Uighur مقام maqam and UNESCO: qui danse le mieux est mieux protégée

The inner frame records an Uzbekistan – sponsored maqam performance acknowledging what had to come: maqam “sound” and dance is now a Global Cultural Treasure. Dare we say that Zhou Enlai saw it coming, made sure it would be in the show? As had Stalin in the 1930s?

Here we can actually see how China set out to manufacture its own brand of “upgraded” regional (Uighur) maqam dance, borrowing from the globally applauded Moiseyev Folk Ballet the idea that reenacted “folk” ought to engage ballet forms, melding a synthesis that even Stalin approved … and budgeted. In 1936, no less, a time when horrible things were dogging the “bread basket” of the Ukraine. Moiseyev visited Mao’s China in 1954, but as ever Mao and coy. were hesitant to seem TOO in debt to Russian Cultural ANYTHING, save ballet. But by the early 1960s, pressed by the need to entertain and distract from the very same degree of rural collapse, the idea of “folk ballet” dress-up caught on. In this finale to the great “epic” East is Red (1964), the major non-Sinophone border (thus dangerous) provinces – in this case Uighur Xinjiang – danced their way into Beijing, allowed to entertain the Chairman vicariously (he seems to watch from the Palace Wall, as did Stalin in persona from the parapet of Red Square) with a maqam accompanied vortical fantasy. The more-than-sum-of-its-parts allegory is not just fantasy: the Omnidance was to happen or the dancing would be over for everyone.

One might suggest, though, that by having Maqam music and dance elevated to the status of one of THE 4 of 5 signature National Dances in the Maoist Empire, as well (2007) as to UNESCO ICH enshrinement, the Uighur/Kazakh population of Xinjiang have gained a layer of immunity from further cultural dismantling that has not and will not be afforded the core-country Tibetans. Dance is mobile, has feet: monasteries are not, have only wings. There is no Lama-ist classical dance or music to help.

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