Highlights from 2022 Spring Festival Gala

Source: SupChina (2/2/22)
Five highlights from the 2022 Spring Festival Gala: From standup comedy to blessings from outer space
The annual television extravaganza that is China Central Television’s Spring Festival Gala is much derided — some call it a “craptacular.” But it is one of the most-watched TV shows on the planet. This year it featured American style standup comedy for the first time and a live feed from astronauts aboard China’s space station.
By Jiayun Feng

Despite China’s stringent zero-COVID strategy, Omicron and Delta outbreaks have been identified in multiple provinces in the past few months. Efforts have been heightened to minimize the risk of cross-infections at the Beijing Winter Olympics, which will kick off this Friday.

But even amid all the uncertainties surrounding China’s COVID situation, there’s one constant in Chinese people’s cultural life that happens every year no matter what, and that’s Spring Festival Gala (春节联欢晚会 chūnjié liánhuān wǎnhuì, or 春晚 chūnwǎn for short) — an annual event broadcast by China Central Television (CCTV) on Lunar New Year’s Eve.

This year’s program, aired on Monday evening local time, was the 40th edition of the gala and the third one to take place since COVID hit the country. Even with a fully masked audience, the show still managed to feel like old times as a star-studded lineup of pop singers, dance troupes, and comedians took to the stage.

You can watch the entire show on CCTV Chunwan’s official YouTube channel, or look out for these highlights: Continue reading

Olympic spectacle and global power games

Source: NYT (2/4/22)
In Beijing, Olympic Spectacle and Global Power Games
阅读简体中文版 | 閱讀繁體中文版
The opening of the Winter Games gave Xi Jinping and Vladimir V. Putin a chance to cement their partnership against Western censure.
By Chris Buckley and Steven Lee Myers

China’s leader, Xi Jinping, at the Winter Olympics opening ceremony on Friday in Beijing.

China’s leader, Xi Jinping, at the Winter Olympics opening ceremony on Friday in Beijing. Credit…Gabriela Bhaskar/The New York Times

BEIJING — China’s leader, Xi Jinping, opened an Olympic Games on Friday intended to celebrate his country’s increasingly assured global status standing defiantly with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir V. Putin, in an increasingly ideological contest with the United States and its allies.

While President Biden and other democratic leaders shunned the opening ceremony over China’s human rights abuses, Mr. Xi drew his own bloc of supportive guests. Mr. Putin, another strongman leader bristling against the United States’ demands, appeared with him in a calculated display of solidarity while Moscow’s tensions with Ukraine could tip into war.

The meeting with Mr. Putin, with the opening ceremony, amounted to a choreographed display of China’s shifting place in the world — wanting to win over countries wary of its rising power, but growing impatient, and disdainful, of Western censure.

It also underscored China and Russia’s determination to present a united front against the West, broadly, and the United States in particular — exactly the result that President Richard M. Nixon and his national security adviser, Henry A. Kissinger, were trying to avoid with their opening to China in 1971. Continue reading

Rethinking Socialist Theaters of Reform review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Rosemary Roberts’s review of Rethinking Chinese Socialist Theaters of Reform: Performance Practice and Debate in the Mao Era, edited by Xiaomei Chen, Tarryn Li-min Chun, and Siyuan Liu. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/roberts/. My thanks to MCLC media studies book review editor, Jason McGrath, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, MCLC

Rethinking Chinese Socialist Theaters of Reform:
Performance Practice and Debate in the Mao Era

Edited by Xiaomei Chen, Tarryn Li-min Chun, Siyuan Liu


Reviewed by Rosemary Roberts

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright January, 2022)


Xiaomei Chen, Tarryn Li-min Chun, and Siyuan Liu, eds., Rethinking Chinese Socialist Theaters of Reform: Performance Practice and Debate in the Mao Era Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2021. 320pp. ISBN: 978-0-472-12851-8 (Hardcover). $80.00

This book brings together research by ten scholars of Chinese theater of the socialist period focusing on theater reform in the years from the late 1940s to early 1970s. The editors have done an excellent job in designing the collection so that the in-depth case studies work together as a series to demonstrate vividly that far from this being a period of ideological unity in which the Party exercised nationwide hegemonic control over the theater world, it was a complex period marked by significant disparities: between the more controllable cities and the out-of-reach countryside; between state funded troupes and those reliant on ticket sales for survival; between political intentions and aesthetic aspirations. Further contributing to the complexity of the situation, theater practitioners personally committed to the socialist cause and who had been prominent in theater reform efforts during the Republican era took up appointments in the Party bureaucracy to help guide the creation of a new socialist culture and found themselves continuously negotiating between artistic integrity and political imperatives in their continuing pursuit of theater reform. Continue reading

