This story was originally published on VICE Serbia
The Chinese Shopping Center on Block 70 in New Belgrade is a kind of mecca for both Serbs looking for a bargain and nostalgic Chinese immigrants. Smiling Chinese women welcome you into shops packed with clothes, underwear, bedding sets, Tupperware—all sorts of random, seemingly useless, cheap items you can pick up at wholesale prices. Belgradians storm the stores on a daily basis, convinced that they're saving, not spending, money.
Photographer Aleksandra Ajdukovic hung around the mall for a while and made friends with the Chinese women who tend the stores while their children sleep behind the till. After spending a few days with them, she discovered what some do to escape their daily routine.
Every evening, for a couple of hours, a group of Chinese shop attendants meet in a warehouse space on Surčin road to dance. The group's leader is named Li, but her Serbian name is Vanja. "It is all about music, dance, recreation and exercise but what matters the most is feeling like being part of a team," she said. "China is covered in concrete these days and green spaces are hard to find, so people rarely work out."
"We dance to Chinese pop songs, but also Western music—we love Madonna. There are no rules to our dance routines. The need to express yourself through dance must be universal," said Shen Hong, the manager of the Chinese Shopping Center.