Dance in China

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A Chinese dance.

Dance in China is a highly varied art form, consisting of many modern and traditional dance genres. The dances cover a wide range, from folk dances to performances in opera and ballet, and may be used in public celebrations, rituals and ceremonies. There are also 56 officially recognized ethnic groups in China, and each ethnic minority group in China also has its own folk dances.

There is a long recorded history of various forms of dance in China. Some Chinese dances today such as dancing with long sleeves have been recorded since the very early periods, dating from the at least as early as the Zhou Dynasty. The art of dance reached a peak in the Tang Dynasty, but declined in later dynasties. In more recent times, the art of dance in China has enjoyed a resurgence, and modern developments in Chinese dances are continuing apace.

The best known Chinese dances today are the Dragon dance and the Lion Dance.


Tang Dynasty figurines of female dancers. Dancing with sleeve movements is known from the Zhou Dynasty and earlier in China.

Early history[edit]

Pictorial representations of dance have been found in Chinese pottery as early as the Neolithic period where groups of people are depicted dancing in a line holding hands.[1] The earliest Chinese word for "dance" written in the oracle bones is the character 舞-oracle.svg, a representation of a dancer holding oxtails in each hand performing an ancient dance.[2] According to the Lüshi Chunqiu: "In former times, the people of the Getian clan (葛天氏) would dance in pairs [or threes] with oxtails in hand, stamping their feet and singing eight stanzas."[3][4] Primitive dance in ancient China was also associated with sorcery and shamanic rituals. An early shape of the Chinese character for sorcerer, wu (巫), represented dancing shamans or their sleeves;[5] wu therefore described someone who danced as a mean of communication between gods and men,[6] There are many mentions of dances by shamans and sorcerers in ancient records, for example, the performance of rain dance at times of drought, and rain dance (舞雩, Wǔ yú) platform is mentioned in many ancient texts, including the Analects.

Ancient Chinese texts such the Rites of Zhou recorded important dances of the early period, for example the six dances that represented six early eras of China: Yunmen Dajuan (雲門大卷), Daxian (大咸), Daqing (大磬, or Dashao), Daxia (大夏), Dahu (大濩) and Dawu (大武).[3][7] These dances were performed as ritual offering to Heaven, Earth, gods, ancestors or legendary figures. Daxia for example was a dance performed in praise of Yu the Great of the Xia Dynasty who was known for his work on flood control, with 64 people dancing bare-chested wearing fur caps and white skirts, and it may be a dance with movements imitating manual labour for flood control.[8] Dashao (大韶) was a famous dance said to date from the time of Shun's rule, and may be a dance where the dancers dressed up as birds and beasts. One of the earliest documents, Shujing, mentioned the ritual of "beating on the stones as all the wild animals dance".[9][10] Dawu was a major dance in six parts describing the military exploits of King Wu of Zhou and may involve martial elements such as the use of weapons. These formal dances were divided into two types, civil and military. In a Civil Dance (文舞), dancers held item such as feather banners in their hand, and Military Dance (武舞) involved brandishing of weapons.[11]

The six dances formed part of the system of court music and dance first established during the Western Zhou known as Yayue,[12] where music and dance were considered integral parts of a whole.[13] The six formed the "Great Dances", while another six formed what was later called the "Small Dances" to be performed by younger members of the aristocracy in minor ceremonies and sacrifice rituals. These are the Five-Colour Silk Dance (帗舞), Feather Dance (羽舞), Imperial Dance (皇舞), Yak-tail Banner Dance (旄舞), Shield Dance (干舞), and Dance of the People (人舞).[14] All the dances involved the dancers holding objects such as feather plumes, yak-tails or shield, except the Dance of the People which is danced empty-handed with the action focused on sleeve movements.[15]

Aside from the formal and ritual dances, popular and folk dances are also mentioned in ancient texts. In the Book of Rites, it is recorded that Marquess Wen of Wei expressed concerns about falling asleep during the measured and stately court performances, and preferred the popular new music and dances of Wey and Zheng, dances that his Confucian advisor condemned as decadent and disorderly.[16][17] During the Spring and Autumn and Warring States period, descriptions of professional dancing girls also appear in ancient texts. These people may be from poorer family who visited and performed at the women's quarter in the palace, or houses of the nobles. Slaves however have been kept as dancers since the Xia Dynasty.

