Dancing beyond boundaries

By Li Xinran | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2023-12-06 08:12
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Cui Yichen attended a Sohu event on Sept 24. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Forging new friendships

Beyond personal growth and positive feedback, many cover dancers have cultivated friendships. For some, these friendships have extended beyond their lives in dancing.

"I met about 70 percent of my friends through dancing," Lin said. "I'm especially close to one of them. Since she doesn't know how to cook, I would go to her place sometimes and cook for her. Also, my cat is her cat's baby. You could say we're 'relatives' in some way."

Both Li and Cui pointed out that over the past couple of years, more Chinese idols have started participating in random play dance events.

"Chinese idols need more stages to showcase their charisma, singing, and dancing abilities. Random play dance events often include performances. It's like a new stage for them and also brings them closer to fans," Cui said.

From an idol's perspective, random play dance events are enjoyable occasions as well. "When we perform at more formal events like music festivals, we have to be aware of stage control and adjust our performance to the audience's mood," said BOY STORY member Gou Mingrui, 17. "At random play dances, however, everyone's the star. We're more relaxed and just joining the celebration."

Cui thought about becoming an idol in the past and even trained for it for a period. In his opinion, idols have to put more effort and time into training and practicing. After their debut, idols always have to be conscious of managing their image.

"I get to experience being an 'idol' for three minutes when I'm filming a dance cover or performing the dance, minus the pressure real idols face. I believe I've made a good deal for myself."

This year's Sohu Dancing Festival included random play dances, K-pop games, a K-pop flea market, an awards ceremony, and performances by previous cover dance contest winners, influential dance bloggers, and idols who also served as award presenters.

Ren Shuyang, a 16-year-old member of BOY STORY, described the night as a learning experience.

"During both the random play dance and the performances, we witnessed so many amazing talents. There were so many skilled dancers that I felt like I should call them my teachers."

Jia Hanyu, the 19-year-old leader of BOY STORY, also had strong feelings about the event.

"It felt like a celebration, seeing so many dancers passionate about music and dance," he said. "We've been dancing since we were little and have met our fans and many like-minded kindred spirits along the way. I felt everybody's energy today, and hopefully, we can pass on the same to others."

For Lin, the most thrilling part of the day was seeing BOY STORY perform live. "I've always known they are strong performers, but I was still shocked when their voices remained so steady while the choreography was so intense. The vitality and impact of an idol group's open-mic performance are irreplaceable."

Li was also excited to see her favorite idols and dance bloggers in person. But the most touching performance of the night, for her, was by the Wii K-pop Dance Crew from Southwest University in Chongqing.

She singled out one performer who might not be defined as "having a nice body" by some people.

"I was troubled by my own body image, but I have made lots of progress thanks to my dancing. When that girl was performing, she was extremely charismatic and beautiful. Tears burst out at that moment," Li said.

One of the songs that Wii K-pop Dance Crew performed was Feel Special by Twice. Li said her favorite lyric from the song is "You make me feel special".

"The 'you' in this sentence could be anyone — a friend, a family member, or even kind words and praise from a stranger. Or even dancing itself. At the same time, each one is so ordinary and extraordinary," Li said.

When it comes to dancing, BOY STORY member He Xinlong, 18, said, "It's important to truly enjoy dancing itself. When you're showcasing yourself, you're the most amazing person there, regardless of the style or skill level. Stay confident and passionate."

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