Affirmative Action for (male) “Heroes” on the Stage

65703553 音乐舞剧木兰-4

Happy coincidence. Just as I was (yesterday, Jan 5) reviewing the obviously awkward male combat moves from the Feb. 2010 CCTV New Year’s Gala, billed as a face-off with “dancers” (meaning of course women gyrating their long sleeves) who of course fared much better, I stumbled upon an unattributed newspaper op-ed piece rueing the failure of “classical” dance to give play to the “knight-errant” (xiayi, solo- heroic) spirit once upon a time at the core of that art form. (Though when historically this was the case, and in what great works this might have been so, is not specified). (

Male Dancers Facing Neutering…
Had the Chinese film-going (or TV watching) public not been taken in by the prevailing notion that such dance must favor skills of pliability, of stretching (contortion in my language —-) – as the anonymous writer calls it: 古典舞的肢体柔韧度 软开度 – a feature of feminine dance? When more regard should be given to the spirit of wuxia (lone-hero fighter) which alone provides a counter to “pliability” = dance? 侠义精神的古典舞作品阴柔之舞形成了强烈的对比. Without rebalancing, seeding more of the spirit of the lone-swordsman hero in these productions, men dancers will be (already are?) neutered, become desexed, adrogynous (中性). Unable therefore to take on lead roles, condemned to be followers (my interpretation)

No, I’m not inventing these phrases, or diminishing the seriousness of the threat felt by the editorialist, who obviously is writing from a Party (official culture) point of view sensed as unpopular, but needing to be stated (anonymous contributors very often mask themselves – testing the waters.

With the ultimate target surely the Beijing Dance Academy, whose female grads seem always to walk away with the top prizes. (It is their star danceuse, Wang Yabin (see …), who we see dancing an unenthusiastic pas de deux in our frontispiece). While none of its male soloists have gotten beyond Class 2 awards.

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