Acrobats and dancers depicted in a pictorial brick from a tomb chamber in Chengdu dating to the Eastern Han Dynasty. The dancer held a long piece of silk on a rod in each hand.

Qin-Han period[edit]

Historical texts mentioned many dances in this period, for example a sword dance is mentioned in a story where the dance was performed during an attempt to assassinate Liu Bang (who later founded the Han Dynasty) at the Hongmen Banquet.[18] The event at the banquet was also said to form the basis of the "Gong Mo" Dance (公莫舞) - "Gong Mo" literally means "Sir, Don't!" and describes the blocking action by Xiang Bo during the sword dance to prevent the assassination.[19] "Gong Mo" Dance was later known as Scarf Dance (巾舞), where a long scarf is held in both hands similar to today's Long Silk Dance. Liu Bang was also said to be fond the war dance of the Ba people called Bayu dance (巴渝, given various names such as Zhaowu, 昭武 in later dynasty), and large scale performances of the dance involved the brandishing of various weapons to the accompaniment of drums and songs in the Ba language.[20]

During the Qin and Han period, the imperial court established the yuefu (literally, Music Bureau), which was responsible for collecting folk music and dances for performances at the court. A popular dance of the Han Dynasty was the Long Sleeve Dance and there are many images and sculptures of the period depicting dances with long sleeves. This is a dance tradition that dates back to the earlier period and one still performed today.[21] The sleeve may be long and narrow, or long and wide, or similar to the "water sleeves" (水袖, long flowing detachable silk sleeves extended at the wrist) used in today's Chinese opera. Historical texts also recorded dances where the dancers danced bending at the waist while moving their sleeves. Other dances included the Drum Dance (鞞舞), Bell Dance (鐸舞), Sabre Dance, and mixed couple dance.[22]

During the Han Dynasty, a popular form of entertainment is the variety show called baixi (百戲, or "hundred shows"), where various Chinese variety art such as acrobatics, martial art, magic tricks, comic performances, music and dances were all included in a show.[23] In his Lyric Essay on Western Capital (西京賦) Zhang Heng recorded various performances, such as dancers who performed dressed as beasts, fish and dragons.[24] In Fu Yi's (傅毅) Lyric Essay on Dance the Seven Tray Dance (七盤舞, also called Tray Drum Dance 盤鼓舞) is also described. It's a dance that is a fusion of acrobatics and dance, where the dancer leapt gracefully between trays and made drumming sounds on the trays which became faster as the dance progressed.[25][26]

A famous dancer of the Han Dynasty is Zhao Feiyan, a great beauty who rose from a humble beginning to become an Empress. Her name Feiyan, meaning "Flying Swallow", refers to her slender figure and lithe dance steps, and she was described to be so light in her steps that she appeared to be quivering like a flower branch held in one's hand.[27][28] Professional dancers in the early eras were of low social status and many, such as Zhao Feiyan, entered this profession through poverty, although some achieved higher status by becoming concubines. Another dancer was Wang Wengxu (王翁須) who was forced to become a domestic singer-dancer but who later bore the future Emperor Xuan of Han.

Six Dynasties era[edit]

Figurines of dancers from the Northern Qi Dynasty.

The period between end of Han and the beginning of Sui, known collectively as the Six Dynasties, was the beginning of pronounced influences from Central Asia on Chinese music and dance. Musical instruments such as the pear-shaped pipa and dances such as the Lion Dance may have been introduced in this period via Central Asia.[29] Music and dance of Kucha became popular, as well as those of Western Liang (in today's Gansu), which may be an assimilation of styles from Han and other non-Han people. Emperor Wu of Northern Zhou, who was of Xianbei origin, also married a Turkic princess who brought with her music and dances of Central Asia to China.[30]

