The night before writing this I went to a social dance event that a friend had told me about. This was one of a string of regular events that focused more on dancing than on learning to dance, and provided a good avenue for practice because you could dance with a number of different people that you had not danced with before. This particular event was a Chinese event. There is quite a large Chinese community in Australia and Chinese as a general rule quite like dance (China is the only place where I saw dance-sport featured in the sports section of the nightly news. So it’s quite easy to find a dance event where the music is mostly Chinese (and if not, then East Asian) and the night’s proceeding are conducted in Chinese.
It was a bit of a bonus for me because after living in China for a year I still don’t speak Mandarin that well, and this gave me some chance to practice. However, what was even more beneficial was that I got to see social dance from a new perspective. This often tells you a lot about what you assume of dance and also what the essence of dance is. The things that are different often reveal assumption you make about dance and those things that are similar typically reveal the essence of dance.
I noticed the following things:
- PSY’s Oppa Gangnam Style really is a big hit in the Asian cultures around the world
- What was called Tango there was what I would call Tangoette
- They danced Jive to a music I would never call Jive, but was still sort of suitable for the dance
- What I called waltz and Viennese Waltz was call 3 step and fast 3 step respectively
- Another dance, which I never caught the name of, was basically Tango Argentino, but danced to Chinese popular music with a Vals like style and much more open embrace
Basically, I saw a lot that was different, but nothing was that confusing; after paying attention to what was going on, I was able to adapt and dance with people there.
However, I was still curious about why they were different though. I am still not sure about why the Tango was like a Tangoette. And the names for Waltz and Viennese waltz made sense. But, the difference in music was something that I had an idea about.
I was talking to another dancer there who felt that when they danced at Australian dance schools, which typically work from the international syllabi and standards, the music is often more powerful, and easier to follow for dances like Jive. When I was in China I noticed that a lot of Chinese people quite liked Country and Western. The reason for this was that the Chinese government for decades restricted the type of music that was allowed into China. Any that was Rock and Roll was not fine (no matter what Top Petty might have said to the contrary). Having made a definite influence to Rock and Roll and having a similar vibe, Jive music would have likely experienced a similar restriction in China. This restriction was the result of the Chinese government trying to protect the people from unsavoury influences of overt sexuality and the like. If Rock and Roll was considered too overt, then you can imagine what was thought of Tango Argentino. This would explain the use of Chinese music, which is less passionate than much Tango and the more open embrace.
So what does this tell us about dance? I get two things from it:
- Different people can see the same thing in different ways, and change it so that they like it
- As long as you learn the fundamentals of a dance, you can dance it anywhere and adapt