When performance art and competitive sports overlap, pole dancing is not something that immediately comes to mind. Conceived during a sordid evening between circus acts and burlesque entertainment, pole dancing has gradually made it way from being a secret pleasure of men to a form of exercise for both men and women to a pole-assisted competitive sport with artistic license.
A relative newcomer to the competitive pole dancing scene, the Middle Kingdom first fielded a team for the World Pole Dance Championship in 2012. This competition may be one of many, but is widely regarded as the most prestigious, boasting competitors from over 30 countries around the world.
This year’s Championship is the first time it is being held in China. The event takes place this weekend (April 11th and 12th) in the Tianqiao Theater in Beijing and the Chinese team have high hopes for a good performance. During last year’s event in the UK, team China took home the men’s best entertainer (Sun Yingzhi), the double’s best costume (Meng Yifan, Zhong Qianie), and the women’s best costume (Fang Chunyan) awards.
Despite the increase in participation and opening of minds on the topic of pole dance, it is still a fairly controversial activity. Reactions from the public range from support and intrigue, to the opinion that those who participate exercise high degrees of sexual liberation. What is strongest, it seems, whenever pole dancing is mentioned is the mental connection to strip clubs. A taboo subject in many places around the world, the notoriety strip clubs have accumulated have long been embedded in our minds through the media of film, TV, music, and the like.
For the vast majority, the association between dancing on a pole and stripteases is just too strong to ignore, not surprising given its relatively long history as burlesque entertainment in comparison to its only recent global exposure in a competitive dance format. As it matures, however, maybe people will no longer be solely focused on the beautiful bodies that adorn the pole, but also marvel in the aesthetics and techniques that accompany those beautiful bodies.