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Efforts to give square dancing a leg-up

Updated: 2016-06-24 08:03
By SUN XIAOCHEN (China Daily)

The national sports governing body aims to help square dancing shake off its dubious reputation by better regulating it as a mass exercise highlighted in the new five-year national fitness plan.

As China promotes mass fitness as a national strategy, it has made a priority of facilitating and managing all forms of exercise that appeal to the public in the National Fitness Program (2016-20), approved by the State Council on Thursday.

Chinese square dancing, known for older women dancing collectively outdoors to loud music, is one of the forms of exercise that should be promoted and guided, despite the debates it has sparked, said Liu Peng, head of the General Administration of Sport of China.

"Square dancing is generally speaking a good form of exercise, though we've heard many complaints about it being noisy and monopolizing public areas," Liu said on Thursday.

"All tastes in exercise must be catered to, and we will work with government departments to regulate it and address possible problems."

Square dancing, known for its ease and for promoting socializing among neighbors, has spread across the country as groups of elderly people practice drills, often to loud music, in public squares.

Complaints about noise and photos of Chinese grandmothers occupying even foreign sites such as New York's Sunset Park and the Louvre Square in Paris have made international headlines.

Still, Liu was confident that square dancing can shed all the negatives to become a purely positive practice. "All the issues, such as disturbing others, can be solved if the practice of square dancing is properly managed," Liu said.

As part of the reform effort, the GASC launched on Tuesday a national audition through July 10 to select 300 square dancing ambassadors who will be trained in officially choreographed drills that they will bring to communities this year to guide the public.

Yang Xiuling, an enthusiastic Beijing square dancer, said some regulation is welcome, but not too much.

"So many of us love the dance because of its varied styles and free movements. It would lose some of its charm if its range were limited to only more serious routines," said the 56-year-old retiree.

The five-year fitness plan will set specific guidelines, including a recommended volume of music, times when dancing is not allowed and venues for its practice.

These will be drafted and later implemented by government agencies.

"Looking at the big picture, we believe square dancing could be a compelling way of inspiring more people to participate in sports to improve their fitness in the next five years," said Wang Guangcheng, a fitness trainer and sport choreographer.

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