Latin and Modern Dance : Chinese Dancing: Jiangsu Province: Tour China: Holidays.
Chinese Latin Dancing
Here it is 6:15 Thursday morning November 13th and I am wide awake and have been for the last half hour or so - and it is my day off! Hell, even when I have to go to work, my alarm is set for 6:30am. So what to do? I know, I'll write about my latest adventure in China. This adventure is somewhat different to my previous ones, but then again, I started the adventure with a different purpose in mind.
I am currently living and working in YanCheng City in the north east of Jiangsu Province. This city is about 5 hours by bus, north of Shanghai, and it is the dullest place I have lived in so far.
My salary rate is as per 'standard contract' but unlike previous positions, my hours are set at the minimum level. So the money here is not good. My apartment is great if you don't count the fact that my toilet doesn't flush, but then I spent 2 years in Wuhan under the same condition. This school sent a plumber to fix the toilet, just like they did in Wuhan, and it flushed once after the plumber left, just like the toilet in Wuhan did, and then just like the toilet in Wuhan, it never flushed again. Unlike the situation in Wuhan, I am not going to complain again and have the plumber constantly coming out to fix the thing, only to find that it will only flush the once. Anyway, it's an inconvenience I can live with.
On a positive note, my current students are the hardest working and the most mature I have ever taught, and it is a pleasure and a relief to be teaching them. I haven't written about this before because I decided I would give the students time to get over 'me', before I decided to commit myself to announcing my assessment of them. Ten weeks have passed and they are the same today as they were in our first class together.
So while the apartment is great, and the students are great, the money is not good. But taking into consideration the fall in the value of the Australian dollar these last few months, it would seem that by the end of the school year I will have the same Australian cash in my pocket as I had on the higher salary last year. So things are looking up, except for the matter of location.
In my desperation for something to do and somewhere to go that would get me out of my apartment, I have taken up Latin Dancing Lessons. I wrote about meeting the proprietor, in the article entitled: A City Wedding in China
My Chinese friend Mr. Tang assisted me in 'fitting in' to the new situation by taking me to the dance studio on my first night, which was a week ago last Monday. Surprise! Surprise! I was the only student in the Latin Class! There was another bigger room full of females doing something that resembled line dancing, but I was on my own with my male instructor. First Dance? Samba!
Do you know how to Samba? You do? Well you know how you have to bend the knees and at the same time push your bum down so that you do a pelvic thrust - yeah? Well I gave my teacher two options. I could bend my knees or do a pelvic thrust, but not both at the same time. He told me that I would eventually learn it.
Surprise Surprise! By the end of my second night I had it figured out, and let me tell you - it is not a pretty sight! I should know - I have to watch my self in that monstrous bloody mirror!
I had told my interpreter and the instructor that I had studied various types of dancing as a teenager, but that I had not danced in 37 years, and so I was pleased on the second night to have the instructor tell me that it is obvious that I had once learned.
I must say at this point that my Chinese is 'passable' and I can follow 'ordinary' run-of-the-mill type conversational questions and answers, so I did understand the instructor. However, having him instruct me in Chinese on what to do and what not to do is something akin to trying to explain to a Chinese peasant how to use a knife and fork. Just bloody show me! Cause I have no idea what you are babbling about!
Ever had a dancing instructor 'touch you up'? Well, in my case that is what it came down to. He would babble and babble and demonstrate and demonstrate and I still couldn't understand why I wasn't getting things right so in the end he grabbed my bum and pushed it this way and that and grabbed my knees and shoved them that way and this and pulled at the cuffs of my trousers to get me to lift my legs etc. It was all quite amusing!.
The third night was a little different. That night we were joined by 3 young females. Aha! Now he could stand them in front of me and give them instructions and I had to watch what they were doing. Unfortunately it is hard to watch what a petite little Chinese lass' feet are doing while I am busy watching how her ass sways back and forth, or watching how her navel goes up and down as she gyrates.
Another difficulty as anyone who has been a beginner can attest to, is trying to remember which set of steps follows which. For the Chinese girls it isn't a problem because those steps all have names. I usually end up missing the cue and commence on the second repetition.
Well by Thursday night (fourth night) I was getting the hang of the steps and somewhat remembering the sequence of events. Of course we were all stuffing up from time to time and the instructor would turn off the music and demonstrate once again for us how to do the manoeuvre.
Now I have to point out here that this guy has a body that an anorexic would die to achieve. If he put both legs together and stood behind one of my legs, then you wouldn't see his at all. As for his ass, he keeps showing us how to twist the hip and right cheek butt, and it looks great on him, and if the girls could obviously achieve the manoeuvre. without twisting their whole bodies, it would look great on them too. But me?
I'm sorry! I'm four times this guy's size and twice the size of the largest girl in class. When I 'Tui - So' [Twist hip, throw one leg behind the other] the only thing that moves is my leg. My ass stays right where it is.
Then there is this movement in which, from a starting position with both feet together, we must bend the right knee, and then move the right leg out about 6 inches and slightly forward. Sorry folks! When I stand with my legs together my feet are already at least 6 inches apart. How the hell am I supposed to move them at all if I can't go past 6 inches distance? I ask you! Really!
Then we hit Friday night, and we now have 5 girls in class plus me. We run through the routine we have been practicing for a week, and then he decides it is time to try 'partnered dancing'. 5 girls + 1 male equals 3 couples. Quickly two girls dove for each other to partner, and the fifth retreated to the mirrored wall saying 'No! No!' - She ain't gonna hold hands with a foreigner! The instructor just stood there tapping his foot making it quite clear that we don't proceed until one of the girls pairs with me.
