LANZHOU, Nov. 19 (Xinhua) -- In a dance studio in Lanzhou, capital of northwest China's Gansu Province, Wang Yiding waves his hands and counts rhythms loudly as his students gracefully dance to Latin music.
Wang has been a Latin dance teacher for almost 20 years. Alongside managing his dance studio, he also heads a ballroom dance association in the city.
"Latin dance is getting increasingly popular in Lanzhou these days," Wang said. "As China becomes more open, more people are becoming fans of Latin dance."
This year, about 2,000 people took part in a provincial Latin dance competition in Gansu. Back in 2008, the number was fewer than 300.
But the popularity of the dance has come a long way. Lanzhou is located in China's less-developed western inland, and is more famous for hand-pulled noodles than locals' dance moves.
In the year 2000, Wang became a Latin dance teacher, but public interest in the dance was nowhere to be seen.
"At the time, Lanzhou's economic development was lagging behind, and we barely saw foreigners here," Wang recalled. "People simply did not know much about Latin dance."
Wang went to many elementary schools to recruit students. He managed to recruit 18, but only on the condition that Wang offered great discounts on their tuition fees.
"It was really difficult at first," Wang said. "Latin dance is a passionate dance with direct expressions, but the western inland areas like Lanzhou were quite conservative, and students were reluctant to dance in the way I told them to."
The students simply wrapped themselves up "like Christmas gifts", Wang said.
"They were wearing jeans and sports shoes, and they did not want to move much," he said.
But time has brought great changes as China continues to implement the reform and opening-up policy.
Local authorities in Gansu have also paid more attention to the promotion of Latin dance in recent years. For example, the province hosts an annual sports dance competition, in which Latin dance plays an important role.
Gansu's colleges like Northwest Minzu University and the Lanzhou University of Technology have started offering Latin dance as optional courses. Latin dance associations have been established in these colleges, too.
Wang currently has hundreds of students, from elementary school students to senior citizens.
"Before each training session, they change into costumes and shoes," Wang said. "They are very professional."
Ma Ling, a student of Wang's, said she prefers Latin dance to square dancing, which is wildly popular among the elderly in China.
"Latin dance is explosive, and challenging," said Ma, 48. "The dance has a high requirement for your body, and it is of high energy and intensity," adding that doing Latin dance among a group of young people makes her feel younger at heart.
As the dance gains steam, more people like Wang will be able to pursue Latin dance teaching as a career.
Cao Yang, from the southwestern municipality of Chongqing, continued to learn Latin dance at college. After graduating from college in Lanzhou in 2016, he started to teach Latin dance in a small county in Gansu, receiving an average yearly income of 60,000 yuan (8,645 U.S. dollars). Next year, he plans to open a training school for Latin dance lovers.
"I think the popularity of Latin dance truly reflects the changes brought about by China's opening-up," Wang said. "I am sure that there will be more people interested to bust a move like us."