BEIJING — Clad in knee-high leather boots, spandex shorts and a sports bra, Xiao Yan struck a pose two feet off the ground, her head glistening with sweat and her arms straining as she suspended herself from a vertical pole.
“Keeping your grip is the hardest part,” she said. “It’s really easy to slide downward.”
Ms. Xiao, 26, who works as a supermarket manager, is one of a growing number of women experimenting with China’s newest, and most controversial, fitness activity: pole dancing.
“I used to take a normal aerobics class, but it was boring and monotonous,” Ms. Xiao said. “So I tried out pole dancing. It’s a really social activity. I’ve met a lot of girls here who I’m now close friends with. And I like that it makes me feel sexy.”
A nightclub activity mostly considered the domain of strippers in the United States, pole dancing — but with clothes kept on — is nudging its way into the mainstream Chinese exercise market, with increasing numbers of gyms and dance schools offering classes.
The woman who claims to have brought pole dancing to China, Luo Lan, 39, is from Yichun, a small town in Jiangxi Province in southeastern China. Her parents teach physics at the university level.
Ms. Luo said she struggled in 20 different occupations — secretary, saleswoman, restaurateur and translator among them — before deciding to take a break. She traveled to Paris in 2006 for vacation. It was there that she first saw pole dancing.
“I wandered into a pub, and there was a woman dancing on the stage,” she said. “I thought it was beautiful.”
Those who embrace pole dancing for fitness are a snapshot of urban youths whose values are changing from those of their parents.
Jiang Li, 23, a pole dancing student; "A lot of people expect Chinese women to be subdued and faithful, that we should marry and take care of kids at an early age,” she said. “But I don’t think that way — I want to be independent. I’ve been studying traditional Chinese dance for many years, but this is totally different. I feel in control when I do this.”
-by Jimmy Wang
God bless fusion cooking, rule breakers and rule breaking, and cultural appropriation from all sides and in all things... and special blessings today on Luo Lan who took erotic performance art and turned it into a profitable aerobic exercise concept in a socially repressive country, bravo!