Ballroom Dancing, which is also called Jiaoyiwu in Chinese, literally meaning “Friendship Exchange Dancing”, has enjoyed an increasing popularity in today's China.
Unlike the English term, ballroom dancing in China has nothing to do with the place where people dance. In addition to ballrooms, many Beijing local people also dance in public places, especially in the summer. Whether it's early in the morning or at dusk, many people are seen strutting their stuff in car parks, parks or squares, and it has become a unique scene in Beijing as well as in other cities in China. Usually there is an organizer who brings along a huge ghetto-blaster, in goes a tape, and everyone is dancing under one or two good dancers' teaching or guidance.
According to Fu Yujun, who hosts a TV series teaching ballroom dancing, it's estimated that 600,000 to 800,000 people go ballroom dancing in Beijing. They range from 4 year old toddlers to people over 80. And ballroom dancing is a major activity in the nation-wide fitness campaign. People like it because they can both relax and build a strong body, all to the sound of beautiful music.
Although it seems that most of the dancers practice in public places, like parks and squares, there are still many ballrooms in Beijing as well. Take Beijing Youth Palace for instance. In the past, it was a bit pricey, and oriented to those who earned higher wages. But two years ago, the ballroom slashed the ticket prices and changed its policy in favor of ordinary people.
Today, the most expensive ticket now is for dancing the night away. It costs 10 yuan, about $1.20. The cheapest time is in the morning, when the price is only one third of that. The ballroom in the Beijing Youth Palace also offers great discounts to their regular customers. According to Huangpu Weihong, manager of the ballroom, the ballroom is open throughout the day, which is very convenient for people of different ages.
“Old people usually dance in the morning and they regard dancing as a way to do their morning exercise. In the evening, it’s the middle-aged people who come to relax. But aged people are our main customers. On average, there are at least 80 to 90 people dancing here every morning. Evenings are disappointing, attracting fewer people,” said Huangpu Weihong.
Huangpu Weihong also indicated that generally speaking, the customers like all the ballroom dances, including the waltz, quickstep and foxtrot. They see dancing as both fun and sport. But at the same time, she complains few young people in their 20’s come to her ballroom. "When young people are crazy about going to discotheques or gyms, the elderly, or at least middle-aged people, are more enthusiastic about ballroom dancing."
Facing this situation, Fu Yujun gave his voice, “I admit that the young are not the mainstream of ballroom dancers today. I think that’s due to a lack of proper teaching, as well as great time and work pressures. But we can’t blame young people for their lack of interest in ballroom dancing. ”
So Fu Yujun has focused especially on promoting ballroom dancing among college students. He also tries his best to encourage students to get into competitive ballroom dancing. All in all, he believes that young students can benefit a lot from dancing.
“It’s a way to have an active rest, helping the students relax from their workload. In addition, college students will be active in society after their graduation. Ballroom dancing is a great social activity. It’s a good way for young guys and gals to meet, also sharpen up their social skills, ” he said.
So, if it is true that the balldancing was once forgotten by many youth who threw them into the thundering rock music and crazy disco, then the trend is reversing now. Balldancing, with its unique charming and elegance, is gaining popularity among many Chinese youngsters today. On campus, as graduation day approaches, many college students have a few ballroom dancing lessons, hoping it will increase their opportunities to meet more people – just like Fu Yujun said - and also find a good job.
Therefore, we can expect more young people to take up the tango waltz the waltz. Much better than going deaf in a discotheque! In fact, dance instructor Fu Yujun says a dozen universities in Beijing now include competitive ballroom dancing on their curriculum as an elective course. He looks forward to inter-university ballroom dancing competitions, which should do wonders for the popularity of this great pastime
(China.org.cn edited and Rewrite by Feng Shu, July 1, 2002)