Taking Their Passion and Making It Happen

Six Carat Dance Troupe

2018 / September

Sanya Huang /photos courtesy of Jimmy Lin /tr. by Geof Aberhart

In a second-floor hall in the ­Liulu Community in Tai­chung’s ­Shalu District, a group of senior citizens dance along to popular music. They are the ­Liulu Community Development Association’s Six Carat Dance Troupe, and last year, this group with an average age of 72 went viral with a music video that had their online audience agog at the energy and vitality of these purple­-clad elderly hip-hop dancers.



In October 2017, Six Carat Dance Troupe hit the big time as they moved up from their community performance venue to the stage at the Taipei Arena, a space that has hosted megastars on the level of A-mei and Celine Dion. With this show, the high point of their career so far, Six Carat blew away the stereotype that older folk should stick with folk dance, and captured media attention that saw them invited to perform all across Taiwan.

But this crew are far from newcomers to hip-hop dance. The troupe was actually formed in 2010, although over the years since they’ve seen their lineup change a few times. Most people consider hip-hop dance the province of youth, and it is true that with some 2,000 years of life between them these older folk can’t move like they used to, what with gammy knees, osteoporosis, and even mild dementia in some cases.

And so one can imagine the courage it took for them to make the move from their usual local performances to a world-class venue like the Taipei Arena, something they approached with a mix of excitement and stress. Nonetheless, they overcame all the challenges in front of them and completed their performance there, and they continue to practice until their bodies give out or their dementia makes it unfeasible.

Creating possibilities

The troupe was founded by Hsu Mei-chi, at the time a professor at Hung­kuang University’s Department of Senior Citizen Welfare and Business, by harnessing resources from both the school and the community.

“Who says that old folk can’t do hip-hop dance?” In this frame of mind, Hsu brought together a group of elderly students, and so Six Carat was born.

The name was chosen in part for the name of the local community, Liulu (where the liu is Chinese for “six”), and partly because each of the members willing to take part is like a rare and precious gemstone. And with five-carat diamonds rare enough as it is, six-carat ones would obviously be even more valuable, making it a fitting descriptor for each and every member of the troupe.

The hard and the not

The journey has not always been an easy one for Six Carat. The first challenge was not so much the dancing itself as the teaching. Hsu was able to find teachers from among the students at the Department of Senior Citizen Welfare and Business, but the real concern was the amount of patience required to teach the elderly members the moves. Fortunately, the first teacher they had, Liao Yali, had plenty of experience with dance along with the patience necessary, and found teaching the troupe “pretty fascinating.”

But how would these elderly dancers take to the hip-winding, fast-paced moves and the bright colors of their outfits? After all, learning hip-hop dance well enough to perform on stage would be the bare minimum required of the troupe, and hip-hop dance has a look, sound, and style that are distinctive to it which they would need to adopt. Having reached their 70s and 80s, though, the members would be coming to it with their own long-held values and ideas. Would they really be able to communicate with young people on their level, or even be open to their way of thinking?

For example, the song they started out with—Lady Gaga’s “Telephone”—was in unfamiliar English and had a rhythm and sound to it completely unlike the Taiwanese songs and music they were accustomed to. Would they even be able to pick up the rhythm? Their instructors, themselves not especially good Taiwanese speakers, worked hard to mix a few phrases of the language in with their Mandarin, along with using body language and tone of voice to help convey her ideas to the dancers and encourage them to dance along with popular music. Looping ten- or 20-second sections of the music, Liao broke the dance routine down step by step, helping her dancers gradually get used to the music through repetition. “After a while, they even started counting out the beats themselves!” she exclaims.

The next step was making everyone pop in their performances and enabling them to coordinate with projects like Hon­dao Senior Citizens Welfare Foundation’s Seniors on Broadway, which meant a distinctive and colorful uniform. Their second dance teacher, Liu ­Xinru, arranged with sportswear maker Funiversity for the troupe to be kitted out for their performance in the baggy basketball uniforms so common in hip-hop dance, made in a bold, eye-catching purple.

At first, the troupe members were repulsed, with some remarking that no self-respecting person their age would dress like that, leaving Liu shedding tears of frustration. Nevertheless, she persisted, talking it over with them and asking family members to help out by doing things like passing around photos or videos of the members in their uniforms to friends. As the positive reactions grew, the elderly dancers began to realize that wearing the outfits wasn’t as bad as they had thought, and actually was kind of neat. Their resistance began to soften, and after their performance at the Taipei Arena, they even started to see the uniforms as a source of pride.

Beyond the dancers, Six Carat also depends on another key figure—the leader of their volunteer team, ­Huang Zhang­geng. To the members and teachers of Six Carat, and to Hsu Mei-chi, ­Huang is all but a wizard, capable of handling virtually any problem that arises. When the microphone in their second-floor hall is out of power, ­Huang whips out a battery from who-knows-where; when one of the dancers is a no-show, ­Huang finds out what happened with a phone call so practice can go on without worries; when the troupe hits the road, ­Huang is there with their boxed lunches and drinking water. And if they don’t have enough dancers, guess who’s there to fill in?

The hip-hop spirit

Since Six Carat has begun capturing the attention of Taiwan, other senior service centers have started putting on their own hip-hop dance classes, even elsewhere in Shalu. Elders’ hip-hop dance has become marketable, helping realize one of the things Hsu Mei-chi set out to do in the first place: to demonstrate the importance of thinking about what’s possible. That no-one has done something before doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

Overcoming the ailments of old age to learn “young people’s” dance along with unfamiliar foreign music and eye-catching costumes has given these elderly people the chance to make up for missing the opportunity to learn to dance when they were young, and to learn not to let difficulties deter them, and so to live happier, more confident, and more determined lives. What Six Carat has really shown is the true spirit of hip hop.

Relevant articles

Recent Articles

繁體 日本語



文‧黃淑姿 圖‧林格立
















比如說,開始選用Lady Gaga的〈Telephone〉英文歌跳舞,不是長輩們朗朗上口的台語歌,別說陌生到聽也聽不懂,連音樂旋律都跟向來熟悉的台語歌完全不同,如何能隨音樂節奏而起舞?不太會說台語的小老師們,國語中夾雜著幾句生澀的台語,努力搭配肢體動作、聲音表情,向長輩們傳達自己的想法,鼓勵長輩們使用流行音樂來跳嘻哈。10秒、20秒地重複播放同一段音樂,一步步分解舞蹈動作,用手打響拍子,讓長輩們在重複又重複的練習中,逐漸適應新音樂。「到後來,他們甚至會自己數拍子了!」老師廖雅莉說。









文・黃淑姿 写真・林格立 翻訳・山口 雪菜





















X 使用【台灣光華雜誌】APP!