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Gareth is an Australian who has lived in JiangSu, SuZhou (Heaven on Earth) for a few years - he is a keen observer of the Chinese people, Chinese culture and the changes that are occurring in China at break-neck speed. He can often be found on his a nightly 'perch' in front of his bar in the famous Bar Street in Suzhou, talking to the locals in his bad Mandarin, teaching the 'flower-selling girls' English, eating street food and smiling at the local chengguan (neighbourhood police). Gareth also has several other businesses in China around Business and English training. His experiences have been varied and interesting and his years in China have taught him to be wary of promises but excited about prospects, not a bad situation to be in!
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Perils Of China: Plaza Dancing 险境中国:广场舞    

By Garreth Humphris
5621 Views | 10 Comments | 7/4/2014 2:41:36 PM

There is a little secret that happens at dusk in China that nobody wants you to talk about! Middle-aged and older ladies gather in hordes, sometimes with a dishevelled husband in tow, to meet together in synchronised shenanigans - the proverbial Plaza Dance. 



Although it is a blatant rebuttal to the peace and serenity of the community, these troublemakers gather in open spaces around China and even the notoriously ruthless local by-laws officers, the feared Chengguan, are unable or unwilling to act to uphold the civility of society!



It appears the one thing more fearful to authorities than disturbing the peace is having these ladies waiting at home, flaming and fury-bound, just ready to explode!



In the past, these types of antics have normally been restricted to hours when the rest of the population is sleeping or watching TV after work, but these days the phenomena that is Plaza Dancing is spreading to 24/7 and internationally. Dare I say it, Plaza Dancing could become the next craze from Asia to sweep the world after that half-arsed Korean horse-riding song.



What exactly is it?



There are a couple of distinct forms that are popular - the usual evening gigs are popular forms of dancing together that many foreigners would recognise such as waltzing and tango and salsa, mostly to soothing tones and sensible volumes, just on dusk until around 10pm. 



It is a way to meet and connect with community and, dare I say it, a way of snatching a new partner if your old one isn't treating you right! Many couples appear romantically attached at the dances but end up going home to separate apartments at the end. The secret life of Plaza Dancers!



In contrast, the morning sessions tend to be routines harking back to simpler times in China where mimicing a crane, a tiger and a dragon through flowing body movements brought poise to the body and focus to the mind. These are often quite technical in stances and movements, energy passing down arms to the spine and into the legs - movements so calm and precise that they appear effortless...until you try them!



Floating clouds, birds encircling the earth, placing the energy into a ball! A secret gongfu army in training - one has to wonder.



But recently, Aunties have been donning fans and swords and becoming increasingly militant during their morning sessions - in the past, it has been relatively safe to approach Aunties and walk past their complex displays, but they are not becoming increasingly agitated and wave swords at you as you try to pass!



The scariest form is the ’Flash-Mob Aunties' who spring from bushes and from behind trees and rubbish bins to take over footpaths and parks with highly synchonised moves involving sharp-pointed fans, long wobbly swords, talon fingernails, monk staffs and more recently plastic AK-47s.



The other weapon at there disposal is more insidious - an 80's-style ghetto-blaster complete with scratchy 50's-style Chinese Revolutionary Songs.



And it is a turf-war, groups of women manoeuvre their way across the open spaces for the smoothest surface to stand or the highest step to peer over the crowds. To be centre, with a dedicated following of highly trained dancers and the most raucous noise possible is the ultimate prize. 



Each 'squadron' has their own music and their own style - synchronised by a largish bastion of a woman with a voice louder and more penetrating than the erhu music on the speakers. She has at least 4 lieutenants, marking the outward corners of the square and they protect this area like angry magpies, swooping at anything that enters the space, lest they steal the advantage!



Get caught in the middle of this melee and you are likely to get scratched, poked, jostled and deafened!



What is to worry, it is just old-folk passing the time, getting a bit of exercise and relaxation...now, I would tend to agree but it would appear that Plaza Dancing has been taking a more sinister route. Recently there was photos of a Plaza Dance being performed by ladies caught in a traffic jam after a fatal accident - maybe not so pleasant for grieving relatives of the deceased.



