Middle-aged Beijingers line up with Hong Kong children in Irish dance contest

Next stop Europe for the Rainbow Troupe from Chinese capital after they win medals in the first dance championships they entered

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 01 June, 2016, 12:39pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 01 June, 2016, 4:04pm

Wang Weidong works long hours during the week advising clients wanting to invest in global stock markets. It helps that the middle-aged Beijinger is extremely fit thanks to an unlikely weekend hobby that he took up two years ago: Irish dancing.

“I am in pretty good shape for a 50-year-old because there are endless health benefits to Irish dance. It trains my stamina, improves my muscle strength and even my brains,” says Wang, whose goal is to dance till he is 80.

Wang was among eight dancers from the Chinese capital, collectively known as the Rainbow Troupe, who participated in last weekend’s 5th International Feis and Championships held in Hong Kong at King George V School in Ho Man Tin.

They might not be as young as most of the other contestants, who were either children or teenagers, but their footwork and lively steps were no less impressive. He Yingxian was awarded two bronzes and a silver for her performances.

Members of the Rainbow Troupe come from different walks of life but all say they fell in love with the art form after watching Riverdance, a live production that is staged annually in Beijing.

The 5th International Feis and Championships, hosted by the Hong Kong-based Echoes of Erin School of Irish Dance, was the troupe’s first contest.

Wang says he does not mind being the only man on his team: “Guys are scared as soon as they hear the word dance. But not for me. I am not shy at all.” He says he wants to take part in the European championships but the Rainbow troupe will need to find a good teacher first.

Until last year, they had been learning Irish dance through Riverdance videotapes but then they met their current instructor, Dominika Cedro, a professional Irish dancer from Poland.

It’s usually the adults or elderly who are interested in Irish dancing, says Cedro.

“Children usually have to study very hard. They just don’t know this culture. It is adults who discover this world and want to keep dancing,” she says. “But you cannot see the age in their movements because they move perfectly fine.”

Cedro admits that, compared to children, it takes longer for them to master new moves but this hardly bothers her. “They can convey the happiness of dancing, which is something you cannot teach,” says Cedro.

She moved to Beijing to learn Chinese but she is finishing up her master’s degree and leaving the country next month.

“I hope they (the troupe) will continue because I think they have too much love and passion for dancing to just stop,” says Cedro.

And it does look like nothing will stop the Rainbow Troupe, who flew to Hong Kong on May 28 for a day just to take part in the competition.

Medallist He Yingxian is in her 60s and tore her meniscus when she fell during a performance. She rested for six months, but as soon as she felt better, she was up and dancing again.

“I don’t know how much longer can I dance, but I will dance till I can’t,” He says.