Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Dancing the Night Away

The other night we went to a little Korean place down the way for supper. As we rode down the road in the taxi, a couple of blocks before we hit the restaurant we noticed a large group of Chinese folks doing something that looked like Tai Chi in a large square. Curious we decided to take a better look after supper.

If you go to any large open spaces in the mornings just about anywhere in China you will see people out doing some variation of yoga. When I spent the night at the aquarium we found scores of people doing these little exercises all over the grounds when we awoke. It is just something you do.

Well, apparently they do something a little different of an evening. What appeared from a distance to be more of the same sort of morning stretches, turned out to be more like a Chinese version of a country line dance. They were located in what appeared to be some sort of outdoor community space. There was a large concrete slab in the middle where one could hold a variety of events from concerts to a small fair. There were a smattering of small stands located at the edges for people to sit, and to one side was a gazebo, with a smaller slab of concrete next to it.

Inside both slabs were gobs of people. At the gazebo they were playing fast-ish music with a slinky sort of swing beat. Couples were gathered and while not exactly swinging they were twirling and two-stepping with all their might. Interestingly most of the couples were women with their men gathered about the floor watching curiously.

In the main square a different sort of music was being played. It was slower, and more rhythmic. The people were all lined up in a grid and doing these fancy step moves. It really was very line dance-esque and completely fascinating to me. The wife, my friend, and I moved to the edges and tried a few moves. Most of the steps weren't too complicated so we picked up some of it pretty quick.

The problem was that each song only lasted a couple of minutes and with each new song there was a new dance. Just as I would learn one step, a new one would appear. A kindly older man eventually came over to us and began teaching us the steps.

It was so much fun I gathered up more friends a few nights later and we tried it again.

I've mentioned before how we live sort of a sheltered life. Shanghai is a very westernized city and our little compound feels like a little expat oasis. It has been such a joy to go out these few times and experience a little real China.

I can't wait to go back.

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