Dancing in the Park


One cold Saturday in March, when the sun offered its first promise of warmth, I chanced uponBeihai Park in the middle of Beijing. I’d set out that morning to find the former residence, now amuseum, of Mei Lanfang.
Round the corner from Ping’anli subwaystation I managed to find the Mei LanfangMuseum located along the most picturesquehutong I’d seen to date, wooden signsportraying the trade of each shop. Thecostumes, pictures, room settings and videoclips inside the museum kept me entertainedfor quite some time, but on coming out it felttoo soon to go home. So I walked on.
In Beijing I’m forever wondering what liesfurther down the street. It has made my feetsuffer, my legs ache, but also led to the mostwonderful discoveries. I had an inkling thatBeihai Park must be somewhere in that area,but on several occasions my map had mademe believe distances were shorter than theyturned out to be! Sometimes, however, mycuriosity pays off. Just past an interesting looking museum on medicines I began to wonder whyso many coaches had parked in the vicinity. I soon found out. On my left rows of red rickshawswere touting for business, taking tourists through hutongs in the direction of the Drum and Belltowers. On my right was the entrance to the Beihai Park. I turned right.
I found my way through archways, past temples, admired the goldfish and took photos ofteenagers in traditional dress, whilst all the time wondering what the music in the backgroundcould mean. Then suddenly I emerged at the side of a huge lake with a white pagoda on anisland further out.
Here it was that a group of joyful people were dancing and they were good. I remainedtransfixed. It was obvious this was some professional dance group turning out in the park forfun, but others joined in as well. One couple left their belongings on the grass (in London that’sunheard of) and blithely joined in. Others remained on the outskirts of the audience, perfectingtheir steps on their own. All had a varied repertoire of Latin, Salsa and Jive. Not that I’m anexpert! What amazed me more than anything else was the undeniable sense of joy and totallack of self-consciousness. It made me feel sad that in the west we have lost such artlessness.With some feeling of envy I stood watching till the end and the end came too soon.
At the appointed hour the dancing and music stopped, the crowd dispersed, the dancers wenthome and with a sense of having witnessed something special, so did I.

The author, from Norwich, UK, is on a 6 month internship at Sinopec Management Institute asan English Teacher.

New words:
跳舞tiào wǔ:to dance
公园gōng yuán:park
锣luó:oriental gong

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