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The collecting of lyrics and music began in China in the 1920s, when anthropological studies introduced the cultures of the countryside and its villages to the urban elite and helped to create a more complex definition of Chinese culture. The skills for collecting the dance elements of ceremonies and rituals, however, lagged. This gap was first filled in the 1940s by the unusual talents of Dai Ailian (1916-2006). Born in Trinidad of Chinese ancestry, Dai received training in ballet and modern dance in England from 1931-37 when both dance forms were developing in that country. Chance and purpose brought about her work in folk dance: she left England for China during World War II and ended in the war time capital in the mountainous southwest, a region rich with the dance of minority peoples. She set to work learning and propagating with great energy. This paper details Dai’s work in the dance of minority peoples at this time and sets it against the trajectory of folk as it developed in the next seventy years.


In Conference Proceedings, Annual conference, Society of Dance Historians & Congress on Research in Dance, Athens, Greece, 2016, pp 62-71. Cambridge Journals Online



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