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Hip-hop finds champion in Uygur dancer
(Tianshannet) Updated: 2010-July-26 09:57:43


He could have been a lawyer, but for this young Uyghur man, the lure of the dancefloor and a hip-hop beat proved more powerful than the promise of a steady income behind a desk.

Purcat, 30, grew up in Urumqi, capital of China's far west Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, where Islamic traditions mingled with a culture steeped in its own unique dance and music traditions.

In this environment as a high school student, he became an unlikely street dance aficionado after watching a dance video brought from Japan by his university professor father.

"The movement is fast and the music rocks. I couldn't help loving it," says Purcat.

"The hip-hop culture was still strange to most Chinese in the 1990s, especially for those living in underdeveloped areas like Xinjiang. People, including my parents, didn't think hip-hop was a good thing at that time."

However, he perfected his dance skills by imitating hip-hop videos bought on Amazon.com by courtesy of an American school friend.

"He used his credit card issued by an American bank to pay for the disks. I didn't have a credit card then," he recalls.

"We just kept practicing according to the video and did not know what level we were at, until one day we took part in a national competition."

During the televised event in 2003, Purcat and his peers, the first generation of hip-hop dancers in Xinjiang, found stardom and took first place.

"Some judges from the United States thought we were foreigners as Uygurs look distinctive. But when they knew we were actually from China's Xinjiang, they asked, 'Xinjiang also has hip-hop?'" he recalls.

Purcat had found his calling. He gave up his job at Xinjiang University, where he worked as an English teacher for a year after graduating with a law degree, and set up his own dance studio.

With its roots in the inner city African American, Afro-Caribbean and Latino American communities of New York City, hip-hop has spread around the world, but in Xinjiang it was virtually unheard of.

"Hip-hop is a foreign culture, completely different from Chinese culture. The process of acceptance could have been very long," says Purcat, who, with five others founded the studio in 2001.

They used dance competition prize money as the start-up capital, but he also had to borrow from his skeptical parents.

"I wanted to promote hip-hop in Xinjiang and make it as popular as in the U.S.. In Beijing, Shanghai and other large Chinese cities, street dance is also popular among the young," he says.

His hip-hop zeal has driven his success and more than a 1,000 people -- from primary school children to white-collar workers -- regularly attend classes at his studio for fun and exercise.

Purcat's DSP -- for "dream, soul, passion" -- teaches break, house, new jazz and other styles of street dance at three venues in Urumqi.

His slim figure and good looks are a draw for other Uygurs, to whom dancing is like "eating and sleeping." Uygur members of the studio find the moves relatively easy.

The studio has special classes for children aged five to 12, whose parents are open-minded enough to send them there instead of to ballet classes, for example.

"Parents were afraid of that young people have nothing to do, so some interest in street dance can at least stop children being idle or getting into trouble," says Purcat.

The studio's DSP troupe also takes part in regional or national competitions. "I have friends who are singers of a pop music band. When they have outdoor performances, my dance group will accompany them."

A member of Xinjiang's Youth Federation, Purcat, who refuses to drink in accordance with Muslim convention, says he encourages young people to stay healthy. "I firmly oppose the smoking and drinking that seems to be associated with young people doing hip-hop."

He enjoys staying at home with his year-old son, his wife, also a hip-hop lover, his father, a maths professor at Xinjiang University, and his mother, an obstetrician, who all excel at singing and dancing.

Purcat works with the Xinjiang Dancers Association, the region's top official dance body, and is head of the association's Hip-Hop Society.

He hopes DSP's street dance will become part of government-sponsored performances in China and possibly abroad.

"Hip-hop is not for bad guys. It is a culture full of energy."

(SOURCES:xinhua)Editor: zhaoqian
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