Breakdancing breaks among the young
The 1985 American movie "Flashdance" initiated the fad of breakdancing in China. But considered a low-class dance, breakdancing, a part of the hip-pop culture failed to spread widely in the country, although some young devotees kept dancing.
Then disco, a dance genre with easier steps became popular among the public. It gradually captured night clubs and fitness clubs. Even elderly people now practice it as a form of morning exercise in neighbourhood squares.
Thanks to a spate of videos from Japan, South Korea, the United States and Germany, some teenagers swarmed back to breakdancing again in the 1990s.
Meanwhile, China has become more open to the outside world and Chinese people are more open-minded toward imported arts and culture. Thus breakdancing is gradually enjoying greater popularity among members of the public.
According to Zhang Ying, vice-Secretary General of the China Aerobics Association, around the year of 2000, some advanced gyms such as Qingniao, Haosha and Zhongti Beili in Beijing opened courses in breakdancing.
"Generally speaking, breakdancing in clubs is taught by the trainers as an extension of aerobics, and consists of a few easy steps and movements from the new genre," said Zhang.
Shao Xiaojun, secretary-general of Beijing Calisthenics and Sports Dance Association, said that is popular among youngsters in the gyms because "it is as effective as other forms of aerobics for body-building but has unique rhythms and movements other forms do not have."
"With a rich variety of hip-hop music such as rap, the dancers can express their individual feelings and display their abilities through movements. It is something different from the common aerobics," Shao said.
He added that it is a dance form better suited to the youngsters. "It's really hard for a lady in her 40s or 50s to dance to the rhythm of 126-160 beats every minute," he said.
He also mentioned that in the early stages, most of the instructors in breakdancing were enthusiasts who had not received systematic training, having learned how to do it on their own.
Later, some professional aerobics coaches joined in. And now, club members prefer those instructors because they have knowledge and experience in teaching.
People join aerobics clubs to relax, get refreshed and improve their fitness, not just to learn difficult movements.
Xu Conglai is the General Manager of the Shandong I Movement Club which was established in August 2001 in Jinan, the capital of East China's Shandong Province.
The club now has more than 900 members.
Xu said breakdancing, Yoga and Latin dance are the three new courses that the club has started to offer recently. Now everyday it offers a one-hour breakdance course. The instructor Zhao Lei, 22, won the Shandong Calisthenics Competition.
Each day there are about 30 regular novices practicing breakdancing. Xu said that the number is less than the number enrolled for traditional aerobics.
He explained that the club is the top one in Shandong, and the membership is expensive. So most members are high-salary earners in their 30s and 40s. Although some younger ones register for the course, they are not as enthusiastic as the teenagers.
Sun Lei, 28, serves as a part-time instructor in the Zhongti Beili Club in Shenyang, in Northeast China's Liaoning Province. Sun and her colleagues won the group gym-breakdancing title in the First National TV Breakdance Competition in mid November.
A chain of gyms in China, Zhongti Beili opened the club in Shenyang in August 2003. Within five months, it has built up a membership of about 800.
According to Sun, the club offers three one-hour courses of breakdancing every week. The number of participants is less than for other courses, but the number has been going up every month.
"They start to show more interest in breakdancing because the movements are not as easy as types of aerobic dance they might have learned previously. They often laugh at their awkward movements in the mirror. The difficulty of following the instructor's steps stimulates them to continue learning," she said.
"Most people taking my course are in their 20s. But we do have some exceptions. A businessman in his 50s has never missed a course since he registered in August."
Sun also said that breakdancing has enjoyed great popularity among youngsters in Shenyang since 1999. Many medium and small clubs have been providing breakdancing courses since then.
(China Daily 02/28/2004 page9)