Natasha Wang is the 2011 U.S. Pole Dancing champ

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The 2011 U.S. Pole Dancing Championship recently went down (and up) in New York City, and from a field of eleven limber women, Natasha Wang emerged victorious, the hands-down Michael Jordan of pole dancing. Displaying strength, agility, and balletic grace, Wang made a further case for rejecting the stereotype that associates pole dancing mainly with seedy strip clubs. (Though the arcing belly tat of the woman who announced the winner didn't do much to dispel that association.)

Wang drew inspiration from the movie Black Swan for her routine, which doesn't mean she was making out with any of her fellow competitors. (Stop it.) "When I saw the movie, obviously it really spoke to me," said Wang, who works in public relations. "I'm very meticulous and almost driven to the point where I'm going crazy to try to make everything perfect, so I could just relate to it."

The U.S. Pole Dancing Federation was founded in 2008, and co-founder Wendy Traskos defends pole dancing as a misperceived victim of negative stereotypes. She points out that "The definition of stripping is taking something off, and these women are not doing that. They're coming out in their outfits and you do have to have your skin exposed in order to stick to the pole."

I applaud Traskos for her mainstreaming of a beautiful art form, enhanced by the addition of a competitive element. But it may require some time to overcome habitual conditioning. You know, like stopping the voice in your head that keeps saying the line, "I'd buy that for a dollar," from the movie RoboCop.