Historicizing Chinese Dance: Socialist Legacies and Contemporary Trajectories

Emily Wilcox, Assistant Professor of Modern Chinese Studies, University of Michigan

In this talk Wilcox will discuss her recent book, 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, Revolutionary Bodies analyzes major dance works by Chinese choreographers staged over an eighty-year period from 1935 to 2015, examining connections between socialist thought, cultural institutions, and transnational exchange as they relate to dance creation, education, and theory. 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 and instead presents the contemporary practice of Chinese dance as the era's major creative project. 


Emily Wilcox is Assistant Professor of Modern Chinese Studies in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Michigan, USA. She is a specialist in Asian performance, with a focus on dance in the People's Republic of China. Her articles appear in positions: asia critique, Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, The Journal of Asian Studies, Asian Theatre Journal, Journal of Folklore Research, TDR: The Drama Review, Wudao Pinglun (the Dance Review), Body and Society, and other venues. Her book Revolutionary Bodies: Chinese Dance and the Socialist Legacy was published by the University of California Press in October 2018, and she is co-editor of the edited volume in progress titled Corporeal Politics: Dancing East Asia.