In an underdog story that seems apt for Christopher Guest’s next “documentary,” a former Catholic school kindergarten teacher has become the reigning national champion of American competitive pole dancing in the masters division (which is for women over 40 years old).
The proud former teacher is Marina Heck, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Heck told the Journal Sentinel that the Archdiocese of Milwaukee sacked her after officials found out she had taken up pole dancing competitions.
However, officials with the archdiocese recall the story a bit differently. They say they offered to move Heck from the kindergarten classroom to a middle school position during a downsizing but she rejected the offer.
In any case, competitive pole dancing is exactly what it sounds like: It’s dancing on a silver vertical pole that looks like a slightly taller stripper pole.
Participants cringe at the association with gentlemen’s clubs gymnastics.
“Immediately, when you hear the word pole or pole dancing, you associate it with stripping,” Heck, a married 41-year-old mother with two young sons, told the Journal Sentinel. “Now that it’s worldwide, it’s becoming more and more a legitimate sport.”
Heck, 4-foot-11, won her national championship earlier this summer at a competition in New Orleans.
For the music accompanying her four-minute routine, she chose an instrumental version of “Uptown Funk” — sort of a discount Prince song by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars.
At the subsequent world pole dancing championship in London, Heck finished eighth in the masters division. The winner was a 48-year-old German woman.
“Most of them own studios, or they have coaches, or they have teams they work with,” Heck told the Milwaukee newspaper. “When I told them I go to a studio once a week and train in my basement by myself, they thought I was crazy.”
That basement features a couple dancing poles, some cardio machines and weights, a pull-up bar and, of course, a sauna. She also videotapes her practices.
“I have fallen on my head,” Heck added. “You have to be very careful.”
The former teacher’s first exposure to the world of extreme stripper-pole action came when she visited a gay strip club with a male friend and watched a performer contort impressively.
Heck then began learning the art of competitive pole dancing at Blush Pole Fitness & Dance, located a nondescript storefront in a Milwaukee suburb just across the street from the Milwaukee Mile Speedway.
Blush owner Maureen McKenzie Metzger described Heck as “Olympic caliber” and “just a little, tiny ball of muscle.”
The International Pole Sports Federation currently ranks Heck as the world’s seventh-best pole dance over the age of 40. There are no other Americans listed.
The No. 1-ranked pole dancer in the entire world regardless of age is Oona Kivela, a fetching blonde from Finland with a penchant for colorful eye shadow.