Visiting tourist groups have been exporting it to other countries... Chinese aunties invaded Moscow’s Red Square a few weeks ago and just last week, a group dressed as Red Guards subdued an old man (undoubtedly one of the aforementioned dishevelled husbands) in Japanese military uniform...no doubt re-enacting some glorious defeat of old foes from days of yore! Resplendent in red armbands and carrying plastic AK-47 assault rifles, the aunties certainly spiced up the nightlife in an otherwise  boring evening in downtown Beijing.



But the forces against the rising tide are gathering - local residents, becoming disillusioned with constant drones of Maoist-era tunes and the witch-like cackling of the Auntie hordes have started to fight back.



The residents have installed mega-speakers on the roof of their apartment to daily drown out the ladies and have also resorted to laying dog deposits on the pathways and open areas! Hurling water bombs and eggs and generally discouraging the Auntie Army from forming seems commonplace too!



But the Aunties are nothing if not cunning - now equipped with headphones they continue their twirling and shaking remorselessly! 



Roll on Summer - the Auntie Wars are just beginning!



Given my experiences of older-folk in China, I'm betting on the Aunties!



在中国有个心照不宣的小秘密在黄昏时分上演!中老年女士们成群结队地聚在一起,有时拖着个衣冠不整的丈夫,他们步调一致的消遣——这就是众所周知的广场舞。



尽管这是一种公然践踏社区的和平和宁静的行为,这些麻烦制造者聚集在中国的空地上,甚至令人生畏的城管也不能或不愿采取行动维护社会文明!



看来对当局来说,比扰乱治安更可怕的一件事是,如果这些女士在家待着,满腔怒火势必暴发!



在过去,这些滑稽行为通常局限于人们下班后睡觉或看电视的休息时间,但现在这种广场舞现象蔓延到每周七天的每天二十四小时,并且国际化。我敢说,广场舞会成为继韩国草草收场的骑马舞之后,来自亚洲,狂扫世界的下一个热潮。



它究竟是什么?



有几个不同的流行形式——平时晚上一起跳舞演出的形式很受欢迎,许多外国人会认出是华尔兹,探戈和沙沙舞等,主要是舒缓的音调和合理的音量,只在黄昏到晚上十点左右玩玩。



这是一种团体会面和联系的方式,我敢说,如果你老伴对你不好,这是一种攫取新欢的方式!许多对夫妻似乎浪漫地迷恋上跳舞,但最终回家即分道扬镳。广场舞迷的秘密生活!



相比之下,晨练往往又回到更单纯时期中国的日常生活,通过流畅的身体动作模仿鹤,虎和龙的姿态,带来身体的平衡和内心的专注。这些姿态和动作十分巧妙,能量经由两臂到达脊柱再进入双腿——动作是如此悄无声息和慎密周严,以至于他们显得不废吹灰之力……看得你都想一试身手!



左浮云,右浮云,鹤抱地球,能量囊入球中!一个神秘的功夫大军在训练中——令人叹为观止。



但最近,阿姨们拿起了扇子和剑,在她们的晨练中变得越来越激进——在过去,靠近阿姨们并走过她们复杂的摆设相对安全,但那是在她们还没有变得激动,并在你试图经过时向你舞动宝剑的时候!



最恐怖的形式是“快闪阿姨”突然从草丛,树林和垃圾桶后面冒出来,卷起尖扇子,晃动着宝剑,武僧的家什,还有新近的塑料AK47式冲锋枪,步调一致地移动,占领人行道和公园。



其他的武器装备更阴险——一个80年代的大功率手提式录音机连同吵哑的50年代的中国革命歌曲。



并且,它是一个地盘争夺战,一群女人调动她们的战术,横跨最平坦地面的开阔区域去站着,或去人群中的至高点观望。专心致志地跟着训练有素的舞者翩翩起舞,和着最喧闹的噪音,成为受人瞩目的中心,这可能是其终及大奖。



每个‘中队’都有他们自己的音乐和风格——一个大嗓门女人与比二胡更刺耳的音乐在扬声器中同步成一个相当大的堡垒。她有至少四个副将,在广场角落的外围做标记,他们像愤怒的喜鹊佑护着这个区域,俯冲向任何进入该区域的东西,唯恐他们抢占先机!