Corporeal Politics

NEW PUBLICATION: Corporeal Politics: Dancing East Asia, edited by Katherine Mezur and Emily Wilcox

The new book Corporeal Politics: Dancing East Asia, edited by Katherine Mezur and Emily Wilcox, was published by the University of Michigan Press in September 2020. It is part of the Studies in Dance History book series and is the first book-length academic study of multiple genres of dance across the East Asia region. Contributors come from across the US and East Asia and include leading scholars of East Asian dance and performance studies, history, and literary studies.

Corporeal Politics investigates the development of dance as a deeply meaningful and complex cultural practice across time, placing special focus on the intertwining of East Asia dance and politics and the role of dance as a medium of transcultural interaction and communication across borders. Countering common narratives of dance history that emphasize the US and Europe as centers of origin and innovation, Corporeal Politics demonstrates the expansive creativity of dance artists in East Asia and asserts the region’s importance as a site of critical theorization and reflection on global artistic developments in the performing arts. Corporeal Politics addresses a wide range of performance styles and genres, including dances produced for the concert stage, as well as those presented in popular entertainments, private performance spaces, and street protests.

Link: https://www.press.umich.edu/11521701/corporeal_politics

Continue reading

New Studies in Socialist Performance

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Xiaomei Chen’s “New Studies in Socialist Performance: A Review Essay,” which reviews Staging Revolution: Artistry and Aesthetics in Model Beijing Opera during the Cultural Revolution, by Xing Fan, and Revolutionary Bodies: Chinese Dance and the Socialist Legacy, by Emily Wilcox. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/xiaomei-chen/. My thanks to Jason McGrath, MCLC book review editor for media studies, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, editor

New Studies in Socialist Performance: A Review Essay

Staging Revolution: Artistry and Aesthetics in Model Beijing Opera during the Cultural Revolution, by Xing Fan
Revolutionary Bodies: Chinese Dance and the Socialist Legacy, by Emily Wilcox


Reviewed by Xiaomei Chen
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright June, 2020)


Xing Fan, Staging Revolution: Artistry and Aesthetics in Model Beijing Opera during the Cultural Revolution Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2018. 308 pp. ISBN: 978-988-8455-81-2 (cloth).

Emily Wilcox, Revolutionary Bodies: Chinese Dance and the Socialist Legacy Berkeley: University of California Press, 2018. 322 pp. ISBN: 9780520300576 (cloth).

This review essay examines two outstanding recent books in Chinese performance studies: Xing Fan’s monograph Staging Revolution: Artistry and Aesthetics in Model Peking Opera during the Cultural Revolution (Hong Kong University Press, 2018) and Emily Wilcox’s Revolutionary Bodies: Chinese Dance and the Socialist Legacy (University of California Press, 2019). Both books are substantial and significant contributions to theatre studies, contemporary Chinese literary and cultural studies, and comparative Asian theatre history, with a sharp focus on aesthetic traditions in the context of intellectual and political history.

Xing Fan’s Staging Revolution focuses on the complexities of the “revolutionary modern Peking opera” promoted during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), also widely known as “model theatre.” She is among the very few in English language scholarship to fully delve into the aesthetic features of Peking opera (jingju 京剧) in the modern period, with an emphasis on five major components of jingju arts: playwriting, acting, music, design, and directing. Staging Revolution expands the scope of Barbara Mittler’s remarkable book A Continuous Revolution: Making Sense of Cultural Revolution Culture (Harvard University East Asian Center, 2013) and Rosemary A. Roberts’s excellent study Maoist Model TheatreThe Semiotics of Gender and Sexuality in the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) (Brill, 2010)With a comprehensive study of the artistry of model theatre, Fan’s Staging Revolution has raised to a new level the academic study of the model theatre, and by extension, the cultural legacy of the Cultural Revolution.

