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A night in the life of go-go dancers

at 26/03/2009 17:36

By Elena Kirillova

The most pretentious of the city's clubs, Soho Rooms is a monument to opulence: darkness, silk, velvet, huge mirrors, flashing lights... Tonight's go-go show, "Beyond the Looking Glass", will be spectacular, we are promised.

Anna Poyarkova, the club's 21-year-old choreographer, cheerfully meets us. She has worked as a dancer since she was 15 and constantly upgrades her skills, including training with Beyonce's and Usher's choreographers in Los Angeles and New York. She has her own dance school in Moscow. Her looks have a touch of African, but she says she's Russian with drops of Gypsy and Ukrainian blood. "My skin is brown from tanning," Poyarkova says. "My mother had long curly hair, which suddenly straightened when I was born. I took this curliness away from her."

11 pm. The show has not yet begun. Poyarkova leads us to the inner sanctum of the club - a green room. The dancers are quietly chatting while preening themselves. One naked girl advises another to read an esoteric book she gave her. The only man who has access to this room is the dancers' stylist.

Two of the most creative Soho dancers - both Annas, Bocharova and Nikitina, and both 23 - look like twin circus performers. Best friends, former rhythmic gymnastics champions, and Masters of Sport, they use balls, ribbons and hoops in their show. Having begun gymnastics training at the age of four, they quit when they entered the University of Physical Culture, from which they graduated as production directors of sport events. A few years ago an acquaintance offered them work as go-go dancers.

Seeing yet another Anna standing as a hostess at the doors, I wonder if Soho hires girls by name. But then Nastya appears. Despite not being an Anna, she's equally gorgeous, humble and wearing hair-curlers.

Midnight. The show begins. We leave the green room to see our girls suddenly dancing everywhere - in windows, on the tables, and on the stage with two go-go boys who do a splendid break-dance. Some of the dancers are holding small looking glasses.

1 am. The go-go dancers rehearse twice a week, and now I see why. Two girls are climbing ropes up to the ceiling. Two others are juggling hoops. Three are climbing huge mirrors that hang down from the ceiling and start to dance on them. One on top of the bar moves like a robot and looks like a beautiful clockwork doll.

"Every girl has her own personality, something special about her dance," Poyarkova says proudly. "Go-go is a club's face, it has to be unique."

The clothing isn't simply underwear. There are circus-style leotards, ballet-type corsets, Renais­sance-style suspenders. Most costumes are designed by the dancers themselves. They draw sketches, or tell their designer what they want, and she makes the costumes.

"That's what characterises a good dancer," says Olesya, the head of Soho's go-go team. "She creates her image."

Burly bouncers help the dancers to climb onto the tables. Groups of about eight performers dance 15-minute sets with 15-minute breaks in between, when others take their place. They are allowed to drink alcohol in their breaks, but usually prefer juices, be­cause with booze you "can't feel the rhythm properly," Poyarkova says.

4 am. Now, at the end of the working night, the girls still look good. How do they keep up their energy all night? Basically just by leading a healthy life, the dancers say, adding that the strongest extra stimulation they occasionally take is a Red Bull energy drink.

Contrary to stereotypes and some clients' fantasies, the girls say they can't be bought, and are going home for a good day's sleep. Wealthy, respectable and good-looking sugar-daddies may have had their eyes glued to the show, but any communication between dancers and clients is forbidden. They can't buy the girls for any sum. "We earn enough to buy them," one of the girls jokes.

"I won't give you figures," Poyarkova says with a smile, "but we may already retire and raise children."

Making the world go-go round

Another view on the industry from Anton Krai, the go-go dancing manager at club Rai, and the founder and co-owner of a go-go agency, Release Group:

"What is go-go needed for? Bread and circuses! People don't just want to drink or dance, but to admire beauty, as well.

"Anyone can dance go-go if he or she has some kind of special something. We take those who successfully pass a casting, and improve their style, image and dance. A dancer either becomes a star resident of one club, or remains mid-level and dances in various clubs.

"Don't confuse go-go with strip­tease. These are very different industries, almost apples and oranges. Go-go excludes any undressing. The girls never dance topless - real strippers are hired for that.

"Europeans sometimes even consider the dancers to be prostitutes. One of my acquaintances from Europe once brightened up too much upon hearing that there would be go-go dancers. He wasn't aware that they are nothing more than dancers. Well, in Thailand they actually are prostitutes. But here at clubs that value their reputation, the dancers are not even allowed to talk to clients. Even if someone tries to pay huge money, a dancer will refuse.

"The dancers may be hired for corporate parties, but not by everyone. The customer should be respectable, serious and well known to us. We strictly watch that the girls' safety isn't threatened by anything.

"Certainly the girls lead a regular life. The majority of them get a higher education and in due course leave us for a regular job - lawyers, accountants, directors, etcetera.

"Often top dancers marry promising young men, club visitors. We can't forbid a dancer to fall in love with a client, or to meet him somewhere in her regular life."

- Elena Kiril­lova

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