Copland’s Appalachia, Moiseyev’s Ukraine

Here is the finale of the filmed survey of re-enacted regional dances from the 1959 film “Red Flowers Blossom across the land” (Honghua biandi kai). It is important because it is an earlier (practice) version of the Omnidance template in East is Red, adapted from Moiseyev’s National Folk Ballet. The subject matter is the dances of the (non-Chinese/Non-Russian) subaltern peoples of the New Empire. Performed as Art not Authentic. The prior (not shown) serial presentation – in effect, a tour – is meant to suggest the grandness of the host people’s geo-hegemony, something like Mussourgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, but with much wider ambit. The finale brings the sub-corps-de-ballet into a single choreogram. Of course, with allegorical messaging. One suspects that Copland’s Appalachian Spring Ballet suite (1944) aimed at the same structure, certainly the same conclusion: it was wartime and the fissiparousness of American racial consciousness and dialect was a political liability. Or at least its uni-dancing of variant versions offered an ingenious way to promote war support
without rhetoric or too-obvious propaganda.

A tighter parallel is visible too: the Chinese version centers upon an iconic dance, the yaogewu (see eponymous post), native to N. Shaanxi, that had been carried on the performance stages of the Red Army straight from Yenan to Manchuria and Tiananmen. Virtually to this day it established the “new” China as much as the banjo and square dances of Appalachia once established the self-image of Middle America. We see it here also as iconic summation of ALL nationality dances, in the form of the floating red drum drum that hovers in the upper left.

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