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Dancing through life: a tale of two cultures

CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2023-11-22 07:57
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Zakirova Rimma, a student from Uzbekistan, is now studying at Donghua University in Shanghai. CHINA DAILY

On the bustling streets of Shanghai, I stumbled upon a vibrant display of culture and camaraderie that would forever shape my dance journey.

It was in 2019, when I first arrived at Donghua University in Shanghai, that I discovered a local park filled with elderly people dancing in the early morning. It quickly became my favorite spot. I'd bring my coffee, and unwind while watching them enjoy the rhythm of the music. Occasionally, I'd also join and dance with them.

There, no one judges you for a misstep or for not keeping up with the rhythm. You simply dance and enjoy the moment. It's fascinating to see experienced dancers leading, while newcomers observe, learn, and eventually join in, just like me.

However, I'm not exactly new when it comes to dancing. My love for dance began at a very young age in Uzbekistan, where I was born and raised. Unlike some, I had no familial ties to the world of dance as my mother was a teacher, and my father was an engineer. However, my mother would fondly recall how, as a child, I'd listen to music and effortlessly move to its rhythm.

When I was around 3 or 4 years old, my mother took me to a dance studio. I vividly remember my first performance, just a week after joining the studio. The stage was colossal, the audience vast, and my nerves were undeniable. Despite a momentary lapse in memory regarding the dance moves, I instinctively knew my place and how to carry on. It was a defining moment that ignited my passion for dancing and helped me set a new goal to never falter again and always strive to improve.

Throughout my school years and later in college, I actively participated in various performances, exploring a wide range of dances, including traditional Uzbek dances and various other cultural dances. The Uzbek dances, such as Gulim, Lazgi, Burdam, Doboz, and Mashal, each have their own unique story and style.

Among these dances, one of my favorites is the Andijan Polka, a lively Uzbek folk dance that combines fundamental, energetic movements with entertaining components. It's a dance that both children and adults adore. When I first arrived in China, I had the privilege of showcasing this dance at a cultural event for international students, introducing my culture to others. It was a compelling experience to teach and share our unique dance form, and it left a lasting impression.

Later, at Donghua University, we established a dance club where students from around the world taught various dance styles, such as hip-hop, freestyle, K-pop, and more. As a passionate dancer, I eagerly joined the club, learning new dance forms and participating in university events.

However, outside of campus, I often found myself wandering into the park, where I would sit and watch people dancing on the square. This communal activity transcends age and background, offering an antidote to the loneliness and physical inactivity that often accompanies aging. It was a heartwarming testament to the inclusivity and vibrancy of modern Chinese society: older people and retired people gather, not just to exercise, but to socialize and form new connections.

These two worlds — the vibrant public dancing in China and the rich Uzbek dance tradition — have profoundly shaped my life and brought me boundless joy.

Dancing, whether in the modern city of China or the soul of Uzbekistan, continues to be the rhythm of my life. It serves as a bridge between cultures, an expression of the human spirit, and serves as a reminder that the joy of dance transcends borders, languages, and backgrounds. In every step and movement, I find a connection to the diverse world of dance and a celebration of the universal language of joy, movement, and connection.

Written by Zakirova Rimma, a master's degree student at Donghua University in Shanghai majoring in business administration. Besides dancing, she enjoys sports, blogging, and taking videos and photos. She hopes that her photos can spark joy and inspire reflection.

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