Square Dancers Facing a Dilemma

January 20, 2014
Editor: Leo Yin

Square Dancers Facing a Dilemma
Media outlets are reporting a spate of confrontations between square dancers and neighborhood residents because of disturbing loud music. [Baidu Image]
China's Guangchangwu, loosely translated as "square dancing", gathers large groups of middle-aged people, mostly women, to dance in public squares and parks. Now the practice is a common sight in many Chinese cities in the early morning and evening as dancers turn on music loudspeakers to accompany their dances.

Despite many retired and senior citizens regarding this form of exercise as a good way to keep fit and have fun in their spare time, the younger generations haven't embraced it because the blasting loud music annoys them and even "drives some of them mad".

A spate of conflicts between groups practicing square dancing and neighborhood residents reported by many Chinese media indicates that meeting the diverse needs of different social groups has become an increasingly pressing issue.

Many people are asking: "how can Chinese urban planners promote social integration while lessening possible negative effects like noise from square dancing?"


Law-makers in Guangzhou, south China's Guangdong Province, drafted a rule last month to set limitations on square dancing in order to create quieter public areas close to residential areas.

The rule is scheduled to be implemented by the end of 2014 and people who then violate the rules will be fined up to 2000 yuan (US$ 329).

Recently a Beijinger fired a shotgun into the air and sent three Tibetan mastiffs into a dancing crowd because he "got so fed up with the dance music of these grannies". The man concerned was jailed for illegal possession of a firearm.

Likewise, residents in Wuhan, capital of central China's Hubei Province, poured excrement on square dancers because, they said, "they couldn't bear the noise anymore".

These actions, in the spotlight at home and abroad, perhaps are a bit extreme, but they vividly reflect the reality of the disputes between square dance lovers and nearby residents complaining about the noise. Specific regulations are needed to guide those applying the law to enable them to handle the noise made by the dancers who claim it is the only way for them to have some fun.

Finding a Solution

Square dancing is an important part of daily life for many senior citizens, especially those whose children no longer live with them and even work far away in different cities. When the elderly dance to the music together, they no longer feel lonely.

On the one hand the dancing crowds like to enjoy some daily fun and, on the other hand, the throbbing music frustrates nearby residents. One person's meat is another's poison.

Residents who suffer from noise pollution do deserve support as well as sympathy. Unfortunately, no government agency seems well equipped to offer a hand in that respect. The environment bureau is responsible for noise created by construction or industrial production, not the dancing elderly.

A group of Chinese dancers accused of public nuisance were arrested in New York last year, which probably shows that, in developed countries, there is often zero tolerance at times over noise in public venues.

According to a Global Times' report, it is estimated there are 100 million square dancers in China, with no government agencies set up to follow the practices of developed countries.

"I think it's OK to square dance in a park but not in the community. I feel lucky because the elderly in my community have their schedules. They dance for 30 minutes from 20:00 to 20:30. I can handle it," said one netizen.

"We currently dance at a vacant lot by the river instead of residential areas and we turn down the music," said a square dancer Liu Lizhen, "Now nobody complains to us about disturbing music."

Indeed, compromise is a feasible solution. Dancers need to limit the hours of their group activities and the volume of the speakers may be turned down. Irate residents should be encouraged to be more considerate and respect the elderly's rights and freedoms. Assuming our own mothers also dance in these group, what should we do?

Communities are there to serve all residents and we have to take care of the interests of everyone, especially lonely seniors.

(Source: Zhejiang Daily/Translated and edited by womenofchina.cn)

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