The scope of her book, moreover, reaches beyond the period of the Cultural Revolution. Her succinct narrative of jingju history and practice—from the late eighteenth century to the Yan’an period of the 1930s-40s and on to the high Maoist period before the Cultural Revolution—delineates a rich history of the sociological and ideological functions of jingju and its artistic heritage and development, with the latter being the most innovative contribution of Fan’s book. Continue reading

Revolutionary Bodies

Revolutionary Bodies: Chinese Dance and the Socialist Legacy
By Emily Wilcox
University of California Press, 2018

Revolutionary Bodies is the first English-language primary source–based history of concert dance in the People’s Republic of China. Combining over a decade of ethnographic and archival research, Emily Wilcox analyzes major dance works by Chinese choreographers staged over an eighty-year period from 1935 to 2015. Using previously unexamined film footage, photographic documentation, performance programs, and other historical and contemporary sources, Wilcox challenges the commonly accepted view that Soviet-inspired revolutionary ballets are the primary legacy of the socialist era in China’s dance field. The digital edition of this title includes nineteen embedded videos of selected dance works discussed by the author.

At publication date, a free ebook version of this title will be available through Luminos, University of California Press’s Open Access publishing program. Visit www.luminosoa.org to learn more.

Centre Stage: modern dance in China

Sharing some dancing delights for our readers!–Alison Friedman <alison@pingpongarts.org>

Source: China Policy (8/3/18)
centre stage: modern dance in China

It’s August, and it’s time for a break. So pack Centre Stage, our annual arts special, in your backpack and lose yourself in the sensuous world of modern dance before returning to the trade war and other worries.

This year, Alison M. Friedman, performing arts impresario and China modern dance expert, takes us backstage to meet a generation of dance pioneers who are moulding the human form into stretches of both the limbs and the imagination. Founder of cross-cultural enterprise Ping Pong Productions, after 15 years immersed in China’s modern dance world Alison is now Artistic Director of Hong Kong’s West Kowloon Cultural District, one of the largest cultural developments of its kind.

centre stage is our fourth annual culture special, following best dressed on fashion, hip flicks on film, and choice cuts on music.

click to download slideshow (videos linked)

click to download slideshow (videos embedded)

Dance adaptation of Lin Yutang war novel

Source: China Daily (5/26/18)
War novel takes new life as dance production
By Chen Nan

The dance production A Leaf in the Storm will be presented by the Beijing Dance Theater at Beijing’s Tianqiao Performing Arts Center from June 6 to 10.

Based on a war novel of the same title by Lin Yutang, the production marks the first time the story is retold in dance. The novel, which was published by New York publishing firm John Day Book Company in 1941, is about the lives of several characters in Beijing during the Japanese invasion. Continue reading

Asian Theatre and Dance–cfp

CALL FOR PRESENTATIONS: Adaptation, Translation and Acculturation in Asian Theatre and Dance
A Symposium at the Centre for Asian Theatre and Dance, Royal Holloway, University of London, 25 May 2018

Adaptation, and parallel adaptive acts such as translation (Jakobson 2000) and acculturation, are the foundation blocks for intercultural and cross-cultural projects (Chan 2012), but also have agency in developing national multicultural narratives (Leong 2014).  As Chan highlights, ‘adaptations serve as carriers of cultural subjects and formations’ (2014: 412).  Inevitably, acts of intercultural and cross-cultural adaptation are bound to the cultural-political sphere, to post-colonial and neo-colonial histories. Yet, they are as much a product of the personal and the national, as they are the communal and the global. Translation happens not only between texts but also within performance, articulating the commensurability or lack of understanding among actors representing contrasting world views (Lindsay 2007). Continue reading

Dancing East Asia conference at U Michigan

Dancing East Asia: Critical Choreographies and their Corporeal Politics
April 7-8 | Hatcher Library Gallery, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

This conference examines the moving body as a medium of artistic experimentation, cultural exchange, and political activism in East Asia. Invited scholars from Asia, Europe, and North America will present new research on dance in the East Asian region, including China, Japan, North and South Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. Covering late imperial times to the present, the conference will offer a landmark event for the emerging field of East Asian dance studies.

Dancing East Asia has been designated the 2017 “Special Topics Conference” by the Society for Dance History Scholars, the dance studies organization of ACLS.

This conference is one part of an ongoing research project focused on Dance Studies and Global East Asia and an edited volume directed and authored by Emily Wilcox and Katherine Mezur.

Visit the conference website. Continue reading

Dance Exhibition at U of Michigan

The University of Michigan Lieberthal-Rogel Center for Chinese Studies and the University Library are pleased to announce a new exhibition, Chinese Dance: National Movements in a Revolutionary Age, 1945-1965, to be held March 1-May 15, 2017 at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Featuring materials from the University of Michigan Library’s Asia Library, home of North America’s largest collection of research materials on Chinese dance, the exhibition introduces modern Chinese dance history during the period from 1945 to 1965 through digitized photographs, performance programs, archival materials, books, and videos.

