The Great Wall was not only built to keep the northern hordes out, but also to keep China’s treasures safe within. Among those valuables Emperor Qin Shi Huang included the country’s arts.
Wudau it is called, dance. Through the centuries wudau evolved.
That was then, this is now.
“I think it’s the music and the movement. I think, ‘Oh, hip hop is very cool, it’s very handsome. Maybe I can get girls to like me,'” says dancer CJ Hung.
The influence and inspiration may be American, but hip hop here rarely adopts “gansta” themes. If not drugs, sex and violence, what do they dance about?
Societal alienation, relationships and golf?
At the Hong Kong Dance Power Competition, the Chestnuts hit the links and came away with the grand championship.
Why does this dance form come so easily to the Chinese? Choreographer Oceann Wong has a theory.
“For example, karate or kung fu is our stuff. This makes [part of our] character. Gotta be clean, sometimes we gotta be strong, or sometimes we gotta have an attitude. So that’s where we combine hip hop, urban dance with that,” explains Wong.
And to avoid any scrutiny by government censors, the attire is preppy, the choreography apolitical and asexual.
Even so, urban dance is not fully accepted by the older generations.
“Sometimes parents [don’t] support children to dance because dance can’t earn very much money, so they don’t like it,” says dancer Yen Chan. “Sometimes they don’t support me. They don’t know what is hip hop song, hip hop dance, what hip hop is about. So I think it’s difficult to explain to them.”
The Chestnuts hope to perform abroad someday, perhaps across the pond.
“After all, hip hop originated in USA, right? Maybe our level is not at the US side,” says Huang. “We’re trying to be the level they are.”
“Dance is a culture thing which can bring people together and bring happiness to them,” explains Wong.