Perfecting the art of hanging around

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 January, 2012, 12:00am


The petite brunette flexes a well-muscled bicep you wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of.

'Do these look like a stripper's arms to you?' says Tessa Yung, Hong Kong's champion pole dancer.

The pole dance instructor for Aerial Arts Academy has heard it all in her line of work: catcalls, whispers from old classmates, and even mock denial from her father, but this she says is where she fits best.

'My mum thinks it's kind of cool. I've tried a lot of things, and this is what's worked out best for me.'

She's just come off the pole after a five-minute show of acrobatic strength, flexibility and grace: hanging upside down, stretching to the heavens en pointe like a ballerina, all the while balancing deftly on a stainless steel pole. A former teacher, reporter, banker and insurance company worker, Yung, 28, is one of 33 dancers who will take part in the International Pole Championships on March 15 at the Academy of Performing Arts.

The annual event, which was previously hosted by Tokyo and Manila is looking to make Hong Kong its home for a while, say organisers of the International Pole Dance Fitness Association. The sport has caught on in Hong Kong. It now has five pole dance studios, up from the one in 2007, and fitness clubs also offer classes.

Organiser Anna Przeplasko is keen to point out that it's not just for women and the able-bodies.

'Our event is different from other pole championships,' says Przeplasko, 'It involves men and the disabled as well. We have a one-armed woman from Australia who'll be taking part this year.'

The 33 competing in March were chosen from 156 semi-finalists from all over the world. They represent 13 nationalities, including three performers from Hong Kong, as well as the US, UK, Brazil, Colombia, Australia, Japan and the Philippines.

Przeplasko and the International Pole Dance Fitness Association are looking to strip the sport of seedy connotations and transform it into an Olympic sport. The group has gathered more than 6,500 signatures to petition the Olympic committee and have set up a pole dance instructor accreditation programme with the Asian Academy for Sports and Fitness Professionals.