Although a dance form usually reserved for exotic female dancers, more and more Chinese men are embracing pole dancing as an alternative workout towards keeping physically fit. The intricate series of twists, spins and flips requires the use of abs, arms and upper body strength.
Hao Tao is a 23-year-old man who has made an unusual career for himself as a professional pole dancer. Pole dancing represents for him the culmination of a dream that had been in his head since he first saw a woman pole dancing in a pub.
“I was so attracted by her dancing that I completely forgot my friends and just stared at her the whole night… I thought it was something that I could do. My friends scoffed and said it was just for women but I was determined”, said Hao.
To say that learning pole dancing for Hao was a brave thing to do in his hometown of Qingdao in eastern China’s Shandong Province is not to say enough. Seeping with a sense of macho pride, locals did not encourage him and dance schools refused to teach him on the grounds that he was not a woman.
But his dream propelled him forward and he began watching videos and teaching himself the exotic dance form in his home. His desire to perform took him away from Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, to where he found a dance school that agreed to take him.
After five years of study, Hao returned to his hometown as an accomplished pole dancer. Today, he earns £6,000 (US 8,000) a month dancing, and also works as a pole-dancing instructor.
It would seem that an eloquent Elizabethan bard once said it best when he claimed that: “to thine own self be true.”