It’s hip to be square – free public square dancing available in Chinatown through China Exchange & Southbank Centre


Londoners will get a taste of China’s square dancing craze through a new project “Square Dancing: How do you guangchang wu?” led by China Exchange in partnership with Southbank Centre as part of the China Changing festival.  Returning for its second year on Saturday 7 October 2017, China Changing is a new international festival showcasing contemporary China and its creative connection with the UK.

A hundred million people square dance regularly in China. Not square dancing in the European or American sense, but group dances led in public squares by a dance leader known as guangchang wu (广场舞)。In China, square dancing has been praised for providing a way for older people to exercise, socialise and be visible in society. Dancers meet in a public place and spend an hour or two perfecting and performing routines, often set to techno pop or dreamy electro Chinese pop music. This familiar sight is so ordinary in China that sightings of “dancing aunties” are pretty much guaranteed in all towns and cities. The dancing aunties, “Dama” (大妈), as they are known due to the large number of retired women who belong to dance troupes, are seen as a powerful economic group. Although larger numbers of older women join groups, men and young people are also hooked.

With free workshops held in Chinatown and an opportunity to perform at Southbank Centre, Londoners of all ages and ability can enjoy the same benefits and show others that “it’s hip to be square”.

If you would like to take part, sign up for as many of the workshops below as you wish. Workshops will be led in English by the talented teachers from Goldsmith’s Confucius Institute for Dance and Performance.

Workshop timetable:

Thursday 7 September 6-8pm

Wednesday 13 September 6-8pm

Thursday 21  September 6-8pm

Sunday 24 September – 11am-1pm morning session and afternoon session 1430-1630

Friday 6 October – Open Rehearsal – 6-8pm

Saturday 7 October – morning rehearsal in Chinatown (1100-noon), afternoon performances at Southbank Centre

1.30 – 2pm Performance on the Clore Ballroom
2 – 2.45pm Public Workshop
3.15 – 3.30pm Performance on the Riverside Terrace
4.30 -4 .45pm Performance on the Riverside Terrace

Aonan Zhang: Aonan is a dance teacher at Goldsmiths Confucius Institute for Dance and  Performance. He graduated from Beijing Dance Academy and received an MA degree in dance. His specialism is Chinese classical dance. Alongside this, he has trained professionally in ballet, Chinese fold dance and martial arts.

Bethan Peters: Bethan is a freelance dance artist and choreographer specialising in contemporary dance. She has a BA (Hons) in Dance Studies from Roehampton University and a Post Graduate Diploma in Community Dance from Trinity Laban.  Bethan has a background in ballroom and latin styles and has a strong interest in dance fitness.