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Pole Championships 2010: Pole dancing isn't so sleazy anymore
Pole dancing is returning to its roots as a proper sport, fit for competition and medals, with the 2010 Championships taking place in Tokyo this week
The days of pole dancing being relegated to sleazy bars and strips clubs are over.
The sport and art, and it can be called both, actually has deep roots in athletics in India and as performance in China, and it was only in the West that it had sordid associations as a source of sexual titillation.
Tokyo becomes the capital of pole dance
“I think there has been a drastic changes in people’s attitudes about how they perceive pole dancing,” says pole dancer and organizer of the International Pole Championships (IPC), Anna Przeplasko.
Przeplasko is founder and executive director of the International Pole Dance Fitness Association (IPDFA), and the association is holding its third annual championships in Tokyo on December 9. And there is no doubt the pursuit is now both a method of fitness and an art form.
Lu Nagata, who has 700 active members at her pole dancing studio Art Flow Tokyo, the biggest in Japan, says awareness of the activity changed around 2006.
“I returned to Japan from New York and pole was being taught in night clubs. I wanted to bring to dance studios or fitness studios, and after that it’s becomes really popular,” says Nagata.
So much so that Przeplasko, director of the Championships, has decided to hold the IPC in Tokyo for the second consecutive year, after starting the Championships in Manila in 2008.
“We chose to have the first one in Manila for a few reasons. The government there was the most open, you need to think about visa issues and things like that,” she says.
In that year unknown Filipina Ana Marie Garbo shocked the community by grabbing the Ultimate -- or overall -- Championship in the women’s category.
The category of Pole Fit, awarded for fitness and the difficulty of the moves, went to Yuka Hatsumoto of Japan.
In the category of Pole Art -- awarded for best choreography and artistic expression -- Marsha Yuan of the United States was the winner.
This cross-section represents the international nature of pole dancing, and over 30 countries have national championships now.
“You can track the popularity of pole dancing by country from the number of entries and the quality of those entries,” notes Przeplasko.
Przeplasko adds, “Canada was the first country to get into artistic pole dancing because of their advanced circus schools but it peaked there, so now the new wave is coming from countries like the United States, Japan, Australia and England.”
Przeplasko was determined to take the Pole Championships to the next level in 2009.
In addition to holding them in Tokyo she introduced a men’s category, the only international pole dancing competition to include the gender.
Mai Sato spun her way to the 2009 Ultimate Women’s championship while Dave Kahl picked up the men’s crown.
Sato rode that victory to an audition with the world-renowned circus group Cirque du Soleil and now performs with that prestigious outfit.
And the 2010 IPC promises to be the most intense competition yet. Garbo will attempt to regain her crown while Sato tries to defend it, “so we have a dramatic face-off between two past champions,” Przeplasko says.
In addition, IPC has introduced a disabled category to give those with extra challenges a chance to compete for a championship.
Again, the competition leads the way by incorporating a group not traditionally included in pole dancing.
And the world is taking notice. Taking place at the 3,000-seat JCB Hall in the Tokyo Dome complex, there will be unprecedented media coverage for the IPC with Japanese TV, Sky TV, AP, Reuters, Australian TV, Brazilian TV and Romanian TV, among others, as well as numerous print media outlets all in attendance.
Tokyo-based events company Eggworm is one of the co-producers of IPC and Will Thompson, a manager at Eggworm, is one of its directors.
As someone with no background in pole-dancing Thompson observes, “The community spirit of the pole dance world really surprised me. Before starting work on the event we had no experience of pole dance as a sport.
"Now having spent the last few months communicating with contestants and organizations around the world to coordinate the event we are amazed by their willingness to help and their eagerness to promote the sport,” says Thompson.
The third annual International Pole Championships (IPC) will take place from 6 p.m. on December 9 at JCB Hall. Korakuen, Tokyo. Tickets are ¥4,000 and can be purchased at Lawson’s and through Kyodo Tokyo +81 (0) 570 064 708; 10:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.