This period was a time of instability and upheaval, with civil wars as well as conflicts with the Wu Hu, resulting in the splintering of China into multiple states and dynasties established by Han and non-Han people. The Jin court was relocated to the south and many Han Chinese also migrated southwards due to pressure from the northern Hu tribes, and this migration resulted in the fusion of music and dance of the Central Plains with those of the southern local traditions, producing a genre known as Qingshang (清商) music (later known simply as Qingyue 清樂).[31] With the capital shifted to Jiankang (near modern Nanjing), music and dance from the Wu region in the lower Yangtze River became popular. Examples are the Qianxi Dance (前溪舞, Qianxi was a village where performers once gathered to learn music and dance), Whisk Dance (拂舞), White Ramie Dance (白紵舞), Cup Tray Dance (杯槃舞) and Mingjun Dance (明君舞, the dance tells the story of Wang Zhaojun).[32]

A Tang Dynasty dancer from a mural unearthed in Xi'an dancing with a shawl.

Sui-Tang period[edit]

The Sui Dynasty ended the period of strife and division of the Six Dynasties era and unified China. Under its founder Emperor Wen of Sui, it also collected the music and dances of various people under its rule and as well as popular music that originated outside China to produce the "Seven Books of Music" (七部樂). These are the music dances of the Western Liang, Korea, India, Bukhara (安國), Kucha, as well as the Qingshang and the Wenkang arts (文康, a masked dance, later known as Libi 禮畢). Later in the Sui Dynasty, music and dance of Shule and Samarkand (康國) were also added to form "Nine Books of Music". This is further expanded into "Ten Books of Music" during the reign of Emperor Taizong of Tang Dynasty, with Yanyue (燕樂, banquet music) and music of Gaochang added but Wenkang dropped.[33] The most popular of these were Qingshang, Western Liang and Kuchan music.[34]

Dancer in mural from Mogao Caves performing perhaps the Whirling Dance

The "Ten Books of Music" of the Imperial court showed the diversity and cosmopolitan nature of the music and dance of Tang Dynasty, and only Yanyue and Qingshang music were Han music and dance.[35] Music and dances from places such as India, Central Asia, South-East Asia (Pyu and Funan), and other states bordering Tang China (such as Tuyuhun and Nanzhao) were performed in the imperial capital Chang'an with the performers and dancers in their native costumes.[34] The imperial court gathered the top dancing talent of the country to perform a lavish dance that incorporated elements from dance forms of the peoples of China, Korea, India, Persia, and Central Asia into one colossal dance.[36] Dances from Central Asia were particularly popular, an example is the Sogdian Whirling Dance (胡旋舞) from Samarkand,[37] a kind of dance that involves rapid spinning and one that is similar to dances still found amongst the Uyghur people today. The dance was also said to had been performed by An Lushan and the consort of Emperor Xuanzong, Yang Guifei.[38] Others include the Mulberry Branch Dance (柘枝舞) from Tashkent and the Barbarian Leap Dance (胡騰舞), a male solo dance also described as the dance of a white-skinned people with high-bridged nose.[39][40][41]

The Tang Dynasty was a golden age in the development of music and dance. Various institutions were set up to oversee the training and performances of music and dances in the imperial court. The Great Music Bureau (太樂署) was responsible for yayue and yanyue, and the Drums and Pipes Bureau (鼓吹署) responsible for the performance of ceremonial music.[34] Emperor Gaozu set up the Royal Academy, while Emperor Xuanzong established the Pear Garden Academy for the training of musicians, dancers and actors. The number of music and dance performers in the imperial court reached tens of thousand, most of whom specialized in yanyue, and all under the administration of the Drums and Pipes Bureau and an umbrella organization called the Taichang Temple (太常寺).[42] Musical performances in the Tang court may be divided into two types, Seated Performances (坐部伎) and Standing Performances (立部伎).[43] Seated Performances were conducted in halls, smaller in scale with limited number of dancers, and were more refined with emphasis on artistry. Standing Performances were large-scale involving numerous dancers, and were usually performed outside in the courtyards or squares intended for grand presentations. Examples of Standing Performances included The Seven Virtues Dance (七德舞), which was originally called The Prince of Qin Breaks Through The Ranks (秦王破陣樂) created to celebrate the military exploits of Emperor Taizong (the Prince of Qin of the title).[44] The dance was performed with 120 dancers in armour decorated with gold holding spears, however it may also be performed as a Seated Performance by four dancers in red silk robes. Two other major dances of the Tang Dynasty were the Blessed Goodness Dance (慶善舞, also called Nine Merits Dance, 九功舞) and The Supreme Original dance (上元舞).[45]

Details from the Southern Tang/Song Dynasty painting "Night Revels of Han Xizai" by Gu Hongzhong, depicting the dancer Wang Wushan (王屋山) performing the Green Waist Dance from the Tang Dynasty, which was also called Liuyao (六么).

