PRC 60th Anniversary Show 2009: The army tries to appropriate “ethnic” dance

Stripping the Folk from the People: a Hollowed Out Stage Culture

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Gala, Oct 1, 2009. Part 1

Yaogu dancers


The waist-drum or yaogu 腰鼓 dance was a high point in the celebration of the Chinese New Year in the north of Shaanxi province, where Chinese Communists located their WWII wartime government. It was performed only by unmarried male volunteer trainees, whose youth and gender evoked the sun’s post-solstice passage into Male 阳 (yang) re-ascendance. The dance rite was discovered by folk-performance investigators from the Lu Xun Folk Arts Academy and was taken up as a tool for attracting male bachelor recruits into the Red Army. We are here shown a recruitment ceremony (parading youths on horses) evoking how “poor-peasant” adolescents were ushered off as soldiers, rarely returning. Nonethess the send off was a kind of parade, performed to a firm, repetitive beat in 2/4 time and pounded out by a bulging cylindrical wood and skin drum with (in some) a golden dragon embossed on the red. This category of drum was bookended by the name luogu 锣鼓 and its players 锣鼓队 a luoguo parade. Perhaps just as important as the insistent, military beat is that the players are moving in file.

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