China’s Classical Dance Vocabulary: Acrobaticism and its Limits

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Header collage:
(1) 仪礼•乡射礼》和《仪礼•燕礼 (741 AD): Court Banquet Entertainments, extra or before Buddhism
(2) Tang jinwu “veil-dance”
(3) Latter Han “baizhuwu” (white linen-sleeve dance), ca 300 AD
(4) Han Grave-exc. rubbing 漆樽酒杯: lacquered goblet (leaping) dance


It seems at first perplexing that our new, “grand-scale” eventing China has felt a need to borrow or hybridize Central Asian and S.E. Asian – even perhaps pre-20th century Korean – “choral” dance formulae for its Great Occasion displays. Why need an extra-ethnic masque for ethno-celebration? Perhaps in the 1950s, when diplomatic currency was counted by enumerating learned skills in Russian ballet, one can see why there might once have been a reason. But the value of that (Maryinski-balletic) currency in the world of cross-trading performance is no longer what it was: presumably, the chase after a Sinitic “big-stage” dance template ought by now have emplanted or crossplanted forms from a clearly “Han” (Han-Tang) pedigree into the front rank of all major globally-projected celebrations.

No such thing has happened, however.

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