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Chinese street dance craze shakes up the world

Joyful and exuberant, new phenomenon goes viral, provides better understanding of nation's pop culture

By YANG HAN in Hong Kong and YANG WANLI in Bangkok | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2024-03-13 07:09

A Japanese youth performs kemusan on the street. YOUTUBE

The right moves

In a 30-second tutorial video, YJIN demonstrates how to easily learn kemusan and many of her followers left comments saying that they have successfully mastered the dance.

"The most important point of the dance is to press the tiptoes and heels properly and move from side to side like a tumbler," said YJIN.

However, YJIN warned people should be careful dancing kemusan as they might sprain their ankles or knees if they try to imitate the moves without paying attention to the right techniques. "People who want to try the dance should not force their ankles to twist unnaturally," said YJIN.

In Thailand, people are enjoying kemusan both online and offline. In popular Haidilao branches in Bangkok, some diners liked the catchy dance so much that they joined the staff in performances.

The accompanying song, which sounds like a mix of disco beats and traditional Chinese folk songs, has also been widely embraced by Thai college students.

During February's Lunar New Year celebration, nearly 60 students from Silpakorn University in Bangkok dressed up in the traditional attire of some Chinese ethnic groups and performed the kemusan dance. The dance was an instant sensation online in Thailand.

On TikTok, one kemusan video by a Thai girl using an account named Poppok9 has been viewed more than 167,000 times.

Vachirapol Prommalikit, a sophomore at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, said the "subject three" dance has been popular in Thailand for some time.

"I saw it for the first time on TikTok and was taken by its beat," he said. "After learning the song's name, I researched it online and found many young people performed the dance and some had even developed their own styles."

Unique style

Vachirapol said the "subject three" dance has a unique style as the moves change rapidly and it requires good physical coordination to follow the actions, such as swinging the knees sideways, a rapid series of hand actions, or fast twisting of the wrists.

Thailand has songs similar to the mesmerizing ones used in kemusan. "I think this music style is welcomed by young people, in particular, due to its fun elements and liveliness," he said.

Vachirapol's classmate, Supasan Chaipanit, tried to master the dance after being attracted by its fun moves and popularity.

"It's not easy to perform the dance well, although most of the moves are easy to follow. But still, it is not difficult to perform a short part of it, even for those who have never learned dance before. Everyone can enjoy the dance. I think that's the charm of the 'subject three' dance," Supasan said.

In Singapore, students at the Canadian International School (CIS) put on sunglasses and dressed in red shirts to perform kemusan during Chinese New Year celebrations.

Charlotte Hewson, marketing and communications manager of CIS Singapore, said a group of students initiated the idea after seeing the videos online." (They) thought it would be a fun way to continue the many Lunar New Year festivities and celebrations that take place within the school that bring our community together," said Hewson.

Lou, from NTU, said the students' dance showed that they want to be part of a cultural trend. "It also denotes their cultural identity," Lou added.

Peh Lei Xi Crystal, a part-time Zumba instructor and dance teacher in Singapore, combined kemusan moves with Zumba in a fitness routine.

"I first saw the video on TikTok and I thought the music has a strong Chinese style," said Peh. "At first I did not like the music, but after listening to it a few more times and seeing the dance moves, I began to think it is interesting."

Peh said many of her students, particularly the younger generation with Chinese ancestry, liked the dance after she introduced it to them.

"Recently, I also shared the music with a group of Malay Singaporeans. The reaction was nice but it seems that they did not know what the 'subject three' dance is," said Peh.

Noting that about 70 percent of Singapore's population is ethnically Chinese, Peh said it is easier for people to accept popular trends from China like kemusan.

Peh said the power of short video platforms, the dissemination by overseas Chinese, and the simple dance choreography are reasons why the kemusan dance can take the world by storm.

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