Ooh, Interesting! - The Dancing Grannies of China

April 15, 2016

Will Ooh, Interesting! fascinating facts ever slow down? Well, not if the dancing grannies of China are whom we model ourselves upon. You see, retirement doesn’t have to mean slowing down and that’s exactly what the dancing grannies took to heart. Intrigued? Read on!

Back in the 1990s, forced retirement was the norm in China, with women aged 55 and older all likely to be retired. Naturally, they were none too pleased about this; they had no other job that they were allowed to do, presumably all of their children had long since reached adulthood and they had no way to adequately fill the time in the day. That is until one had a bright idea and decided to start dancing in one of the many town squares dotted throughout the country.

These impromptu dance parties quickly became popular amongst an entire generation of retired women. They were a chance to socialise, keep fit and best of all, were completely free! All you needed were your feet, some music and somewhere to dance. It. Was. The. Best. Well, unless you lived near one of the spots chosen for such a dance.

You see, since the ‘dancing grannies’ (dubbed by the British press, if you’re wondering) had nothing much else to do in the day, they had taken to dancing whenever it seemed like a good idea. With an estimated 100 million people taking part in the hobby, that’s a lot of people and of course, everybody’s schedule is different. As such, the dancing grannies could be found dancing all day. From early in the morning until late into the night, public parks were filled with these dancing older ladies.

That’s all well and good unless you happened to be an unfortunate soul who lived near one of these parks and wanted to get some sleep once in a while. There was no regulation to the dances and eventually, people took matters into their own hands by …err…throwing faeces at them, firing a shotgun into the air, setting dogs on them and even pooling money as a community; citizens in Wenzhou gathered up $42,300 to buy a sound system which blared warnings to dancers about violating noise pollution laws. It’s fair to say working citizens weren’t much pleased about this new hobby and urged the government to get involved.

Eventually, the government listened. The problem was that they regulated the dancing in a manner nobody could have foreseen. Rather than regulating hours in which people can dance or issuing a standard guideline on noise levels, they instead ruled that everybody could still dance… But you had to dance from a set, choreographed repertoire of just twelve routines to music approved by the government. This unified approach would apparently foster “healthy, watchable, scientific and wide-ranging” dancing they claimed and would be taught by instructors who had received official training. Problem solved!

…Well, not entirely. Although various people found the dancing grannies incredibly annoying, they found the government’s approach even more ridiculous and roundly vilified them on social media and within newspapers, pointing that it would have been far easier and more cost effective to have found acceptable places for people to dance. The current idea, they continued, had managed to somehow sidestep the key problem that most people had voiced in the first place – the problem of noise.

Realising they were looking a little foolish, the government quickly clarified their statement (also known as ‘changed it completely’) and stated their guidelines were actually just suggestions and not enforceable at all. As such, there has been next to no progress with dancing grannies, no meaningful effort to find them venues and no attempt to supress noise levels. If you head to China anytime soon, you might just find them in a local park and more to the point, find them keeping you awake in your hotel at night!

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