More musical goodies: the Chinese “bunny hop” 6

JISHOU, HUNAN — I just came from the English Club Christmas party, where we danced a version of the “Bunny Hop” to a catchy tune I haven’t heard anywhere else but in China.

So, in keeping with my recent tradition of scouring the Internet for perfectly useless trivia, I went googling, yahoo-ing and baidu-ing to learn something about it. Since it seems to be something akin to an oral tradition, getting anything definite about it was a real challenge.

In China, the song is called “Rabbit Dance 兔子舞,” since the basic steps are just like the American “Bunny Hop” dance. [Ray Anthony’s band did a 45 of this in the mid-1950s; the B side was the “Hokey Pokey.” So now you know.]

But if you pay attention to the lyrics to “Rabbit Dance,” the song we hear in China says nothing about rabbits or bunnies. The animal in question is … penguins. Here’s the lyrics. If I’m violating copyright, please excuse me. Tracking down the performers was hard enough.

left left right right go turn around go go go

left right
left left right right left left right right go go go
left left right right go turn around go go go

Jumping grooving dancing everybody
Rolling moving singing night to day
Let’s fun fun together
Let’s play the penguin’s games
Smacking beating clapping all together
Rocking bumping screaming all night long
Let’s go everybody And play again this song

left left right right go turn around go go go
left left right right go turn around go go go

Jumping grooving dancing everybody
Rolling moving singing night to day
Let’s fun fun together
Let’s play the penguin’s games
Smacking beating clapping all together
Rocking bumping screaming all night long
Let’s go everybody And play again this song

left left right right go turn around go go go
left left right right go turn around go go go

left left right right go turn around go go go
left left right right go turn around go go go
Jumping grooving dancing everybody
Rolling moving singing night to day
Let’s fun fun together
Let’s play the penguin’s games
Smacking beating clapping all together
Rocking bumping screaming all night long
Let’s go everybody And play again this song

left left right right go turn around go go go
left left right right go turn around go go go
left left right right go turn around go go go
left left right right go turn around go go go
left left right right go turn around go go go
left left right right go turn around go go go
left right left left right right
left left right right go go go
left left right right go turn around go go go

“Turn around” means “jump back.” Smacking and beating sounds a bit violent, too. Are penguins that aggressive? I figured this was some kind of Chinglish, but I was way wrong. According to Baike.Baidu, the Chinese equivalent of Wikipedia, the song is by an Italian group called Gelato. The tune and dance caught on in Taiwan, and from there migrated to the mainland.

It’s one of those maddingly catchy tunes that keep playing in your head, like an Aqua track, or the theme song to the German cartoon about Schnappi the Little Crocodile. (Schnip, schnap, schnappi … One of my primary school students has it on her cell phone. It’s sung by cute German kids.)

Back to the song in question. The original title is, more sensibly, “Penguin’s Game” (In Chinese, 《企鹅舞》 ). About Gelato, I found nothing definitive, but I did turn up this music video. Watch.



Here’s a Youtube video. Youku won’t stream the video outside China. Ironic.

Dancers here typically don’t do the opening penguin-like movements, just the closing bunny hop part. You can form your own opinions why.

From a vinyl record website, www.discogs.com, I found that Gelato released an EP in 1998 with this song on it in English, Italian, French, Spanish and German. They have at least one another tune, “Fun Fun Dance,” in a more eurohouse/techno style than “Penguin’s Game.” If anyone knows more about Gelato (the group, not the dessert), let me know.

Here’s some further trivia, which I am not entirely sure about. The music video was filmed in Viareggio, Tuscany, Italy, at the Ex Mercato Ittico — the Old Fisherman’s Market. Or at least that what the Youtube notes say.

I have probably lodged that song in your head now, if you listened to the video. Consider it an antidote to all the cheesy Christmas music playing everywhere in the USA now. Or an early Christmas present from me.

Ho ho ho!

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6 thoughts on “More musical goodies: the Chinese “bunny hop”

  1. Reply eljefe Dec 19,2010 1:53 am

    Thanks for the tip. I embedded the Youtube stream, too, for your viewing pleasure. I found a higher quality vid, but it’s too big to link to yet. I’ve got to resize it for embedding.

  2. Reply Darcy Dec 18,2010 2:08 pm

    I’m afraid to listen to the song – don’t want it stuck in my head all day. Youku says it won’t stream tho – for China only.

  3. Reply eljefe Dec 19,2010 8:14 pm

    Comments from Facebook Notes:

    Ge Lingling wrote: “u are definitely a researcher! there must has a little boy inside u lol. i know this song and it’s a pity that i wasn’t there yesterday. happy early christmas! ”

    Peter K wrote: “Dr. Demento would be proud of you! I certainly am, as a long-time fan of the kinds of novelty songs that somehow drive most people crazy. (Yes, I know the Schnappi song from Germany). Thanks for making my day.”

  4. Reply Wang Boyang Jan 21,2013 9:57 pm

    The research work is absolutely awesome.

    The tune is part of this generation’s shared memory… It means a lot.

    Thanks and have a good day! 🙂

  5. Reply Aether Xu Jul 25,2015 8:27 pm

    I can still remember back in 2003 or 2004 when I got my first portable CD/mp3 player and the only mp3 disc had this song in it. I was only 13 years old back then and probably listened to this song for hundreds of times, if not thousands. The label for this song on the disc was 企鹅舞 but I couldn’t find things related to this song with this keyword later.

    Several years later I moved to US for college and one of my friends asked me about my favorite dance music. Obviously he couldn’t recognize this song by either penguin dance or the catchy tune. I managed to get this song by searching the “left left right right” lyrics 4 years later and brought the song to my friend, he still had no clue.

    Now I see this article and ” I haven’t heard anywhere else but in China.” really explained a lot. I guess the reason why it was only popular in China doesn’t matter now. For me this song was planted so deep in my mind and connected with all the good old memories when I was 13. A really special song.

  6. Reply eljefe Jul 28,2015 8:34 pm

    It has passed into history. No one does this dance in China now, at least where I am. Xiao Pingguo was hot for a while, and now it’s mostly faded away, too.

    The American version of the Penguin Dance is the Bunny Hop. Your American friends probably danced it when they were little kids.

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