Dancing at the pole

By Ida Relsted (Shanghai Delta)
Updated: 2006-11-02 11:02

"Do you like pole dancing?" the editor asked, as she was sending me on an assignment to report on what is probably the most fascinating and acrobatic pole dance instructor performing in Shanghai. With the defensiveness most women probably meet this question, I answered that I had never seen live pole dancing, expecting it would be something associated with the sleaziness of a strip bar.

The adventure to find out more about pole dance - which is not stripping, as the editor insisted - took me to the cozy, cool bar called "I Love Shanghai." Located at the south end of the Bund, "I Love Shanghai" almost blends in with the tourist buses and tours because of its huge sign devoting love to the city. Inside the lounge, everything is red and black, and the atmosphere is both relaxed and stylish. On the dance floor, a pole indicated what was to come.

English teacher by day

Before performing, the 23-year old Australian pole dance instructor Jacq revealed insights on pole dancing and her personal career: "I started four years ago as a selftaught pole dancer with neither acrobatic nor dance training, and went on to become an instructor and do well in the "Miss Pole Dance" competition in Australia."

"I moved to Shanghai in February, and started my daytime job as an English teacher in a primary school. But after six months I missed pole dance so much, I started as a performer and instructor again, so now I teach pole dance in my free time," Jacq explained.

Sitting on a sofa surrounded by small red candles, Jacq looked nothing like the stereotypical strip club pole dancer: No skimpily dressed blonde bimbo here, but rather a red-haired woman with a passion for what she talked about, strong arms and black dragon tattoos on her back.

Out of the strip clubs

In countries such as Australia, the UK and the United States, pole dancing has become a fitness craze dragging it away from strip clubs and into fitness centres and pole dance schools. One major difference is that the people who dance stay dressed, and that it is often practiced in groups. Instead of an aerobics class in the local gym, women go for a pole dance class.

"Now, more and more women pole dance without having ever been strippers," Jacq said and continued: "In the beginning the instructors often had a background in stripping. But we are trying to break the sleazy connotations.

"And pole dance really is a good workout, since it targets strength and flexibility. Also, it is a female- only environment, which provides less inhibitions and a lot of fun. It has the social aspect of women going `Look what I can do,' because often you start with the assumption that you will never be able to do a particular move, but end up by actually doing it, which gives a great sense of achievement," Jacq explained with enthusiasm.

But it ca n hardly be all fitness and fun, when pole da ncing does come from more sexy quarters. "When da ncing, you ma ke sexy moves, and that feels quite empowering. Many of the moves include the hip roll, and it touches on something, which is thought of as taboo. I tell you, the husbands of the women who pole dance, seem to love it," Jacq disclosed laughingly.

"It is really amazing what you can learn, and it is fun," she said "I never thought I would be a performer, but I get a real high out of performing. Some moves I can only do with an audience."


Today's Top News  
Most Commented/Read Stories in 48 Hours