reverse grab, and brought filthy sultry realness to the stage, which is what pole is about for me. She didn’t come to play, she came to make it rain (and she should have been the top All Star of the week, but I’m biased).

#3 Drag Race UK’s Maypole

Let’s not forget Drag Race UK’s Maypole. While many queens gave their best twerking and vogueing around the pole, the legend that is Crystal – an East London queen through and through – actually jumped on the pole with an invert. Everything looked absolutely bonkers and I was living for it.

#4 Season 11 Finale

After seeing the Queen of The North Brooke Lynn Heights in that lipsync against Yvie Oddly, I was fangirling very hard.

Sadly, the Season 11 Finale pole section did not do it for me. It was not Brooke’s fault – it seemed more like a set-up issue. The poles looked chucked there and gave no strip club, cabaret or pole stage vibe, and Brooke did half a spin that looked more dancey than pole dancey. In short: the performance was really cool, but the poles could have not been there and it would have been even better.

What are your favorite Drag Race pole moments? Would love to hear what you think!

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