A haven for square dancers

By Cao Chen in Shanghai | China Daily USA | Updated: 2017-12-01 11:11

A haven for square dancers

Square dancing is one of the most popular activities among China's elderly population, and it has often caused controversy because of its loud music and use of public spaces. Photos provided to China Daily

Tiaotiaowu, one of the latest apps targeted at elderly people who love strutting their moves in public spaces, looks well-positioned to capitalize on an expanding aging population

Square dancing, or guangchangwu, has for decades been a popular pastime among middle-aged and elderly citizens in China.

But while many young people would find it embarrassing to be involved with an activity that is associated with the older generation, 27-year-old Han Xiaoyuan deals with it on a daily basis.

Han is the founder of Tiaotiaowu, a social networking application for square dancing enthusiasts that allows them to find new friends, join dance groups and share multimedia content. Users can also learn how to improve their dance techniques through instructional videos as well as register for leisure tours to parks and competitions. Tiaotiaowu has organized about 50 square dancing competitions since its inception in March 2016.

Developed by Han's startup Shanghai Xinglian Information Technology, the app is now the largest digital platform for square dancing in Shanghai and the second-largest in the country. Tiaotiaowu presently has more than 400,000 active monthly users.

According to Yiguan Travel and Health Research Center, the most widely used square dancing app in China is Tangdou. Designed by a Beijing-based startup, the app presently has about 6.4 million active users.

Square dancing has long been a controversial issue in Chinese society, largely because participants occupy large public spaces such as parks and prevent others from using them. The loud music that accompanies the activity has also irked many members of the public.

"Like most people, I used to see square dancing grannies as a nuisance, because they would occupy large public spaces and blast their music," said Han.

"But I realized that if we can admire the street dances by young performers, why is it that we cannot do the same for these elderly people who are simply trying to enjoy their lives? They just need a more organized platform to support their hobby."

To address these issues, the competitions that are organized by Tiaotiaowu feature music that is mellower in nature. The company also sources for venues that are suitable for hosting such an activity, such as community centers and private dance halls.

"Many of those from the older generation are eager to catch up with this fast-moving society we live in today. Products such as Tiaotiaowu can help them understand the digital world," said Luo Yanfen, chief assistant at the Shanghai Bureau of East Silver Valley, an online financial advisory platform that sponsored one of the square dancing competitions by Tiaotiaowu last year.

Ding Yiling, a square dancer from Shanghai, is among the fans of Tiaotiaowu.

"I feel that this company is genuinely concerned about square dancers and is not just focused on making money from its users," said the 66-year-old.

Ding added that the company could explore introducing additional features to the app in the future, such as sections that contain useful lifestyle and financial tips for the older generation.

According to statistics by Beijing Daily, there had been around 60 apps related to square dancing since 2015. Many of these apps have since been taken down due to a lack of funding or insufficient volume of active users.

In order to stay competitive in a fast-growing market segment, Jiang Xinwei, senior analyst at Yiguan Travel and Health Research Center, pointed out that square dancing app makers could consider collaborating with other industries such as entertainment, education and medicine to create a more informative app for users.

According to Xinhua News Agency, the Chinese government predicted that the number of elderly people in the country will expand to form about a quarter of the overall population by 2030. This would in turn result in a growth in the square dancing market where an increasing number of senior citizens have been spending their money. Products like team uniforms, qipaos, dancing shoes and electronic devices including speakers are among the most common things that square dancing enthusiasts buy.

Consumption among the senior citizens, who make up the majority of the square dancing population, is indeed growing.

Based on a report by the Chinese Business Network Data, a strategic data platform, 10.3 percent of the total number of e-shopping consumers in 2015 were those aged 51 to 70, up from 5.8 percent in 2011. In addition, the number of square dancing enthusiasts purchasing things through mobile phones grew by about 30 percent during the same period.


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