Finally this one girl, 'cute as a button' in a Polly Anna type of way, and who comes to class in a track suit, left her partner and joined with me. [The other girls - apparently all friends - dress, to put it politely, like courtesans] Well I must have done something right, because since then, Miss Polly Anna dives straightway for me every time we are told to pair up. After that first attempt, we were given some new steps to learn, and I took to them like a duck to water.
These were going to be easy. But that was also when I discovered why they had kept telling me that I had to buy special dancing shoes.
A Chinaman would sell his great-great grandmother as a pack horse if he could make a quick buck, and so when they kept telling me that I should buy dancing shoes for only 100 rmb, I just kept saying 'Not now!'.
Well last Friday night as I was dancing, we had to do some pretty quick steps with a 'tui so' thrown in, and as I flicked my right foot behind the left leg, poor Polly Anna got hit in the head by my flying shoe! Ahhh! That is why I need dancing shoes! Ok! I'll buy some!
Saturday, being my 'free day' from everything, was spent in bed as my body tried to recuperate from all the muscle pains that I was experiencing. Who could ever have imagined that there are little muscles in your bum that never get exercised unless you do the Samba?
By Monday night this week, I was ready to go at it again. This week however, I decided to try dressing up a little so as not to look so out of place as 'track suit Polly Anna' and blue jeans 'I' usually do. I wore black trousers and a black shirt with a huge print of a 'yellow tiger' on both back and front.
This shirt looks as shocking as an Hawaiian shirt at a funeral, but when I bought it in Brisbane, I did so with a specific thought in mind. In Hubei dialect, 'yellow tiger' is an expression similar to 'a wolf' in English. That is to say that a yellow tiger is a man who chases and devours women. In China, a foreigner is always, constantly, and annoyingly 'stared at'. So I figured that if I bought and wore that shirt, then I could have a little fun at least as people stared at me.
Now the tiger on this shirt has an open mouth with a red tongue hanging out. It is meant to be worn out of the trousers, but for dance class I tucked it in. Oh lordie! Was it off putting! I'm watching myself gyrate in the mirror, and at the same time watching this tigers mouth twist and contort like it really was alive. Never again!
There's the Yellow Tiger Shirt!
Tuesday night I wore as my shirt, my black thermal underwear top. It looks classy and I have seen Chinese guys wearing something similar, but god was it hot! I am a 'sweater'. I sweat and sweat and sweat when I exercise. When I started going to class I had a handkerchief to wipe the sweat. It wasn't enough. Then I started taking two handkerchiefs, and they likewise were not enough. Now I just wear a towel around my neck.
Last night I decided to wear a short sleeved white shirt. Ha! Quite casual and offset beautifully by my black trousers. Until the sweat soaked through of course. Watching my stomach in the mirror as I danced was like watching a huge bowl of jello after someone has hit the bowl with a huge wooden spoon. You should see how my gut quivers! Who knew?
Anyway, back to my shoes. Over last weekend I spent time considering how I was going to keep my shoes on my feet until I can purchase proper dancing shoes, and decided that perhaps I could 'tie' them to my feet. But what could I use that would not cut off the blood supply?
Well, as it turns out, I use to own a 'shave coat'. I don't know what such a thing is called in other countries but an Australian would know my meaning. It is something like a mini Japanese kimono, and is made of silk or satin or nylon. Anyway, you tie the thing up with a soft piece of Material cord. I had thrown away my shave coat sometime previous, but had kept the cord because it comes in quite handy in China.
Every apartment has on the outside of the windows, hanging racks upon which you can dry your clothes. The problem is that sometimes the high winds cause the clothes to rock back and forth until finally the coat hanger comes off and you have to walk several flights down stairs to retrieve your clothes. I usually hang out my clothes and run that 'shave coat' cord through all the coat hangers, so that if worse comes to worse, I at least won't lose the hangers.
So over the weekend I doubled the cord and ran it under the sole of my shoe and up around my ankle, in a fashion resembling a ballerina's slipper. Since it appeared to work, I cut the cord in two and took it to class with me Monday night. As soon as I arrived, the receptionist and another instructor raced up to me and produced a set of dancing shoes. I took one look and laughed. 'No way! They won't fit!'
'Oh yes they will! You try them you and you will see!' they assured me.
Naturally they didn't fit, so now I have to wait until a special pair can be ordered in from Wuhan. Good luck with that guys. I lived in Wuhan. Foreigners have bigger feet than Chinese, and unless you can fit into a size 43 or less, you go barefoot.
Having failed to fit into the shoes offered me, I headed off to my practice room, and proceeded to tie up my shoes, much to the amusement of my dancing instructor and the girls. They think it is hilarious. But what else can I do? If there is one thing a foreigner must learn in China, it is 'how to make do!'
When you live in a boring town and there is nothing to do - go dancing!
When your shoes won't stay on your feet - tie them to your ankles!
When the local food has some horrible spice in it and you can't eat it - cook your own! Ah - But that is a different story!
OK! So that is what I've been up to. How about you?
I hope you have enjoyed this little snippet from my life as much as I have enjoyed writing it.
R.P.BenDedek is from Brisbane Australia and is the author of 'The King's Calendar: The Secret of Qumran' at http://www.kingscalendar.com His academic articles set forth Apologetics for and results of his discovery of an "artificial chronological scheme" running through the Bible, Josephus, the Damascus Documents of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and Seder Olam Rabbah.
He writes photographic 'Stories from China' and social editorial commentaries, both at KingsCalendar, and as a contributing newspaper columnist. He currently teaches Conversational English in China and in addition to his English Lessons at KingsCalendar, he has created specific sites for Students of English.