News World Coronavirus dance is contagious: How China is cheering itself up
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Coronavirus dance is contagious: How China is cheering itself up

People across China dance to cheer themselves up during quarantine. Video: ABC News
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Across a normally bustling nation of 1.4 billion people, some streets now lie empty and most restaurants closed as China’s coronavirus quarantine push drags on.

With more than 55,000 cases of COVID-19, the Chinese Government has restricted travel and encouraged residents across the country to avoid leaving their homes.

While citizens have been stuck inside as schools, cinemas, bars and gyms remain closed, some have found creative ways to combat isolation and boredom by exercising and socialising in the online world.

For Beijing dance instructor Mona Li, there was little she could do once her studio was closed as part of the regulations restricting group gatherings. But she’s found a way to stay active.

Every day since the quarantine measures began, she has been holding online dance classes for small groups on WeChat, correcting their technique as multiple students dance across split screens on her smartphone.

Mona Li had her dance studio closed in Beijing due to the coronavirus quarantine. Photo: Mona Li

“Dancing and exercise help me a lot,” Ms Li said.

“Emotionally it can calm me down completely, and it can help others deal with their emotions while stuck at home.”

As the quarantine dragged on, she began holding loungeroom dance classes for audiences, sometimes exceeding 1,000 people on live-streaming platforms.

Dance instructor Mona Li now does an online class due to restrictions on group gatherings. Photo: Supplied

“I’m avoiding teaching the more difficult techniques,” she said.

“For now, it’s good enough just to get everyone together for the basics.”

Online exercise classes have boomed in recent weeks, while short videos of people at home making light of the tough situation have bounced around the Chinese internet.

How people began to reach out to each other online

Dancing appears to be the ultimate symbol of optimism in quarantined China.

Even coronavirus patients with mild symptoms in the epicentre, Wuhan, have been holding dance parties in a makeshift hospital isolation centre.

“The epidemic has really disrupted everyone’s lives,” Zeng Weiming, a coordinator in Beijing’s swing dance community, said.

With little to do at home and no end in sight to the quarantine measures, Mr Zeng said the swing dance community decided to create a video, which has gone viral overseas.

“So many overseas swing dancers have sent messages of support to us,” he said.

Isolation puts mental strain on China

The uncertainty of how long the country will be in this heavily restricted state has made the long days at home all the more difficult.

Parents have to explain to children why they cannot go out and see their friends.

Some singles have anecdotally complained they are doing plenty of swiping on dating apps – but no one dares go out to meet.

“There’s a feeling at an individual level that you can’t control the overall situation with the epidemic,” psychologist Xue Chang, who lives in the city of Nanjing, said.

“But exercise at least helps people feel like they have a degree of control over their bodies.”

However, Mr Xue said the online dance parties, exercise classes and dating apps give people a feeling of camaraderie.

“We can go through the difficulties and express our anxieties together,” she said.

Coco Li, A Beijing-based psychological counsellor said: “Maintaining emotional connections with others is one of the best way to release stress and pressure.”

Health authorities in China say the number of new infections outside of Hubei province are slowing, giving hope that the highly restrictive measures will be relaxed soon.

 

But that could still be weeks or even longer, leaving more than a billion people with little do but make the best of a bad situation.

“Everyone understands why we can only dance at home. We can bear it,” Ms Li said.

“But we all look forward to that day when we can dance together again.”

-ABC

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