It’s eight pm in Luhuitou, a seaside village not far from Dadonghai. I’m cruising down the road on my bike toward the neighborhood playground, a crumbling square of asphalt with a full basketball court, cement bleachers, and a urine-smelling bandstand that the local kids have appropriated as a clubhouse. Chickens cautiously bob-step around children chasing and throwing firecrackers at eachother to peck at bits of garbage nestled in the sandy soil of the palm-lined road. I cringe as I accelarate past the blare of a karaoke ballad sung by a wailing tone-deaf man. All along the street people are gathering at outdoor tables to eat and gamble. There’s a crowd of people gathered around a computer monitor hooked up to a disproportionately large stereo system, all eyes riveted to a war epic unfolding on the tiny screen. I pass the public health clinic with people sitting in plastic chairs with IVs hooked up to their arms, then the newly installed public toilets, and finally the playground comes into view.
I park my bike in a patch of dirt and climb the bleachers to look out over neat rows of villagers twirling, bobbing, and clapping to pulsating Chinese disco. Tonight is just one of four or five nights each week where the villagers gather on the basketball court for community disco. After one song ends and the dancers relax and take the moment to turn to eachother and make quick conversation. The dancers’ feet start shifting in anticipation as the first notes of a new song crank out of an enormous speaker on wheels (there’s a motif of big speakers and loud noises in this village.) Most of tonight’s group of thirty or so dancers look to be over sixty. On some nights the crowd can be fifty plus, aged anywhere from thirty to eighty. Aged though they might be, this group of geriatrics dances with vitality. The group is led by two women who orchestrate the dance with expertise. Right step, right step, wrist-twirl, repeat. Some members of the crowd are clumsy and can’t keep up with the steady dance steps; others know the choreography by heart and let the disco spirit them away to ecstasy. I’m going to conflate these images with the Thriller video and have some interesting dreams tonight.
Community disco night.
This man’s not afraid to break it down in his trenchcoat.