Small-scale dances performed during banquets and other occasions may be divided into two categories: Energetic Dances (健舞) and Soft Dances (軟舞). Energetic Dances are vigorous and athletic, while Soft Dances are gentle and graceful. Examples of Energetic Dances are the dances from Central Asia mentioned such as Whirling Dance, Mulberry Branch Dance and the Barbarian Leap Dance. Another Energetic Dance is the Sword Dance, a dance famously performed by a renowned dancer named Lady Gongsun (公孫大娘),[46] and reputed to have inspired the cursive calligraphy of Zhang Xu.[47] Soft Dances included the Green Waist Dance (綠腰), a female solo dance.

Some pieces of music and dance of the Tang Dynasty that had disappeared from China survive in Japan, an example is the masked dance The King of Lanling (蘭陵王).

Large scale performances with singers, dancers and musicians for banquet at Tang court are called Grand Compositions (大曲). This form developed from the Xianghe Grand Compositions (相和大曲) of the Han Dynasty but became highly elaborate during the Tang Dynasty.[48] A particularly renowned example of this is the Rainbow Skirt Feathered Dress Dance (霓裳羽衣舞) choreographed by Yang Guifei, and set to a tune said to have been composed by the Emperor himself. This dance, originally called the Brahmin (婆羅門) dance, may have been a Central Asian or Indian dance brought to the Tang court by way of Kucha.[49] This lavish dance however stopped being performed in the Tang court after the An Lushan Rebellion due to the diminished power and wealth of the state, and the court music and dance institutions became greatly reduced.

In the Sui-Tang period, song-and-dance drama from the earlier dynasties also became popular. Examples are the Big Face (大面, which can mean "mask", it is also called The King of Lanling, 蘭陵王), a masked dance from the Northern Qi Dynasty created in honour of Gao Changgong who went into battle wearing a mask;[50][51] the Botou (撥頭, meaning using hand to sweep hair aside) dance from Central Asia, another masked dance telling the story of a grieving son seeking a tiger that killed his father;[52] and The Dancing Singing Woman (踏謡娘) that relates the story of a wife battered by her drunken husband, initially performed by a man dressed as a woman.[51][53] The stories told in of these song-and-dance dramas are simple, but they are believed to be the early precursors to Chinese opera or theatre.[51][54]

Many of these dances are also described in Tang Dynasty poetry, for example, Bai Juyi and Yuan Zhen wrote of rapid spinning of the Whirling Dance in their poems "The Whirling Hu Girl" (胡旋女), while Du Fu wrote of the sword dance.[46][55] Other dances described included the White Ramie Dance and others mentioned here. The Tang poets also wrote Ci verses set to the tunes for dances such as the Boddhisattva Barbarian (菩薩蠻) which is a processional dance (隊舞) that may have several hundred performers.[56] A great number of dances were recorded in the Tang Dynasty but most of these were lost after the collapse of the Tang Dynasty.[57] However, substantial records remain of the dances, for example over 60 Grand Compositions were recorded,[58] and some music and dances were transmitted to Japan and retained as part of gagaku.

Five Dynasties to Qing Dynasty[edit]

Mural from a Song Dynasty tomb in Henan, depicting a male dancer accompanied by musicians.

