I live on the 5th floor of my apartment complex, and with the cool autumn weather I keep my windows open to save a few RMB and leave the air conditioning off. Every evening directly across the street from me is a public square that sits in front of a open air shopping area and walking mall where local shops and street vendors sell everything from children’s toys to sensual massage. Like clockwork, every evening at about 5:30, the music starts.
Worldwide they are known as dancing grannies. They are not only here in China, but apparently expat Chinese from London to New York are taking over parks and parking lots, bringing this Chinese phenomenom to the world. While some people, both here and abroad, are annoyed by the loud speaker systems that accompany their nightly get-togethers, I find the whole thing deeply endearing. There are three or four generations of Chinese here that gather as a community and enjoy themselves while building trust and ties with strangers that live in and around their neighborhoods.
I have a couple videos I took, and although they are a little dark, you can see all age groups from very young children to the very frail elderly bridging generations, weaving a collective continuity and respect that I have never seen in the States. Another aspect that is simply wonderful is that the children are safe and allowed to play freely, while parents and grandparents, while present, do not have to keep constant vigil on where the young ones are. There are a few perks to living in a heavily policed state where criminals pay dearly. These parents simply do not have the same fears as American parents, which while at times justified, is mostly misguided fear driven by television sensationalism.
The first video is of the line dancing area, where mostly older women with a few younger women mixed in dance while an audience, including me, sit and watch. Little kids run and play throughout and are permitted to be children. They run, they play, they fall down and they get up. All great things that every child should be able to do. This is all done in and among strangers, but strangers who are bound as a community on the local, personal level. It really is wonderful.
My next video is an area, literally right beside the first, where couples and hopefuls dance and mingle to what to my ear is more traditional Chinese music or an occasional live act.
There is a third area next to the first two where the little children play and enjoy themselves on minintaure electic cars that are controlled by adults with hand held remotes, similar to bumber cars, all free presumably. I didn’t take any video here because it seemed a little creepy when I started filming other people’s children. Perhaps that is just a sad relic of my Western conditioning.
This goes on every night, and every night I walk through and relish the truly community atmosphere that I sadly haven’t seen back home.