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August 11, 2009

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Summer's here and the time is right for dancing

AFTER a one-hour Hawaii hula class at the Yarose Dance Studio, Luo Shuguang, a 25-year-old dancer, takes a shower and walks out of the studio with a sense of satisfaction.

Even the hot air feels cool and fresh. The smile on her face suggests a kind of rebirth.

"Hula dance makes me feel I am a little girl, pure and naive," Luo says. "It also frees me from social pressures. Especially in summer, a time when one can easily get on other people's nerves."

No matter whether it is hula dancing, belly dancing, salsa or pole dancing, in summertime people get enthusiastic and tend to be more ready for a dance than at any other time of the year. Many consider it a good way to release energy from the inner body, express feelings, share emotions and also catch the beat of the season.

Take Hawaii hula for example. Peaceful and spiritual, it is a dance which can make exercisers believe they are on a vacation on a Hawaiian beach.

"It is sometimes considered a ritual dance and sometimes a relaxing form," says Yao Jie, founder and owner of Yarose Dance Studio. "People use the body to talk to the moon, the sun and the sea during the dance. You feel the harmony and strong connections with nature."

Yao says there are two styles of the dance.

The old style is a kind of ritual and meaningful dance in which every detailed movement of the body represents something. People use it in religious ceremonies. The new style is more entertaining and dancers become more concerned about the look of their bodies.

"It has to be looking good," Yao says. "Currently, our teaching focuses more on the newer style of hula. But like all the other styles of dance, the origin and the roots of the art form will be introduced for students to learn the history and culture contained in it."

When Luo started learning hula dancing two months ago, she looked at the instructor's movements and thought to herself that it would be easy to learn. However, when she got to know the meaning behind each gesture, she found it became more complicated.

"Now I know that hand movements represent themes such as sea, wind, rain, love for a lover, a shining star and many others," she says. "Some gestures are to show a welcome, some are to say goodbye. It's interesting."

In terms of beat, there is a slow style of hula music that is beautiful and peaceful and helps people move their bodies smoothly and calmly and become relaxed. The fast style is typical drum-based Polynesian music to ignite dancers' enthusiasm.

Luo says she gave a solo performance for her friends during a beach trip in Ningbo, Zhejiang Province, recently. Under the burning sun, she wore flowers in her hair, dressed in a bikini and skirt and showcased her confidence and charm through the dance.

Other forms of dance such as pole dancing, belly dancing and salsa are also popular during the summer.

Jiang Liuqing, who works in the wine industry, is studying pole dancing.

"The pole is magic. People's misunderstanding towards its sensual side is getting less," Jiang says. "More young women accept it for the sake of its being flexible and powerful. With each stretch, girls get sweaty, sexy and strong."

Jiang wears high boots to help prevent soreness when she climbs the pole and to make her look sexy. Yao says short skirts or pants are recommended to match the boots.

For Yu Ying, an actress in plays for children, the belly dance is her favorite, not only because of its effect in losing weight, but also for its Oriental flavor.

Since last month, Yu has been practicing three to four times a week. She has bought several belly-dance dresses in different colors.

"The authentic Oriental belly dance requires no shoes, and dancers connect with the earth with their feet," says Yao.

"Nowadays, in a modern twist, dancers are beginning to wear high heels to shape the body and make the legs look longer. But we do not recommend wearing shoes in our belly dance class."

Salsa is also a dance that people should not miss in summer. Happy and energetic, it is a passionate social dance form which makes one feel the essence of life.

Jia Hanhan and her husband are salsa fans. After living in Europe for 10 years, they came back to Shanghai in 2007 and continued dancing the salsa.

"The dance is a good way to communicate with your partner. Abroad, teachers will focus on the dance's expression of passion. Chinese teachers focus more on skills," Jia says.

"It's easy to get started. However, it takes time for women from the Orient, who are soft and shy, to fully get its essence of being open, passionate and sexy. It's a kind of challenge."

Originally from Latin America, this dance is becoming more and more popular in today's Shanghai. Jia says a lot of Latin clubs can be found and are packed with people.


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