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Volume 2, Issue 3
  • ISSN: 2045-5852
  • E-ISSN: 2045-5860


From its genesis over two decades ago in exotic dance clubs, pole dance has consciously shed its striptease origins to become a global phenomenon. This article takes Japan as a case study to explain the evolution of pole dance as both a competitive sport and as a performance art, and then proposes that Japanese pole dancers are leading the way in the latter category. The analysis is driven by the author’s personal experience as a pole dancer in Japan: an experience ineluctably marked by gender and ethnicity. As a Caucasian male, the author stands apart from Japanese pole dancers; yet, this difference also enables him to stand in for the non-Japanese audience most likely to view the new performances in Japan through the racial stereotyping that defines ‘Oriental’ fetishism. However, the psychoanalytic concept of fetishism, reformulated and depathologized in recent queer theory, also yields insights into how pole dancers across the world have developed the new pole dance around a shared, embodied experience. This article employs queer theory to analyse the new expressions of this shared experience that troupes of Japanese pole dancers are developing. The article concludes by proposing that the global pole dance community comprises the best site of resistance to the inevitable fetishization that Japanese pole dancers will face as their highly theatrical ensemble shows debut to an international audience.


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  • Article Type: Article
Keyword(s): culture; gender; Japan; performance; pole; pole dance; psychoanalysis
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