Modegama 莫德格玛 performs the dance that charmed the Parisians in 1964

The Chichihar (Mongolian) danceuse Modegama 莫德格玛 (b. 1941) here dances her signature “head-bowl” dance, a virtuoso and very demanding number because the dancer must perform a string of Central Asian shoulder twists, semi-genuflects tilting backward (DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME WITH YOUR SPECIAL-USE DINNERWARE) and pirouettes to a accelerating rhythm. It is hard to get a sense of her dynamism from the this very early (ca. 1962-3) Bleached out video, but her Foreign Ministry sponsored 1964 trip to France and other W. European countries that had recognized the Mao government seems to have been China’s first big HIT in that part of the world because of the impression this particular performance made. EIGHT curtain calls in Paris. The cable traffic back to Beijing must have been ecstatic. No sooner had her jet landed at Shanghai’s Hongqiao airport than was ushered off to a special banquet by Foreign Minister Chen Yi, where she was entreated by a very drunk company of Chen and colleagues to do her number over and over, then with chopsticks added. (here rendered as castinets).

As it turned out, her success was a major reason for Zhou Enlai going out on a limb and inserting the diplomatically oriented the Dance of the Nations into the Dongfang hong Spectacular that fall, very much against the wishes of Luo Ruiqing (Air Force chief), who wanted a Korean style no-solo stadium show. So one single dance seems to have initiated the tension between the PLA and the culturocracy. It survives into the Olympics, as we have seen, though in body-count terms, the Military now completely overwhelms the National Dance companies, few of which survive.

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