Advance of the square dance

Source:Global Times Published: 2014-7-28 19:48:01

A popular exercise among elderly that moves to a different beat

A Beijing choreographed dama group perform in public surrounded by crowds. Photo: CFP

If you happen to pass by public parks or wide-open squares on your way from work in the evenings, then you will no doubt have witnessed the rising cultural trend of guangchangwu, or square dancing.

Choreographed groups of mostly elderly women, they have recently taken center stage in built-up urban settings where they are either loved or hated. 

On July 18, in a public square just east of the Chaoyang Joy City Shopping Mall, a show-down occurred between hundreds of square dancers and the nearby residents. After a heated exchange lacking in niceties, the shopping mall security were called to intervene, reported the Beijing News.

"The security guards used siren sounds from their megaphones to drown out the music and disperse the dancers," a witness surnamed Sun said. "Nevertheless, the resilience of the elderly dancers held strong. Not a single dancer left."

Helplessly, the shopping mall guards finally decided to arrange a larger area for the dancers to perform, on condition that the decibel level should be lowered.

Such displays of public disorder are becoming common scenes in China, with a recent report from China Central Television claiming as many as 100 million people in China, mostly women in their 50s and 60s, have joined the square dance movement.

In fact, Chinese square dancing has gone global. In April, 2014, photos posted by Sina Weibo netizens show Chinese dance groups in the square of the Louvre Museum, which attracted global attention. Two months later, the Red Square in Moscow was also "occupied" by Chinese dance groups, with the Moscow local police inevitably called to the scene.

These dance groups come in a variety of forms, with some performing only traditional dance steps while others are more creative. One Beijing dance group perform an anti-Japanese invasion dance with toy guns and military attire.

So how has guangchangwu become so popular among the senior population? According to a recent Yunnan Info Daily report, it is due to the lifestyle of Chinese elders in urban settings. 

Different from younger generations who have been tied closely to their computer and phone, middle-aged and old people have strong social desires but very limited networking outlets, said the report.

With the traditional neighborly and family relationships weakened during the urbanization process, their socializing has become limited. Common elderly activities such as group dancing, have therefore become opportunities for elderly people to socialize.

Exercise is also an important aspect of older people's lifestyles, with dancing being a great way to break into a sweat every day.

According to a Qianjiang Evening News report, a women in her sixties surnamed Li who participates in square dancing, successfully defeated a robber armed with a knife who intended to rob her son's shop. Li claimed her strength was honed through hours of guangchangwu.

Regardless of the improvements that group dance has brought to older generations, a clamp down on their public disorder is soon to come into effect.

Guangzhou, the capital of Guandong Province, is reported to be the first city to draft laws on "silent zones." After continuous complaints from residents around Guangzhou's public parks, dancing and loud music could become forbidden in many public parks, hospitals, schools and offices, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

"It is a good choice for elderly people to do exercises and keep healthy, but it takes up too much space and is too loud, leaving no place for people like us," said Suo Tianchen, a 25-year-old young man who loves to skateboard in the squares.

"I think the way of dividing fixed regions for them is necessary, and why not make them all adopt the great method of using bluetooth headsets? With the two points reaching a consensus, both sides will be happy," he said.

Global Times - Agencies

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