Monday, April 24, 2017

China's Dancing Aunties Take Over Highway in Traffic Jam

By Asia Pop Culture

Ever wonder what to do if you are in the middle of a back-to-back traffic jam like the picture here? Some travelers on a bus stuck in nearly 100 vehicles traffic jam on a Xi'an highway in China decided to take it to the highway.

More than a dozen passengers on a long distance bus stepped out onto the freeway to perform some traditional Chinese square dancing, somewhat similar to the opening scene from the movie La La Land.  Later, passengers from other cars also joined in on the impromptu dance party.

Most people probably do not realize how popular public square dancing is in China.  It started out as a seemingly harmless community social activity with people in groups dancing to easy-to-follow steps and pop music in an open space such as a parking lot or park.

Typically retired older ladies are the main force behind this Dancing Aunties move (younger people usually have to go to work and do not have time for group dancing). Problems and conflicts arise when nearby residents fed up with the blaring, monotonous music (on very loud loudspeakers) that often accompanies the outdoor dance sessions.  It sometimes even posed a disruptive force to the normal order of live.  Back in 2015, more than 10 nice dancing grannies pushed three parked cars aside with their bare hands at a Metro station in Yanta district, Xi’an Province, just so to have more space to 'shake and groove'.

Local governments have tried to "regulate" Dancing Aunties by passing certain standards, guidelines and even laws.  Nevertheless none of them have worked. The damas have only grown stronger and even started coordinating their movements on social media.  One social media app, Tangdou Guangchangwu (糖豆廣场舞), specifically for dancing has just received $15 Billion in funding late last year.  The app is scheduled for launch in 2017 when dancing grannies or wanna-be may find a nearby group, coordinate the meet and even learn new dance moves, via the app.  

Some attributed the popularity to the fact that many of the dancing aunties/grannies grew up in an era of revolutionary song and dance during the Cultural Revolution in the late 1960s and early ‘70s. Back then, music was loud (the louder the better) and passions ran high.  Many dancing aunties are reminiscent of their past and see the hobby as a peaceful and healthy pastime and will stand by and support it with with the same devotion and passion like they once had during the Cultural Revolution era.

But recently local governments have started pushing back. Last year, a community in Hefei began instituting a real-name registration system for its dancing aunties. The Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region placed a ban on playing music or using loudspeakers for dancing between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. in parks located near residential buildings.  We will have to wait and see the next moves by the Dancing Aunties in China.  Meanwhile, here is a video (narrated in English with English subtitle) taking a look at this social phenomenon in China.        

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