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October 23, 2010

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Be there or be square in Jinshan

"SQUARE culture" is cool in a Jinshan community where residents flock to the main plaza to dance, listen to music, skate, practice tai chi and just shoot the breeze. Tan Weiyun reports.

While many urban residents seeking a workout are limited to the treadmill or bike in a gym, folks near Jinshan Industrial Park have a vast community square all to themselves for exercise and leisure.

It's a tai chi venue for seniors in the morning, a smooth surface for kids to skate and skateboard all day, a dance floor for couples to whirl the night away and a concert stage for music fans on weekends.

It's the multipurpose heart and hub of the community and part of a larger community center with extensive indoor facilities and entertainment year round.

Once the area was near a lush rice paddy, and farmers used to gather to chew the fat after dinner. Now the square takes the place of the entrance to the industrial park.

There are around 28,000 locals and more than 50,000 migrant workers.

"It's been a big project to enrich our people's after-work life," says Wu Hui, deputy director of the Community Management Center of Jinshan Industrial Park. "The central square provides an excellent platform where residents can show off their talents and make new friends."

Opened to the public two years ago, the square and community center contains a 28,000-square-meter open-air space and a 6,350-square-meter indoor facility.

It's all there - football pitch, basketball court, table tennis room, gym, indoor dance floor, stage, rehearsal hall, painting rooms, a library and other function.

At the center of the square or plaza is a dance area that can hold 800 to 1,000 people. At the south end is a 140-square-meter stage, which is used as a main venue during holidays and festivals.

Every morning locals do their exercises in the square and at night young and old dance to the music, whether ballroom, swing, pop or DJ mixed. People put on their own performances, many spontaneous and improvised. There's comic cross-talk, lion dance, Huju Opera and other fare.

"People are so enthusiastic and the square is like a magnet that attracts them," says Fang Hong, a teacher and director of the community center.

A management team was set up to act as DJs, remix and play music for regulars

"It's a free and fair platform," says the local Zhu Wenfang. "You can pluck up the courage and give it a try, whatever you do, or you can just relax, chat, listen to music and laugh at the comics."

The center and square are open more than 10 hours daily. In the first half of the year, the various function rooms recorded more than 12,000 person-times; 16 entertainment galas were held, attracting more than 8,000 people.

As many as 300 residents have applied for various free courses, including paper-cutting, traditional operas and silk-fan dancing. Exhibitions from folk art to antiques have attracted more than 3,000 visitors in the first half year.

Many professionals and amateurs of all sorts, from farmers to expats, show off their talents. They also set up performance teams that travel around villages and stage shows during big festivals.

"They don't get a penny from the shows," says director Fan.

"They just love sharing joy with others."


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