“We were having a conversation yesterday about the way girls in Western culture perceive Pole dancing,” explains Paul-Francois Chant-Eyskens. For the past few years, the 19-year-old from Belgium has been the world’s leading pole dancer. This year, he’ll have the chance to celebrate his success by taking to the world stage for the first time in his homeland.
When Chant-Eyskens was growing up in his home country, he wanted to become a dancer. But when his father discovered that his child was interested in the art, he put the idea on ice. “My dad was always so busy; he only had time for my brother and me, and we didn’t get much time to play in the garage,” explains Chant-Eyskens. “In Belgium, we never had the opportunity to play, and it was hard for me to have the same interest when I was growing up.”
That all changed when he went to live in Belgium. “I did my studies, and I was excited,” he recalls. “I had no idea that this was a dream that I had to fulfill. I’d always wanted to be a professional dancer since I was five, and I thought I’d finally find the chance to do it.”
Chant-Eyskens, who comes from a family of French-speaking Belgians, says he and his brothers were always pretty competitive – a fact that contributed to his passion for the sport. “My sister and I would always have competitions. We’d be throwing balls around the hall, and I’d do my best and put on a show.” He says it was hard being an outsider among the traditional Belgian community: “I felt like I was different to them.”
The idea of turning his career into a full-blown art form came to him after he moved to Paris to start working as a dancer. “It’s not just about moving around,” he explains. “You have to have a lot of technique and skill, and I really wanted to pursue that, and to have the opportunity to perform full steps.” So, Chant-Eyskens decided to enter the European Championships in the spring of 2013.
Although he was a novice at first, he managed to defeat world champion Yves Le Goff, a former world champion who has become an internationally renowned figure for his mastery of the art. This marked the beginning of a six-month period when Chant-Eyskens worked to
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