Young people infuse vibrancy into Chinese square dancing
WUHAN, Nov. 14 (Xinhua) -- Adorned in her elegant dance costume, Wang Xiaolan, the founder of a square dance troupe in central China's Hubei Province, relishes regular practices and gatherings with her fellow dancers.
"Dancing brings me a sense of achievement," the 59-year-old retiree told Xinhua. "It has enriched our lives after retirement."
Over the past five years, Wang's dance group grew from 28 to 38 members, with many younger participants joining in. Currently, the troupe is led by a 22-year-old teacher.
This reflects the broader trend in China, where square dancing gained popularity over a decade ago, transcending age groups and evolving into a more aesthetically-oriented form of physical exercise.
Shu Ying, in her 30s, is a choreographer in Wang's troupe. "I was touched by the passion of the aunties, and I began to understand more about square dancing," she said.
Noting that the standard of square dance is rising and there is a greater diversity of forms, Shu said this dance form is not solely for senior people but for anyone who loves singing and dancing. "It can serve as spiritual sustenance for people, and bring them joy, regardless of their age group."
The population of Chinese people on the mainland aged 60 or above had reached 264.02 million, including 190.64 million people aged 65 or above, or 13.5 percent of the total population, according to data from the seventh national census released in 2021.
According to Gan Lu, a choreographer with China Oriental Performance Arts Group Co., Ltd, when square dancing started, its initial aim was to cater to the social and physical exercise needs of middle-aged women, particularly those between 46 and 65 years old, including retirees.
While this is still the case, square dancing is gradually incorporating elements of professional dance, local opera and folk music, Gan explained.
For instance, in Jingzhou City which was visited by famous poet Li Bai from the Tang Dynasty (618-907), a square dance group of 50 students performed a dance inspired by one of his famous poems. According to Zhou Jing, head of the group, the average age of the dancers was only 20.
"We would like to popularize the dance form in schools and colleges to get more young people involved," she said.
In October 2020, a square dance competition was held at the Wuhan University of Bioengineering, attracting as many as 1,000 people. According to netizens, the event "rekindled their appreciation for square dancing."
In a survey conducted by the Hubei Masses Art Center, about two-thirds of the respondents expressed a positive attitude towards square dance, with the strongest support coming from those born in the 1960s and 1990s.
Support from local governments has played a crucial role in popularizing square dance. Governments, from the provincial level to the grassroots, have allocated special funds for training, promotion and performances of square dance. In Hubei alone, with a population exceeding 58 million, there are now over 12,000 square dance troupes, and more than 89 percent of villages have at least one square dance group.