Image by habkb.
This week’s SF Chronicle column is Pole Dancing Gets Serious: Violet Blue watches gymnasts take over the gentleman’s club sport and turn it into an international competition. It was totally inspired by my visit last week to Sedusa Studios, the largest (and most welcoming) pole-dancing instruction place probably in the world. They did try to teach me one pole trick — I did fall very gracefully. But in the column, I linked to some really incredible (and sexy) and hilarious videos. One pole dancing accident video — it’s super cute and you can tell she was having fun — got me this email: “That video on you tube happens to be my sister- a highly decorated pole-dancing champion! Her stage name is Kris-Tall. She has won the title of Ms. Nude, Nevada;multiple titles at POLapalooza; voted the best pole dancer in the nation at LIGHT@ the Bellagio 05-06 and competed & placed in the Polympics year after year. She was showing off at home to a friend visiting when that video was taken. Thanks for taking an interest!”
Here’s a snip:
This column is dedicated to everyone who ogled the boys and girls in the gymnastic competitions and thought, “Oh, I can do that,” (You’re all living in my neighborhood, I’m sure of it.), and to those of you who‘ve watched a strip-club pole dance but couldn’t decide if it was hot or not.
It’s not the horizontal bar. It’s not the uneven bars. It’s a pole – and while I generally think of the brass erections populating gentleman’s clubs countrywide as unsanitary, its tawdry rep has had a makeover and a half, like Joan Rivers’ plastic surgery pride and our wonder at the elasticity of the human face.
For Americans, pole dancing had long been relegated to strip clubs, but a newer, artistic wave of the discipline (such as Chinese pole, performed mostly by men, which, I guess, makes it not dirty) is part and parcel of many circus and cabaret performances. It’s even become a faddish form of exercise (Oprah called it a “trend” in 2003), and remains one of the fastest growing forms of workout methods among women across the U.S. Pole-dancing kits have even been (unsuccessfully) marketed to little girls as fitness accessories; in late 2006, toy company Tesco was forced to remove a pole-dancing kit from the toys and games section of its Web site after it was accused of “destroying children’s innocence.” (Whoops!). And in 2007, Hong Kong’s first ever pole-dancing championships were held at the Queen Elizabeth Stadium. The damn thing just won’t go away.
When Cirque Du Soleil’s catsuit-clad pole dancers are demonstrating the same endurance, intense strength and skill as the more talented women in strip clubs, it made me realize the dirty, dirty boys’ club entertainment has evolved into an actual sport. And while those girls at Hustler in North Beach make it look like child’s play, they’ve got core and upper body strength that could kick your ass to Beijing and back. Which is a fitting statement, Olympics aside, considering that pole dancing as sport, eros, and art has indeed become big in China – while depictions of Chinese pole dance gymnastics date back at least as far back as 1,000 years.
I’ve been avoiding the topic of pole dancing in this column for a while now because it’s just another sex thing, another stripper thing. If you’re not into athletes or skilled at tossing dollars on a strobe-lit stage, chicks flinging themselves around a stand-in penis on a stage just sounded boring until the global mindset started viewing the dance of the pole as another form of gymnastics. And while we’re blown away by the pole wrangling of He and Luikin, countries around the world are staging pole-dancing championships that are decidedly not held in Billy Bob’s Boob Emporium. (…read more.)