China regulates square dancing with 'state-approved' moves

China regulates square dancing with 'state-approved' moves

BEIJING - In China, few activities escape the watchful eye of the state - and soon, that will include square dancing.

Ever-growing numbers of enthusiastic dancers - usually "damas", or elderly women -- have gathered on the street corners of China's cities in recent years to gyrate in unison.

Often clad in matching outfits and wielding fans or other props, they gather around dinnertime, performing choreographed moves to sometimes thumping dance music piped through a portable boombox -- or even a live band.

But if the General Administration of Sport and the Ministry of Culture have their way, the nightly routine will be strictly regulated.

"Square dancing represents the collective aspect of Chinese culture, but now it seems that the overenthusiasm of participants has dealt it a harmful blow with disputes over noise and venues," fitness official Liu Guoyong told the state-run China Daily newspaper Tuesday.

Liu is the chief of the General Administration of Sport's mass fitness department.

"So, we have to guide it with national standards and regulations," he said.

According to the China Daily, Chinese authorities have hired an "expert panel" to choreograph 12 state-approved square dances.

The dances "will be introduced to local fitness sites in 31 provinces and municipalities in the next five months", the newspaper said, adding that authorities have yet to decide standards on music volume, dance times and venues.

Square dancing has become an improbably hot topic in China, with stories on dancing "damas" -- not all of them flattering -- lighting up state media.

Some urban dwellers have complained that the elderly groovers blast their music until late at night, disturbing the peace and quiet of local residents.

In the central Chinese city of Wuhan, a simmering dispute between enthusiastic "damas" and their irritated neighbours made headlines in 2013 when the residents threw coins, rocks -- and ultimately, faeces -- at the group in a bid to make them stop.

Last year, photos of a group of middle-aged Chinese women performing a square dance routine outside the Louvre in Paris set off a debate over whether the pastime had gone too far.

A video of several women attempting to perform a square dance on board a crowded passenger train in China went viral last year, sparking further controversy.

"All the negative comments on square-dancing are about reckless practising without caring about the public benefits," fitness trainer and square dancing expert Wang Guangcheng told the China Daily.

"The unified drills will help keep the dancing on the right track where they can be performed in a socially responsible way," he added.

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