Culture on stage: Contemporary performances of the Chinese model ballets, 2000-2016
Goethel, Adrianna M.
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This thesis will explore the representation of culture on stage through the performances of the two ballets from the eight model works created during the Chinese Cultural Revolution: The Red Detachment of Women and The White-Haired Girl. Political leaders in the communist party, particularly Chairman Mao Zedong and his wife Jiang Qing, believed that the arts belonged to the populace, and as such should be used to educate citizens and showcase Chinese culture to foreign countries. These ballets continue to be performed most notably in the repertoire of the National Ballet of China and the Shanghai Ballet Company, and tour the world introducing Chinese culture to foreign countries. Beginning in 2000, the artistic community in China began analyzing these pieces more critically than before. In line with such discourse, I argue that by using a singular performance to symbolize Chinese culture, some aspects of that culture will be overlooked, lost, and distorted. This is especially true when China tours these performances to political strongholds of other countries as a means of intentionally promoting a specific image of Chinese culture. For this reason my focus will be particularly on the contemporary performances, their pairings with more recent Chinese ballets, and the continued circulation of the two model ballets, which were highly restricted and stylized, as representative of modern Chinese culture. Some of this research was conducted in China, with the aid of the Shanghai Ballet Company.