A period of fragmentation, the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period, followed the fall of Tang Dynasty until China was unified under the Song Dynasty. During the Song Dynasty, footbinding became prevalent in China during the Song Dynasty, and the practice may have started during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period among female dancers. One story concerned the favorite concubine of Emperor Li Yu who bound her feet into the shape of the crescent moon and performed a lotus dance on the point of her feet.[59] Later tighter binding however restricted female movement which, together with social restrictions placed on women as well as the banning of female performers in Beijing theatre by Emperor Qianlong during the Qing Dynasty, may have eventually led to the virtual elimination of female dancers.[60][61] Male then replaced female dance part, nevertheless there were still female dance troupes with bound feet formed in the 20th century as novelty acts.[62]

Details of the Song Dynasty painting One Hundred Children Playing in the Spring" (百子嬉春圖) by Su Hanchen (蘇漢臣) showing children performing the lion dance.

The popular centres of entertainment in the Song capital Bianliang (now Kaifeng) and later at Lin'an (now Hangzhou) were the wazi (瓦子, meaning "tiles"), where theatres in the form of fenced-off rings called goulan (勾欄) may be found. Various forms of entertainment including dances were performed in these centres. Dances performed may be generally referred to as Dance Wheeling (舞旋), a reference to their spinning movement, and other foreign dances are called Dance of the Foreign Music (舞番樂). Some dances from the Tang Dynasty developed into a Team Dance with a leading dancer called the Flower Center, a presenter called Bamboo Pole, with background dancers and musicians. These dances incorporated singing as well as monologue and dialogue.[63] Some of the familiar dances of present day China were mentioned in the Song Dynasty, examples are the Flower Drum (花鼓); Playing the Big Head (耍大頭), which is the Big-headed Monk (大頭和尚) of later eras where the performer wears a large head mask; the Dry Boat (旱船) Dance which is known from previous dynasties where a boy may dress up as a girl wearing a boat-like structure made of cloth so that he appeared to sit in a boat, and accompanied by a boatman holding an oar.[64][65] Some of these dances may be performed by folk dance troupes called shehuo (社火, named after a spring festival) which performed during festivals, and each village or city may have its own dance troupe. Other dances include Catching Butterflies (撲蝴蝶), Bamboo Horse (竹馬), the Bao Lao Dance (舞鮑老, Bao Lao was a comic character in a puppet show) and Village Music (村田樂) which developed into the yangge dance during the Qing Dynasty.[66]

Dance as part of the Peking Opera in a performance of "Heavenly Lady Scatters Flowers" (天女散花).

In the wazi of the Song Dynasty, various theatrical forms flourished and Chinese opera began to take shape. More elaborate narrative became incorporated into dances, for example the sword dance would depict the event of the Hongmen Feast, followed by depiction of the responses of Zhang Xu and Du Fu after watching the famed sword dance of Lady Gongsun in the Tang Dynasty. Stories are told, sometimes with song in these dance performances. Dances such as "Dance Judgement" (舞判, also called the Dance of Zhong Kui, 跳鐘馗) became opera pieces in the Ming Dynasty, and dances of the Song Dynasty such as Flapping the Flag (撲旗子) later became part of Chinese opera. In the north Chinese theatre developed in the form of the zaju variety show, and in the south, the nanxi opera.

Chinese opera became very popular by the Yuan Dynasty, and in the following dynasties, a variety of genres such as the kunqu and Peking opera developed in various regions of China. Dances became absorbed into opera, and as Chinese opera became increasing popular, there was also a corresponding decline in dance as an individual separate art form. Pure dance then became increasingly rare outside of folk traditions and mass performances during festivals. Nevertheless small-scale folk song-and-dance shows were popular in the Qing Dynasty, for example the Flower Drum, Flower Lantern (花燈) and Picking Tea (採茶) song and dance shows.

Traditional dance[edit]

Dragon dance.

Many of the traditional dances have a long history. These may be folk dances, or dances that were once performed as rituals or as entertainment spectacle, and some may have been performed in the imperial court. Among the best-known of the Chinese traditional dances are the Dragon dance and Lion dance, and both dances were known in earlier dynasties in various forms. A form of lion dance similar to today's lion dance was described as early as the Tang Dynasty, the modern form of the dragon dance however is a more recent development.

