Plastic pollution storytelling at Pole Theatre World: Interview with Cami Camomille
Updated: Sep 7, 2022
For my 25th birthday, my friends and family gave me an unexpected and beautiful present: they sent me to London for a weekend to meet with the incredible pole dancer Michelle Shimmy, founder of one-of-a-kind competition: Pole Theatre. This event is one of the most well known pole dancing competitions where performers enter one of the four categories: Pole Art, Pole Comedy, Pole Drama and Pole Classique. They are encouraged to captivate the audience by telling a story on stage and creating unique and inspiring performances. I had volunteered at Pole Theatre Paris for years - organized by the studio Pole and Dance where I used to practice - and I was excited to attend the Pole Theatre World! One performance in particular changed me forever and I believe led me to found Pole Dance for the Planet. I am excited to share with you a conversation with the mind, soul and body behind it: Camille Sarrebressolles known online as Cami Camomille.
Bonjour Camille, you are a French pole dancer and instructor as well as a school and English teacher. Tell us about you and your pole journey!
I grew up in the countryside, in a little village in the south of France and spent most of my life there. I have practiced ballet since I was 5 years old and have been dancing for most of my life since then. Dancing is a real passion, a cure-all-problems type of passion. It’s been a vital part of my life all these years and I can’t imagine not having it. Besides ballet, I tried ballroom dance and have recently reconnected with West Coast Swing which I really like too. I started pole dancing in 2016 in Toulouse (France) and it was an absolute love at first sight: I was immediately hooked! After going through a change of career in 2016, I moved to Sydney, Australia! I can easily say that I spent some of the best years of my life there, living by the ocean and spending a lot of time outside enjoying t he wonders of all the Australian National Parks. I joined the Pole Dance Academy and danced alongside Michelle Shimmy and Maddie Sparkle.
I quickly started teaching pole dance - it was quite an experience!
I competed and won my first competition in amateur and in semi pro, then won the Pole Theatre Sydney 2018 in the professional category and received the overall champion title - with my first plastic pollution-related piece. This journey led me to competing internationally at Pole Theatre World 2019 after only three years of pole experience. It was quite overwhelming and I haven't competed again since then - but I’m planning to go back to it at some point.
As for my professional life, I initially trained to be a midwife but didn’t really like it. Instead I became a teacher. In Australia, I worked as a preschool teacher and as a French teacher. Back in France, I now work as an English teacher and still teach pole dance classes at the studio in Toulouse where it all started!
You participated in Pole Theater World 2019 in London with a choreographic piece highlighting “How plastic pollution is slowly suffocating the ocean”. Why did you choose to compete on the Pole Theater stage?
I enjoy the technical aspect of pole dancing but being a trained dancer, I enjoy associating the artistic element and to share emotions, to tell stories. That’s what my ballet teacher always taught us to do and that’s what I wanted to bring to my pole dancing journey. Pole Theatre is all about that: t the way the artist tells the story is what matters the most! And I like this competition for this very reason.
“Competitors will be expected to build a clear storyline in their performance. The story must be clear. It is not enough to choose a theme or motif. The story must have a premise, development and conclusion.” (extract from the Pole Theatre guidelines). What inspired you to address the plastic pollution crisis in your work?
Water has always had a soothing power on me. I can’t explain the calming feeling I have when I’m immersed, when I swim and dive. To be honest, I wasn’t aware of the extent of the plastic pollution in the ocean until some of my Australian friends showed me some videos of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
Also known as the Pacific trash vortex, it is the largest accumulation of ocean plastic in the world and is located between Hawaii and California!
It was a real shock. I started researching on the topic and realized how devastating plastic consumption is. More infuriating, many people to whom I spoke about it were in total denial of it since they couldn’t directly witness it in Sydney.
As I was planning on participating in the competition again, in the drama category, I wanted to choose a powerful theme: the plastic crisis immediately came to my mind. In terms of choreography, I didn’t have to make up a futuristic scenario or to create a new story: the concept and storyline were already there, in nature. I just had to tell how tons of plastics are thrown in the ocean every day and how it currently impacts our ecosystems, and ourselves.
