Chinese ladies rehearsing salsa dance moves

Why Dance is So Popular in China

Why Dance is So Popular in China

Dance in China is so popular that one of the favourite activities of mid to old Chinese men and women is to gather in front of commercial centres or parks early in the morning or late at night to dance.

Salsa dance in china

Chinese love dance

Chinese ladies dance in front of commercial center - 健康 or Health concerns explain why dance in china is popular

健康 or Health concerns explain why dance in china is popular

For about 4 years, every day early in the morning, at 5am, I would wake up from the heights of my apartment on the sounds of typical Chinese music that sounded like a mix between traditional Chinese music and tango. I knew exactly what time it was by then and what was going on.

1.1. Early birds dance in china

A group of men and women; female in particular, at an age that looked more like post retirement age would gather in formation and start their sets of movements under the guidance of a leader. Amidst uncaring passer-by, police agents and taxi drivers these assiduous practitioners abandoned themselves to the rhythm. Along with Tai-chi which is also practiced in most parks, or even compounds, these dances serve as a way for the old generation to keep their physical shape, engaged in a routine and create friendship. What would seem unacceptable; for no real obvious reasons, in western places; are completely tolerated in China.

1.1.1. Would you dance in front of a commercial store? 

For example, imagine a group of people dancing at 5am or 8pm in front of a Walmart, Tesco or Carrefour in your homeland. Chances are police would follow suit and complaints filled for disturbance.
Being from the Caribbean, dance is second nature to me, so we almost do not think about it. We just do it. Chinese style of dancing is somewhat rigid but it is well blended in the philosophy of body and well-being connection.

2. Dance as a dream 

Modern and Traditional mix together

Chinese ladies rehearsing salsa dance moves

Few years ago, I took part in a dancing competition organised in Shanghai. The dance style we presented contrasted starkingly with what local people showed, but it was insightful to see how seriously and well trained the other groups were. The ages varied from 30 to well over 60s and it was a good occasion to see displays of traditional Chinese clothing, modern clothing with somewhat military connotation and other apparatus. That day was an audition en route to a national tv competition, so every team was there to win one of the first 3 places. Somehow, we managed to sneak in third place with our salsa choreography. Many tv channels have dance competition similar to what is done elsewhere in the world but the approach Chinese have to dancing means that people from any array of ages take part without much care for the judgement of others.

3. Dance as fever 

Chinese have adopted foreign dance with enthusiasm 

With regard to what I mentioned in the first reason Chinese people dance; one might not think of China as a destination to practice and dance rhythmic and sensual dances such as salsa, bachata and kizomba. However, a lot of Chinese in their 20-40’s have adopted these kinds of dances and it should not come as a surprise if you see Chinese dancers being more talented than foreigners. As a matter of fact, one of the best Cuban salsa dancer I have ever met is Alan from Shanghai. He is a teacher there and have a very strong conduct of the dance. I highly recommend him for anyone interested in learning the skill while engaging with the locals. By the way (in the article) I go over the best ways foreign people can get to meet Chinese people and make friends. There is not a single night, where sensual Latin dance parties do not occur.

3.1.1. Latin Dance Fever in Shanghai 

The main motivations from this kind of dance practitioner is to try something that is new. As a result, many of the female dancers are focusing a lot on the styling rather than the full enjoyment. It is understandable as styling gives the visible attributes of these kinds of dance when true body movements take many years of practice. Most of the dancers are young professionals who want to find a way out of the stress of life. They would typically engage with the dance for few years. Many either carry on with the groups they have formed or give-up to try other activities or new kinds of dance such as Tango etc…. I witnessed the formation of many couples either on Latin dance classes or Latin dance floor.

Latin dance in china

Therefore, if you are in search of a soul, you might want to explore this venue.

3.1.2. Chinese like to try new things like dance 

Dance offers a very good way to socially approach people without the stigma of space invasion or awkwardness. My tip would be get in a dance school so you become regular. That way even if your level is at the bottom you get to meet people with the same level of experience as you. Later on, you can even go out with some of them. Chinese people, ladies in particular are open to try new things so they will accept your invitation to dance. That say you should have a minimum level of skills as they expect you to lead them.

4. Dance to perform

Colour and Perfection melt together 

Chinese ladies getting ready to perform dance show

China produces some of the best dancers in the contemporary and classical field. Their flexibility is legendary as they are trained at very young ages. These dancers, in line with the tradition of the like of Pekin opera, undergo gruelling training with strong aspirations. Their technique is impeccable and offer for very good spectacles. As a dance practitioner; especially the afro-Cuban kind, I am not very well inclined toward the philosophy behind these dances as it is extremely competitive and feels like all the spirit of dance is taken away from the practice. That said if you are after such spectacle’s cities like Shanghai and their various concert halls guarantee you will always find something interesting to watch.

5. Dance as sales motivation

You underperformed yesterday 

Close your eyes for a second and imagine one of the biggest food, electronic or retail chain stores in your country asking their personnel to dance. Imagine a McDonald, with employees in formation dancing under the guidance of their team captain? Doesn’t sound right, does it? Probably would feel like coercion. In China; barber shops, electronic good stores, food stores and any kind of stores retort to the practice to motivate their personnel. It is in a way a prayer to attract the god of money to their stores as well as a way to fire up the employees. The dances might sometimes be followed by a speech from the team leader along with some scorning for the underperforming employees.

6. The respected art

Performance of traditional dance in china

6.1. Chinese people will let you dance

In my many years in China, the only time I was spontaneously invited by a complete stranger to have lunch, and a driver stopped while I was in the middle of the street; was during a dance choreography I was executing with a dance partner. The first event occurred when the driver happened to drive along a road we thought would be empty for few minutes. At first; in the middle of the dance I thought “Too bad, I will have to stop” even if I continued. To my surprise, the driver politely waited that I finished my sequence, then continued on his way. For anybody with the slightest amount of experience living in China that’s a “never, ever” type of moment. Later on, as we approached noon time and were drawing close to our morning session; a young adolescent came to see us. 

6.2. And even invite you in

At first I thought she came to tell us off for parking near the gate of their office (one has to be resourceful in China”). It turned out that she came to invite us to have lunch with her mother. I was very surprised by that one. If a driver stopping is a “never, ever”, a complete stranger inviting you to her office to have lunch is a “not in a thousand years” event. The Chinese lady who worked in a government bureau and her daughter wanted to know more about our background and the types of dance we practiced, I from the Caribbean my partner from Russia. She even allowed us to park our car inside their office parking space. Our whole afternoon went on to be a great session as we could focus on what we wanted to create. 

7. Conclusion

As you can see there is a tremendous of benefits that steams from dancing. You can meet complete strangers who can read all kinds of encoded messages from your body. It’s also a way to stay fit for a country that emphasise a lot on 健康(Health). Speaking of health make sure you read about “Traditional Chinese Medicine “Fake or Real”” as I detail what it is like to go and have your whole system checked by professional Chinese doctors. 
So, if you ever think of travelling for an extensive amount of time to China you might be surprised by the number of activities you can enjoy. And dance is a very strong element of the Chinese Culture.

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