Cabarets mushroom in Yeongdeungpo
By Lee Dong-hyun
This reporter entered a 330 square-meter underground ballroom in a building near Yeongdeungpo Station at around 8 p.m. April 20 for 1,000 won. About 200 middle-aged and elderly people were dancing as couples to the trot, arrangements of folk songs and blues tunes, which are often heard at service areas along highways. They stared at the reporter in his 30s with dubious eyes.
Those without partners were stealing glances at each other, sitting on chairs along the walls of the hall. Staff members in red jackets were also eager to make guests couples so that they could dance.
The area in Yeongdeungpo, which was called the Mecca of Cabaret in 1970s and ‘80s, has emerged as a center for ballroom dancing recently. Seven such venues are lined up along the street near to the entrance to Yeongdeungpo Market and a total of 12 dancing halls are located near the station. There is no space in most dancing halls as they are jam-packed with guests on weekends.
“There are numerous dancing halls, perhaps every second building along the street here, as numbers have increased recently,” said a 56-year-old surnamed Seo, who has been operating a dance learning center in the district for five years. “Those in their 50s and 60s frequent the area, recalling the colorful Yeongdeungpo cabaret area of the past.”
There is no financial burden to the elderly with thin purses as the entrance fee is free or 2,000 won at most.
“I have regained vitality since I started dancing. It is great recreation and a sport costing little,” said a man named Choi in his late 70s.
Recently, a number of dancing halls for those in their 40s _ comparatively younger _ have opened.
“Y dancing hall in Yeongdeungpo and J dancing hall in Bucheon, western Gyeonggi Province, are centers for those in their 40s,” said Kim who comes here nearly every weekend. “There are not a few ballroom dancing fans in their 40s, although they do not reveal their identity due to the negative image of social dancing.”
It was obvious that visitors were cautious about dancing in ballrooms due to the prejudice that social dancing could lead to affairs.
“There are rumors that unfaithful relations occur if a patron dances with same partner on three occasions,” a 55-year-old Lee told this reporter. “However, it is unfair to say dancing in a ballroom turns into a decadent affair.”
A 62-year-old Park said that ballroom dancing was great fun amid the few things that older people can do. “Never look at those in ballroom dancing halls with doubtful eyes,” he said. (Hankook Ilbo)