New Books Network

What is “Chinese dance,” how did it take shape in during China’s socialist period, and how has this socialist form continued to influence Post-Mao...

What is “Chinese dance,” how did it take shape in during China’s socialist period, and how has this socialist form continued to influence Post-Mao expressive cultures in the People’s Republic of China? These are the questions that Emily Wilcox, Assistant Professor of Modern Chinese Studies in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, takes up in Revolutionary Bodies: Chinese Dance and the Socialist Legacy (University of California Press, 2019). Revolutionary Bodies is the first English-language primary source-based history of dance in the People’s Republic of China. Combining over a decade of ethnographic and archival research, Dr Wilcox analyzes major dance works by Chinese choreographers staged over an eighty-year period from 1935 to 2015. 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.


Timothy Thurston is Lecturer in Chinese Studies at the University of Leeds. His research examines language at the nexus of tradition and modernity in China’s Tibet.