Pole-dancing granny Sun Fengqin is in her element
Ignoring her doctors' orders and a bad back, a 60-year-old Nanjing rebel has roused shock and awe among family and friends with her sexy, agile antics
In mainland society, pole dancing is seen as risqué entertainment that should be confined to nightclubs. But 60-year-old Sun Fengqin, from Nanjing, is doing her best to change that.
Twenty years ago, Sun had two steel pins implanted in her spine and was advised not to do anything too strenuous. That included dancing. But Sun wasn't listening, and threw herself into several types of dance. But it's her moves on the pole that have brought the greatest rewards.
Why did you pick up pole dancing?
Since retiring 10 years ago, my life has been busy. I have been learning various types of dance - Latin, belly dancing and jazz, and a mass group dancing. I'm good at them but they don't satisfy my desire for a more challenging dance in which a woman can show her sexiness and charm. Back in the 1980s when I was travelling in Southeast Asia, the tour guide asked us if we wanted to watch a pole dance performance. She emphasised it was risqué. I didn't watch it at the time. But last year, out of curiosity, I found a video clip from a pole dancing competition. As soon as I saw it I was mesmerised and watched it three times. I was drawn to every move by the dancer - a pretty girl in a beautiful dress. I think pole dancing is even more beautiful than belly dancing, and it isn't risqué at all. In March, I asked my husband to give me money to take a dance class. I didn't tell him it was pole dancing because I was worried that he wouldn't like it.
How's your health? Can your body keep up with it?
In 1992, bones in my spine broke and doctors inserted two pins. They told me I couldn't do any quick movements, pick up heavy objects or dance. But I ignored them and continued dancing as before. I have been in love with dancing since I was young. A year later, one of the pins broke and doctors removed it. In 2008 I was told I needed two operations - one to take out the other pin and another to put in two new ones. But I haven't had them because I fear it could mean I couldn't dance any more. I just bear the pain, by walking and dancing. I decided I should cherish these years by dancing and doing whatever I'm interested in, before I am paralysed. Decades ago, we weren't allowed to dance, and there weren't any venues. Now everything is there, so why not dance? The miracle is that since I started pole dancing my legs have become less painful.
Are any pole dancing moves difficult for you?
I haven't encountered any yet. Recently I learned how to hold the pole and hang upside down. My teacher sang my praises and told the other students - young girls who didn't dare do the move - to follow my lead. This reinforced my belief that pole dancing is suitable for all people, no matter their sex or age.
You have got a lot of media coverage. What has been people's reaction?
It makes me happy to have so many fans. When I am out and about people recognise me and come up to chat. They call me their idol and say I'm brilliant. Some people say they couldn't believe that I pole dance and that I do it so well. I finished in the top 24 in a national pole-dancing competition in August. Of course, there are people who disapprove.
Some think pole dancing is pornographic. One of my sons suggested I stop doing it, and I told him it was none of his business. Not long ago, an old friend called me at home. She said she didn't want me visiting her home any more because she was worried I would set a bad example for her grandchildren. I was angry and in low spirits for days. But then I recovered and forgot about it, realising I had lost one friend but gained a lot of followers.
You are easily distinguishable by your unique dress styles. Why do you choose such eye-catching dresses?
I have always liked bright and fashionable clothes. I especially love scarlet. It reflects warm-heartedness and an intense feeling, and it also signifies youth. Some people criticise me, saying my dresses don't match my age. I don't care about their comments, and I insist on my style, because I am someone who will do anything in the pursuit of being gorgeous.
You are quite slim. How do you stay fit?
I've always cared about my physique. For some time I ate only two meals a day in order to lose weight. Before I retired, in my office I often looked in the mirror or weighed myself to monitor if I was getting fatter. Months ago I was invited on a programme on a Henan TV station. I danced with four young ladies and all of us were dressed in the same type of sexy skirt while wearing masks. No one in the audience recognised me - a 60-year-old granny. I am proud of this.
So you don't need to raise grandchildren, like most elderly women in China?
No, I don't. There are other people who take care of my two grandchildren. Actually, I hate the kind of life where one is restricted to staying at home - that would make me ill and depressed.
You seem so cheerful. Have you experienced much pain in your life?
I am definitely an extrovert, cheerful most of time. But there are things which sadden and worry me. My mother was recently diagnosed with cancer and my father died last year. My husband is involved in an economic dispute involving hundreds of thousands of yuan, and my elder son has divorced. I often weep and can't sleep at night. But my husband has consoled and supported me through these ordeals.
It's said that you plan to get cosmetic surgery. Is that true?
Yes. I am not satisfied with my face. There are wrinkles and the skin is loose. I think cosmetic surgery was invented for us old people, to let us look young again. I want to retain my beauty as long as possible. I think that after cosmetic surgery people will call me 'sister', rather than 'granny'.
Sun spoke to Alice Yan