Tai Chi Disco Dance

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During the Chinese New Year of 1986, almost 25 years ago, around February, I was asked, along with my wife, if we would do something for China National Television on their English Sunday program.

At the time, this program was approximately an hour long and it was watched by approximately 500 million people in China. A few days before this, I was trying to figure out what I would do for the TV show, even though I was being asked to appear because I was known as a western Tai Chi Master in Beijing.

That was quite unusual for a foreigner at that time. As a matter of fact, to the best of my knowledge, there was nobody else who was thought of as such, and unlike today it was more difficult for a westerner to live in China much less study there. Anyway, it was an honor to be asked to appear on CCTV, or the the China National Television, and I wanted to make a good impression. My wife decided to recite a poem, named Down the Plughole, which is a rather funny piece.  I was then asked to demonstrate something with tai chi, I think because it was a novelty even seeing a westerner do tai chi at the time.

I asked my teacher Liu Hung Chieh a day or two before the show what should I do. What he said was do something that’s good for the Chinese people. Well, I thought about this and it occurred to me that most Chinese people in Beijing and generally in China were not happy people.

As a matter of fact, they were rather miserable. They had just gone through the cultural revolution which finished several years before. Most in the west have no understanding of what went on in China during that time. The fact is during the cultural revolution, it was at least as bad as the worst of Hitler’s Germany.  So, given what the general Chinese population had just come through, I decided what would be good for the Chinese people is something that would lighten them up a bit.

Tai Chi in those day was never thought of as a dance. As a matter of fact, if you called Tai Chi a dance in China, that was probably the strongest way you could possibly insult them because it meant the Tai Chi had absolutely no substance whatsoever. In general dance was thought of as a frivolous thing. I am talking here about the dance done in clubs and for enjoyment, not the professional ballet or other advanced forms.

Tai Chi was considered to be something quite serious and valuable. It was considered an advanced healing art to be studied with professional masters. I figured I would present tai chi in a different manner, one that was not so serious.

At that time, one of the top rock singing groups, I think it was called the Bronski Beats or something like that, had a song that was incredible bouncy. What I decided was once they started filming me, after my interview was over, I was going to first do a bit of wu style tai chi to this Braskey Beats song, first doing tai chi but then moving with the song while basically dancing the tai chi movement. Well, so what happened?

I went on the show, which again had a massive viewer base once the show aired this became quite a phenomena in China. Of course I had no intention of starting the Tai Chi Disco mini-trend. Apparently to the best of my knowing for the next couple of years, people would turn on this song and would start doing Tai Chi. And when they were doing Tai Chi they would start dancing. I thought this was rather funny.

It was a little bit like the way there was a thing in the seventies called kung fu fighting, which had nothing to do with kung fu, but it made a great song. Anyway, this is how Tai Chi Disco was born in China, even if for only a short time. We came across the clip in our archives and have posted it here for your pleasure. So that’s the story of Tai Chi Disco.

Who knows maybe one day Tai Chi Disco or Tai Chi Dancing will once again catch on in America and in Europe?

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About Author

Bruce is passionate about teaching the wisdom from Taoism including qigong, tai chi, healing, martial arts and mediation. He has been doing so for over 50 years and is a lineage in the Taoist Water Tradition. You can find out more at www.energyarts.com

22 Comments

  1. One would only hope that Tai Chi Disco could catch on! We’re not a happy people as a rule here in the US… we could use some good, grounded fun like that! Thank you for sharing this gem.

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  2. Si-fu, enjoy the blog very much. Good luck to you in the new year. Your moves might put Travolta to shame. I enjoy the 80’s music very much and try to incorporate taiji/qigong movements into my activities whether it’s dance or daily chores.

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  3. Hi
    I love this. I studied and practiced with some very serious teachers in the past and when I began on my own path I used a logo- ENJOY LIFE ENJOY TAI CHI.
    I know Tai Chi is a health art but if practiced with fun and laughter the health benefits are increased. I understand that our emotions play a huge role in our health and well-being. At home I often play different music when I practice (Thin Lizzy, Rolling Stones, Mary J Blige- what ever stirs my sole on the day)
    Perhaps I should carry on the trend and start Tai Chi disco classes!!!!
    Keep laughing
    Debbie

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  4. Master Frantzis,
    As a Wu taiji and Fu bagua stylist, you have enlightened me with this Tai Chi Disco! It demonstrates your smooth movement, transitions, and are quite nimble! I hope it served its purpose of lifting the spirits of the Chinese People.
    Thanks for sharing this clip!

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  5. Hi Bruce just to confirm that the band’s name was Bronski Beat. The name was taken from a character in Gunther Grass’s novel called “Bronski”. My mate Steve Forrest was so influenced by that book that he changed his stage name to Steve Bronski and founded the group Bronski Beat. He also provided the music for a Tai Chi video I made. Which caused him an amazing amount of grief with the label’s lawyers who were outraged that he just gave me the master tapes so they had no handle on the copyright fees. We’d made a mutual assistance pact before his band signed with the label so he just toughed it out saying that our contract pre-dated their contract :-))

    I always wondered what music you used to start the Tai Chi disco craze and now I know. Small world ain’t it!

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  6. I’d love to do Tai Chi to music because I love dancing and the music would help me remember the moves much better. Forget salsa – this is great!

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  7. Love the Tai Chi Disco, which I’d seen you do brilliantly a very long time ago. Cleared the dance floor neatly as I recall!
    Got me thinking…
    I keep being asked to teach children and young people and had slithered around avoiding this one. This month I got pinned down to do 4 sessions in our local primary school. ‘Could I do four 30 minute tai chi experiences for all the children in Key Stage 1 (age 5 – 7) for Chinese New Year and ‘no’ is not an acceptable answer!’
    Even half an hour is a l – o – n – g time for a whole year group of lively six year olds to do anything with focus, let alone move slowly… We tried a ‘soap bubble form’ for a few serene seconds, until one little boy did what all small boys do with soap bubbles. The sound of popping and giggling all round the hall was not quite what I’d had in mind, though it was very funny. The thing that really worked was working with some music I’d taken along, though it wasn’t quite disco, and for that matter it wasn’t quite tai chi either… but it was near enough, and it worked astonishingly well. It even worked with 5 year olds and particularly well with the children who started the sessions whirling around on the floor like demented beetles on their backs. In fact it worked so well that the head teacher wants an after school tai chi club for parents and children together. We tried it with our adult classes as a warm-up and now the majority want it regularly. So Bruce, you’ve hit on a winner – tai chi dance. Or at least something tai chi like to music. We used to do it every year in Malaysia of course, in the parks at dawn. Plenty of serious tai chi players were doing their qigong and taiji practices to the latest pop music on their ghetto blasters as well as traditional tunes and I’m sure they still do. It brings in a FUN element alongside the serious side of tai chi practice, and people relax. Let’s have more fun!! I look forward to the first Instructor Training in Tai Chi Disco!

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  8. Pingback: From the Authors’ Blogs: Mat Gratitude, Wimpy Kiais, & Tai Chi Disco Dancing « Blue Snake Books

  9. Bruce I think it’s time to move on from disco taichi the next big thing would be the BAGUA BOUNCE I got the copy right on that !

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  10. Pingback: From the Authors’ Blogs: Mat Gratitude, Wimpy Kiais, & Tai Chi Disco Dancing | NAB Communities

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