Throwback Thursday is when we trawl through the That's archives for a work of dazzling genius written at some point in our past. We then republish it. On a Thursday.
By Tongfei Zhang and Hart Huguet Hagerty
Lina Wang has made countless jaws drop and mouths drool in her two years as Bar Rouge’s star pole dancer. Hailing from Guangxi Province, the petite bombshell broke away from the family business to perform and teach in Shanghai and hasn’t looked back since. Here she opens up about regaining her confidence, stage nerves and what people think about her dream job.
Have you always wanted to be a dancer?
Growing up, my parents wanted my sister and me to carry on the family jade business. They sent me to live with my aunt to learn about the industry. But I loved dancing so much that I escaped to Wenzhou, opened my own clothing boutique and studied dance on the side. Three years ago I moved to Shanghai permanently to teach dance. I don’t think I’m the kind of business woman my parents wanted me to be. Only I know what is the best job for me.
Are your parents disappointed?
No, never. They’re pretty open-minded and only worry about me getting hurt. When they see photos of me pole dancing, they say, “Oh Lina, you must be careful! Don’t fall off the pole!”
How did you learn to pole dance?
One day my friend showed me a pole dancing video, explaining how it’s a popular fitness class at gyms. Of course I had already heard of it, but I thought it was only for strip clubs. The dance video was so incredibly beautiful that I fell in love with it. I studied pole techniques for five years with several Chinese and foreign teachers.
Is it your favorite type of dance?
It’s my favorite by far! Pole dancing not only helps to stretch out my body, but I’ve also got the ideal figure for it – I’m s-shaped. Pole dancing has given me a lot of confidence. I’m really petite, so I used to beat myself up about everyone being so much taller than I am. But now everything is different. I feel happier, my body is better and I walk taller.
How did you get the gig at Bar Rouge?
Two years ago Bar Rouge staff came to Souldancing’s studio [where Wang is an instructor], to scope out different girls. It was a very strict, intense process. After watching videos of all the dancers, they requested to interview me without wearing any makeup. I got the job along with another girl.
What’s the best part of your job?
I can’t imagine a better place to dance than Bar Rouge. The parties, music and vibe here are one-of-a-kind. On the terrace at night with a breeze, I feel so free, like I’m dancing on top of Shanghai and can touch the Pearl Tower behind me. It’s pure joy. A year ago I started getting offers to work in Singapore and South Korea. I could earn more over there, but I don’t want to leave.
Does Bar Rouge give you any dancing guidelines?
No, I can do whatever I want. There aren’t any rules. Some other bars ask girls to perform really sexy dances, but here they only want me to dance beautifully.
Are your performances ever choreographed?
Never. My performance entirely depends on the music. If the melody is slow, I’ll do more technical moves. If the DJ plays something fast, the dance is all in my hips. Each night I perform three sets – at 11.35pm, 12.35am and 1.35am – usually lasting for one or two songs.
What goes through your mind on stage?
My mind goes totally blank. I just focus on doing great techniques and enjoying the moment. I don’t even see the faces in the crowd, but I like it when I hear some hollers!
Do you ever get nervous?
I’m not shy at all about people watching me dance; I’m only nervous if nobody is watching me. I really care about what my audience thinks. If I don’t have people’s attention, it means I’m a bad dancer, and I’ll never allow that for myself.
With your pole outside, when is it harder to dance – winter or summer?
Each season has its own challenges. In summer it gets really hot on the terrace, especially when there’s a huge crowd outside. I sweat a lot, so that can sometimes hurt my performance. In winter both the pole and my skin are very dry and cold, so it’s harder for me to stick to the pole. But I don’t even notice the cold – there are always so many people on the terrace. All that body heat helps warm me up.
Is your pole dancing class at Souldancing filling up?
Definitely! Each of my classes is fully booked. My students have even requested more sessions.
Who takes your class?
Most women learn pole dancing to build up their confidence. One of my students is obese, while others are married women who are depressed because their husbands are so busy with work.
What’s your response to people who look down on pole dancing?
Every woman dreams of being sexy. Pole dancing is very sexy, but not in a bad way. It’s not pornographic.
Has anyone ever criticized your sexy job?
Some people may look at me negatively, but I dance as a true professional. Negative comments only push me to work harder and become a better dancer. I can’t help what people think of me, but I can show them my world.
At the time of writing this article Lina Wang danced on Friday and Saturday nights at Bar Rouge.
This article first appeared in the August 2012 issue of That's Shanghai. To see more Throwback Thursday posts, click here.