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Do-Si-Don't: China To Regulate Outdoor Square-Dancing

Chinese women holding toy guns dance to a revolutionary song during their daily exercises at a square outside a shopping mall in Beijing. The Chinese government is beginning to regulate public square-dancing, after the practice drew complaints about noise.
Andy Wong

China.org.cn, China's national online news service, is reporting that the country's General Administration of Sport and Ministry of Culture are planning to regulate outdoor square-dancing in China. The news website says the government has introduced 12 "choreographed practices" for dancers. Liu Guoyong, the chief of China's General Administration of Sport, told the website, "Square-dancing represents the collective aspect of Chinese culture, but now it seems that the overenthusiasm of participants has dealt it a harmful blow with disputes over noise and venues, so we have to guide it with national standards and regulations."

China.org.cn reports the "square-dancing drills" will be introduced at local fitness sites in 31 provinces and municipalities, and that 600 instructors have already been trained in the dances. But the website says rules about recommended volume of music, as well as when and where the dancing will be allowed, haven't been worked out yet.

The Guardian says the elderly women who usually square-dance, often called "damas," have drawn complaints when they "blast their music until late at night, disturbing the peace and quiet of local residents," with some residents even throwing coins, rocks and feces at dancers.

The New York Times has details on the square-dancing backlash:

"In 2013, a man who had moved to a rural area of Beijing to escape the noise of the city fired a shotgun into the air and released three Tibetan mastiffs on dancers in his neighborhood. In the central city of Hankou, angry neighbors dumped feces from an apartment building on dancers in a public square. Last year, in Wenzhou, residents pooled together 260,000 renminbi, about $42,350, to buy their own loudspeaker system to blast complaints when dancers gathered in a local plaza."

Shanghaiist reports that the Chinese square-dancing phenomenon has even gone global, with "Chinese senior ladies" square-dancing in the Place du Louvre in France last spring.

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Sam Sanders
Sam Sanders is a correspondent and host of It's Been a Minute with Sam Sanders at NPR. In the show, Sanders engages with journalists, actors, musicians, and listeners to gain the kind of understanding about news and popular culture that can only be reached through conversation. The podcast releases two episodes each week: a "deep dive" interview on Tuesdays, as well as a Friday wrap of the week's news.
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