The Chairman Dances

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For Peter Martins' ballet, see The Chairman Dances (ballet).

The Chairman Dances is a 1985 orchestral composition by John Adams.[1] Subtitled Foxtrot for Orchestra, the piece lasts about 13 minutes. The piece was composed on commission from the Milwaukee Symphony, and is described by Adams as an "out take" from Act III of the opera he was working on at the time, Nixon in China.[2] The composition would later be included in the Civilization IV soundtrack.[3]

Although the piece incorporates several dance-like tunes, the word "dances" in the title is a verb rather than a plural noun. It is meant to depict Madame Mao gatecrashing a presidential banquet, hanging paper lanterns, and performing a seductive dance. The Chairman Mao descends from his portrait, and the two dance a foxtrot, back in time together. The piece ends with the sound of a gramophone winding down.[2]


The work is scored for a large orchestra comprising two flutes (doubling piccolo), two oboes, two clarinets (doubling bass clarinet), two bassoons, four horns, two trumpets, two trombones, tuba, timpani, three percussionists, harp, piano, and strings.[4]


  1. ^ Cahill, Sarah. "Adams, John". Grove Music Online. Oxford University Press. Retrieved September 17, 2015. 
  2. ^ a b Adams, John. ""The Chairman Dances"". Earbox. Retrieved 5 April 2016. 
  3. ^ Grahckheuhl (2010-09-26), Civilization 4 Soundtrack: The Chairman Dances: Foxtrot for Orchestra, retrieved 2016-07-26 
  4. ^ Adams, John (1985). "The Chairman Dances: Foxtrot for Orchestra". G. Schirmer Inc. Retrieved April 24, 2016. 

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