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Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2007




For four years, the show dancer Gena has been bringing down the house all over Tokyo. After working at the legendary Flamingo Bar in Roppongi for two years, she's now independent — not only in spirit but reality, too: Gena works alone and acts as her own manager, offering her performance to bars, restaurants and events that normally do not have such racy live entertainment. Armed with a portable pole and a sense of adventure, she puts on shows that are neatly tailored for every audience and venue. She performs to Japanese music exclusively, and her act is a showstopper for its beauty and versatility. Besides hanging out with her son, Taiichi, age 5, she loves dancing the most..

An erotic show is not just about sex. I often perform at meat markets, but I am not a piece of meat. I have something to say, I just choose to say it with my body.

Don't let a rough start stop you from continuing on your journey. My first experience with the pole was a disaster. I was auditioning at a club, and I was really shy and nervous. My whole act was more of a comedy routine than anything else, so, not surprisingly, I didn't get hired. But I did get confidence — I figured that in two weeks I could get good enough to land myself a job. Two weeks later I was working in a tiny place, and two months after that I had the number one show there.

To find ourselves, sometimes we need to go really far away and do far-out things. I wanted to be American and as powerful as my idols: African-American entertainers such as Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan, Tina Turner, Jody Watley, and many others I loved. I wore miniskirts, hoop earrings and moved to New York City. I lived there for 10 years, but as time went by, I started to think about myself more, and about my Japanese heritage. I finally realized that it was not only OK to be Japanese, but even great to be so, so I decided to move back to Tokyo in 1999.

The inner-city feeling is the same all over the world. I'm from Osaka's Shinsaibashi district, which is the true downtown, so when I lived in New York's Lower East Side, I fitted right in. Sure, the atmosphere was different, but how young people there feel is so similar: most have no money, just a lot to say.

It's so hard to find a good partner, not only for dancing but for off the dance floor, too. Unless the two of us share similar passions and motivations, we can't work well together. I found it tough to find a match, so I decided to do it solo. I am passionate, hardworking and don't want to be told what to do and how. The kind of person I am works best alone.

Be nice: It works — and it can be sexy, too. Just like in Aesop's fable about the North Wind and the Sun, the warmth of the Sun achieved what the power of the wind could not in their competition to make a traveler take off his coat. I used to be like the wind, really tough and harsh, but now I know that I can get what I want through turning up the heat more than pushing others with sheer power.

Confidence is sexy. We all know this, yet it is the hardest to master. Most people have hang-ups about their naked bodies: mine are my tiny breasts. They used to be my sore points, the reason why I felt inadequate as a pole dancer. But once I decided that as every body type had its own beauty — and thus mine must be attractive, too — then people began to perceive me as such. So no matter what, only self-confidence can make one look sexy.

Children make great teachers. I get life lessons from my son all the time. For example, when we go out together, he smiles at people he doesn't even know yet and everyone cheers up. He is like the sun and people melt around him. He gets presents from strangers all the time. He taught me that a happy face is powerful.

Great performers think of the audience first. I used to care more about expressing my own fleeting emotions: if I felt sad at the moment I was going on stage, I put on a song that matched my mood and danced more for myself than for anyone else. Now I think of the audience: I know that I am there to entertain them, and I do my best to give them a wonderful experience. I guess I see my work more as a job. It pays off to take it seriously because people feel that they get something of value, and they want to return it with compliments and tips.

Never judge or assume anything until you experience it. I thought pole dancing was a kind of dirty dancing, but once I saw it live, I realized it was great entertainment. The beauty of the female body really got to me. Women are gorgeous naked, and their flesh against the steel pole is the combination that made me fall in love with pole dancing.

Only a confident person can control a room's mood. When I dance, I take charge of the audience, which is challenging since many are tipsy. To succeed, I must have a plan about what I want to express with each song and dance, and total belief in what I am doing. I never worry about what others think because if I did, I would lose all my confidence — and who wants to look at a dancer who lacks certitude?

The right lifestyle is the one that fits you. My work is unconventional by some standards but I am a good mom to my boy. I am relaxed because I do what I love. I have no stress about my job. If I were working in a regular job, I would have steady income but would be going crazy and maybe I would yell at my son out of stress. In so-called normal families, members kill each other as we see on the news every day. I'd rather not be normal then.

Giving birth is the most intimate form of communication that I know. I chose aqua birth because it made sense to me that sitting in the hot tub would ease the pain of labor. It did. When I felt my joints and muscles relax gradually, I could also feel his body shrink inside of me. He was becoming thinner, his head elongated while my body was opening up: When we synchronized, that was the moment he was born. We understood each other perfectly.

Judit Kawaguchi loves to listen. She is a volunteer counselor and a TV reporter on NHK's Out and About. Learn more at: juditfan.blog58.fc2.com/

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