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August 13, 2009

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Bavarians crack the whip

AN "official celebratory event," a Shanghai hotel's 11-day Oktoberfest, and one of China's biggest, promises to be a festival to remember. Sam Riley reports. Forget the bars and the nightclubs, there is a new courtship ritual Shanghai's men can learn and it involves a flood of beer, slabs of meat and a toe-tapping good time.

While Alpine-shorts-wearing, beer-mug-wielding men might not be every girl's idea of a heartthrob, the Renaissance Yangtze Shanghai Hotel's Oktoberfest celebrations plan to prove that there is nothing like a little bit of Bavarian beefcake to get female hearts racing.

The hotel lays claim to the biggest Oktoberfest celebrations in China, having pitched a stadium-like tent that can hold up to 1,300 beer-drinking, sausage-munching, carvery-loving carnivores.

Lest one thinks these more masculine pursuits lack a certain sensitivity, the Renaissance's celebrations also include the Inntaler Plattlergroup, a dancing troupe which specializes in the Alpine dance of schuhplatting, or shoe slapping.

The dance can trace its roots back more than 150 years to the Alpine regions of Europe and was originally a male courtship dance.

Not content with sidling up and buying a stein for a fraulein (unmarried woman in German), the Bavarians put in considerably more effort training for years to dance in a style requiring rhythmically striking the thighs, knees and soles of their shoes. If that doesn't get hearts racing then the dance is also accompanied by a lively performance of another Bavarian traditional art form of goal schnalzen or whip cracking.

The romantics of the Plattlergroup have taken their athletic courtships around the world performing in Mexico, the United States, Canada and Finland.

Adding to the entertainment will be the Original Muenchner Musikanten band who will play a range of traditional Bavarian music.

It is the 12th year of the festival and its Oktoberfest celebrations have attracted more than 11,000 guests who drank 17,000 liters of beer and ate 1,500 kilos of sausages.

The festival runs from September 16-26 and has garnered the accolade of being selected by Shanghai Tourism Administrative Commission as an "official annual celebratory event" in Shanghai.

There are swathes of memorabilia to get festival-goers into the spirit of things including traditional beer mugs, Alpine hats, T-shirts and even a Bavarian-style teddy bear.

Date: September 16-26, 6:30pm-11pm

Venue: Renaissance Yangtze Shanghai Hotel, 2099 Yan'an Rd W.

Tel: 6275-0000 ext 2366 (reservations required)


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