By DEBORAH ARTHURS
A picture of a dancer in her abaya - the photos were taken as a stunt, says Misch, but they caused offence
A British fitness instructor who visited the strict Muslim kingdom of Saudi Arabia to teach a Saudi woman the art of pole dancing has sparked disapproval among UK Muslims back home.
27-year-old Lucy Misch was invited to the country by one of Saudi's richest and most influential families after a woman from the family attended a pole dancing class in Europe and reported back to her relatives living in the kingdom.
Misch faced criticism from Muslims back in the UK who say they found the photos disrespectful. But Misch says the pole's roots date back to an ancient Indian male-dominated sport
Misch's host - a 36-year-old working mother named Qahtani, one of only 15 per cent of women to have a job in Saudi, arranged for her to bypass the complicated laws of entrance and exit to the kingdom single Britons usually face, whisking her through Riyadh airport unimpeded.
Ahead of her trip, Mischa shipped three X-Stage poles worth £500 each to Qahtani - the first such poles ever allowed into Saudi Arabia - where they were installed in a specially dedicated mirrored room set up as a studio within her palace.
'Needless to say, there is no history of pole dancing in Saudi Arabia,' says Misch.
'It's not the kind of place you expect to be invited to teach pole. But my client's sister lives in Europe where she’d discovered pole dancing for fitness, and they’d talked about the amazing benefits pole can have on the body.'
Feats of strength: Lucy, top, performing with a fellow pro-poler
'My client wanted the same things that attracted many others to pole dancing: an exhilarating workout to get her fit and toned.
'She liked the fact that it was a feminine exercise, and that she could feel liberated and sexy whilst doing it.'
'Change is happening, if sometimes painfully slowly, but my visit to Riyadh suggest that the change is a positive one and that pole dancing may someday be embraced by the good people of the Middle East.'
'Because there’s no history of strip clubs or pole dancing, most men would think women were just learning a new form of exercise – ironically in a place where religion and judgement plays such a large role, pole suffers from fewer preconceived connotations or moral judgements.'
Visit Lucy Misch's website at www.poleexercise.co.uk