Contrary to the common perception that dance in Mao-era China was dominated by the importation and adaptation of Soviet ballet, examination of historical sources in corroboration with Chinese-language dance scholarship suggests that China’s pre–Cultural Revolution socialist period (1949–65) witnessed Chinese dance artists’ widespread efforts to create Chinese dance styles that would serve as alternatives to foreign dance forms. This Mao-era dance repertoire has been obscured in scholarship on Chinese dance history, as part of a larger pattern of Cold War knowledge production about China that emphasizes China’s connection to the Soviet Union, while occluding the postcolonial and anti-imperialist dimensions of Chinese socialist culture, including its connection to the Third World movement of the late 1950s and early 1960s. This occlusion of postcolonial dimensions of Maoist culture is what I call “the postcolonial blind spot.” By examining key works of the pre-1964 Chinese dance repertoire, as well as transnational exchange between China and third world dance during the period of 1949–65, this article challenges the Cold War perception of Maoist dance history and the postcolonial blind spot that is perpetuated by a focus on the image of the revolutionary ballet as the only representative of Maoist dance culture.
The Postcolonial Blind Spot:Chinese Dance in the Era of Third Worldism, 1949–1965
Emily Wilcox is assistant professor of modern Chinese studies in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Michigan. Her articles have appeared in Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, The Journal of Asian Studies, Asian Theatre Journal, TDR: The Drama Review, and other venues. Her book Revolutionary Bodies: Chinese Dance and the Socialist Legacy is forthcoming with the University of California Press.