Pole dancing at the playground?

CARACAS, Venezuela — Children pedaled around on tricycles at a playground in Caracas, while joggers ran past on a winding pathway, then slowed down and paused to gape at the unfolding scene on a recent morning.

Next to the concrete playground, a young woman in tight shorts and an athletic top gripped and climbed a vertical pole, holding her muscular legs out from her body and doing the splits while holding herself in place.

Pole dancing may have started out in strip clubs, but since the 1990s, it’s become an all-ages exercise and sport phenomenon the world over. Now, it’s hit the streets and at least one playground in Venezuela, a country that’s made beauty and fitness a cult and minted more Miss Universes than any other except the United States.

The public emergence of pole dancing would seem a natural for this flesh-obsessed country. But its new visibility has stirred controversy and tut-tuts from some who say such behavior should remain out of public sight. Meanwhile, the sport was featured in an exhibition event held in London last month ahead of the Olympics, with some lobbying for its inclusion as an official sport.

Elba Moya, a 76-year-old nurse in Caracas, said she frowns on the idea.

“That’s a bad spectacle for children,” she said. “That should be for nightspots and the places where it has to be.”

Dancers such as Franleska Garcia, a 28-year-old business manager, said they hope to turn around such attitudes in a country where Catholic-inspired social conservatism remains alive.

“We wanted to lift the taboo,” Garcia said. Pole dancing “isn’t sensual. What we do is fitness. It’s acrobatics.”

Venezuela was a relative latecomer to the sport, which started drawing a following four years ago while also coming into fashion in other Latin American countries such as Chile, Peru and Colombia. Now, some 10 gyms and schools in Venezuela offer classes in pole dancing.

Garcia and eight other women started a “street pole dance” initiative about three months ago, with their performances drawing the attention of the Venezuelan press and the disapproval of some readers, who posted online comments criticizing them for performing in public around children.

During a recent practice, interior decorator Jesus Echevarria paused to watch while keeping an eye on his playing kids. If anything, the roots of the sport and its current incarnation didn’t faze him.

“It has an impact on people the first time they see this kind of sport,” he said. “But afterward people are amazed.”

Talk to us

More in Local News

The entrance to the new free COVID vaccination site at the Everett Mall on Monday, Jan. 17, 2022. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Free mass-vaccination site opens Tuesday at Everett Mall

Hundreds of appointments are up for grabs at the state-run site, which will offer initial doses, boosters and pediatric shots.

Michael Jensen, left, and Nathan Jensen, right, pick up trash in their encampment that they being forced to clear out of by Parks Department the near Silver Lake on Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019 in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Annual homeless count could shed light on pandemic’s impact

Snohomish County canceled its 2021 point-in-time count. Officials hope this year’s will bring clarity.

Marysville Pilchuck student Gianna Frank and Marysville firefighters bag puzzles and snacks in Marysville, Washington on January 17, 2022. (Isabella Breda / The Herald)
In Marysville, care packages filled in an MLK act of service

Some bags will go to seniors, some to survivors of domestic violence and some to those living with housing insecurity.

Index School (Index School District)
Voters to decide fate of critical school funding measures

Levies to pay for staff and programs are on the Feb. 8 ballot in districts across Snohomish County.

A crew member carries plywood to steathe a roof as of the Home Repair Service Program Friday morning in Brier, Washington on January 14, 2022. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Habitat for Humanity program helps Brier homeowners stay put

The nonprofit’s Home Repair Service program gave a senior couple a new roof — and hope.

Snohomish County Courthouse. (Herald file)
Lawmakers consider Snohomish County request for 2 more judges

It’s been 15 years since the Legislature approved a new Superior Court judge for the county.

NO CAPTION NECESSARY: Logo for the Cornfield Report by Jerry Cornfield. 20200112
Ports and potties, and a delay in long-term-care payroll tax

Here’s what’s happening on Day 8 of the 2022 session of the Washington Legislature.

A mail carrier delivers mail along Dubuque Road in Snohomish on Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Mail delays frustrate and perplex Snohomish residents

One woman waited two weeks for delivery. Then came “an avalanche of mail.” The Postal Service blames snow and staffing issues.

Sam Dawson administers a collection swab herself Thursday afternoon at the walk-up COVID testing center on Wetmore Ave in Everett, Washington on January 13, 2022. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Sketchy firm’s COVID-test sites shut down as questions mount

The Center for COVID Control will close an Everett site and others around the U.S. as officials take a closer look.

Most Read