62-year-old Suo Jie dances with her fellow enthusiasts. (CGTN Photo)
In Beijing, 62-year-old SuoJie finds she is much busier now than she was before she retired. Dancing in public areas with fellow enthusiasts has dominated her life for a long time.
"I've been dancing for about six years. It brings me health and much happiness. I can say this is the most significant thing I've done since retiring," Suo told CGTN.
Suo is no ordinary dancer. She picks the right music and has it adapted, designs new dance moves and then teaches them to others.
Now she has become one of the scene's celebrities in the Chinese capital.
Suo is obsessed with Square Dancing.
Passionate dancers now occupy almost all public spaces – shopping plazas, parks and even basketball courts.
From early morning to late evening, in big cities or remote towns, you can see these dancers waving their hands and shaking their bodies to the music, regardless of heavy smog, heatwaves or complaints from neighbors.
It's estimated that there are about 100 million square dancers in China, mostly women in their 50s to 60s, and the number is soaring as younger women and men are swelling their ranks.
The dancing is evolving fast as well. No outdated music and simple moves anymore as the "sport" is getting increasingly professional.
Suo said there are hundreds of organized square dancing teams just in Beijing. They have uniformed costumes for different types of dance and they take part in contests apart from routine recreation.
This has created great economic opportunities for shrewd business people.
Nowadays, products related to such dancing can be easily found on online shopping platforms, such as costumes, shoes, make-up, loudspeakers and props.
In some popular stores, the sales volume of a single item can reach more than 100,000 per month.
"To pursue beauty, we would buy related outfits like costumes, shoes and props. Personally, I spend several hundred yuan on square dancing, and I think the consumption is worth it," Suo said.
Online retail now accounts for a large portion of the market.
But with the widespread popularity of smartphones and Internet, more people are trying to grab a share through a technological approach.
In recent years, several square dancing apps have been developed.
These platforms are trying to attract users by providing free dancing videos.
Jiuai Square Dancing, one of the most popular apps, is now trying to expand their services after securing two rounds of financing from several investors.
Bian Fei, co-founder of the app, said they aim to develop it into an integrated platform for middle-aged and elderly people with diversified services, such as tourism, finance, insurance and elderly care.
Now they mainly benefit from the e-commerce and advertising on it.
Bian said he is confident with the market targeting this group, ranging from 45 to 70 years old, as China is stepping into an aging society and this group will have a wider range of consumption demands.
Considering its influence and vitality, he believes square dancing is a good medium to further explore the sector.