Song and dance over dancing in public areas

Song and dance over dancing in public areas
Dance enthusiasts often gather at Beijing's Jingshan Park in the mornings for ballroom dancing. The oldest in the group, Madam Lu Runqing (above), 79, says dancing keeps her brain fromageing.

Some do so in costumes with sequins. Others put on Red Guard uniforms. But most are happy just to dance in the company of friends, in front of curious crowds who stop to soak up the scene.

Middle-aged or elderly "dancing queens" - most are women though some men join in - are a common sight in Chinese cities. But not everyone is happy to see them.

Just last month, a man fed up with female neighbours bopping to loud beats dumped a bucket of faeces on them in Wuhan, central Hubei province. In August, a Beijing man fired a shot into the air and let loose three mastiffs on a dance group.

The southern city of Guangzhou is reportedly planning a ban on dancing in public squares, a move welcomed by 70 per cent of nearly 3,000 people polled on microblog site Sina Weibo last Wednesday.

The tangle between dance lovers and noise-sensitive residents has thrust China's public square dances or guangchang wu - so much a part of the scenery that some people do not notice them any more - into centre stage.

It is an activity enjoyed by a wide segment of Chinese society: One out of every 13 people in China, or 100 million, takes part in such dances, said Chinese media reports. Most are aged between 40 and 65.

That these dances are occurring in public spaces in China underlines the lack of suitable venues, such as Singapore-style community centres or dance studios.

Out in the open, these dances are very much an open church too, catering to all-comers and all styles. These can range from aerobic to ethnic or traditional ones.

Participants learn from trainers for a small fee - 120 yuan (S$25) over four months, in one instance - or teach themselves by following steps from online videos.

The Chinese even take guangchang wu with them when they move abroad, like the Chinese women who were asked to stop dancing by American cops when their dancing got too noisy at a park in Brooklyn, New York, in June this year.

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