Amateurs, experts, women, men, and partner teams came to the Maplewood Performing Arts Theater for the regional pole contest this past weekend. Don't picture college kids dancing for dollars. These people are serious athletes, and the upper-division contestants can go from a full split to climbing 10 feet in the air at a moment's notice. City Pages got special access to the event, with performers inviting our photographer backstage to see them limber up and prepare in the nervous moments before taking the stage, and the pole, before a capacity crowd. All photos by Colin Michael Simmons.