Strutting the flesh on a cold winter’s day
Regular readers of my blog will know that one of the joys of living in Beijing – and many other parts of China for that matter – is the way that people spontaneously get up and dance in the most public places. Go to any park or public garden … even simply walk the streets in the evening, and you will see people waltzing or doing the tango or simply moseying around in some personal dance of their own. It’s wonderful!
So it is no surprise, too, to see that Beijingers love to go dancing in more established places. I, myself, have danced with them in a few of the clubs and dance schools around the capital. And now there is yet another dance school about to swell the numbers. This one is called the Beijing Salsa Club; and your favourite blogger has been invited to go and swell the numbers at the club’s official opening celebrations.
The map that is sent appears to be more a reflection of the designer’s artistic capabilities, than with worrying over-much on the actual distances involved. But by judicious comparisons with Mr Google’s very own map of the same area it is not too difficult to work out what the art-loving designer had in mind…
There is still snow lying around since yesterday, but worse, a partial thaw and then a hard overnight freeze has turned some of the pavements into ice rinks – something that my sit-upon can now well testify to, having made an unscheduled landing on a piece of pavement real-estate near the station exit.
Hobbling and slithering along, I finally turn into Baiziwanlu and after a while discover a new museum to add to my list of museums-in-Beijing-to-discover – the Today Art Musuem (looking very much like Yesterday’s forgotten building), with a row of 20 sculptures, all looking as if they are contemplating suicide from the top of the building.
Down below are characters who look as if they have escaped from Beijing’s 798 Art District. Mind you, just to look at them in this arctic weather makes me shiver.
When I finally get inside the building and down to the basement level, it’s like a rabbit warren with corridors going off into dark deserted passageways where you can’t even see the ends. There are loads of empty units waiting for tenants – perhaps Fritz, the owner-manager, got a bargain on his first year’s rental. Finally, after wandering around for what feels like hours – and bumping into loads of other lost souls on the way, we finally all see a flash of red in the distance that proclaims a celebration…
and sure enough we crowd into an already crowded dance studio to catch the remnants of a welcoming speech.
The timing is perfect, because just before the start of the performance dancing, everyone is invited to try some “special sparkling wine from Italy” or some hot tea. The wine is left almost untouched as most people try to squeeze as much hot lemon-honey chai as possible into their paper mugs. There’s even cake on offer, though I have to say it reminds me of the stuff that clowns traditionally throw at one another in the circus. As there is no-one I particularly fancy the need to throw cake at, I decline the offer of a slice.
Finally the performers are ready to begin. First off is Fritz, the owner-manager – a Filipino from whom I used to learn Bachata in a studio in the north east of BJ. He is accompanied by his lovely wife – and all eyes are on her as she manages to wiggle bits of her body that normally have no place wiggling anywhere, and the result is an incredibly sexual performance from the pair of them.
Rapturous applause follows. One feels almost sorry for whoever has to come on next, to perform in their shadow.
But the feeling is totally misplaced. A Chinese girl comes on in a lurid pink outfit that you certainly wouldn’t want to see the morning after the night before. She, it appears, will be teaching belly dancing in this establishment. Her ‘credentials’ are impeccable. Again, she wiggles parts of her anatomy that logic tells you have no right to have a mind of their own. Fritz and his lady-wife are soon forgotten as everyone becomes mesmerised by this object of beauty.
There is a slight pause as the assembled guests are asked to all move to the very back of the room. The next act is going to be “dangerous”. Yeah, right! A guy looks through the dressing room window, and it looks as if he is wearing a dress!
But soon, as he and his wife emerge, we see rippling muscles (on her as well as on him) from this Russian duo who are soon throwing each other around the room – he lifting her as if she weighs a feather, and she throwing herself around him as if he is a pole dancing substitute. Truly awesome stuff; and once again the audience goes wild.
“Are you ready for some more?” Fritz goads his audience, with predictable responses. “OK, for the next one, I want you all to move forward again – no even further forward. Yes, right onto the dance floor…”
Yes, it’s that embarrassing time when audience participation takes over. Fritz demonstrates some easy moves, the music starts pounding away and before you know it, everyone is dancing Gangnam Style.
Finally, as the music dies away there are some fond farewells, plenty of hand wringing and back slapping, and the place spills out into the rabbit warren of tunnels once again.
But hey, your favourite blogger knows he has an hour or so to get home, and with the cold temperatures outside, he also knows a thing or two about what that does to the human bladder.
A sign to the loo seems a temptingly sensible idea before going out into the snow-filled streets. And predictably – well as predictably as you’ll find people dancing in the streets in the capital – we find Beijing’s army of slogan writers has turned its attention once again to the walls of the male loo.
It’s an exhortation I can well appreciate, having previously visited many of BJ’s not-so-nice public inconveniences.
I am left wondering how long it will be before someone scribbles a few words underneath… Step back and prepare for Armageddon, perhaps?