Croakers Square

According to one report, some sections of China are seeing the growing popularity of a special type of dancing known in Chinese as “Guang Chang Wu,” which in English translates to—you guessed it—“square dancing.” No, it’s not square dancing as we know it, exactly, but it does more or less demonstrate the art’s universal appeal.

In this case, the “square” of Chinese square dancing refers to the plaza, park, or public square where the dancing takes place (hence, it is also referred to as “plaza-dancing”). It typically involves group dancing accompanied by various styles of music—think more in terms of contra dance. The step also represent many different styles, including traditional Chinese dance, modern dance, tap dance, square dance for 16 steps, and dance workouts.

Because square-dancing is inexpensive (or often free), people can dance with friends any time they want to, leading to its growing in popularity throughout China. It can be characterized simply as consisting of collectiveness, randomness, self-entertainment, and spontaneity.

Chinese square dancing isn’t as locked into specific organized movements, the way American square dance is. It lacks a set of precise rules: dancers just need to follow the music, play, and have fun.

It’s not unusual for dancing to start right after the evening meal and continue until 9:00. But that’s where participants in this art form run into trouble: the popularity of the activity and the over-enthusiasm of participants has led to disputes over noise and venues. And guess who’s leading the charge? The youngsters.

That’s right. KIDS are now complaining that ADULTS are too loud, too rowdy, and too disruptive. My, how times have changed!

Chinese square dancing is a great form of aerobic exercise. Most dancers are female, and the average age of most dancers is above 45 years old. China has an estimated 100 million “dancing grannies” – usually groups of casually-dressed elderly women and men performing loosely organized steps. What’s the big deal?

Well, it seems the nocturnal antics of the dancers—while done in the name of fitness and community–have resulted in a freakish backlash from residents sick of such G-rated shenanigans. More and more young people are speaking up about the noise and the disturbance of the peace. The say the dancing takes up too much public space and causes more problems than it helps.

We say humbug.

It’s well-established—both here in our blog and in other places—that square dancing has long-term benefits for the dancer. Dancing on a regular basis can help speed ??up the metabolism, strengthen the heart and lung functions, and improve cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Memory improvement and other psychological benefits have also been cited. It can even help you be a better boss.

Still, the debates have had an effect, as the dancers have been ordered to conform to new regulations. The Chinese government has published rules over the last two years which places limitations on timing, noise levels, and crowd size.

But even with that, the craze continues to grow. Chinese square dancing has even gone global: groups of Chinese women have been snapped performing synchronized dance moves in New York, Moscow’s Red Square and outside the Louvre in Paris.

As for all the naysayers, we can only say this: if it’s too loud…

…you’re too YOUNG.

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