How was strip-dance class, honey?

The Planet Fitness brochure on dance classes.  The strip dance entry to the left reads (in Russian), "Strip Dance, a dance class that will turn you on to the movements and elements of striptease.  They will make an atmosphere of mystery around you that will strongly attract the attention of the opposite sex."

The Planet Fitness brochure on dance classes. The strip dance entry to the left reads (in Russian), "Strip Dance -- A dance class that will turn you on to the movements and elements of striptease. They will create an aura of mystery around you that will strongly attract the attention of the opposite sex."

Personal fitness has arrived in Russia, and not the Soviet-style training I once saw in a Rodchenko photo at the New Tretiakov Museum that depicted youths in gym clothes jogging with rifles.  Nowadays plenty of places offer Western-style Pilates, yoga and weight training, and today I bought a three-month gym membership – $260 after a steep student discount – at the Планета Фитнес (Planet Fitness) just off Kazan’skaya street.

 

Along with my passport-style “Kontrakt,” I received a schedule of free fitness classes that included boxing, “Pump it Up,” and “Strip Dance.”  I seemed to be the only one to do a double take at the idea of free striptease instruction at your friendly neighborhood gym. 

According to my Russian friend Marina, this particular fitness club offers strip dance primarily to attract male clientele; the classes take place in a glass-walled room next to the main gym area.  That said, she also noted such dance classes are not uncommon in Russia.  In fact, she’s taken one … at the arts-focused specialty high school where her mom works. 

That’s right, striptease can be an after-school activity here.  Most of the girls in Marina’s class were 14- or 15-years-old, she said.  Granted, they also studied ballet and modern dance.  Nevertheless, class usually ended with a down-to-the-undies striptease.  

Marina was surprised at my incredulity.  Now I’m not one to get morally indignant when it comes to sex, but 14 seems a little, well, young.  Call me a stereotypical American Puritan, but shouldn’t girls that age be gossiping about the latest Disney heartthrob without imagining how exactly to seduce him?  Shouldn’t they be unbuttoning Trapper-Keepers rather than form-fitting jeans?

I’ll chalk this one up to that far-too-foreboding term “Culture Shock.” Although strip dance classes apparently exist in the U.S. (I mean in fitness clubs, not the backroom of a strip club), they are undoubtedly less common, more discrete and almost certainly not in high schools.

But the more I think about strip dance classes, the more I ask myself, “Why not?”  I don’t think it’s a particularly novel or counterintuitive idea that humans are sexual creatures and people of all ages should be open about sex.  All of the dancers at this Russian high school had at least tacit approval from their parents, who paid for the class.

I remember at my small-town high school in Stoughton, Wisconsin, we had to get parental approval just to watch an R-rated movie in class.  And the only dancing going on after school was the Norwegian folk dance team.  What a long, strange trip it’s been …

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8 Responses to “How was strip-dance class, honey?”

  1. Sign me up! 🙂

  2. To me, a strip-tease “course” is not the equivalent to another other P.E. class, or another type of dancing. Strip-tease is not just another dance form, it is a way in which women (and apparently girls) use their bodies to perform for men in exchange for money; in short, to become sex objects. I have read in the news that Russia plays a big part in the worldwide human trafficking problem and to have strip-tease taught as a class fuels the theory that it is OK for girls to be taught ways in which to provide for the titillation and enjoyment of men.
    I’m not attempting to get morally indignant and preachy here (although my moral hackles do rise at the thought of 14 year old girls being “taught” to dance suggestively as part of school) but I think this seemingly friendly neighborhood strip-tease class has a huge seamy underbelly that has not been thoroughly examined.

  3. Alec, thanks for posting this article and touching upon strip dance and attitude to it. To my mind it is a very controversial issue and, thus, an interesting topic for discussion.

    Firstly, to be fair, I should say that I’m not sure at all that strip dance class is part of the fitness club’s policy aimed to attract male clients to the gym, cause, I guess, the majority of Russian men who can afford the membership in this pricy gym will definitely prefer to pay an entrance fee to a strip club and watch the professional dancers rather than watch sweaty sometimes-not-pretty-and-slim-at-all-middle-aged women who decided to attend the strip class in their local gym.

    Secondly, I guess you will agree that attending a yoga class, which, by the way, exists in this gym as well, doesn’t mean you’ll become a Buddhist soon. Why then you think that attending a strip dance class will result in the career of a strip dancer? By the way, most of the girls and women tend to drop strip dancing after 2 or 3 classes, because it’s not that simple as it seems. Normally, the dance class, which is an after-school activity, consists of an incredibly tiring classical dance “warm-up” which lasts for an hour and a half and is followed by an hour of modern dance. And only when you feel completely exhausted you are finally allowed to relax a little bit at the very end of the class and dance strip. Challenging, isn’t it?

    And as I started talking about strip dance, let me just remind you that strip is first of all a form of DANCE and a form of ART, which, ironically, was first mentioned in Bible! The first recorded striptease is related in the ancient Sumerian story of the descent of the goddess Inanna into the Underworld. At each of the seven gates, she removed an article of clothing or a piece of jewelry, as mentioned in the New Testament in Matthew 14:1-12 and Mark 6: 14-29.

    Moreover I should remind everyone that striptease does NOT equal prostitution, as well as erotica doesn’t equal pornography. Actually I think that sex education classes in some way are much more dangerous to the psychologically unstable teens than dancing is. Oh, and girls should not be allowed on the runway / catwalk than!

    And finally, I think you’ll agree that both gymnastics and figure skating are at the same time kinds of sport and forms of art. And of course you know that there are lots of people who admire these kinds of sports. As far as I know according to the recent polls these kinds of sport are considered highly sensual and even erotic. And a great number of people are watching them. Should they be prohibited? My answer is “No”. Let’s face the truth: erotica exists in our life. I want people to have a choice, especially if this choice is made by either mature adults or parents.

