Thousands in China Are Using a Special Remote to Repel ‘Dancing Grannies’

Fed up with the noise produced by public dancers, some people decided to take matters into their own hands.
October 6, 2021, 10:54am
china dancing granny square
Chinese residents have used a special device (left) to silence elderly dancing troupes. Photo: Han Lei (left) and Zhang Chang/China News Service via Getty Images

Residents who are fed up with the noise from China’s ubiquitous “dancing grannies” are resorting to a special device that could mess with the speakers that blast out loud music.

They use an infrared remote control dubbed “anti-square dancing magical device” to silence the noisy dancing troupes that have taken over public squares, parks, and housing estates across China.

So-called square dancing has in the past decades become a hugely popular pastime for China’s growing senior population, giving the retirees, mostly women, a chance to exercise and make friends at the same time.

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But with scarce public spaces in urban China, the loud music has become a major nuisance for other residents and led to intense disputes. In 2013, someone in the central city of Wuhan dumped feces on a group of dancing women. And in 2016, a man in the southern city of Guilin, angered by the noise, shot at a dancing group’s loudspeaker with an air gun and accidentally hit a woman on her thigh.

Merchants of the new square dancing repeller are advertising an easier way to stop the noise. The device, priced at $15 to $40 each on shopping site Taobao, resembles a universal remote control and is able to shut down most speakers operated by infrared signals, according to the vendors.

To stop the music, users are instructed to stand close to the loudspeaker they want to target, point the device toward its control panel, and hold on to a button for up to 15 seconds.

Han Lei, a 19-year-old businessman in the central province of Henan, told VICE World News he had successfully repelled most dancing troupes in his neighborhood with the device. 

Han said he was long bothered by the music broadcast by square dancing groups in the early morning and at night, but reports to local police did not help. In March, he purchased the device and started going around shutting off loudspeakers after 9 p.m.

On one night, Han recalled, he stopped 36 square dancing troupes. In videos provided by him, square dancers looked confused as their music abruptly stopped and went to check on the speakers. Han said no one had realized he was the mastermind behind the breakdowns.

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“I was upholding justice,” he said. “Reporting to the police does not work. They would only stop when they think their speakers are not functioning.”

Seeing the potential demand for this device, Han included it in his own electronics business. He said he had sold more than 20,000 of the devices in the past four months.

On Taobao, similar products have earned hundreds of reviews, with buyers saying they have silenced dancing troupes that were bothering them for a long time. It’s unclear if these groups had found new places to dance at.

Many Chinese cities have in recent years introduced new regulations to combat excessive noise produced by square dancing. One community in Shanghai has installed a noise detecting system that would blast out warnings when square dancing music becomes too loud.

Local authorities had also tried to get the dancers to wear bluetooth earphones, according to Chinese media reports, but some participants said it was not as fun as dancing together with a loudspeaker. 

Follow Viola Zhou on Twitter.