If this doesn’t get you pumped to Pop, Lock & Drop It… then I dont know what will.
At least twice a week, Wu Ying goes to a local gym in western Beijing to work out. She joins a group of girlfriends and the occasional guy, and for a couple of hours they train with a dance instructor in a glass-walled room surrounded by treadmills and step machines. The whole scene – some 20-odd people working up a sweat to the insistent beat of hip-hop, under dim fluorescent lights – would be unremarkable if not for the fact that Wu is 70 years old.
Wu, aka China’s pre-eminent Hip-Hop Granny, is a nimble Beijing native who has been performing hip-hop routines since 2003 when she saw the first National Hip-Hop Dancing Competition on Chinese television.
“The competitors were all young people, wearing headscarves, headdresses, hats, and various clothes,” recounted Wu, a retired accountant who was 66 at the time. “I thought that was very fresh.”
Inspired by “the look they had in their eyes, the way they moved their fingers, heads and bodies,” Wu thought hip-hop dancing would be perfect for herself and China’s aged and infirm.
Wu set out to learn hip-hop dancing at a local gym and to study whatever she could about the activity. She also began looking to put together a five-member troupe to promote hip-hop dancing by touring the country and by performing on Chinese TV.
“[People] said, ‘Hip-hop? What is hip-hop? Is that a sport for you? Hip-hop is merely for young people. How old are you? You are 66 and you want to dance hip-hop? Don’t be ridiculous!’” laughed Wu as she described people’s initial reaction to her idea. Even her own daughter was embarrassed by the thought of a hip-hop mom and scoffed at the notion, provoking a rift between them that lasted days.
Eventually, Wu found four other women willing to try out, and they formed a team in February 2004. Six months and many rehearsals later, the Hip-Hop Granny Dance Team made its debut at the Beijing qualifier for the National Hip-Hop Dancing Competition.
The Grannies – whose average age was 60 at the time – faced off people several decades younger. “They were professionals,” Wu said. “We seniors didn’t know much so we were very nervous.” But their daily rehearsal routines paid off; the women walked off with third prize.
They haven’t looked back since, garnering further prizes and accolades every year. Moreover, Wu’s 48-year-old daughter, Guo Zhe, now appreciates her mother’s dancing and even occasionally joins in.
The Hip-Hop Grannies have also drawn many more members. Over the years, they’ve attracted at least 1,000 different women. Among them is a 74-year-old who just began learning – she’s the oldest member.