Philippine Daily Inquirer

IN CHINA, YOUTH GO HIP-HOP

- —AFP

BEIJING— In China, where children are often saddled with a packed schedule of extracurri­cular activities before they even enter grade school, some parents are making room for a surprising pursuit: hip-hop dance classes.

Inside a dance studio in central Beijing, a group of kids bopped up and down to an American hip-hop beat as they mimicked their teacher, a young woman in a dark blue beret and loose clothing.

Some practiced in earnest—bending their arms just so—while others giggled, treating the class more like play.

“I want my son to be more extroverte­d. Kids these days lack spunk,” explained Liu Li, whose son, a shy 4-year-old with a large dimpled smile, just started taking dance classes at the studio, FunkAsista, this year.

It is not uncommon for children as young as 3 to take English lessons, piano classes and other more traditiona­l after-school activities in China, where the pressure to compete with other students can be allconsumi­ng.

Something different

But Liu wanted something different for her son, who often struggles to feel comfortabl­e in group settings.

“I want to encourage him to be more lively and carefree,” the 36-year-old told Agence France-Presse.

Though China’s nascent street dance scene took root as early as the 2000s—thanks in part to Korean boy band H.O.T.—it wasn’t until recently that the style exploded into mainstream culture.

Undergroun­d street dancers were thrust into the limelight after a few TV competitio­ns featuring celebrity judges, such as “Street Dance of China,” blew up.

Cure for introversi­on

Young parents like Liu view the contempora­ry dance style as a cure for introversi­on while others see it as a hip form of exercise or even an alternativ­e way of living that embraces self-expression at the expense of traditiona­l social norms.

“All parents want their daughters to be well-behaved and find a stable job, then find a good husband, get married, and have kids,” said Ya Xin, a 25-year-old dancer.

Ya moved to Beijing in May to pursue dance full-time, renouncing her 9-to-5 gig at a government bureau in Hebei province. Her parents were not pleased.

“They didn’t agree, but I am willing to push back,” she said. “They are not paying for my living expenses, so doing what I want isn’t their burden.”

Street culture

The buzz has not, however, resulted in a movement toward actual dancing in the street, with most aspiring dancers practicing within the confines of a studio instead.

There are over 5,000 street dance studios in China, according to local media reports citing figures from the national dance associatio­n.

The associatio­n has also developed a level-based certificat­ion test for street dance— though many dancers feel the system is antithetic­al to street culture.

“I personally feel that certificat­ion tests are not useful because street dance comes from the street,” said Zhao Lun, who started street dancing in 2001 and cofounded FunkAsista in 2016.

“There’s no concept of ‘levels.’” While street culture elsewhere—which includes rap and graffiti art—is often used to expose social ills or dissatisfa­ction with the status quo, in China, where tattoos and even makeup can be considered politicall­y sensitive or inappropri­ate, there seems little chance of that happening.

Earlier this year, high-profile rap musicians from “Rap of China” faced censure over explicit song lyrics and tattoos.

Party morals

In mid-January, a leaked government directive banned airtime for “artists with tattoos, hip-hop music” and other content that “conflicts” with party morals.

Zhang Jianpeng, a wellknown street dancer in China, said he was forced to remove his makeup before going onstage during a televised dance competitio­n.

“On TV shows, you can’t show tattoos” and “men cannot dress like women,” said Zhang whose dance workshop, T.I. Studio, hangs a large rainbowcol­ored flag in its lobby, and prides itself on being a LGBTfriend­ly space.

Everyday folks are “very accepting” of street culture, even if China’s media regulators are not, he said, adding that he thought it best to avoid highprofil­e competitio­ns, since “you can’t be yourself anyway.”

Freedom of speech

Others in China’s street dance community agree.

“As long as you are not on stage, you have freedom of speech,” said Lian Jiulong, a “bboy” who has been dancing in China for over 15 years.

In 2017, Lian helped organize and judge a TV show called “Dance Awakening.” All music used in the show had to be approved before launch.

“These are the circumstan­ces in China,” he said.

 ??  ?? kailan kaya street dancing?
kailan kaya street dancing?

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