Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on November 2010

Courtesy of IPDFA

You only started pole dancing in 2007, but by 2009 you’d become the world champion. Isn’t that pretty fast?
Well, yes and no. I love the athletic yet sensual nature of pole dancing, so getting into the sport and dedicating time and effort to it wasn’t an issue. Mind you, it was three years spent training hard. It takes more than natural talent to get as far as I did so quickly. It helped that I already had a dance background—I started ballet at 3—and I was also fortunate because I was introduced to pole by Lu Nagata, one of the pioneers of the sport. She was the one who pushed me to compete, and took it upon herself to train me for the competition.

What’s your training regime like?
For last year’s competition, I trained an average of five hours a day, five days a week. This year, since I’m with Cirque du Soleil, I work out at the gym and perform bungee and aerial hammock, which is a great workout in itself. Training for the role was great for keeping me in good physical shape. Working keeps me fit.

You were the first female Japanese performer to be cast in Cirque du Soleil’s Zed. What have you learned from the experience?
On stage, it truly doesn’t matter where I perform: it could be at a club, with Cirque or even for my students. I almost “lose” myself in the performance. I guess the one big difference with Cirque is that I work with a team. Circus life is never boring, never the same, always more than a job. You have to engage your audience; you have to have a flair for the dramatic.

Do you think there are any key differences between Japanese pole dancers and those from other countries?
Perhaps one key difference is that we don’t have a history of pole dance in strip clubs in Japan, so it doesn’t quite have the stigma of being associated with the sex industry. I think also in Japan, it still isn’t common for a woman to celebrate her sensuality, and pole dance is a great avenue for Japanese women to do so—to wear something sexy and celebrate our femininity.

Who’s your favorite dancer—pole dancer, or otherwise?
There are so many, it’s hard to choose. If I had to pick one then it would be Lu, of course—she’s my mentor.

Sato will compete in the International Pole Championship 2010 on Dec 9 in Tokyo.

International Pole Championship 2010
Pole dancers from around the world—both male and female—strut their stuff. Dec 9, 6pm, ¥4,000 (non-reserved)/¥14,000 (VIP). JCB Hall, Korakuen. Tel: 0570-064-708. www.polechampionship.com