When Folk Dance Was Radical: Cold War Yangge, World Youth Festivals, and Overseas Chinese Leftist Culture in the 1950s and 1960s
Modern Languages & Literatures
Theatre, Speech & Dance
Centre d'étude français sur la Chine contemporaine
Journal Article URL
This article challenges three common assumptions about Chinese socialist-era dance culture: first, that Mao-era dance rarely circulated internationally and was disconnected from international dance trends; second, that the yangge movement lost momentum in the early years of the People’s Republic of China (PRC); and, third, that the political significance of socialist dance lies in content rather than form. This essay looks at the transformation of wartime yangge into PRC folk dance during the 1950s and 1960s and traces the international circulation of these new dance styles in two contexts: the World Festivals of Youth and Students in Eastern Europe, and the schools, unions, and clan associations of overseas Chinese communities in Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, and San Francisco. By tracing the emergence and circulation of yangge and PRC folk dance, I propose the existence of “Cold War yangge” – a transnational phenomenon in which Chinese folk dance became a site of leftist political activism.
Wilcox, Emily E., When Folk Dance Was Radical: Cold War Yangge, World Youth Festivals, and Overseas Chinese Leftist Culture in the 1950s and 1960s (2020). China Perspectives, 120(1), 33-42.