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Feature: Wuxi dancer leads samba parade at Rio Carnival

By Mao Pengfei, Xun Wei (xinhuanet.com)
Updated: 2016-02-11

RIO DE JANEIRO, Feb. 11 (Xinhua) – Chinese dancer Chen Jing had her most unforgettable Chinese New Year in Brazil as a lead dancer in a samba parade at the just concluded Rio Carnival celebrations.

The 56-year-old dancer has been teaching Latin dance since retirement last year in the eastern Chinese city of Wuxi.

"Samba is my favorite," she said.

Chen had always wanted to visit Brazil, the birthplace of samba, and this Spring Festival season provided her with a good opportunity to see her daughter who works in Brazil and enjoy the carnival.

"I came just to watch, but the performances turned out to be so attractive that I couldn't help but join in," Chen said after watching a rehearsal in Rio's Sambadrome.

"In China, synchronization is very important for a dance parade; each dancer needs to follow the same move with accuracy. But here, participants in the amateur parades only need to stay in line, and dance whatever moves they want," said Chen.

"You can liberate yourself here and enjoy dancing," she said. "You can just immerse yourself in your performance and forget about the competition. I wanted to try and have fun."

To realize her dream, in early January, Chen's daughter helped her contact a samba school, which turned out to be very interested in hosting a Chinese volunteer dancer. It offered her a place in its amateur parade.

There was limited time for rehearsal, but to Chen, an experienced dancer, it was the language that proved the most challenging.

"I had to memorize two pages of Portuguese lyrics in a few days. The judges would deduct points from our parade performance if they found me mouthing the words wrong," said Chen.

Chen spent most of her time at home reciting the lyrics word by word with help from her daughter. On Feb. 6, the first day of the public performances, many of her fellow performers were surprised by their Chinese companion and her excellent samba skills.

"Chen, you will be the shining star of our parade tonight!" said the parade leader, asking Chen to dance up front, beside her.

The move worked out so well that spectators along the Sambadrome began chanting "China, China!" when they noticed the energetic lead dancer was Chinese.

After the parade, Chen instantly became a star. Many locals congratulated and complimented her, and Globo TV interviewed her about her stint in Brazil.

After dancing for decades, this was the first time she really grasped the spirit of samba -- freedom and joy, said Chen. "Brazilians don't dance for others to appreciate; they dance for themselves, for self-liberation, for the joy in their hearts."

More Chinese visitors are coming to Rio for the carnival and even more are expected in this country for the 2016 Olympic Games.

Chen has registered to be a volunteer at the Rio Olympics and applied to take part in the Olympic opening ceremony.

"Chinese people are paying more attention to art and entertainment. Many Chinese parents send their children to learn Latin dance, and I hope I can bring the real samba spirit back to China," she said.

The former Wuxi New District, now known as Wuxi Xinwu district or Wuxi National Hi-tech district, was founded in 1992 and underwent administrative changes in 1995, 2002 and 2005.

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