The exhibition is co-curated by Emily Wilcox (U-M Department of Asian Languages and Cultures) and Liangyu Fu (U-M Asia Library) and co-sponsored by the U-M Lieberthal-Rogel Center for Chinese Studies and the University Library. Continue reading

Core socialist values in song and dance

Source: Sinosphere, NYT (9/1/16)
China’s ‘Core Socialist Values,’ the Song-and-Dance Version
By KIKI ZHAO

BEIJING — The 12 “core socialist values” are memorized by schoolchildren, featured in college entrance exams, printed on stamps and lanterns, and splashed on walls across China. Now they have made their way into 20 song-and-dance routines that the authorities in Hunan Province plan to promote to the country’s millions of “square dancers,” the mostly middle-aged and older women who gather in public squares to perform in unison. Continue reading

Dance version of Bi Feiyu’s The Moon Opera

Source: Global Times (10/115)
Wang’s ‘The Moon’ wows audiences

A scene from The Moon Opera Photo: Courtesy of Zhang Xiaolei

It’s no surprise that writer Bi Feiyu’s novel The Moon Opera has been adapted into various art forms from small screen TV dramas to big screen movies and even modern dance. However, people who have seen the trial performances in Shijiazhuang in Hebei Province in late September and the official debut at the National Center for The Performing Arts in Beijing from October 4-6, were surprised to find that the dance version presented by dancer Wang Yabin surpassed their expectation for a dance drama. A melding of modern and classic dance forms, The Moon Opera by Wang Yabin portrays both the stage career and emotional life of an opera performer, said a review by Beijing Youth Daily. Continue reading

White-Haired Girl returns to stage

Source: Sinosphere (11/10/15)
‘White-Haired Girl,’ Opera Created Under Mao, Returns to Stage
By CHRIS BUCKLEY

A scene from a new production of the revolutionary opera “The White-Haired Girl,” which had its premiere in Yan’an, China, the Communists’ wartime stronghold.

A scene from a new production of the revolutionary opera “The White-Haired Girl,” which had its premiere in Yan’an, China, the Communists’ wartime stronghold.Credit Lu Xu/Chinese Ministry of Culture

Mao Zedong was said to have been moved to tears when he watched an early performance of “The White-Haired Girl,” an opera created to meet his call for rousing revolutionary art. And under President Xi Jinping, a revival is on the road, reinvented once more to appeal to a Communist Party leader’s stringently ideological tastes.

The opera was first performed in 1945 in Yan’an, the Communists’ revolutionary base in northwestern China, inspired by Mao’sprecepts for revolutionary art and literature delivered at a landmark forum in 1942. The Ministry of Culture said it had revived the story in response to Mr. Xi’s own landmark speech last year on the role of the arts in China, when he demanded politically wholesome art cleansed of decadence.

The revival had its premiere in Yan’an on Friday, and performances are planned in nine additional Chinese cities, culminating in Beijing in mid-December, the Ministry of Culture said in an emailed statement. Continue reading

How Li Cunxin danced to freedom

Source: The Guardian (7/30/15)
‘I would have jumped off a roof for Mao’: how Li Cunxin danced to freedom
Forced into ballet as a child in Mao’s China, Li Cunxin defected to the US and had to work as a stockbroker to support his family back home. But he never quit dancing. As he brings the Queensland Ballet to Britain, he talks about his traumas and triumphs – and shock at seeing people take their privileged lives for granted
By Judith Mackrell

Li Cunxin dances The Rite of Spring at Houston Ballet.

Li Cunxin dances The Rite of Spring at Houston Ballet in 1986.

Li Cunxin was just 11 when Chinese officials came to his home in rural Shandong and told him he’d been selected to study at the Beijing Academy of Dance. It was 1972, the height of Mao’s cultural revolution, and an entire nation was being shoehorned into creating a new communist China. Cunxin had never danced before – his physique simply looked promising – but once in Beijing, he was plunged into a punishing physical regime, designed to make or break him as a future member of Mao’s ballet. Every day in the studio, Li’s untutored legs were yanked into stretches that tore his hamstrings. His feet – numb and cold in their alien ballet slippers – were forced into inexplicably odd positions. Homesick, sore, and 1,000 miles away from his family, Li cried himself to sleep at night. Continue reading