Dance like everyone's watching

Updated: 2012-05-18 16:48

By Chen Nan (China Daily)

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Dance like everyone's watching

Fitness instructor Wang Guangcheng teaches dancing at a gym in Beijing on Tuesday. Zou Hong / China Daily

Dance like everyone's watching

At first glance, the brightly lit gym looks no different from any other in Beijing: high ceilings, a dance floor and wall-to-wall mirrors. Drum rhythms warm up the class.

The dancers swing their hips, wave their arms and step forward and back as instructor Wang Guangcheng guides them through the music of mainland pop duo Phoenix Legend.

The moves are a blend of yangko, a form of folk dance popular in northern China. After the number, Wang reminds the dancers to wave their hands as if they were holding fans, a typical prop in yangko dance.

Wang, 26, first used the music of Phoenix Legend in the United States at the 2010 Zumba Convention - Sino Fusion Beats East Meet West.

For nearly two hours, he led more than 700 people in dance, making him an instant sensation in the US, and back in China through the Internet.

Bored with the usual gym workouts, he also mixed traditional Chinese folk dances with disco, hip hop and salsa, which were widely enjoyed at the Zumba Convention.

"When I was asked to give a show at the Zumba Convention, I hoped to use a popular Chinese song," he told China Daily in Beijing. "But I was skeptical. I didn't know if it would work there. But I wanted to do something different."

"When I finished all the remix and designed all the dance moves, the final effect was a huge surprise to me," Wang continued. "When I saw nearly 1,000 foreigners dancing with me, clapping their hands and shaking their bodies in yangko moves, I was so proud."

After the successful show at the 2010 Zumba Convention, Wang continued to mix workout moves with traditional Chinese dances.

He not only employed fast, hard beats, but also used some soft, slow songs to mix with salsa and flamenco.

He usually experiments with remixes for hours and dances in front of the mirror to see if it's proper for exercise.

Wang, who was born and raised in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, started learning ballet at age 3. One day when he was 9, he passed a local sport center near his neighborhood and saw fitness dance for the first time.

Wang later spent six years in a local military school as an art soldier, where he learned fitness dance. At 20, he won a national fitness dance competition and decided to develop a career in dance.

In early 2009, he attended a training class organized by Zumba in Beijing, where he got an invitation to go to the US and to learn with teachers there.

Created in the late 1990s in Colombia by fitness instructor Alberto Perez, Zumba is a high-energy aerobic workout based on dance steps borrowed from salsa, meringue and other dances.

Wang's father, a retired photographer from Nanjing Film Studio, and his mother, a teacher, gave him lots of support.

"My mother dances with neighbors in a park near our house every morning," Wang said.

In 2011, the female lead singer of Phoenix Legend, Ling Hua, contacted Wang and invited him to be their instructor. The duo has also cooperated with Wang to produce an album, which contains 10 remixed songs for fitness dance classes. Wang said he plans to bring the album, to be released next month, to the US.

"His remix took our music to a wider audience and created a new possibility for promoting pop songs," Ling said.

Now, Wang flies between Beijing and the US, giving classes and learning more traditional Chinese dance moves.

"My dream is to have my own dance studio and include more original Chinese music in my classes," Wang said.

"Dancing in the gym makes me feel like a star. It's really amazing when you see people share your ideas and dance the moves you designed."