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Square-Dancing Grannies Get Regulated Dance Moves in China

Chinese women wearing military costume march with toy guns during their daily exercises at a square outside a shopping mall in Beijing, March 24, 2015.

In a move aimed at ending a surprising public conflict, China has decided its square-dancing grandmothers need some oversight of their surprisingly controversial pastime.

Sports officials in Beijing have announced 12 new choreographed routines, created by an expert panel, to help grannies learn how to dance properly.

It is common in many Chinese cities for large groups of older women to go to a local park after dinner for organized square dancing to loud music. But many of their neighbors are frequently disturbed by the noise.

So the government has decided to intervene, implementing government-sanctioned routines and setting new rules about dancing times and music volume.

The decision has sparked conflicting reactions.

One online commenter wrote, “Do we need to remember Chairman Mao’s words before dancing?” Another asked, “Is the State General Administration of Sports crazy? People have a right to dance. Why are they regulating dancing?”

But others had a more favorable view of the new rules.

“I felt like this thing is good. Experts have more knowledge about the proper fitness method. And it will have the opposite effect if they did not exercise in a right way," one commenter wrote.

Many of the grannies also seem to like the new dance regulations.

One elderly lady on a Beijing dance team said that it is a "good thing if there is a standard choreographed dance.” She added that she would try almost all the dances that are "suitable" for her age.

But she complained that her group would need to buy instructions for the new routines. She called upon the government to make the new dance moves freely available to the public.

Julie Peng contributed to this report, which was produced in collaboration with the VOA Mandarin service.