Government Regulates Public Dancing In China

In most countries and cities, street art and performances emerge as expressions of culture, and can have a profound impact on tourists and citizens alike. However, in China, some of that influence is about to change. The government is stepping in and attempting to issue rules to regulate public dancing throughout the country.

Square dancing

The dancing that has caused the problems and subsequent regulations is done mostly by older women, who have been come to be known as “dancing grannies.” Public dancing in China began to popularize in the 1990s as a result of the government forcing women into retirement in their mid-50s. At night, after the sun went down and they fed their families, they would take to the streets, engaging in different forms of square dancing.

The Guardian cited Liu Guoyong, chief of the sport administration, as telling the state-run China Daily newspaper, “Square dancing represents the collective aspect of Chinese culture but now it seems that the overenthusiasm of participants has dealt it a harmful blow with disputes over noise and venues. So we have to guide it with national standards and regulations.”

The problem is where these women often choose to locate – which is to say, centrally. Due to the practice’s popular demand, they often gather in public plazas and parks, and take over the space while listening to loud music. In 2013, a man in Beijing fired a shotgun in the air in a bout of frustration. Other forms of protests, horrific ones, have also taken place from neighbors.

The government is responding by introducing 12 choreographed practices for dancers. The drills will be introduced and taught at fitness sites in 31 provinces and municipalities; so far 600 instructors have been trained and will start introducing the practices over the course of five months.

Expectedly, many of the “grannies” have expressed discontent with the decision to regulate. In interviews they referred to dancing as being the best thing, and most transformative experience, they have had in their lives. And while it’s not being entirely taken away, many do feel violated.

This certainly raises concerns and questions over the subtext behind the government’s monitoring – whether or not it’s an effort to unify citizens, regulate neighborhood disputes, or generally limit the individual freedom. But most are confident that the first to enroll in the new regulated square-dance classes will be none other than the “grannies” themselves.