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To an insistent beat, the woman in the glittering bikini swarms up the pole, and flings herself into a spectacular upside-down splits. There is a roar of applause, in which I join. A pole-dancing display in east London is not how I imagined spending a sunny Sunday afternoon. Still less did I expect to find it enjoyable — and not in the least bit sleazy. On the steps outside, a large crowd awaits entry. But the dirty-mac brigade is not in evidence. In fact, the audience is overwhelmingly female, middle-class, clad in singlets that reveal bulging biceps.

I even spot several family groups. But the biggest surprise of all is what awaits me inside the hall, because the woman gyrating on the pole is not so much sexy, as sexagenarian. Greta Pontarelli, 63, is here to defend her title in the plus category.

How women are redefining pole dancing. Pole dancers impress at world cup in Brazil. Banning pole dancing is an attack on women. Standing on her head, she grasps the pole with her thighs and hauls herself upright, then swings out horizontally at 90 degrees and rotates slowly. She back-flips over to a second, rotating pole and begins to spin around it like a top.

After a series of extraordinary gravity-defying poses, she ends her four-minute display revolving upside-down, apparently holding on with her abdominal muscles alone. It is a breathtakingly acrobatic routine, more reminiscent of Cirque du Soleil than Spearmint Rhino. After the applause dies down, four young women in s-style bikinis climb on stage. Two sweep the floor while the others shin briskly up the poles and polish them from top to bottom Pole dancing as olympic sport checked dusters.

And although pole has ancient roots in China, where it was used by circus performers, and in the Indian Mallakhamba tradition, in which wrestlers train by performing gymnastics on wooden stakes, pole-dancing itself is said to originate from the travelling fairs during the American depression in the s, and the hoochie-coochie dancers who performed their belly dances holding on to the central tent pole. Globally, its enthusiasts number in the millions — and include hardened he-men such as the actor Jason Stathamwhose ability to perform Pole dancing as olympic sport Human Flag supporting the body horizontally from a pole, a feat Pontarelli performs apparently effortlessly is celebrated all over the internet as a proof of his iron-clad masculinity.

The championships are the brainchild of this brisk athlete, a former showgirl at the Raymond Revue Bar. People have these preconceived ideas — they see it as titillation — but what we do is so far removed from that.

I think people are starting to understand that pole has every aspect of Pole dancing as olympic sport well-attended Olympic sport. Most competitors are wearing Bridget Pole dancing as olympic sport -style big pants and crop-tops, though men are permitted to go topless. The strategy seems to be working: a few days after the event the IPSF is officially recognised as the governing body Pole dancing as olympic sport pole by the Federation of International Gymnastics and by SportAccord, the umbrella organisation for both Olympic and non-Olympic international sports federations.

Meanwhile, pole athletes have been invited to compete in the World Urban Games alongside established sports such as basketball and cycling. Pole dancing as olympic sport perhaps the Olympics are not a total pipe dream after all. After her performance, I find Pontarelli catching her breath backstage.

The petite Californian has jewels stuck to her forehead and purple-sprayed hair, but her sturdy bikini displays a six-pack that any lifeguard would envy. Now a life coach, she was a gymnastics champion in the s, and a competitive martial artist in the s. She only took up pole-dancing four years ago, hoping to find a sport that would ward off the osteoporosis that runs in the family. After two years she won her first title at the Southern Pole Masters Championship My guide to the proceedings is Gini Zdesar, the owner of a pole fitness studio in Kings Langley, Hertfordshire.

Tall, tanned and tawny-haired, clad in neat white shorts and a pink vest, Zdesar exudes a Joan Hunter-Dunn-ish wholesomeness. I am not surprised to learn she was originally a competitive tennis player. A former advertising executive then manager of Nobu, Zdesar has been practising pole for 15 years, ever since she tried a class at her local gym. She began teaching three years ago when she was living in Bahrain, shortly after the birth of her daughter.

In the end, about 80 per cent of my clients were Muslims. While competitors in the plus category limber up, I wander around the hall, examining the merchandise, which ranges from the serious Mighty Grip spray to stick you to the pole to the frivolous: Bling It Up wigs, Hair Crystalz and outfits that range from bondage-style leatherette to frilly pink tutus.

On one side of the Pole dancing as olympic sport a huge banner proclaims pole burn treatment centre. I return to my seat as Yvette Austin, 46, the British entry, bounds on in a gold and white crop-top and trunks.

Swarming up the spinning pole, she holds herself upside-down in a full splits, revolving there supported only by one inner thigh. How come the sport attracts so many older participants? But the pole is almost like a walking stick — it gives you more support. Going backstage to congratulate Austin on her performance, I find her with tears on Fat black asses for free false eyelashes. Behind her, Alex Shchukin, a Ukrainian competitor who, Zdesar tells me, was the first person to somersault down the pole, is strolling around on his hands, Pole dancing as olympic sport a rippling set of abs.

And in a Chile-blazoned tracksuit, year-old Camila Castro is rosining her palms as a make-up artist sprays her hair with red glitter. But I feel uncomfortable. My own daughter is the same age: would I be happy to see her gyrating on a pole in front of a paying audience? When Camila bounds on stage, a grin on her face, I begin to change my mind.

Her routine looks like pure gymnastics and, in her small hands, the pole is no more sinister than a climbing-frame or ballet barre. After her comes Aimee Hilton, 13, from Warrington, who performs in a purple Grecian-inspired costume. Ten women from her dance club who are all wearing matching Team Aimee T-shirts rise to their feet to cheer her on.

Another child with braids in her hair messes up her Pole dancing as olympic sport and carries on grimly to the end with tears pouring down her cheeks and sympathetic tears welling in the eyes of several of the audience.

Pole dancing as olympic sport I meet Aimee, who has braces on her teeth and is now cuddling a snowman toy. Was she nervous? She nods shyly. Like many of the competitors, she used to be a gymnast before changing to pole sports. Greta Pontarelli performing her winning routine.

The day ends with the winning athletes mounting Olympic-style podia to be presented with their medals. Greta Pontarelli comfortably hangs on to her title; Yvette Austin comes third, as does Aimee Hilton in the Novice category. And I go home wondering if anything could ever get me flying as a human flag.

Terms and Conditions. Pole dancing as olympic sport Book. Weather Forecast. Accessibility links Skip to article Skip to navigation. Sunday 24 November Pole-dancing: Olympic sport or strip-club sleaze? Can the World Pole Championships convince a cynic that it really is family-friendly — and worthy of the Olympics? By Lydia Slater. Related Articles. History Expat. Crossword Blogs Dating.

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