Where there is empty public space, there will be Chinese dancing grannies. Over the years, the rowdy gatherings have conquered almost every park, square, and plaza across China, expanding into expressways, cemeteries, and even some global stages such as the Place du Louvre in France and Red Square in Moscow.
As the dancers often use boom boxes to blast music, their existence has long been a headache for residents living nearby, who sometimes have resorted to violent methods to voice their opposition. Recently, a man in the city of Puyang in Henan Province, who is deeply disturbed by noise pollution caused by two crowds of dancing grannies in his neighborhood, decided (in Chinese) to embark on a mission to cast them out through peaceful means — standing meters away from the annoying dancers with protest signs in his hands.
The man, a 46-year-old doctor named Wang Lei 王磊, initiated his protest campaign in the beginning of November. Every single morning, from 6:30 a.m. to 7:00 a.m., he showed up at the same spot, where dancers gathered, with three signs that respectively read “Puyang citizen,” “Noise disturbance is uncivilized,” and “Please return pavements and cycling paths to citizens.”
According to Wang, silent protesting is his last resort following a few attempts since the summer. After he witnessed a girl knocked down by a bike because the dancing grannies occupied much of the pavement space, he started to seek nonviolent means to wage a war against those dancers. With an expectation of forging mutual understanding between the two parties, Wang first tried to showcase his kindness by delivering water to the troupes of gray-haired men and women in hot weather during the summer, but his blatant flattering was in vain, as his enemies remained unmoved. Wang then set his sights on the residents’ committee of his neighborhood, hoping to launch an organized protest against the dancing groups, but none of his neighbors responded to his request.
“Eventually, it’s only me standing here,” Wang said, emphasizing that he wanted to speak up against “uncivilized” behavior in a “civilized” fashion. Wang said that in the early days of his protest, he was confronted with backlash from the dancers, who amplified their music and accused him of being unreasonable. But as his protest progressed, the volume of music was lowered by a noticeable degree and more good omens have emerged, such as the grannies persuading him to go home because of the chilly weather. “That means they began to care about me,” Wang said. “Only after they want to accept me from their hearts can the problem be solved.”
To grapple with the increasing complaints from citizens against dancing grannies, the Chinese government issued a set of rules in 2015 to regulate outdoor square dancing nationwide, but the regulations were more focused on introducing officially sanctioned routines for dancers rather than curbing disputes over noise and venues.
Wang said he was looking forward to more concrete measures from the government to tackle the issue, but before that, he might still have to stand in freezing winds for an indefinite amount of time, as one of his enemies told the newspaper reporter, “Since public squares belong to citizens, why can’t we dance here?”