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Did anyone get a chance to see this? It only played in New York for a week or two, and I haven't seen anything about DVD availability.

Apparently, it's "A documentary musical about the rise and fall of Madam Mao's colorful propaganda opera's during the 1965-1975 Cultural Revolution in China and their renewed popularity in modern day China." (source)

I am not sure how relevant to ballet it is, but some pictures I've seen suggest that the dancers had ballet training. I can't seem to find the picture, but there is an image I'd seen many times before of 2 female dancers in miliary looking uniforms, in pointe shoes, doing grand jetes and aiming guns, that apparently came from these propaganda operas. Here is a link to the Village Voice review.

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Dear whitelight - it's probably too late for any sort of use.

The yang ban xi - the eight model works, were the model song and dance dramas (including two ballets) permitted to be shown during the Cultural Revolution. They comprised of several stock plays and themes that Madame Mao (Jiang Qing, once an aspiring Nora) permitted to be performed in various permutations. They are more spectacle than pure dance or pure song - think choreography with ballet steps done to Peking opera. The point of these dramas wasn't choreographic complexity but to educate viewers on the merits of the revolution.

The two ballet works are the "White Haired Girl" (out of print, incredibly hard to find. The only commercially available version is of a chinese opera made ten years before the ballet) and the "Red Detachment of Women". The Central Ballet, which had produced soviet works such as Swan Lake before the revolution, diverted most of their resources to performing these works all over the countryside to enlighten the peasants.

As to the choreography, most of it is in the dramatic pantomime tradition with lots of dancing en masse and posing by the heroes (there was a strict code of what heroes could and couldn't do). Solos tend to consist of simple ballet steps, including (oddly enough) a lot of Kitri jumps.

A few of the ballet dancers became quite famous. For example, the male military hero in Red Detachment (who gets burnt at the stake by the villains) rose to become the Vice Minister of Culture by the end of the period, but in general, male technique seemed to be fairly low, in the Bolshoi 'beef cake' fashion (they prepare for turns in the Russian way). Women technique seem to be better, though some of the corp girls had pointe technique that was suspect. Turn out seemed to have been not as high on the list of priorities as it is now!


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