陷入近战的,你可能会被挠,戳,挤,并且变聋!



广场舞只是老人打发时间,得到一些锻炼和放松的方式,而令人担心的是,我现在倾向于承认它看上去逐渐走入一条更邪恶的路线。最近有照片显示,在一起致命事故后,女士们还在表演广场舞导致交通堵塞——也许这对死者悲痛的亲属来说不是一件愉快的事情。



观光旅游团队已将广场舞带出国门……几周前并且就在上周,中国阿姨入侵莫斯科红场,一群人打扮成赤卫军制服一个着日本军装的老男人(无疑他是前面提及的衣冠不整的丈夫中的一个)……毫无疑问再次上演一些击败昔日宿敌的辉煌!华丽的红色臂章,手握塑料AK47式冲锋枪,阿姨们肯定在北京闹市区的另一个无聊的晚上为这里的夜生活加了点香料。



但反对这股逆流的力量正在聚集——当地居民对毛泽东时代恒久闲散度日的调子和成群结队的阿姨们女巫般的高音喇叭已经开始回击。



居民们在他们公寓的屋顶装上了特大喇叭天天淹没这些女士的声音,并且在这些路径和露天场地溜狗!投掷水炮和鸡蛋似乎也是司空见惯的事情,这通常使阿姨大军从开始就感到沮丧!



但如果不是狡猾,阿姨们将一事无成——她们现在配备耳机,无怨无悔地继续她们的旋转和颤动!



夏日滚滚而来——阿姨战争才刚刚开始!



鉴于我久居中国的经历,我敢为阿姨们打赌!



(Translated by Panda)



CLM NOTE: We wish to sincerely thank Panda for taking the time to translate this blog article, which she did voluntarily and without even being asked. Great job Panda, thanks so much.  


Copyright owned jointly by Author and CyberCupid Co., Ltd. Breach of copyright will be prosecuted.
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(Showing 1 to 10 of 10) 1
#2014-07-04 14:38:08 by JohnAbbot @JohnAbbot

Ahhh, The Plaza Dance! It truly is one of the distinguishing features of Chinese culture. I have never seen anything like it in any other country I have visited or lived in.

For those who have never been to China, these dancing events spring up all over China every evening, and they can be a group of 8 ladies on a street corner to 2,000 of them gathered in a major square or park.

Gareth you mention the odd husband being present "in tow", but from my viewpoint the occasional male you find at a Plaza dance is more like the Yoga classes going on in Western countries, where there'd be 30 women and 1 single guy. He was inevitably there for only one reason, and it wasn't the yoga.

You become accustomed to running into the Plaza Dances in China, and get so you hardly nice them. But everytime I see one I get a sudden picture in my mind of my Mother and her old cronies dancing in a park in Canada, and just the thought of it makes me laugh out loud. They would die of shame, whereas the Chinese Aunties dance on entirely free of inhibitions.

#2014-07-04 20:54:37 by yeranyi @yeranyi

西方有街舞文化,东方么,有我们的广场舞,只要不扰民,作为全民免费健身很不错。

Just as hip hop is welcome in western countries, square dancing is popular in China. Some people dislike it because too noisy and the way is blocked....

but look for the bright side, dancing is good for health , square dancing is free to all kind of people and is easy to learn , for those retired people, it is a good choice to do daily exercise haha .. ,better than staying at home like couch potatoes

hip hop is a kind of western culture , maybe plaza dancing will be a chinese feature culture too , even now many different objections .....

#2014-07-05 12:30:50 by Barry1 @Barry1

@aussieghump

Thanks for raising this interesting topic, Gareth. I love to watch the Chinese ladies dancing in the squares and the plazas.

So much so that in my current China trip, I joined them! (y)

Yes, it was in Chengdu in the late afternoon. I saw a bunch of nice ladies dancing.