In some of the earliest dances recorded in China, dancers may have dressed as animal and mythical beasts, and during the Han Dynasty, some forms of the dragon dance were mentioned. Chinese dragon was associated with rain in China, and during the Han Dynasty, a dance may be performed during a ritual to appeal for rain at time of drought. according to the Han Dynasty text Luxuriant Dew of the Spring and Autumn Annals by Dong Zhongshu, as part of the ritual, clay figures of the dragons were made and children or adults may then perform a dance. The number of dragons, their length and colour, as well as the performers may vary according to the time of year.[67][68] In the baixi variety shows, performers called "mime people" (象人) dressed up as various creatures such as a green dragon playing a flute, and acts where fish turned into a dragon were also described.[23][69] Some of the performances are depicted in Han Dynasty stone relief engravings, and the props used appear to be cumbersome and do not resemble modern form of the dance. Modern Dragon Dance uses light-weight structure manipulated by a dozen or so of men using poles at regular intervals along the length of the dragon, and some forms of the dragon can be very long and involve hundreds of performers. There are more than 700 different dragon dances in China.[70]

A lion dance

The Lion dance is likely to have been introduced from outside China as lion is not native to China, and the Chinese word for lion itself, shi (獅), may have been derived from the Persian word šer.[71] Detailed description of Lion Dance appeared during the Tang Dynasty and it was then recognized as a foreign import, but it may have reached China as early as the third century AD.[29] Suggested origin of the dance include India and Persia,[72][73] and during the Northern and Southern Dynasties it had association with Buddhism. In the Tang court, the lion dance was called the Great Peace Music (太平樂) or the Lion Dance of the Five Directions (五方師子舞) where five large lions of different colours, each over 3 metres tall and each had 12 "lion lads" with the lions being teased by performers holding red whisks.[74] Another version was performed by two person, and was described by Tang poet Bai Juyi in his poem "Western Liang Arts" (西凉伎), where the dancers wear a lion costume made of a wooden head, a silk tail and furry body, with eyes gilded with gold and teeth plated with silver, and ears that moves, a form that that resembles today's Lion Dance.[75] There are two main forms of Chinese Lion Dance, the Northern Lion and Southern Lion. A form of the Lion Dance is also found in Tibet where it is called the Snow Lion Dance.[76]

Folk dances of Han Chinese[edit]

Folk dances are important historically in the development of dance in China, some of the earliest dances in court rituals and ceremonies may have evolved from folk dances. Rulers from various dynasties collected folk dances, many of which eventually became court dances. However, at various times there had also been antipathy towards some folk dances and some emperors attempted to ban them.

Many of the folk dances are related to harvest and hunting and the ancient gods associated with them. For example, the Constellation Dance was performed to procure as much seed grain as there are stars in the sky, while the Harpoon Dance was associated to Fuxi who according the mythology gave the Han people fish net, and the Plough Dance was connected to Shennong, the god of agriculture.[70]

Some examples of Chinese folk dance:

  • Yangge - a dance that is common in Northern China.
  • Lantern Dance - a dance found in Southern China.
  • Er Ren Zhuan
Folk dance from a minority group in China.

Folk dances of ethnic minorities in China[edit]

There are many minority groups in China and each have their own dances that reflect their culture and way of life.[77] A few examples of their dances:

Ritual dance[edit]

Most early records of dances in China were ritual or ceremonial dances, and they were considered to be of great importance. These dances have largely disappeared from modern Han Chinese culture, although ritual dances are still found in the some folk traditions and the cultures of ethnic minorities in China.

  • Yi Dance (佾舞, literally "row dance") was originally a court dance, but adopted to form part of a Confucian ceremony. This is performed with rows of dancers holding pheasant feathers and red flutes in a square formation, and the tradition of holding feather plumes dated back to Shang Dynasty.[78] The most important ceremony is performed with 8 rows of 8 dancers (the Eight Yi Dance, 64 dancers in all). Originally dances were only performed in 6 rows of dancers (36 dancers in all) in Confucian temples as 8 rows were restricted to the Imperial court,[79][80] but permission was later granted to perform the 8-row dance as well on the basis that he was given the title of a king by an emperor.[81] Modernized version of such performances are presented for tourists at the confucian temple in Qufu.[82] This confucian dance is also performed in Taiwan and Korea.
  • Nuo Dances (儺舞) - a dance with masks which may be performed in Nuo opera or as rituals during festivals to drive away evil spirits.[83]
  • Cham dance - a Tibetan Buddhist dance
Dancing in park as exercise

Exercise dance[edit]

According to Lüshi Chunqiu, during the time of Emperor Yao, a dance was created as exercise for the people to keep healthy after a prolonged spell of wet weather.[84] Traditionally some Chinese dances may also have connection with the martial arts and used to train fighting skills as well as for fitness, and some martial art exercises are similar to a choreographed dance. In modern China, it is common to find people using dance as a form of exercise in parks.

