Bold young performers find their groove with street dance

(Xinhua) 13:41, September 25, 2023

URUMQI, Sept. 25 (Xinhua) -- Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region is renowned as a treasure trove of song and dance, with residents from various ethnic backgrounds exhibiting a remarkable flair for performance arts.

These talents were on full display at a recent international dance festival, where a range of local performers provided exotic variations on street dance, a form that originated in the United States. Their energetic efforts won rounds of rapturous applause, rewarding them for years of perseverance and strenuous effort.

From July to August, the 6th China Xinjiang International Dance Festival held in Urumqi, the capital city of Xinjiang, drew over 1,000 artists from countries and regions in Asia, Europe and Africa. The street dance competition was a sideline event, attracting 300 dancers, from young pupils to seasoned adults.


The top spot on the podium was taken by Guzanur Turdahon. Born in 1992, she started learning folk dance at the age of 14. When she was 18, she discovered street dance and was fascinated by this innovative form, which was totally different from folk dance.

"Generally, traditional folk dance conveys restrained emotions, but street dance is bold and outgoing. When I do street dance, I can completely unleash my inner feelings," she said.

Guzanur Turdahon studied dance education at Xinjiang Arts University. During her time at university, she immersed herself in various types of folk dance, including Yangge, a traditional style from northern China and a form of national intangible cultural heritage. She also learned the flower drum lantern dance of east China's Anhui Province, and the dances of the Tajik ethnic minority, among others.

"The different styles of dance are similar, to some extent. They all use body language to express inner stories and emotions," Guzanur Turdahon explained.

Fueled by an unwavering desire to avoid pigeonholing herself, she boldly embarked on a journey of innovation, fusing traditional folk dance with the bold dynamism of street dance.

"Young dancers need to break boundaries, to embrace novelty and try something different. There might be people who don't like our innovative endeavors, but we have nothing to fear," she said.

In creating her new dances, Guzanur Turdahon took into account the many hand and arm movements used by women in traditional folk dance, finding parallels in the "waccking" movements of street dance, which show both grace and strength. She also thinks that the "popping" style of street dance can be utilized by male dancers to add a sense of vibrancy.

She incorporated these ideas into her dance at the competition. Thanks to her innovative approach, she was crowned as the champion, along with 10 other winners.


Diyar Ubhali's enthusiasm for street dance was ignited two decades ago, sparked by the pop icon Michael Jackson.

"Since I was young, I have always admired Michael Jackson and enjoyed imitating his dance moves. By junior high school, I had learned that his moves had elements of street dance. Since then, my affinity for street dance has only grown stronger," the 36-year-old said.

Diyar Ubhali went to Xinjiang Normal University and majored in English teacher education. He never gave up practising street dance, even when he became a primary school English teacher after graduation.

The turning point came in 2013, when Diyar Ubhali and his fellow street dancers participated in an international street dance competition in Beijng. Their unwavering dedication to this energetic performance art paid off.

"Over 2,000 dancers took part in the competition, and we made it to the top 100," he recalled, adding he and his friends learnt a lot from other dancers in the competition.

Afterwards, he felt he must choose between following a stable career and becoming a professional street dancer. Diyar Ubhali chose the latter.

"My father didn't agree with my decision at first, but my mom always encouraged me to do things that I love, and I found that street dance was the truly meaningful thing in my life."

At the recent competition in Urumqi, Diyar Ubhali and his colleagues from a dance studio won the second runner-up spot with their elaborately choreographed performance.


With pink highlights in her hair, Chen Ge cuts a somewhat maverick figure. When she started to learn street dance back in junior high school, she ran into plenty of opposition from her parents and teachers. These days, she is happy that she persisted with her passion.

During the competition, she performed a dance illustrating the busy lives of repressed white-collar workers in the city. Through dynamic beats and movements, they break free of their constraints, finding their true selves and expressing their passion for life.

Chen won the first runner-up spot in the competition.

"I've got many ideas about street dance that need to be realized, so I quit my job," recalled the 28-year-old, who gave up a job in accounting.

Chen established a street dance club in 2021. To date, the club has 10 street dance instructors and more than 300 trainees.

"There are so many people who love street dance in Xinjiang, and the street dance in this region has its own unique characteristics. I hope to build a platform for everyone who loves this form of dancing, and to help more people persist in what they love and achieve their dreams," Chen added.

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Liang Jun)


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