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Climbing to the top of the pole

By Liao Danlin (Global Times)

10:31, October 29, 2012

Alternate member of WPDSFC rehearses (Liao Danlin/GT)

The training room is not big, but the dancers inside focus intently, in their own space. Song Yao, 26, from Sichuan Province, second place winner in 2011's China Pole Dance Championship, approaches the pole, carefully wiping it. Meanwhile, Meng Yifan, 28, the first Chinese to be invited to the World Pole Dance Sport Fitness Championship (WPDSFC) in 2010, sits on the floor to stretch, reaching her hands to her toes.

Cao Nuo, 22, from Heilongjiang Privince, third place winner in the 2011 China Pole Dance Championship, practices with a large ring, head down and legs stretched to the ring. Later, the team's only male member, Yan Shaoxuan from Beijing, arrives and quickly begins warming up.

A few years ago, these young dancers were strangers to each other. They came from different areas in China and had various jobs. Two months ago, they grouped together with a few other alternate team members to form China's national pole dance team, led by their leader and coach Yuan Biao. Now, they practice an average of six hours a day to prepare for their first international competition, the WPDSFC, in Zurich, Switzerland on November 10.

Accidental love

For the three girls, an accidental discovery of pole dance videos online led to a change in career. Meng used to be a professional dancer and teacher who specialized in ethnic dances and ballet. In 2006, Meng saw a video of a woman performing a pole dance online. She found it appealing, and she decided to learn it herself. Meng bought a pole online and installed it at home.

"It was difficult at the beginning. Without a coach, I fumbled through the skills and techniques by myself," said Meng.

Song and Cao, living in different cities, shared similar experience after watching videos online. They decided to pursue pole dance as a hobby.

Song was a singer who made her living by performing at various events. Living in a small city in Sichuan, Song was unaware of this art. She became hooked the first time she saw a video of a girl dancing.

"I thought it was so beautiful. Maybe just because the girl in the video was pretty," she laughed.

Luckily, by the time Song and Cao became interested in pole dance in 2008, there were a number of gyms offering classes in China. After practicing for months, both changed roles, from student to coach.

Yan's story is a bit different. In 2005, he saw a pole dance at a nightclub. Experienced in ballet and Chinese dance, Yan, a lover of challenges, wanted to try this new art. He approached the dancer that night and asked to be his student. "After developing the love and skill for pole dancing, I didn't practice other dances," said Yan.

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