China to Regulate Dancing in Public Squares

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The government wants to regulate a phenomenon known in the country as "square dancing."

It's a common sight in the public squares of Chinese cities – cohorts of older people, mostly women, "square dancing" enthusiastically in tight formation, waving fans as loud music blares from a boom box.

Now, the General Administration of Sport of China and the Ministry of Culture want to call the tune. They have introduced 12 approved choreographed practices to regulate the popular activity because of complaints about noise, unruly behavior and the general nuisance factor.

"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," Liu Guoyong, chief of the General Administration of Sport of China's mass fitness department, was quoted as saying in China Daily.

There have been discussions and conflict around the country between over-zealous dancers and local residents trying to get them to stop dancing late at night to tunes such as "Hearing the Drums for the Chinese Dream" and "Celebrating Spring at the Pear Garden."

In 2013, a man fired live ammunition into the air and dispatched three Tibetan mastiffs to clear a square outside his house in Beijing that had been taken over by a dance troupe. Dancers have also performed abroad, outside the Louvre in Paris and in Red Square in Moscow.

The 12 official "square-dancing drills" will be choreographed by an expert panel including dancers and fitness trainers. Also, a playlist, including Chinese Internet hit "Little Apple," will be introduced to local fitness sites in 31 provinces and municipalities in the next five months, the authorities said.

The government has set up a panel with more than 600 instructors for the 12 drills, led by celebrity fitness trainer Wang Guangcheng, whose square-dancing team featured in the Chinese New Year gala on CCTV last month.

"All the negative comments on 'square-dancing' are about reckless practicing without caring about the public benefits. The unified drills will help keep the dancing on the right track, where they can be performed in a socially responsible way," said Wang, 29.

Zhou Guanglian, deputy director of the public cultural affairs department of the Ministry of Culture, told China Daily that the authorities had yet to work out detailed requirements for recommended volume of music, permissible times for practice and prohibited sites for dancing.