Sengkang's dancing queens

Sengkang's dancing queens

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.

Madam Lilian Chua, 57, a retired administrator, started taking part three months ago after a friend told her about it.

"I've been interested in dancing since I was young but because of work and family commitments, I had no chance to try it," she said.

Now, she has had her moment in the limelight, after the group was invited to dance at a Residents' Committee Wellness Day for the elderly earlier this month. Madam Chua thinks Singaporeans are more shy about dancing in public.

The growing group is looking for an alternative location to meet, such as a studio or field, said Madam Ma, who also teaches tai ji quan on weekends for Anchorvale Community Club.

As the current location is in the open, they cannot dance if it rains and are concerned they may disturb other residents.

For now, as long as it does not rain, the show goes on.

"During the day our time is for our families, we need to help out," Madam Ma said. "Evenings are our time. We can come out and relax."

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