Dance in theatre[edit]

Dance troupe[edit]

Modern Dance[edit]

1972 production of the The Red Detachment of Women by the National Ballet of China.


The first ballet school in China, Beijing Dance School, was established in 1954 with Dai Ailian as the principal and staffed by some outstanding Russian teachers, including Pyotr Gusev who instituted the Russian training system.[85] In the following years ballets such as Swan Lake and Romeo and Juliet were performed.[78] The National Ballet of China was founded on the last day of 1959 as the Experimental Ballet Company of the Beijing Dance School.[85] During the Cultural Revolution under the control of Madame Mao, Revolutionary Model dramas came to the fore, and the repertory was eventually reduced to two ideological ballets - The Red Detachment of Women and The White Haired Girl. After the fall of the Gang of Four, the ballet company began to reform and change direction with the classical Western ballets resurrected, and also broadened its range to include more modern ballets from around the world.[85]

Other ballet companies in China:

Modern choreography on traditional themes - this one is based on paintings and sculpture of Thousand Hand Guanyin.

Contemporary dance[edit]

Modern traditional[edit]

Many dances presented as traditional in theatres and television are modern imagination of ancient dances using modern choreography, for example the famous Rainbow-Feathered Dress Dance of the Tang Dynasty.

Social Dances[edit]

Western ballroom dancing became popular in the 20th century, previously it would not have been permissible for men and women of decent families to dance together.[86] Although it later disappeared after the Cultural Revolution, such dances reappeared later in the century.

Dance school[edit]

