Masculine costume in “Doudou”‘s Modern Dance: From terracotta warrior to onnagata

(1) The Qin Warrior comes back to life after 2200 years….
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Gloomy prognosis aside a new formula for male SOLO dance did however emerge in the later 1990s.

As one might expect it was centered in (around) gymnastic agility as demonstrated by virtuosity in leaping and pirouetting (signalling transcendence of gravity), taken to extremity. What translates 技巧高超 or abbreviates as technical agility (gymnastic, circular in either vertical or horizontal spinning (somersault and/or pirouette of hybrid or of both and angling precariously) has roots of course in martial arts (wushu) as we have seen in the Short Swords Dance-drama of 196-1. In which choreographies “tumbling” is enabled across gender lines, perhaps with greater eclat on the female side (and ditto of course for Crouching Tiger and Flying daggers, though in those 2 it is a losing practice).

But “mere” agility alone did not elevate male dance to a position from which it could offset (excessive) (feminine) softness or pliability 刚柔相济 with vigor), or combine vigor and suppleness. What it took was a willingness to depart from the paraphernalia of straightforward “tumbling”: adhesion to strict and unwavering tempo, simple unicolored costume (black), and clearly marked out points or places where (much as in descending in final flip from the pommelhorse or high crossbar) an almost instantaneous regaining of balance was required – the last however also bigendered under the term 相亮 or “stunning” (applause summoning confrontation)- ended the sequence.

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