When I was growing up in Malaysia, I used to see groups of old(er) people gathered in local parks to do “Tai Chi“, a slow, graceful martial art that is meant to represent Zen, Yin-and-Yang, and being one with nature. But primarily, it was exercise. (I later learned that people who’re proficient in Tai Chi can also kick ass, so don’t mess with old people!)
I’ve never been much of a student of dance. I don’t particularly enjoy dancing nor do I care to watch shows like “So you think you can dance”. But I do appreciate cultural differences in dancing and singing styles. Before the advent of technology, people told stories around a campfire, sang, played music, and danced for entertainment. There is a lot of history to be learned and something I try to learn as I travel.
While in China, I happened upon a local park one day and saw a very interesting form of group exercise; line dancing. Mainly consisting of women (because the men are too shy which is evident by those standing on the sidelines watching and some dancing solo), these line dancers gather each evening to dance in (somewhat) synchronized fashion to the beat of some energetic and catchy music. As a spectator, one can’t help but get into it while watching. On several occasions, I simply just thought “Screw it, I’m going in!” and jumped in. Let me tell you, it’s not as easy as it looks but I guess it doesn’t help I am not the most coordinated dancer in the world. The ladies had a laugh watching me but I had fun.
As I traveled into Urumqi (in Xinjiang province), I came upon another local park with a group of old(er) people dancing. However, the music they danced to, as well as their dance style, was very different. This is one of the differences in culture one notices going from predominantly Han-Chinese culture into territory with big Islamic influence. I thought the dancing in Urumqi was more graceful and “Tai Chi – esque”.
Bonus video: Not line dancing but while in Yangshuo, I saw many of these entertainers in front of dessert shops pounding some kind of flour to upbeat music. A great way to draw a crowd to come to the shops.
For more pictures of China, click here.