Natasha Wang of Los Angeles won the 2011 U.S. Pole Dance Championship Friday in New York City.
Eleven women competed in the professional event, sponsored by the U.S. Pole Dance Federation, at the Symphony Space. Earlier in the day, seven women competed in the amateur division championship at the same venue.
Wang’s theatrical performance in the second round earned a standing ovation and clinched her top-place finish. Earlier she performed an excellent routine in the compulsory round.
Wang, an account supervisor at Raz Public Relations, was the 2010 USPDF West Coast Champion. She trains at Los Angeles’ Be Spun and Kinetic Theory Circus Arts and is a principal dancer with Kelly Yvonne’s Girl Next Door show.
I’ve covered a lot of fringe sports, but professional pole dancing is one that has a great shot at breaking through to the mainstream. It features amazing athleticism, grace and beauty. And it doesn’t hurt that the women are gorgeous. But it still has to overcome the stigma that pole dancing is something only done by strippers.
Aside from that perception challenge, professional pole dancing needs more press coverage and a TV contract for the championships.
The day after the championships it was difficult to find coverage of the event. The only video reports were from Al Jazeera English and the U.K.'s ITN. With all the TV stations in NYC, you’d think one would cover the big event. But no.
Reuters sent photographer Jessica Rinaldi, but no writer. I guess they figured a picture was worth a thousand words. But even then, the only websites that picked up Reuters' pole dance championship photos I could find were China Daily, Christian and family-themed media corporation Salem Communications, and online publishing platform Daylife.
To review, news organizations from the Middle East and China, as well as a conservative U.S. news outlet, covered the sexy sport but no one from the U.S. mainstream media? That’s a shame. They’re missing great performances and human drama.
Coming in second place at Friday’s national championship was Gabrielle Valliere of New York City. Valliere is a former NFL cheerleader and is now a dance instructor and registered nurse.
Leigh Ann Reilly of Hollywood, Calif., came in third place. Reilly owns the BeSpun dance studio.
Photo of Natasha Wang by Mike Quain of Quain Photo in Los Angeles.