Fitness fad or erotic tease, dancers take pole positions
Everyone's doing it from primary-school children to an 82-year-old grandmother. So has pole dancing shaken off its image as a sleazy, strip club act into a legitimate form of exercise?
For Melody Rose, a Hong Kong-born pole dancer for the past five years, pole dancing should always be sexy and erotic.
'Many of the greatest pole dancers in the world are or were strippers. Why deny that? I love it this way. It's a little naughty, a little risque. I love doing something that shocks my friends,' the 30-year-old said.
Rose was one of 14 competitors at the Hong Kong China Pole Dancing Championships held earlier this week in Central, where a 200-strong crowd cheered on performers as they wound their way up and down two poles.
A panel of judges, including the event's organiser Jady Chow, managing director of pole dancing school Pole Divas HK, marked six categories.
Rose put on one of the most captivating shows of the night and won the title of Hong Kong pole champion.
Tessa Yung took the top award for elite pole champion, while Symone Salamon and Bowie won the duo category.
Salamon started pole dancing six years ago and loved it so much that she opened up her own school called Pole Paradise about 18 months ago.
She said pole dancing first came to Hong Kong in 2004 but it was not until 2007 that it became more mainstream.
'That's when there was a shift in the demographic from mainly Western girls to more Hong Kong office ladies, mainly in their early 20s who just wanted to do something fun after work,' Salamon said.
'More and more people are viewing pole dancing as a fitness alternative. A lot of us are very fit and quite slim so when some women see that we're not built like brick houses and that we're lean and strong, they want to try it, too.'
Young men were also taking up pole dancing, as well as children and even grandmothers.
'We had an 82-year-old grandmother who came with her niece. She had a great, fun time. She knew her limitations because her knees were a bit bad and her hips,' Salamon said.
'We've also got classes for kids where it's not about the sex appeal; more about the spins and moves.'
There are three pole dancing studios in the city that offer beginner, intermediate and advanced courses, while a number of gyms have also started to offer pole dancing as part of their group fitness classes.
But for Rose, who started pole dancing in 2006 because she wanted to 'get rid of the nerdiness in me for one hour', it has never been about the health benefits.
'I don't like pole dancing being called pole fitness. If I want to do fitness, I might as well go to gym and play with dumb-bells or go down the park to exercise on the monkey bar.
'I love the showmanship in pole dancing, the amazing costumes, the music, the props, the heels. I don't mind relating pole dance to strip clubs. I couldn't care less what other people think. They don't like it, they can p*** off.'