Some of our most joyful – not to mention photo-worthy – moments happen when we stumble across old folk enjoying themselves en masse on Beijing’s streets. There aren’t many countries where you’ll find septuagenarians dancing and singing with wild abandon in public. So if you’re yet to have this quintessential Beijing moment, allow us to help you out a little. Here’s where to find your nearest (Geriatric) Glee Club.
Strictly Come Waltzing
Every night, in the square between the Drum and Bell Towers, you’ll find Beijing’s more elegant couples doing a spot of ballroom dancing to the strains of Li Guyi or Yan Weiwen. In other words the music they ‘courted’ to. While they waltz around the square, others watch from the sidelines. A very sweet little scene. Why not grab a coffee from a nearby café and sit and watch for a while?
The Military Marching Band
On weekday evenings it’s hard to escape the ‘crash crash clang’ of the drums and cymbals from the large dance troupes that gather on the southwest corners of the Dongzhimen and Chaoyangmen roundabouts. Some days you’ll just see fan dancers – a Chinese tradition dating back to 200AD – and on others you’ll witness full-scale People’s Army marching tribute bands (plastic AK47s included!). To find them, just follow your ears…
The Sunday Morning Mega Dance Fest
Nothing quite beats a trip to Jingshan Park on a Sunday morning. While Beijing’s 20-somethings are still dancing in nightclubs or in bed hungover from a night thrashing to rock bands in Gulou, locals in the 50 plus bracket head to this park just north of the Forbidden City to go a little crazy.
The festive atmosphere runs off the charts as those from other provinces don their traditional outfits and dance in the dappled sunlight; groups of grannies and granddads take singing revolutionary songs a little too seriously; and others just freestyle. Last time we were here we saw a couple wearing wolf masks and energetically jive dancing to a crowd of about a hundred. It really is that bizarre.
Beijing’s Oldest Backing Dancers
Some of Beijing’s most pleasant parks are those that are barely visible. Twisting, elegant paths dotted with pavilions and trees that run alongside the noisy Ring Roads and somehow still manage to be tranquil.
They’re also some of the best places to see locals dancing off their dinners! One such park runs between Andingmen Roundabout and Gulou Roundabout on the south side. After 7pm each evening, a feisty madam named Lao Zhang sets down her boom box, hits play, and leads a nightly brigade of women in a series of energetic dance routines that only half of them are able to execute as well as she does (and Zhao knows it). We challenge you to resist joining in.