‘Behind The Camera’: The Seedy Backstage Life Of China’s Underground Club Scene

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“I realized how many great things were going on, and that’s how the series ‘Behind the Scenes’  was born.”

Chinese Night Club

Ukrainian artist Sergey Melnitchenko first came to Chengdu a city of China in 2015. Back then he made his living by working as a model and dancer. His origin is from Mykolayiv city in Ukraine, he picked up a camera after he began to work as a performer in an anonymous nightclub in the city of Chengdu.

Chinese Night Club

The atrocities with the ladies, intriguing and shady backstage life at the club was the driving factor which led him to capture its daily schedules, goings-on, an activity that introduced him to the other singers, dancers, clowns, magicians, and transvestites. He quoted that “There’s no falsehood – it’s not a scene, it’s their everyday life.”  

Chinese Night Club

He was working at the club for nearly 4 months, Melnitchenko slowly worked on capturing clicks to put it together in ‘Behind the Scenes’ photo series, which highlights the activities and occurrences in this club that was “more like a huge bar with a stage, because no one of the visitors is dancing here,” and the look into the backstage, where “there is more burlesque than on the stage.”

“The concentration of sexual fluids is more powerful than oxygen,” he says keeping in mind the exotic atmosphere at the venue’s heated backstage. China banned strip clubs and sex work which suggests that workers and employees here were under strict limitations. The limitations imposed upon them were restricted to only dancing, drinking, and playing games with customers. Despite the ban, nightclubs still find ways to appeal to guest’s more base desires and underground clubs exist where sordid acts take place. The club was often fun and “friendly”, Melnitchenko recalls one accident where things turned worse than normal.


“The only thing that I didn’t like was a show where a Chinese girl started to put a beer on herself, and then visitors could come and pour beer on her…Every visitor tried to do something more disgusting than the other. They poured beer on her tits, tried to pour it in her ass or on her vagina – so it was really ugly.”

Chinese Night Club

Melnitchenko is still a resident of China and while he continues to work mainly as a dancer, photography is slowly becoming a bigger part of his life. “Everything inspires me…It can be movies and music or alcohol and porn…The only thing that I like now is that I’m trying to work in different styles. I don’t restrict myself to one kind of photography.”


He said: “Transvestites, girls bathing in tubs of beer, drunk actors and even more drunk visitors. All of this club, the club where I’m working.”

Chinese Night Club

One woman who works at the club is pictured attaching tape to her nipples. Costumes and make ups adds spices up the atmosphere of underground club and activities over here are mostly dark and seedy. There are many photographs where workers are wearing underwear or costumes. In one shot a man has clown face paint while others wear masks on stage. There’s an another photographer named Paolo Marchetti took pictures of China’s Seedy underworld in a fascinating series of images going behind the scenes of its brothels. The photos captured by him reveals the dark side of Yunan province, south of China, where rich Chinese business men frequently visit to have entertainment. In many of the photographs, the workers are seen wearing underwear or costumes and have marks on their bodies. Sometimes on stage, an act is performed by two ladies wearing only underwear and heels.


In last week it was revealed that a Chinese fight club made it legal to adopt orphaned children and gives them training based on mixed martial arts. Now, this club is also under investigation. A documentary video was released on Pear Video – a popular Chinese alternative to Youtube – has caused much controversy leading to authorities in Chengdu to investigate the Enbo MMA Club.

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