In parks and public spaces all over the world, middle-age and senior Chinese women (and a few men) can be seen performing coordinated dance moves to a mix of global pop songs. Not exactly aerobics and not as formal as ballroom dancing, Chinese square dancing (广场舞, guǎngchǎng wǔ) became popular in the 1990s as a social form of group exercise for retired people.
The dance is led by a small group of volunteers, usually retired women. Dances are planned and choreographed in advance to popular music, most often by Chinese singers. Participants line up in rows with the dance leaders front and center and beginners towards the back so they can watch and learn. It's often free to join or just a few RMB per month to pay for the music equipment or for use of the plaza.
In 2015, the General Administration of Sport of China and the Ministry of Culture officially released 12 choreographed dances to popular songs so people could join in the activity everywhere. The dancing is a great way for people to get together socially and stay fit, especially after retiring and not having many daily obligations.
Dancing groups can be seen in parks as early as 5:30 and as late as 9pm, depending on local park regulations. Dance leaders often wear coordinated outfits of white pants and bright color shirts, sometimes even with white gloves. This form of exercise is popular almost exclusively with middle-aged and senior citizens. Younger Chinese people tend to prefer Western forms of exercise like running and going to the gym.
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