  4. I agree with Marina that the Strip-Tease class is a great topic for a blog, especially when it concerns differences between cultures and countries. However, I still think there is a difference between strip-tease and other types of dance and sport. First, in other types of dance–ballet, tap, modern jazz–spectators don’t stuff dollar bills in the performer’s G-string. Nor do they in the sports mentioned: figure-skating and gymnastics. But I have never known of a public strip-tease where money isn’t given to the performers in this way. This even holds true in other cultures. In Arabic cultures (I lived in Morocco for two years) prostitutes are brought in at parties, weddings, etc. to dance before the men (and occasionally women) and even though they wear full-length robes and even though the only stripping that takes place is that they take off their jewelry and let down their hair, the men stuff bills in their ornate gold belts. The idea being that the specific type of dance that is strip-tease is associated with money being given for a specialty performance which is associated with sex.
    Also, I wasn’t aware of strip-tease being mentioned in the Bible, so I looked it up and not true! The two passages mentioned talk about Herodias’ daughter DANCING before the king, who was so pleased that he gave her whatever she asked, which turned out to be the head of John the Baptist. There is nothing mentioned about articles of clothing being removed or anything at all relating to strip-tease, so it is incorrect to use these passages as proof of strip-tease being an art form that goes back to the Bible–simply not accurate.
    Yes, erotica exists in our lives and so does sex for money. I still find the two to be different and strip-tease–because of the close association with money, as in money given for the act–seems to fall within the latter category.

  5. I think you’ve been mislead by a bit of sensationalized PR-speak. Pole-dancing (has nothing to do with taking your clothes off) has become a huge thing in fitness clubs in the US. There’s hardly a fitness club that doesn’t have some kind of pole-dancing class. Even the Wikipedia article on pole-dancing mentions: “Pole dance as exercise — Recently, pole dancing has caught on as a new and increasingly popular form of exercise, in which women (and sometimes men) use the pole as a workout prop. This form of exercise increases upper body strength (by using the body itself as resistance) while toning the body as a whole.”

    So, before getting in a moral froth over 14-year-olds being trained for a future in human trafficking and forced prostitution, I think a little bit of perspective is needed…

  6. As I mentioned in the original post, Marc, strip dance classes do exist in the U.S., although a Wikipedia cite won’t convince me that “there’s hardly a fitness club that doesn’t have some kind of pole-dancing class.” I could have been more clear by originally stating “strip dance AND POLE DANCING classes” exist in the U.S., but anyone willing to check out the link can see the article specifically mentions “strip and pole” dancing several times and uses examples of both.
    The article also notes that pole dancing can indeed involve taking your clothes off; “some do, some don’t” was the quote from one example they used. Pole dancing in a gym isn’t the same as in a nightclub, but it’s still carries the same connotations, however implicit they might be. And while I would certainly be willing to recognize the health benefits of pole dancing, I wouldn’t be able to pretend everyone doesn’t know exactly what this form of dance is generally associated with.
    Finally, the class in the gym (or the one in the high school) described in this post do not use poles. They are “strip dancing” classes (read the photo caption taken directly from the class description) and often involve stripping, although it is not required.

  7. Having read all the comments, I really think we are mixing up two totally different notions: striptease and strip dance. And I’m pretty sure we should differentiate striptease from strip dance.
    I totally agree that striptease is the process of undressing in a teasing manner, but I disagree that the money is always stuffed into the strippers strings. This might be a cultural difference, but in the best Russian clubs and strip clubs the dancers / strippers always dance in the distance and are separated from the crowd. So, there’s no way to stuff ruble bills in their strings or touch them. As I’ve already said above, striptease doesn’t equal prostitution.
    As far as I understand, Alec originally was writing about strip-dance class and this is totally different from striptease. Having attended strip-dance classes myself, I’ve already shared my experience and described how challenging the classes were. As far as I know, Alec has recently participated in dance classes. How was cha-cha-cha? And the class was around an hour only. So 3-hour classes were really hard. So before judging those who attend strip-dance classes, try to participate in 2 or 3. You might change your opinion about them.
    Regardless, I confess, I have attended strip-dance classes and nobody stuffed either dollar or ruble bills in my pants (note: we wore pants!), on the contrary, I had to pay for my classes. I’m neither a stripper in a club now nor was trafficked. And actually I’ve gained a lot from these classes and truly believe that people should be open to new experiences.
    As for the Biblical story, I’ve read some materials before referring to it. Here’s the information I found. In terms of myth the first recorded striptease is related in the ancient Sumerian story of the descent of the goddess Inanna into the Underworld. Inanna passes through a total of seven gates, each removing a piece of clothing or jewelry she had been wearing at the start of her journey. This myth was embodied in the dance of the seven veils of Salome, who danced for King Herod, as mentioned in the New Testament. The Dance of the Seven Veils (usually described as danced by Salomé) is one of the elaborations on the biblical tale of the execution of John the Baptist and is also thought to have originated with the myth of the goddess Ishtar of Assyrian and Babylonian lore. In this myth, Ishtar decides to visit her sister, Ereshkigal, in the underworld. When Ishtar approaches the gates of the underworld, the gatekeeper lets Ishtar pass through the seven gates, opening one gate at a time. At each gate, Ishtar has to shed an article of clothing. When she finally passes the seventh gate, she is naked.
    Isn’t dancing and taking off the articles of clothing a description of striptease?

  8. this strip dance course is funny! especially the commercial text. how cool is it that women (and men, too?) can learn to attain sex appeal so openly. Even for most prudent woman (here in germany/netherlands), after all, its a useful feature..

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