In a country where school competition is tough, Chinese children are often entitled to a string of private classes even before primary school.
But some parents choose an almost subversive activity, hip hop dance.
In a studio in central Beijing, toddlers imitate their young teacher as they wiggle their arms and legs at the sound of music.
I hope the children I teach will love to dance, it does not really matter to me if they become professional dancers or not, It is fine with me even if they learn to dance for a short time.
‘‘In my generation, there were even fewer girls doing street dancing, people wearing baggies with big metal chains at the waist were seen as weird people ,” said Liu Li, a dad of a shy four-year-old boy. The latter started classes at FunkAsista Studio this year.
But Liu wanted something different for his son, who has trouble integrating into groups.
It is not uncommon for children as young as three to take English, piano, calligraphy or music lessons. The idea is to maximize their performance in a school system where competition is exacerbated.
“I hope the children I teach will love to dance, it does not really matter to me if they become professional dancers or not, It is fine with me even if they learn to dance for a short time and I hope this experience can make a difference in their childhood”, said Hui Hui, a dance teacher.
Hip hop and ‘break-dance’ began to appear in China in the 2000s. But these dances have enjoyed a large-scale exhibition.
For some parents, this dance style is a cure for introverts. Others like this form of alternative artistic expression, which frees itself from traditional social norms.
Despite gaining popularity, hip pop has not been established in the street and is often confined indoors, unlike other forms of dance.
China has about 5,000 hip-hop studios, according to the National Dance Association, which has launched level tests for the discipline.
Street culture, which includes rap and graffiti is often used in other countries to evoke the ills of society. But in China, it is almost impossible as even tattoos and make-up can be considered politically sensitive.