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The man who created a new dimension to square dancing

By XU JUNQIAN in Shanghai | China Daily USA | Updated: 2018-01-13 09:58
Wang Guangcheng, nicknamed China's Square Dancing Prince, runs a gym renowned for combining old school dance with modern styles such as Zumba and hip hop. PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Though he was crowned "China's Square Dancing Prince" in 2010 after leading more than 700 dancers at the Zumba Instructor Convention in the United States, Wang Guangcheng was coy, almost embarrassed, about his achievement.

Broadcast live through local TV networks, footage of Wang and the dancers was viewed by millions of people. The nickname was created by an anonymous user from one of China's video website portals.

While square dancing is one of the most popular activities in China, it was then still widely considered a pastime for the middle-aged and those in their twilight years — Wang was only 24 years old then.

"Like many young people, I used to associate square dancing and dancers with loud, out-dated songs and silly moves that are synchronized. But I bet most of the people who have such a perception have never tried the dance or interacted with the dancers like I have," said Wang, a native of Nanjing, Jiangsu province.

But the former national dance competition champion has since come to terms with his passion. The 32-year-old today runs his own fitness studio in Beijing that has around 20 staff , half of which are instructors. The gym is renowned for its unique workouts which combine

Chinese folk dance with moves from other styles like hip hop and salsa.

Every year, Wang creates an average of 200 choreographed dances. He also regularly appears as a judge, consultant and lead dancer for the competitions and shows around the country.

A year after earning himself the title of "China's Square Dancing Prince", Wang was approached by popular Chinese band Phoenix Legend to be their dance choreographer.

In 2015, following the central government's call to improve people's health, Wang was commissioned by China's General Administration of Sport to create 12 national-standard square dance routines to further popularize the activity.

"The trick to designing square dances is to make it easy for even those who have never worked out, but at the same time infuse some artistic moves to make it a fun and effective exercise," said Wang.

The only son of a photographer father and a teacher mother, Wang started to learn ballet when he was three. After spending six years as a performer in a military school in Nanjing, he decided to promote dancing as a form of exercise by moonlighting at gyms.

Asked if it is a challenge to get Chinese grannies — young people often deem them to be unreasonable — to follow his instructions, Wang said the ladies have never given him any problems.

"Every granny used to be a mother like our own moth-er. There lives a little bunny inside their hearts. If you unlock their heart with the right key, they are just lovely, cheerful people. That key is dancing," said Wang.

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