China's sports governing body issued a new regulation on Monday to manage public spaces for square dancing, with the aim of improving the image of the popular exercise.
With debates over square dancers in public areas often making headlines, the General Administration of Sport of China released a regulation addressing the issue of land management for the dancing, which has drawn massive participation among the country's elderly.
It is estimated that more than 120 million Chinese people are regular participants in square dancing.
Adding to the administration's first guideline issued in 2015, the new measure urges regional government agencies to better plan and supervise the use of public exercise venues - parks and open spaces in urban areas - for dancing and other forms of exercise, along with other leisure activities.
"Despite its positive influence, square dancing, with its widespread participation, has exposed problems in urban management and the lack of facilities," the administration said in a statement on its website on Monday. "Some conflicts between dancers and the surrounding public have underlined the importance of further strengthening management."
Scenes of square dancing, known for its low stress and social bonding, have spread across the country, with elderly people moving in unison, often to loud music.
Apart from noise, the occupation of public squares and some dancers' aggressiveness have hampered its profile as a positive pursuit. Complaints and occasional sharp disputes have attracted attention.
Recently, a video taken at a public park in Luoyang, Henan province, showed a group of elderly dancers brawling with several young people as the dancers tried to invade a basketball court where the youngsters were playing. The video went viral on social media, triggering a debate about regulation.
To avoid such incidents, the new regulation also urges urban authorities to consider including more accessible exercise grounds in their infrastructure development plans.
Some venues intended for solemn activities, such as the open squares of cemeteries, are listed in the regulation as no-entry zones for square dancers.
"I think it helps raise public awareness, especially among the dancing zealots, that this activity is also a sports event that needs rules and supervision, rather than seeing it as a free pastime that can be practiced anytime, anywhere," said Wang Guangcheng, a square dancing promoter and choreographer.
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