Many elderly and middle-aged Chinese women have developed an interest in dancing — and dancing has become a major part of their lives. They live healthy lifestyles, and their dance steps and dance postures move audiences. The women are living examples of the line in Secret Love in Peach Blossom Land, directed by acclaimed Chinese playwright Stan Lai, in which the actor states, "We are old, but we are still beautiful." Each dancer has a young, and beautiful, heart.
Exercise, to Lifestyle
The second Beijing New Dance Festival opened in Chaoyang Cultural Center, in Beijing, on August 24, 2016. More than 50 dancers from seven countries, including China, Canada, Hungary and the United States, staged 18 shows during the week-long festival.
Dancers with Beijing-based Dama Contemporary Dance Troupe debuted during the festival's opening ceremony. Their dance, titled Dancing with Hearts, was a hit. Zhao Xi, founder and art director of the festival, established the dance troupe in June, 2016. The average age of the troupe's dancers is 57.
"We hope contemporary dance will become part of ordinary people's lives. In June, the Chaoyang Cultural Center issued a notice to recruit elderly and middle-aged women to join the dance troupe. About 150 people applied, and we chose 30 people from among them," Zhao says.
"It was not easy to choose elderly and middle-aged dancers. I mainly considered whether the applicants were able to perform in an unrestricted manner. Different from ballet and classic dances, contemporary dance requires dancers to perform in an open and free manner. That is the basic standard for me," Zhao adds.
The members began dancing as a form of exercise in their spare time, but they soon fell in love with contemporary dance. Retired worker Peng Huanru, 60, is one of the troupe's members. She says she feels young — again — when she is on the stage.
"I knew nothing about contemporary dance before I joined the troupe. We practice twice a week. I feel tired sometimes, and it is a bit hard for me to crawl and roll on the ground. However, dancing makes me feel confident and beautiful. Now, I feel I'm a real star," Peng says.
She says she was somewhat embarrassed during the first day of training. "Our teacher asked us to stare at each other for one minute. Many of us averted each others' eyes, and some of us couldn't help but laugh," Peng recalls.
"During one training class, our teacher asked us to lean against each other, in pairs. The rule was that when one of us moved, the other should move … and we couldn't separate from each other … In the beginning, I couldn't finish the exercise. When my partner moved, I failed to move with her, and I almost fell to the ground. I did well after many practices," Peng adds.
The teacher also asked the recruits to crawl like babies. "When I crawled … I felt like I was like a little blade of grass swaying in the breeze. I loved that feeling. I think I am still in the prime of my life," Peng says.
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