On my way home from the market this morning, I walked by my favorite public space in our neighborhood. This morning, like most mornings, was time for dance practice: groups of retirees with boom boxes, colorful fans, and a strong penchant for synchronized dance.
Interestingly, while this distinctly Chinese pastime is usually a favorite of the women, men are welcome as well and indeed make up the majority of some dance groups.
There were three groups out practicing today.
At first I thought that perhaps these dances were some sort of utopian communist exercise in shared leadership. Not so; invariably one woman plays the role of choreographer and teacher for the rest of the group. She usually seems to have a side-kick to help her work through the new routines and keep everyone else on track.
Teacher is in the background wearing the gold-ish headband.
It’s always fun to watch groups learn new routines. The instructor puts the group through the steps with everyone craning their necks and struggling to look behind them to see what the instructor is doing as they twist and turn through the routine. Just like your childhood dance classes, there are always the super attentive and talented ones hanging out in the front and the more timid or perhaps just less interested hanging out in the back, waltzing through their own variation of the group’s routine.
Then, the instructor might decide that a certain part of the routine needs altering so she’ll replay the tape over and over while she and her assistant go through the paces. Everyone else sort of dances in their own little circles, some trying to keep up with the changes, while others engage in the sorts of activities that remind me of the days when I used to make daisy chains and do cartwheels while supposedly playing outfield for my kindergarten softball team.
See the guy with the pink fan in the back? Tenacious he is, a man of rhythm he is not. When I was looking through all of my shots I realized he was always at least half a beat behind the group. Which sort of reminded me of my (one) embarrassing experience with hip hop dance class in college in which I awkwardly shuffled and tentatively shook my ass across the floor a good 2 seconds behind the rest of the group. I never went back to that class, but pink fan man seems to be a regular here, which sort of makes him my dance hero.
I loved these guys doing their dance in the middle of the square
A step and a spin…
…and that’s what it’s all about.
On a related note, my Chinese tutor today told me she’s going to a salsa class tonight and that, if it’s any good, I should come with her and her friends next time.
Ironically, Chris and I talked for months about taking salsa classes in D.C. and never got around to it. For some reason I think it would be really funny if here, halfway around the world, we started taking classes. We’ll see what happens, I guess.