A walk through the streets of Shanghai can throw up a lot of surprises, especially in the suburbs, away from the main tourist areas. Like an open-air dance session in full flow in a public sidewalk.
I frankly didn’t know they have a term for it – Guang Chang Wu. It’s also called plaza dancing or public square dancing and has been very popular among the middle-aged throughout China since the 1990s.
The routine is simple. The neighbourhood gather around at a park or, in this case, a large public sidewalk, and dance through well-choreographed routines as music plays in the background.
However, this form of dancing has its origins much before the 1990s. It goes back to 1949, when large groups would come together and exercise as Chinese songs were blared on loudspeakers.
Over the years, as families migrated from the countryside to large cities, it became a form of socialising, especially among the middle-aged and retired women who needed some activity to keep them engaged and healthy too. In time, they would also be known as the ‘dancing aunties’.
The music doesn’t really matter. It’s mostly Chinese popular songs, and the dance routine could be anything, from waltz and line-dancing to good old rock and roll style jiggles.
I’d like to think it was the perfect excuse to rekindle moments from a joyous past. Aah, the simple life! If evenings be like this.