What feedback have you received from viewers? What do you hope the audience takes away from your work?
I think people were touched and moved by the performances I created. Some attendees told me they felt sadness and this is the the best feedback I could get: it means I managed to convey a message about this terrible issue efficiently. I hope that my work has the same effect on some people as the videos my Australian friends showed me a few years ago and that it will be a starting point to see change.
Whose work has influenced and inspired you?
Without hesitation, my main inspiration has always been and will always be my first ballet teacher Sylvie Julhia with whom I danced for over 20 years. She is incredibly creative and her creations always start with a strong theme and story. She’s the one who taught me we could speak without words and tell stories with movements. I am really flattered since this year I actually inspired her too: she created a choreographic piece about plastic pollution with her advanced students!
Pole wise, I really value the performers who are able to tell stories and share emotions (positive or negative) with their audience, on and off the pole, people whose choreography and tricks match their theme, music, costume etc. Months after watching a piece, you don’t remember what tricks the dancer performed but you remember how it made you feel.
Finally, Amanda Lee (one of my colleagues at Pole Dance Academy) and her work at Bye Bye Plastic ignited my thoughts on the plastic crisis we live in today.
Why should people in the industry care about this cause?
Plastic pollution affects us all and the pole industry, like any other industry, should care. With the practice of pole dancing, we are not really in contact with the environment and we don’t require much material but I think that it is great that some people like you or Kristy Sellars - with her eco-conscious grip product and pole period shorts - are working on ways to reduce our footprint by using sustainable products. Since we don’t use many materials and products, it should be easy for us to buy the ones that are better for our planet.
Individually we can all make an effort to reduce our use of single use plastic and recycle whenever it is possible. I buy many second hand objects and products. On a larger scale, this is our whole waste management that needs to be improved particularly in the touristic areas on the coastline. It would take an international effort to help the poorest country deal with all this waste.
Do you believe that dance can be a transformative tool of communication? If so, how? If not, then why?
It totally can be and already is. Artists use their creations to share emotions, political messages, personal messages and to raise awareness about different matters. Violences, sexual harassment, domestic violences, racism, inequality, climate change…: dancers all around the world tell stories every day and that is what makes our art so wonderful.
Do you intend to create other works regarding environmental issues? If so, what other environmental fights are you interested in?
I don’t know yet... Right now I am concerned by some other issues that are more social than environmental!
I hear you! I believe social and environmental issues are connected at many levels. Advances on one issue, will make others progress. On another note, what is one thing you wish someone had told you/taught you a long time ago?
To stop putting so much pressure on myself. But that’s another story!
Thank you for sharing! We all need to be reminded of it. What projects are you working on right now?
I recently went through a major shoulder surgery so I stopped teaching a few weeks ago (both pole and at school). I first need to rehab my shoulder properly so I can lift my arm up and dance freely again! Long term I’d like to develop my teaching abilities and create a platform for children to learn languages, based on the different pedagogies I came across these last years. I would also love to compete again at some point!
Finally, something major we can all do is... Vote! Our votes can really contribute to major changes if we make the right choices and pick candidates who are actually going to make climate change a priority (among other issues). Thank you for this interview. I feel honored to have talked to you!
Vote, act, speak up, and inspire others! Thank you, Camille. You deeply inspired me.
Camille Sarrebressolles (cami_camomille) is a French pole dancer, instructor and school teacher. She grew up in a beautiful little village in the south of France. Camille moved to Australia in 2016 after a change of career and lived in Sydney for 6 years. She taught pole dance at the Pole Dance Academy alongside internationally-renowned pole dancers and performers Michelle Shimmy and Maddie Sparkle. She won the overall champion title at the Pole Theatre Sydney in 2018 (professional category) and entered Pole Theatre World 2019 with a choreographic piece about plastic pollution. She is an outdoor lover and enjoys hiking, skiing, snorkeling and traveling. She now works as an English teacher and teaches pole at Miss Pole studio in Toulouse, France.
Performance at Pole Theatre Sydney 2018 and at Pole Theatre World 2019
Pole classes with Camille: Miss Pole Toulouse (she will be back in September!)