From its origins in 1970s New York, breakdancing is now set to become an Olympic sport. Last June, the International Olympic Committee announced that the acrobatic style of street dance will be included at the Paris Olympics in 2024. The move aims to make the Games “more urban” and “more artistic”, the BBC reported.
Street dance started to get more popular in China thanks to a host of reality competitions like Rap of China (see WiC378) and Street Dance of China (see WiC401), which brought the hip-hop genre a little closer to the mainstream. Street Dance of China is scheduled to start its third season this month on Youku, which has also released a spin-off of the show to generate extra buzz.
Let’s Dance, Youku’s latest reality competition, follows a group of 15 children between the ages of five and 12, as they train to be professional street dancers.
Some of the contestants are far from novices: Li Ziqi, 10, who is better known as ‘Lil Mushroom’, has already appeared on the American chat show circuit. To assist the kids’ progress, three hip-hop celebrities are drafted in as coaches, including Han Yu and Franklin Yu, who starred in the first two seasons of Street Dance of China. They don’t just teach the kids to dance, also taking charge of overseeing their school work and making sure they brush their teeth and finish their meals.
So far, the show has generated a positive response from audiences. On Douban, the TV series and film review site, it has a rating of 9.1 out of 10, higher than the first season of Street Dance of China. The progress of the children over the course of the series has made it heartwarming to watch. “One of the boys is just six years old. Yet he can breakdance, spin on his head and all his moves are flawlessly executed,” Tencent Entertainment gushed.
“I stayed up all night to watch the show. To be honest, it completely exceeded my expectations… The battle segment also had me in tears. You can see the kids, whether they are outgoing or shy, whether they are dancing urban style or popping, working so hard for the opportunity to battle against their mentor. Their focus and drive are so admirable,” another netizen chimed in.
Audiences say that the young contestants show the mental toughness of professional athletes. “Go children! Not only do you see the cuteness of the children, you also see their professionalism. It is clear that they are very resilient… I hope they don’t let me down when they grow up,” another wrote.
“When they hear music, they are no longer shy, or naughty. They take dancing seriously. At this young age, they exemplify strength, determination and a general refusal to lose. We should embrace that spirit,” was the verdict of another TV critic.
The majority of people learning about street dance in China are very young, typically between the ages of four and 12, says China Youth Daily. Parents are also more inclined to send their children to lessons because street dance is thought to show “positive energy”, one parent told Sixth Tone. In fact, the news site reported that many parents have prioritised their kids’ urban dance classes over other extracurricular activities because they believe that the performance style instills confidence.
“First of all, hip-hop really helps get the kids in shape. A lot of parents who have sent their kids to classes find that their health improves dramatically after learning street dance. And children who are shy often open up because street dance doesn’t need a ‘stage’ and you don’t need to rehearse – it’s just about expressing yourself, ” another commentator wrote on Zhihu, the knowledge sharing platform. “And more importantly, dancing is fun.”
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