dance (ethnic)

Dance is essential to the cultures of all China’s ethnic groups and most important among the performing arts forms of most of the minorities. Ethnic minorities with distinguished dance traditions include the Tai, Koreans, Miao, Mongols, Tibetans and Uighurs (see Tai, culture of; Koreans; Miao, culture of; Mongols, culture of; Tibetans, culture of; Uighurs (Weiwu’er), culture of).
Dance plays a vital social role in such matters as courtship, celebration and national festivals. In China, the Cultural Revolution tried to suppress cultural traditions, but the period of reform has seen large-scale revival. Although modernization has again exercised a deleterious effect on dance traditions, researchers have commented on their tenacity among some minorities, especially in Xinjiang and Tibet. It is quite likely that traditional dance forms play a role in intensifying ethnic identities.
Among the Uighurs collective song and dance gatherings are termed mexrep. The largest in scale take place at festival time, but smaller occur at weddings. They continue to exist in contemporary society. Reed-pipe dances are still frequent among the Miao and many other ethnic minorities of Guizhou, Yunnan, Guangxi and western Hunan. These feature a young man playing the reed-pipe to a young woman, dancing as he does so, the music providing the rhythm. The integration of dance and instrumental playing is common among not only the Miao but the Koreans and other minorities. Still today, Miao villages have special public spaces for courtship reed-pipe dance gatherings.
In contemporary China, authorities have set up professional troupes to perform ethnic dances, training young dancers. Revived in the early 1980s, these troupes have declined since the 1990s, but remain popular among tourists.
COLIN MACKERRAS

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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