China/Harbin ("Public square dance") Part 21
By: Nurettin YilmazPublished: 8 months ago
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"public square dance"
In the People's Republic of China, square dancing or plaza dancing is an exercise routine performed to music in squares, plazas or parks of the nation's cities. It is popular with middle-aged and retired women who have been referred to as "dancing grannies" in the English-language media. Due to its low cost and ease of participation, it has been estimated to have over 100 million practitioners, according to CCTV, the country's official television network.
The practice has roots in both ancient and modern Chinese history. Dancing for exercise has been recorded as developed millennia ago in Emperor Yao's China, and during the Song Dynasty the public spaces of cities were noted for their use in performance. Most of the women who square dance came of age during the Cultural Revolution, when folk dances such as yangge were widely performed, often as propaganda. Some have confirmed that this nostalgia is one of their reasons for taking part, although the benefits of the exercise and socialization opportunities also play a role.
Square dancers dance to a variety of music, mostly Chinese popular songs, both contemporary and historic. The hobby began in the mid-1990s, as middle-aged women who had been forced into retirement began doing it to keep themselves occupied. Its popularity notwithstanding, square dancing has been the subject of considerable controversy in the 2010s China due to complaints of noise pollution in the evening or morning hours. Dancers in China's increasingly populous cities congregate in public areas because there are few dedicated facilities where they could go. Residents of nearby apartment complexes who have been disturbed by the high volume of multiple dance groups' musical accompaniment, especially late in the evening and early in the morning when they are trying to sleep, have sometimes reacted violently.
In 2015 the Chinese government reacted to these complaints and incidents by prescribing a set of standardized routines for all dancers to follow, claiming they would be culturally unifying and healthier. The move was met with widespread criticism. Some Chinese complained that it did nothing to address the noise issues; others said the dancers should be free to choose their own routines. The real problem, yet others said, was not only the lack of better places for the dancing but the lack of other social opportunities for the women.The government soon clarified that the routines it created and promoted were only meant to be healthy alternatives to existing ones and were not required.Wikipedia