Dancing In China

The dancers clothes are of exuberant mismatched colors.

by John Brant

Very few Americans know there is Square Dancing in China and even fewer have actually seen it. Jesse Chisholm is one of those few Americans who have seen Chinese Square Dancing. Jesse and his wife Alex dance with the Ramona Squares in Ramona California. When on a business trip to Hong Kong, Jesse was taken to a Square Dance by his host. His host did not dance but knew about an American style dance nearby.

This is what Jesse said about what he saw, "There were about eight or ten squares in the hall. I didn't dance that night, because I had been out of it too long to trust my feet. I believe there was some Plus, but mostly "Dancing by Definition Mainstream". The movement explanations were in Chinese, only the calls themselves were in English. The dancers did not wear the same style of clothes that we wear here in the USA. Which makes sense, our style became popular here in the US in the 1950s. The clothes worn in China were loose to allow freedom of movement. Some women wore loose full length skirts or dresses, some wore pant-skirts. The most memorable thing about their clothes to me was the exuberant colors. It was very rare for a couple to be wearing cloths that matched in color or style in any way. It reminded me of the Harlequin Clown in that one skirt might be half bright blue and half green while the blouse might be half red and half yellow. Meanwhile the lady's partner might be wearing black and red diagonal striped shirt with purple sleeves."

Jesse said the tips lasted about 15 to 20 minutes and then a break. He did not remember any singing calls. There was no round dancing. He did not see any food. There were no breakdowns that he saw. The dancing was very smooth and flowing. The caller paid close attention to the flow of movement of the dancers and never called anything uncomfortable to dance. The dancing speed seemed to be about the same as in the United States.

Square Dancing evolved in America from a collection of European dance moves. It was changed and popularized here, then it spread as one of the world's most popular dance forms. Jesse's experience with watching Square Dancing in China is a good illustration of how universal Square Dancing is in the world. Even in a far away place, with a different form of government and a different language and culture, an American can see and hear a familiar dance.

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