"How come they're having so much fun and I'm not!", I mused inwardly to myself.

So before you could say, "Jack Robinson!", I leapt into the square and started dancing with them! Tina was most amused and so were all the lurking Chinese men watching shyly from the sidelines. It also caused a bit of a stir amongst the dancing ladies themselves, who started giggling. But who cared - certainly not me!

"Sing like no one's listening - and dance like no one's watching!"

You don't believe me? Well, take a look at my next "My China Trip" article (part 16). I'll include a photo of my John Travolta, dancing self there, for all you sceptical non-believers! (rofl)

#2014-07-05 15:45:11 by aussieghump @aussieghump

@Barry1
Singing and Dancing now, Barry? - Just do it all in the shower!

#2014-07-06 15:45:07 by melcyan @melcyan

Garreth, thank you for another entertaining read. I am yet to witness the sword dancers and the machine gun dancers. Maybe next trip.

“There is a little secret that happens at dusk in China that nobody wants you to talk about! Middle-aged and older ladies gather in hordes, sometimes with a dishevelled husband in tow, to meet together in synchronised shenanigans - the proverbial Plaza Dance.”

When my partner and I were last in Shanghai we stayed in a hotel for 4 weeks that had Plaza Dance that was held nightly across the road from the hotel. We joined in at least 3 times a week from 8pm to 10pm.
Men who want to make a respectful attempt to do the dancing are always welcome to join in. I don't know about being “dishevelled”, my partner always insists on me being neatly dressed.
It was great fun and it was just about dancing. It is not “secretive” at all. This is mostly just people who enjoy dancing and don't want to pay the high prices of ballroom dancing at an indoor venue.

#2014-07-07 15:45:40 by aussieghump @aussieghump

@melcyan, being a blogger allows a little artistic license!

In my community, the dancing is on public display but certainly the organisation and control of such events may not be so visible to outsiders (I take it your partner was able to get you ´insider access´). I have been a few times to watch and have joined in a few times - learning to waltz and foxtrot in my youth (growing up in a regional area of Australia the monthly ´old-time dance´in the church hall was always packed!) So the events are much like these to me!

As you said, the events are about people getting together - just recently there has been a lot of poor publicity in China about them due to some of the antics of some of the events (dancing from early morning to late evening with loud, and repeating music).

For example, on Saturday, the session near my home started at 5.30 am about 50m from my bedroom window... not the best way for me to start the day! On Sunday, it was around 6.30am and this morning was 6.00am. Same music, same sequence, same volume... I am all for ´each to their own´! I just wish sometimes they would keep it to their own!!!

It has been similar times and noise for the past few weeks - hence the article!

#2014-07-08 11:53:55 by melcyan @melcyan

"on Saturday, the session near my home started at 5.30 am about 50m from my bedroom window... not the best way for me to start the day! On Sunday, it was around 6.30am and this morning was 6.00am."
I agree, this is unfair and very difficult to endure. For your sake I hope it ends soon. The dog faeces deterrent must also be very umpleasant. While I was feeling sympathy for your plight I did an internet search to find an answer. I found deterrents for cats, mice, ants, rats and dogs but deterrents for dancers could not be found. Sorry. From my experience dancers hate uneven surfaces, sticky surfaces and slippery surfaces. You seem to have a very capable mind. You may be able to use this information to your advantage. Good luck.

#2014-07-11 20:30:49 by HZDX6167 @HZDX6167

呵呵,中国真的是世界闻名了。佩服!

#2015-01-01 10:33:55 by Ezpawn @Ezpawn

Gareth,
Have you seen them in droves, walking at a fast pace? It is really funny. I just cant help but laugh. Courage in numbers?

#2015-08-21 10:53:09 by 1940MERCURY @1940MERCURY

This is a great write up on a very humorous exhibit of older people having fun. These people have won the right to dance their lives away. Now some are going back to their youth when they were denied such behavior. Like most things in life it will pass, maybe not fast enough if you are on the receiving end of this "entertainment". HA, HA Have fun Aunties!!

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