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TOKYO

Pole dancers descend on Japan for competition

by Eriko Arita

The powerful, sensual and acrobatic performance of pole dancers is sure to titillate audiences at the International Pole Championship in Tokyo on Dec. 9.

Pole dancing uses a vertical, fixed pole to perform techniques, called “tricks,” such as flipping upside-down on and spinning around the pole, together with posing and floor movements, according to Lu Nagata, one of the judges at this year’s championship and one of Japan’s pioneer pole dancers.

Pole dancing is generally associated with stripping, which has resulted in a somewhat negative reputation. However, in recent years the activity has become something of a performing art through the inclusion of acrobatics, gymnastics and, of course, performers keeping their clothes on. It has also gained popularity worldwide as a form of exercise.

Nagata says she is excited to see the performances and judge them at this year’s competition.

“The level of the performance will be high because world pole dance champions and professional circus performers will compete,” she says.

Mai Sato, the competition’s returning champion, says she’ll perform with the theme of “siren,” a creature from Greek mythology.

“She often seduced men and killed them,” says Sato. “But, she fell in love with one man.”

Sato is the first female Japanese artist to perform with Cirque du Soleil, a Canadian troupe that has gained global fame for their acrobatic feats.

The International Pole Championship is organized by the International Pole Dance Fitness Association, which promotes pole dancing as a form of exercise. The association, based in Hong Kong, started the annual competition in 2008.

Ania Przeplasko, founder of the association and main judge of the competition, said that at this year’s Tokyo event, 28 finalists will compete in three divisions: men’s, women’s and disabled.

The judges will evaluate performances in two categories — “pole fit,” in which judges score according to the difficulty of gymnastic techniques, and “pole art,” where judges evaluate the artistry of and story behind the choreography.

International Pole Championship takes place at Meets Port in Tokyo Dome City in Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo, on Dec. 9. The doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets cost ¥4,000. For more information and reservations, visit www.polechampionship.com