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Across China: Never too old: a dancing granny’s youthful dream

by Xinhua writers Ren Yaoti, Yue Xitong and Ji Xiaodong

BEIJING, July 13 (Xinhua) — Du Si was a dance enthusiast from a very young age, yet her life performing began after she was turning gray.

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Despite the summer heat and unseasonal rain, Du, 62, always arrives at her open-air dancing studio, a park filled with black bamboo in Beijing, on time.

Over the past seven years, Du, alongside dancing herself, has acted as a teacher, manager, sound engineer and accountant of her dance troupe, where she is known as “Teacher Du.”

As soon as Du starts dancing, her expressive arm movements and gestures show her great passion for life, and she twirls in the afternoon sun enchanting the other dancers and her many fans.

Du founded her dancing troupe in the park across the street from one of China’s top dance academies in 2012.

By 2015, the troupe had grown into a renowned organization consisting of about 30 regular dancers, almost all of whom are retirees in their fifties and sixties.

Different from ordinary square dancing, their performances have a unique quality, employing the distinct folk music and dance flavor of different ethnic groups — Dai, Mongol and Tibetan.

Their special costumes of long skirts, ankle boots, and colorful scarves form beautiful, entrancing scenes within the park.

Du says that they try to meet the gold “three beauties” standard of dance: beautiful costumes, beautiful motion and beautiful spirit.

“We are pretty though we are old, and more importantly, our beauty resides in our state,” Du says.

Du is sure to ask her team not to leave litter where they dance, and they have even been awarded as “best visitors to the park” by the park management center for six straight years.

In hope of inspiring more retired people to dance, several years ago Du started posting video clips of their dance performances online.

“I hope to influence more people through my dance, enrich their lives, establish a new mental outlook for seniors and spread the positive energy that money isn’t the only way to happiness,” she says.

Sun Jie, a 61-year-old retiree, is a proud member of Du’s troupe. Apart from handling daily housework, she also dances and sings in a choir.

Sun is satisfied with the way things are. “My health is getting better by dancing and I don’t bother my children with health problems, which is even better,” she says.

“Times have changed,” says Liu Bin, 62, who retired two years ago. “The government, society and our children all provide help to enrich our lives. We don’t need to worry about money; we can do whatever we missed when we were working hard to provide our families.”

“There is a high chance for seniors to be depressed if they stay at home doing nothing after retirement. So, dancing is not just a hobby but a life-saver for us,” Du says.

Du’s personal account on Youku, a major video platform, has more than 3,300 fans, and over 2,000 users on short-video sharing platform Douyin have liked her videos.

Du’s charisma has attracted an increasing number of old people.

On weekends, many retired dancers and fans from all over the city, even other cities, come to join or watch the troupe dancing.

Fans of Du’s dance troupe even come from abroad, as far afield as Japan, Mexico and Germany. Some fans even fly over to Beijing to join her.

Du is not alone. In the park where she became famous, hundreds of people her age or older have joined in and there are at least four dance troupes.

As of the end of 2018, China has a population of 249 million aged 60 or above, and the number is expected to exceed 300 million in 2025.

For many like Du, dancing in a public park is more than just idling away a lazy afternoon, but about making friends, sharing life and chasing dreams.

The country is rapidly improving lives, which allows people like Du to chase their unrealized dreams.

China has continuously increased the basic retirement pension for 15 years, in addition to a strategic stock of about 2 trillion yuan (297.9 billion U.S. dollars) in national social security funds, the country also has about 4.78 trillion yuan of enterprises aged-care insurance funds in balance, according to official statistics.

Du has a good retirement pension, so she can throw herself into dancing and living the good life.

Though getting on in years, Du is still physically and mentally devoted to what she has always dreamed of, dancing.

“I have been through a lot in my life, but now I’m in my 60s I finally have the chance to realize my dreams,” Du says.

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