As dawn approaches, an elderly woman changes into dance clothes. She walks out of her senior living center and heads straight to the nearest mall plaza.

As the sun sets, a grandmother hurriedly stuffs her dinner plate in the sink. She bids farewell to her family and makes her way to the neighborhood square.

During sunrise or sunset, if you go to any sizable plaza or monument you might see large clusters of middle-aged retired women all dancing in unison. Some groups might even be sporting matching outfits, complete with elaborate fans. They are aiming for prestige!

These women are participating in Chinese square dancing, or 广场舞 (guáng cháng wǔ).

Chinese square dancing dates back to the 1990s. In China gyms are still expensive and a foreign concept to many people. However square dancing does not require much dancing experience and is a low-cost hobby to get into. This makes it incredibly easy for anyone to join.

This exercise activity is particularly popular among elderly women in China. Not only is it good for their physical health, but it also can improve their mental health.

Here are some benefits to these Chinese square dancers, and not just to the retirees!

  1. 1 Improved Flexibility and Muscles

    Taken by Reihua Zhou, 2021

    Many people may suffer from arthritis, muscle tightness or other mobility issues. These issues particularly affect those who are aging. 

    Performing low-stress dancing and teacher-instructed yoga-like sessions helps them combat joint issues. It also relaxes the muscles.

  2. 2 Better Balance and Coordination

    Taken by Reihua Zhou, 2021

    Similarly, as people grow older, their muscles and sense of coordination also weaken. Regularly dancing can help restore some balance and coordination that elders might have lost to the years.

  3. 3 Stronger Cardiovascular Systems

    Taken by Yizhe Zhang, 2016

    Between each dance, the coach will lead the group in a speed walk which elevates their heart rates. This improves blood circulation and increases oxygen levels. It allows for a higher quality of life outside of dancing.

  4. 4 A Relief from Loneliness

    Taken by Reihua Zhou, 2021

    As China has industrialized, more and more people have moved from clustered houses into high-rise apartments. As a result, loneliness has become a common issue. This is especially true among elderly folks and empty-nest parents.

    Square dancing lets these lonely people meet other people around their age who also share an interest in dancing. It can lead to lasting friendships and allows these people to break their solitude.

    Next time you are in China and see people dancing in the evening, don’t be afraid to join in! You will surely benefit tremendously.

    How do you plan to include Chinese square dancing into your life? Let us know in the comments!

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Chris Jiang

Chris is a student attending the College of William & Mary studying public policy and public health. He hopes to share the joys of Chinese culture with the rest of the world.
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