It was 50 years ago this month that the Great Helmsman, Chairman Mao Zedong, launched the Cultural Revolution. His efforts to reclaim control of Communist China were misguided and are generally considered to have brought a steep decline in the social and economic lives of Chinese citizens. One can only imagine his thoughts on what China looks like now, in the twenty-first century. That is especially true in light of a recent Guinness Book of World Records milestone set in the cities he worked feverishly to expand.
If you’ve been to any of the large urban areas in modern China, such as Beijing or Shanghai, you have probably seen a Guinness World Record Holder. In the cities are numerous parks, plazas, and open spaces. Those same areas are filled most mornings and evenings, but especially on the weekends, with thousands upon thousands of older women dancing. These ‘dancing grannies’ or ‘dancing aunties’ became an Internet meme even before they entered the record books. Their synchronized dance moves, while slow, are also hypnotic. In some ways, their dancing is similar to the synchronized movements of performers during the Opening Ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The similarities are even more pronounced since the Chinese government cracked down on dancing diversity last year. In 2015, China’s General Administration of Sports and Ministry of Culture declared that there would only be 12 approved national ‘square dances’. Any granny wishing to participate needed to learn the Chinese pop music-inspired routines.
This past Saturday, 31,697 women in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenyang, Guangzhou, Xi’an, and Chengdu performed choreographed dance moves for a little over five minutes. This record surpassed one set six months ago by 20,000 middle aged and elderly women in northern China. This movement began as a way for these women to socialize and exercise. It certainly beats the weight loss fad in Hong Kong that involves staring directly into the sun. However, not everyone is thrilled with these mass rallies. Residents living near the parks and plazas frequently complain about the loud music and large mess left behind by the women. The police are usually called. The world record setting event was no different. At least five police units were sent to investigate the commotion in Beijing, where Guinness officials were watching the event. According to reports, one resident was arrested for dumping poop on the participants and at least three of the dancing grannies were arrested for unsanctioned dance moves. No word yet on whether they’ll receive their world record holder certificates in prison.