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Interview: World's oldest hip-hoppers to pay homage to Asian values

WELLINGTON, June 30 (Xinhua) -- The world's oldest dance group has a rule when they go overseas: if you die on tour, then you get cremated because it's cheaper to take your ashes home than it is your body.

The humor might be black, but it reflects a joy of life that this troupe of aging hip-hoppers will take to China's Taiwan in November when they make their first foray into Asia.

New Zealand's Hip Op-eration Crew, who range in age from 67 to 95, see much that is admirable in Chinese culture, particularly the respect shown for the elderly, manager and choreographer Billie Jordan told Xinhua.

"They want to show respect to the values of the culture, to older people being seen as valuable members of the community. It's not something that's so common here in New Zealand," Jordan, aged a sprightly 44 herself, said in a phone interview.

Twenty-two dancers would perform two numbers over six minutes at the Taipei Stadium before an anticipated live audience of 14, 000 people at the "Seniors on Broadway" event to celebrate the elderly on stage.

"It'll be a real culture change for the troupe because many of them have never been to a country where English isn't the main language, but there everything will be in Mandarin Chinese," said Jordan.

"As well as practicing their dance moves, they've been learning to say 'Nihao' and other Chinese phrases and things like presenting their business cards with two hands."

Officially recognized by the Guinness World Records as the world's oldest dance group, the troupe includes one member who is blind, some who are deaf and others who move with mobility aids.

"We also have some with dementia, but it doesn't matter if they can't remember what they did recently because the body has muscle memory, so when the music is playing their bodies know what to do and how to move," she said.

While it donates a lot of its earnings from performances to youth charities, the group aims to fight ageism and the idea that the elderly are less capable than younger people.

"We want the Hip Op-eration Crew to be role models to show that you can keep learning and enjoying life as you get older. They might not be able to perform all the moves as they get older, but they still want to grow as people," said Jordan.

The group, who performed to a standing ovation at the World Hip- Hop Championship Finals in Las Vegas last year, all have their own hip-hop stage names, such as "Kara Bang Bang" ("Because she likes to play the drum") and "Shake it up Sheila" ("She likes to party") and their favorite hip-hop performers are Missy Elliott and Eminem.

A feature length documentary on the Hip Op-eration Crew, who are all neighbors on the small island of Waiheke off Auckland in the Hauraki Gulf, will also be released in cinemas around the world from October this year.

They would be the only Western performers at the Taipei event and would also exchange experiences with local senior citizens.

"They're all really looking forward to it. Most of them have a foot or an arm or a leg or a shoulder that can't be used, but it's all about showing people that they can still get out of their comfort zone and do something they enjoy," said Jordan. "It keeps them alive."

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