Pole dancing in France gains popularity
Polemania in France has pole-dancing schools fully-booked.7 July 2008
PARIS - The "polemania" that overtook Hollywood, Australia and Japan a decade ago has grabbed France, where pole-dancing schools say they turn away clients eager to learn routines once the preserve of strip clubs and girlie bars.
"It's sensual, not sexy, we leave eroticism in the changing room", said Violetta Carpentier, 31.
She directs a studio in Paris' ninth district - long a home for dancers of many talents, from ballerinas at the Opera Garnier on the district's southern edge to strippers in the Pigalle bars on its north side.
Though she says competition is fierce among pole-dance instructors, demand outstrips supply and "we have to refuse students all the time."
Her basement studio now has 150 students, many professional women who say they wanted something different to burn off job stress.
"I'm a pole addict," said Manuela Carneiro, a 28-year-old graphic artist who wanted a change after 15 years of modern dance classes.
"I started off with the 'basic fireman' but now I can manage the 'superman'," she said, giving the names in English.
In the first, a dancer hoists herself to the top of the pole and slides down, just like a fireman, while the second, one of the most difficult contortions, requires keeping the body horizontal, with the pole held only between the thighs.
Sylvia Daunas, a 36-year-old medical secretary, shows off the bruises covering her legs. "It's not easy to defy gravity," she laughs, "it's super athletic, but it gives you confidence."
Though heavily hyped for years in the United States, Marina Baum, a 42-year-old who heads another Paris pole-dance school, said the craze came to France "only three years ago" but quickly nudged into the mainstream.
Students' attire lies somewhere between the gym and the bar, sometimes both as in one class where women worked out in athletic shorts and drag-queen stilettos.
Last March, a Paris nightclub even held the first 'Miss Pole Dance France'
competition for amateurs.
Gregory Hennion, a teacher at Carpentier's studio, said "potential students are not the only ones interested. We now get many requests for demonstrations," he said, citing a major department store.
Another testament to its popularity: French suppliers say they keep running out of the essential poles, which cost a hefty EUR 250 for the regular chrome model or EUR 300 for the "titanium gold", which, one dealer touted, offers "much better gripping ability".
[AFP / Expatica]