Across China: Rural "swing dance" adds zest to farm life
Luo Nasuan is an expert at performing "swing dance," not the jazz-style dance originating in the last century, but one developed by an ethnic group in southwest China.
Luo, 29, is a member of a folk dance team in Banli Village, dubbed "home to the Lahu swing dance", in Lancang Lahu Autonomous County, Yunnan Province.
The Lahu swing dance, featuring gentle, stretching, neat, and graceful movements, has been created and handed down by the Lahu ethnic group who are inspired by local farm work such as plowing, planting seedlings, fertilizing, threshing and harvesting.
According to the sixth national population census in China, the population of the Lahu ethnic group is about 486,000.
Coming from a place where villagers are born to dance, Luo managed to breathe new life into the dance with music and songs specially composed for different dance movements, along with her fellow villagers since 2018.
"The dance and the music are regarded as an artistic expression of our way of living," said Zhang Nasuan, another member of the dance team, adding that the crops villagers grow for a living, including sugarcane and tea, largely influenced the 'swing' movements in the dance.
But it was not until 2020 that amateur dance lovers like Luo and Zhang were given the opportunity to perform on a decent stage with sunshades, an audio control room, and locker rooms for dancers.
The new facilities were sponsored by Shanghai's Huangpu District that has paired up with Banli Village to assist some 950 poverty-stricken households shake off poverty.
Now, the "swing dance" in Banli has become a symbol of local ethnic arts and is known far and near.
Thanks to the pairing-up policy and the efforts of the local government, Banli Village was lifted out of poverty in 2019, and the per capita net income of villagers increased from 3,847 yuan (about 590 U.S. dollars) in 2018 to 6,615 yuan by the end of 2020.
Nowadays, the dance also embodies new steps that express villagers' appreciation of the government's anti-poverty efforts.
In June 2020, an art and acting company that employs 130 seasoned performers including Luo, was also established in the village.
They staged more than 20 performances last year, bringing in a total income of nearly 500,000 yuan.
"The changes in our life are really great. The first flight I took in my life was due to a performance in Shanghai last year," said Luo.