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Big in Beijing: Poledancing
mchawk | July 26, 2008 at 03:21 pmby
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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.
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.”
Ms. Luo, who quickly discovered that pole dancing for fitness was popular in America, realized that if she could take away the shadier aspects of the erotic dance and repackage it into an activity more acceptable to mainstream Chinese women, she might create a Chinese fitness revolution. Here was an exercise that would allow women to stay fit and express their sexuality with an unprecedented degree of openness and freedom.
But she remained keenly aware of the challenges in a society where traditional values dictate that women be loyal, faithful and modestly dressed.
Upon her return to Beijing, Ms. Luo invested a little under $3,000 of her savings to start the Lolan Pole Dancing School. She placed advertisements in a lifestyle newspaper and called friends to get the word out.
Slowly, young women trickled in to take a look.
“People here have never seen a pole dance, and for that reason they don’t associate it with stripping or women of ill repute,” Ms. Luo said. “I knew if I could give people a positive first impression of this as a clean, fun, social activity, people wouldn’t just accept it, they’d embrace it.”
Pole dancing’s move onto the fitness scene, however, has been a rocky one. Many Chinese, who disapprove of its sexual movements, consider it unruly and licentious.
Ms. Luo said she had received prank calls and plenty of criticism. “I’ve been contacted by many people who don’t like what we’re doing,” she said.
But those who embrace pole dancing for fitness are a snapshot of urban youths whose values are changing from those of their parents.
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