Beijing Dance Academy


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  25. ^ 東漢·傅毅《舞賦》 Description by Zhang Heng as Recorded in Fu Yi's Lyric Essay on Dance.
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  27. ^ Selina O'Grady (2012). And Man Created God: Kings, Cults and Conquests at the Time of Jesus. Atlantic Books. p. 142. ISBN 978-1843546962. 
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  39. ^ Yiping Zhang. Story of the Silk Road. pp. 158–159. ISBN 978-7508508320. 
  40. ^ "胡腾舞". National Museum of China. 
  41. ^ "胡騰兒 (Pooem by Li Duan)". 
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  44. ^ Mei Ah Tan. A Study of Yuan Zhen's Life and Verse 809--810: Two Years that Shaped His Politics and Prosody. ProQuest LLC. pp. 148–150. ISBN 9781243543646. 
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  46. ^ a b Jean Elizabeth Ward (2008). DU FU: An Homage to. ISBN 978-1435714328. 
  47. ^ Frank Watson. "Du Fu's "Watching Lady Gongsun's Disciple Perform a Sword Dance"". Follow the Blue Flute. 
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  49. ^ Mu Shun-ying and Wang Yao (1996). "The Western Regions (HSI-YÜ) Under The T’ang Empire And The Kingdom OF Tibet". In B.A. Litvinsky. History of Civilizations of Central Asia, Volume III: The cross-roads of civilizations: A.D. 250 to 750. UNESCO. p. 352. ISBN 978-9231032110. 
  50. ^ Laurence Picken, ed. (1985). Music from the Tang Court: Volume 5. Cambridge University Press. pp. 1–12. ISBN 978-0521347761. 
  51. ^ a b c Faye Chunfang Fei, ed. (2002). Chinese Theories of Theater and Performance from Confucius to the Present. University of Michigan Press. pp. 28–29. ISBN 978-0472089239. 
  52. ^ Tan Ye (2008). Historical Dictionary of Chinese Theater. Scarecrow Press. p. 336. 
  53. ^ "Theatre". China Culture Information Net. 
  54. ^ "The Early History of Chinese Theatre". Asian Traditional Theatre and Dance. 
  55. ^ by Laurence Picken, ed. (1985). Music from the Tang Court: volume 2. Cambridge University Press. pp. 10–12. ISBN 978-0521318587. 
  56. ^ Laurence Picken, ed. (1985). Music from the Tang Court: Volume 4. Cambridge University Press. pp. 59–61. ISBN 978-0521318341. 
  57. ^ "Tang Dynasty Dances". 
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  60. ^ Anders Hansson (1996). Chinese Outcasts: Discrimination and Emancipation in Late Imperial China. Brill. p. 46. ISBN 978-9004105966. 
  61. ^ by Sharon E. Friedler, Susan Glazer, ed. (2003). Dancing Female: Lives and Issues of Women in Contemporary Dance. Routledge. ISBN 978-9057020261. 
  62. ^ Simon Montlake (November 13, 2009). "Bound by History". The Wall Street Journal. 
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  64. ^ "第十一章 宋代"瓦子"与"社火"". 
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  68. ^ "《求雨》". Chinese Text Project. 
  69. ^ "西京賦". 
  70. ^ a b Janet Descutner. Asian Dance. Chelsea House Publishing. pp. 99–100. ISBN 978-1604134780. 
  71. ^ Laurence E. R. Picken (1984). Music for a Lion Dance of the Song Dynasty. Musica Asiatica: volume 4. Cambridge University Press. p. 201. ISBN 978-0521278379. 
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  73. ^ Mona Schrempf (2002), "chapter 6 - The Earth-Ox and Snowlion", in Toni Huber, Amdo Tibetans in Transition: Society and Culture in the Post-Mao Era, Brill, p. 164, ISBN 9004125965, "During the Persian New Year of Newruz, a lion dance used to be performed by young boys, some of the naked it seems, who were sprinkled with cold water. They were thus supposed to drive out evil forces and the cold of the winter." 
  74. ^ Carol Stepanchuk, Charles Choy Wong (1992). China Books & Periodicals. p. 38. ISBN 978-0835124812. 
  75. ^ "《西凉伎》". "西凉伎,假面胡人假狮子。刻木为头丝作尾,金镀眼睛银贴齿。奋迅毛衣摆双耳,如从流沙来万里。紫髯深目两胡儿,鼓舞跳粱前致辞。" 
  76. ^ Mona Schrempf (2002), Toni Huber, ed., Amdo Tibetans in Transition: Society and Culture in the Post-Mao Era, Brill, pp. 147–169, ISBN 9004125965 
  77. ^ Li Beida (2006). Dances of the Chinese Minorities. China Intercontinental Press. ISBN 978-7508510057. 
  78. ^ a b Richard Gunde (2001). Culture and Customs of China. Greenwood. p. 104. ISBN 978-0313361180. 
  79. ^ Ba Yi (八佾) According to ancient texts, this dance should only be offered in court. Confucius once complained of one such performance in the house of a noble: "The 8 yi dance is supposed to be performed in court, if he can bear to do this, what else can he bear to do?"
  80. ^ Shigeki Kaizuka (2002). Confucius: His Life and Thought. Dover Publications. p. 134. ISBN 978-0486421391. 
  81. ^ Joseph Sui Ching Lam (1998). State Sacrifices and Music in Ming China: Orthodoxy, Creativity and Expressiveness. State University of New York Press. pp. 35–36. ISBN 978-0791437063. 
  82. ^ Cindy Sui (09/01/2011). "The Melodies of the Emperors". Taiwan Today. 
  83. ^ "Ancient ritual dance performed in E China". People's Daily. February 10, 2012. 
  84. ^ Zhen'guo Wang, Peiping Xie (1997). Ping Chen, ed. History and Development of Traditional Chinese Medicine. IOS Press. p. 8. ISBN 978-9051993240. 
  85. ^ a b c Sanjoy Roy (11 August 2011). "Step-by-step guide to dance: National Ballet of China". The Guardian. 
  86. ^ Richard Gunde (2001). Culture and Customs of China. Greenwood. pp. 110–112. ISBN 978-0313361180. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]