[PHOTOS] Defying prejudice, Saudi women take up pole dancing

[PHOTOS] the “pole dance»

MISE À DAY

RYAD | When Nada started “pole dancing” a few years ago, her entourage in Saudi Arabia reacted badly, but she persevered to, she says, change mentalities in this very conservative Gulf monarchy. 

In the capital, Riyadh, this 28-year-old yoga teacher remembers that her family and friends told her that this sport was “not good at all”, so much it remains associated with strip clubs and other burlesque cabarets. abroad.

Nada was undeterred, taking classes at a gym, in part to deconstruct prejudice, with some success, he reckons. she, at least in her circle of friends.

“At first they said it was inappropriate and it was a mistake. Now they tell me: “we want to try”, laughs Nada, who however refuses to divulge her surname.

For many years, restrictions around what Saudi women could wear or do drastically limited their opportunities for physical activity.

In recent years, however, authorities have sought to open society more to soften its image with the world and its own youth, despite fierce political repression that targets feminist activists in particular.

Last month, the Saudi women's national football team played its first home game against Bhutan, and a women's premier league is set to see the light of day soon.

Authorities are also aiming for greater participation of women in golf, a traditionally male-dominated sport that is growing in popularity in this oil-rich state.

In this context of change, at least three sports halls in Saudi Arabia offer “pole dancing” lessons.

“Feel good about themselves”

“I feel like there's more interest in 'pole dancing,' because it's something new that girls like to try,” says venue owner May al-Youssef sport in Ryad.

For the followers of the “pole dance”, the bad reputation of this sport does not have to be in Saudi Arabia, since alcohol is prohibited there and strip clubs are non-existent.

One of the members of a “pole dancing” course in Riyadh thus assures that she has “no shame at all” to indulge in it.

“It’s my personality, I would say. I am not ashamed to assume my sensuality, my femininity. I'm not ashamed of anything, as long as I don't hurt anyone,” she explains, while asking to remain anonymous.

The only reason she quit, says- her, is that the “pole dance” turned out to be more demanding than she had thought from a physical point of view, an activity much more difficult than it appears on the screen.

“I realized it wasn't my thing. It takes a lot of muscles, a lot of strength to be able to do it,” she says.

May al-Youssef, the owner of the gym, hopes that the physical demands of the “pole dance” are reflected in the photos and videos that she publishes on Instagram.

According to her, another advantage of this sport, the well-being and the relationship of clients to their bodies: “over time, they seem to like their bodies more,” and say they “feel good about themselves.”