Putting on their headphones and dancing to the music pounding in their ears, some Shanghai residents are making square dancing less disruptive.
Square dancing, orguangchangwu, has been a popular pastime among middle-aged and elderly Chinese for decades. But it has long been controversial, because the music blaring from loudspeakers as they strut their dance moves in public can prove an annoyance.
A recent video showing people from Anting town, in Shanghai's Jiading district, square dancing to music only they could hear went viral online, with many netizens calling for the practice to be implemented nationwide.
"This new way of square dancing allows the dancers to carry out their hobby without bothering their neighbors," said Dou Xiangxin, the leader of the 100-member dance group.
Dou said the loud music sometimes caused quarrels and even fights between dancers and nearby residents.
New rules on public cultural services took effect in Shanghai at the start of the year. They stipulate that mass fitness activities should abide by regulations, public order and good customs, and should not affect the work and life of others.
That led Dou to suggest that the dancers in the group buy inexpensive but high-quality earphones designed for students, which cost around 40 yuan ($6.20) a pair, to find a balance between "not disturbing others" and "dancing for fun".
Many netizens have expressed their support for the new practice. In the past two weeks, leaders of square dancing teams from other Shanghai districts, including Fengxian, Minhang and Huangpu, and other provinces have come to observe it, Dou said.
"It's a wise approach to use earphones, as everyone can adjust sound for a better listening experience," said Shi Faming, president of a square dancing association from Wuwei, Anhui province, who came to learn which equipment is more affordable and long-lasting and intends to apply the method back in his home city.
However, others have questioned whether dancing in such a manner will diminish the charm of square dancing, with one comment on the Sina Weibo social media platform reading "it may be kind of spooky when passing by the silent group dancing, especially at night".
"When I observed, I didn't feel the rhythm of the music through their silent dance, nor know when they would stop the dance or when to applaud," said Anting resident Shao Yixin.
Dou's group has now started using a small amplifier to play the music at a volume just loud enough for bystanders to appreciate.
"We will promote the practice to more dancing groups in the city and keep exploring better ways as well," Dou said.