China Elevator Stories

“At What Age Did You Start to Learn Chinese Folk Dance?”

I visit Chinese folk dance classes at a gym in Shenzhen.


Ruth Silbermayr-Song


The fitness studio I recently started going to offers Chinese folk dance classes. 

The first time I go to the dancing class it’s filled with women in their 40s and 50s. I seem to be one of the younger ones there, together with the teacher, who is the only male person in the room. 

The second time I go there, I wait in front of the classroom for the class to begin. The teacher is waiting there too. We start to talk.

He says: “Was it very hard the first time?”
I reply: “It was. And very fast. I’m really bad at remembering all the steps. But it’s a lot of fun. At what age did you start learning Chinese folk dance?”
“I started to learn it when I was 12. Are you particularly interested in things that are traditionally Chinese?”
“It’s not so much about traditions. I simply like dancing a lot, no matter which kind of dance it is. Whenever I pass people dancing folk dance on the streets, I want to join in. When I looked up fitness studios, I was looking for a place where Chinese folk dance is taught.”
He replies : “I see. The way these middle-aged women dance on the streets is different from what we teach here. The square dancing is not as professional.”
“You’re right, what you teach looks much nicer. What kind of minority dance is it?”
“This is a dance from the Yi-minority.”

Later in class, our teacher tells us to open up while dancing. He says: “When we learned Chinese folk dance, there were classes for male students and separate classes for female students. I’m teaching you how to dance minority dance for females, so being a male,  I’ve already opened up a lot myself.”

Have you ever tried Chinese folk dance?