Sengkang's dancing queens

Sengkang's dancing queens
Madam Li Jia Wei (foreground) moves in time to the music with friends Madam Ma Aiyu (on her right), and Madam Wang Xue Li (behind her). They are taking part in guang chang wu, or a ''public place dance''. Many of the women came to Singapore from China to help look after their grandchildren several years ago. In the evenings, they dance to keep fit. Some Singaporeans have joined the group too. They gather at an open area in Madam Ma's Sengkang neighbourhood to dance each weekday evening.

Every weekday night, retiree Ma Aiyu gathers a group of friends at an open area in her Sengkang neighbourhood to dance.

Many of the women started off as strangers, passers-by drawn to the curious spectacle of a group of grandmothers waving their arms in the air and stepping in time to Chinese songs wafting from Madam Ma's music player.

The dance is called guang chang wu, or "public place dance", and is gaining popularity among the elderly in China.

"Old people gather in parks and public squares to just dance together," said Madam Ma, 62, who discovered it on a trip to visit her daughter in Beijing this year. "They really seemed to enjoy it, so I wanted to bring it over to people here."

She started teaching the dance to a few friends at the base of Block 305 in Anchorvale Link, and over the past six months, the group has grown from three to 30.

The women arrive on bicycle or on foot at 8pm for the hour-long session. There is another dance group, which meets at Sengkang Sculpture Park, that sometimes does aerobics.

Many of the women share similar stories - they came to Singapore from China several years ago to help look after their grandchildren. With their free time in the evenings, they dance to keep fit.

Madam Li Jia Wei, 58, and Madam Wang Xue Li, 63, said that they enjoy meeting new people through dancing. "It's good for harmony because we're all neighbours and can get to know each other," Madam Li said. The two became good friends after joining the group, and even attend the same church.

Some locals have also been drawn to the dance group.

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