AAS Annual Meeting

Interarea/Border-Crossing Session 50

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Session 50: Corporeal Nationalisms: Dance and the State in East Asia

Organizer: Emily E. Wilcox, University of Michigan, USA

Corporeal Nationalisms: Dance and the State in East Asia will convene an interdisciplinary panel of scholars to investigate the significance and power of dance and its relationship to the state and the nation in contemporary East Asia. As an extension of a larger international project with the same name, the panel seeks to promote an ongoing critical conversation within and between the different cultural and political entities of contemporary East Asia, including Japan, the People's Republic of China, South and North Korea, and Taiwan. The panel addresses the following themes: How are nations as communities formed through the production and consumption of human spectacles that foreground dance as an aesthetic medium? What properties of dance, such as corporeal aesthetics, choreographic techniques, and forms of bodily training, have made it a primary vehicle for the deployment of political propaganda, state ideologies, and anti-state movements? How has the continued mythologizing and reinventing of “classical” or “traditional” body cultures galvanized forms of ethnic and cultural nationalisms? What are the relationships between these so-called “traditional” body cultures and contemporary dance? How have different media technologies and the spaces of dance performance, including television, film, internet, the proscenium stage, the classroom, the public square, and other experimental spaces transformed the production of danced corporeal nationalisms? How does dance deploy gender, race, and especially the female body in the formulation of corporeal nationalisms? What constitutes state or corporate support for the arts what does it do to and for the dance and dancing bodies?

Violence, Allegory, and the Construction of a Proto-National Identity in the Noh Play Haku Rakuten”
Susan Blakeley Klein, University of California, Irvine, USA

In the noh play Haku Rakuten, the Sumiyoshi Daimyōjin1 (guardian deity of waka poetry) confronts the Tang Dynasty poet Bo Juyi 白居易 (772–846) (known as Haku Rakuten 白楽天 in Japan2) who has been sent as an envoy by an unnamed Chinese emperor. After besting Haku Rakuten in a poetry contest, the Sumiyoshi deity leads a host of deities and dragon gods in summoning up a “divine wind” (kamikaze 神風) to blow the poet back to China. Although most modern noh scholars have recognized that the kamikaze in the second half of Haku Rakuten resonates with the kamikaze of the Mongol Invasions, the sea battle in the second half of Haku Rakuten is nevertheless read as a purely aesthetic exercise, ignoring any hints of martial posturing in the text. This paper will explore the possibility that the play is a theatrical allegorization of a military crisis that roiled the capital in the summer of 1419. In the course of discussing that possible historical subtext, I will examine the role of noh theater in the construction of a proto-national identity in the 15th century, and how the polemical potential of Noh as political allegory was subsequently erased.

Girls in Transit: Choreographing Mobile Nationalisms in and out of Japan
Katherine Mezur, Keio University, USA

In this paper, I consider the "butoh" corporeal styles and counter-modern techniques made explicit in the dance works of Kurosawa Mika and Yamada Setsuko, two butoh-based Japanese women performers and choreographers. I argue that their styles and techniques are aesthetic strategies for challenging national and global forces aimed at the commodification of female bodies. These artists are both well known for their individual styles and interpretations of butoh, marked by performance art and modern and postmodern dance. Drawing on both Japanese and Western corporeal/national theories, I will examine how gender skews and amplifies their radical corporeal aesthetics and choreographic forms. To analyze these dance works, I juxtapose and compliment Japanese theories of "nativism," "against the modern," and Hijikata Tatsumi's "Tohoku butoh," with Western-based Brechtian Epic Theatre Gestus (interruption), Rebecca Snyder's "explicit bodies," Amelia Jones' " unnatural bodies," and Wang Bang's "de-sublimation." One of the projects of this paper is to illuminate how female bodies simultaneously reflect and deflect the multiple power structures of the state and "national" culture through gender and representation through dance gesture and choreographic structures. How can the state play so negligently? What are the risks in casting off and/or erasing female gendered productions of creativity and innovation? These works remind us of the system of commodification and marketing of the feminine and female bodies, which ties their corporeal aesthetics and politics to an "out-of-synch" urban modernity that has both continued and ruptured and remodeled itself in the postwar to present times.

Identity, Stakeholders, and Agency: Ch’oe Sŭng-hŭi, a Dancer from Korea
Judy Van Zile, University of Hawaii, Manoa, USA

The purpose of this paper is to examine selected aspects of the life and career of Ch’oe Sŭng-hŭi, a dancer from Korea whose formative years and subsequent dance life spanned Korea’s colonial rule by Japan, a national push for modernization, the Korean War, and a migration to what is now known as North Korea. Tracing the varied influences on her personal and artistic development, the diverse directions her artistic work took over time, and the impact of her work on dance in South Korea today, reveals a life that reflects the tensions created between modernization (or globalization) and distinctive identity; aesthetic preferences and politics; and multiple stakeholders and agency.

Performing 'National Essence': Chinese Classical Dance as Embodied Cultural Nationalism in the Reform Era China
Emily E. Wilcox, University of Michigan, USA

Chinese classical dance, a genre created during the socialist nation-building era of the 1950s and then suppressed during the Cultural Revolution, was revived in the 1980s and 90s, as part of a nationwide effort to rehabilitate “traditional” forms of Chinese culture and artistic production and to promote what Yingjie Guo calls “cultural nationalism.” As with its creation in the 1950s, the revitalized version of the form seeks as its primary goal the embodiment of so-called “Chinese national essence.” In contrast to Chinese folk and ethnic dance, which represents China as a multi-cultural and multi-regional nation, Chinese Classical dance represents the nation as a unified cultural tradition. In the practice and teaching of Chinese classical dance, the dancer’s body and aesthetic embodied experience become sites for the cultivation and animation of Chinese classical sensibilities in the contemporary world, performing contemporary individuals’ and the Chinese state’s desire for, imagination of and connection to a particular vision of an essentially Chinese shared cultural past.

The Relationship between Folk Dance and the State in the People's Republic of China, 1949-2009
Xiaozhen Liu, Chinese National Academy of Art, USA

The article will narrate how the Guziyangge, a folkdance of Shandong Province in China, participated in culture construction of the state since 1949. It appeared in the World Youth and Student Party for the Peace & Friendship, hold in socialism community 1950’s and the preceding stage of 1960’s. It propagated Marxism-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought 1960’s and 1970’s of the Culture Revolution. It was the content in opening ceremony for commercial activity and putted together by the local government from 1980’s to now. In those process, Guziyangge was transformed in dance education and choreographied on the stage . On the other hand, Guziyangge is the customs and culture of agrarian society,which interchanges emotion and establishes friendship in its distributed area. People living in that area organized the Guziyangge spontaneously on the beginning of every year,when they are in slack season of bebauen. This spontaneous organization is always not influenced by social ideology but financial conditions, parallelling the performance putted together by the local and central government. The article will analysis the position and the change of folkdance in different historical periods and come to a conclusion based on the fieldwork lasting ten years: Multiple forms of contemporary Chinese society lead to various roles played by folkdance and relationship of folkdance, nationalism and state.This relationship is not only political but also historical and generated in the social formation.