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  • A Revolt from Within: Contextualizing Revolutionary Ballet

    Emily Wilcox

    Chapter from the book: Wilcox, E. 2019. Revolutionary Bodies: Chinese Dance and the Socialist Legacy.


    This chapter examines the historical context of the emergence of the first two revolutionary ballets of the model works, Red Detachment of Women and White-Haired Girl, in 1964 and 1965, respectively. It argues that the singular promotion of ballet and suppression of Chinese dance during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) represented a change from the dance policies of the pre-Cultural Revolution period, when aesthetic pluralism was the norm. This chapter traces the history of ballet in China from its introduction by White Russians starting in the 1920s to the development of local ballet ensembles in Shanghai in the 1940s. It then examines the subordination of ballet to Chinese dance during the 1950s and early 1960s, through the isolation of ballet from Chinese dance and the emphasis on staging foreign works. The revolutionary ballets emerged as part of a new period of innovation in many dance styles, including Chinese dance, ballet, and military dance. The historical epic East is Red also appeared at this time, showing the importance of Chinese dance in revolutionary-themed choreography. Finally, it examines how the suppression of Chinese dance was achieved through a reversal of hierarchies and violent attacks on established artists.

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    How to cite this chapter
    Wilcox, E. 2019. A Revolt from Within: Contextualizing Revolutionary Ballet. In: Wilcox, E, Revolutionary Bodies. California: University of California Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1525/luminos.58.e

    This chapter distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution + Noncommercial + NoDerivatives 4.0 license. Copyright is retained by the author(s)

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    Published on Jan. 1, 2019


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