Yangge waist-drum dances for Yenan peasant recruits

 

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.

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