"When in doubt, I'm always judging in favor of the competitor" - interview with Tamás Katus (IPSAF judge)
September 24-25, IPSAF’s (International Pole Sport and Artistic Federation) event for training judges took place in Budapest. What is a course like this about? Where is pole sport headed? Is it entertainment or strict athletics? We picked these questions to pieces with Tamás Katus, the new judge of IPSAF, former chairman of the Hungarian Aerobics Federation.
Have you ever tried pole?
Not yet, however, I did climb railings (ebben nem vagyok biztos, ez gondolom valami torna cucc), and supporting positions are not unknown to me because of my athletic past.
What did the people you know say when they found out that you will get involved with pole dance on some level?
As I have been competing in aerobics, people are no longer surprised. Otherwise, I don’t really care what people think. Back in the day when we were practising aerobics, we already received a number of comments regarding our sexual orientation, but we thought, no matter what they think, we are still the ones surrounded by dozens of pretty ladies every day…
When did you first hear about pole dancing?
I first came to know this genre when Alma Pirner (most famous pole dancer of Hungary) started, and at that time, the emphasis was more on the dancy, exotic style. Then last year I was asked to judge the Artistic Pole Competition in Budapest, that’s where I first saw Hungarian boys compete: Péter Holoda and Norbert Krajnyák. What I saw mesmerized me. During this course I again, saw some amazing Russian male performances.
How was this judges’ course built up?
It’s a two-day course. The first day is mostly theoretical, including the book of rules, the judges’ panel and the system based on which competitors receive their scores, also touching on the practical parts. On the second day, we evaluate videos of performances and in the afternoon, an exam takes place that has a theoretical and a practical section.
Who are the new judges that completed this Budapest course?
I entered this course along with two Hungarian applicants and two candidates from abroad. I have no information of who completed the exam successfully as we received the results in email individually.
If my understanding is correct, Davide Lacaninga, chairman of the Federation would like you to occupy the head judge position...
That’s true, however, I think I would be more interested in the diplomatic part of the sport on the long run. As the former chairman of the Hungarian Aerobics Federation, I do have experience, access to a network and knowledge that could be an advantage in this area. I can imagine myself as an educator or a theoretical expert creating a code of rules based around a different structure. Construction-wise, the current code of rules is very similar to that of aerobics. I would find it useful if a code was created where tricks would not be listed based on ascending scores that can be given for them, but based on their difficulty, and how they ascend from easy to more difficult.
Do you see this sport being taken seriously enough in the future that it may be an olympic sport one day?
Just like in the case of aerobics, pole sport as a whole is aiming to be a gymnastics sport which it should do, as it would never make it to the olympics on its own. The problem is that the number of gymnastic sports is limited and you can only get in if another sport is out. As the International Gymnastics Federation is about to have a new chairman, it is likely that a more progressive leadership will take charge, allowing sports that never before had the chance, to join the Federation. However, as I mentioned, in order for this to happen, another sport needs to be taken off of the list. But which one? These are difficult decisions. This cannot happen before 2024. In case Budapest will organize the next Olympics, which has a high chance because of Hungary being a smaller country and other countries resigning from the opportunity, it will have the right to add its own sport to the event. However, the application for that should have been handed in already. The other problem is the lack of aftergrowth. In case of aerobics, this is about a thousand persons in Hungary. However, as I can see, pole sport is far from that at this time. This could be realistic by 2030-2040.
It appears that the rules are being outlined more and more…
It is always a dilemma whether something should focus on the entertainment of the audience or go in the professional direction. For instance, aerobics performances used to fill stadiums with cheering crowds, but because of all the rules and the perfectionism, it lost a lot of its popularity with the audience. It’s never a good thing when the viewers and the judges evaluate the performance differently. Rules have to be simple and straightforward, so that judging can be fair and competitions can be clean. This is exactly why score-based sports are taking a back seat, and performance-based ones are coming into view more and more.
Will there be room left for individuality and personality?
Character will always play a significant role, as it is sentiment, spirits and style that set competitors apart. Also, whether people like it or not, esthetics play a huge part in how this art is portrayed. What I mean is, after a while, pole sport will join those sports where the physique of a competitor will matter.
Leaving the competitive side of this sport behind, do you think pole fitness could have a place in the regular physical education system in schools?
I think any and every sport has a place in schools. What can be a part of physical education is mainly a question of interest and expenses. In case the basics are taught well and thoroughly, it should not be dangerous and it could offer a lot.
Just one more question about judging: Do you consider yourself a strict judge?
I represent the middle ground I believe. In score-based sports it often happens that scores are deducted in case of a tie. I don’t do that as I believe judges should make decisions that benefit the competitor. In my experience there are many who are stricter than me.
Author: Eszter Varga