Taiwan night market serves up viral dance

Swinging side-to-side to a Chinese ditty, young Taiwanese perform the viral ‘kemusan’ dance at a night market competition – Copyright AFP Sam Yeh

Sean CHANG

Swinging side-to-side to a Chinese ditty, Taiwanese teenagers and kids performed at a recent night market competition, showing off their loose-limbed moves while executing the viral “subject three” dance that has taken social media by storm.

The competitors included young men in leather jackets and high-tops, siblings matching in denim jackets and sunglasses, and even dancers improvising with pop-and-lock hip-hop moves.

But all stuck to the original spirit of the “kemusan” dance — translated as “subject three” in Mandarin — which calls for dancers to look like they are almost twisting their ankles, as they flick their wrists rapidly to traditional Chinese music mixed with disco beats.

“My impression? Lots of slippery motions,” said Chang Feng, a bemused homemaker who came to Taipei’s popular Ningxia night market with her daughter to watch the aspiring trend-setters on a small stage.

Nearby, diners waited for oyster omelettes and Taiwan’s famed stinky tofu at food stalls, with curious onlookers wandering over to check out the dancers.

“Seems like all the kids know how to dance kemusan — it’s a trendy thing I suppose,” Chang said.

The dance is believed to have originated from Douyin, China’s version of TikTok, with avid users jumping on the trend by performing their versions of it, drawing millions of views.

Even businesses have tried to capitalise on it — like popular hotpot chain Haidilao, whose employees twist and jerk their limbs when customers order “kemusan”, according to online anecdotes and videos posted on Douyin.

Fifth-grader Nancy Wu said she learned it from the platform.

“We also dance it at school. It has a demonic attractiveness to it,” the 10-year-old told AFP with an impish grin.

– Dance controversy –

But the infectious music and jaunty moves have come with a dose of controversy — some Taiwanese users on Facebook have accused the night market organisers of using the dance as a Chinese propaganda tool to brainwash Taiwanese youth.

Self-ruled Taiwan held an election this month, in which China’s claim over the island was a dominant talking point among the presidential hopefuls.

The winner was independence-leaning president-elect Lai Ching-te, who has been slammed by Chinese officials as a dangerous separatist.

Now political chatter appears to have migrated into the territory of viral internet dances as well.

“Looks like this is Douyin night market in mainland China,” commented one user on the post advertising the competition, which drew more than 230 “thumbs up”.

Lin Ting-wei, chairman of Ningxia Night Market Association, told reporters that Thursday night’s dance competition was purely for commercial profit.

“We are using music and dance to try to increase consumer spending and promote Ningxia Night Market to the younger generation,” Lin said.

“This event is very straightforward. Don’t associate too much with it.”

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