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Pioneer of Chinese Folk Dance: Wu Xiaobang

Time:2008-10-14   Source:

Wu Xiaobang was a famous dancer in modern and contemporary China. As a professional dancer, he struggled his whole life to perfect dance and linked his life closely with the fate of the nation.

Wu Xiaobang was born in 1906 in a well-off family in Suzhou, a city in east China. From 1929 to 1932, he went to Japan three times and learned ballet and modern dance from Masao Takada, Tacaya Eguchi and Misako Miya. Not constrained by his teachers, Wu paid much attention to the scientific training of bodies. He also attached great importance to the study of traditional arts and national Culture.

When he came back, he established a dance school in Shanghai and held two exhibitions respectively in 1935 and 1937. His major dancing programs included Puppet, Funeral Procession, Little Clown, Night of the Pujiang River and Yearning for Peace, which directly reflected social reality. His advocacy of dancing for life, like a cool breeze, lashed against the pornographic and poor taste dance styles flooding Shanghai at that time.

During the Anti-Japanese War, Wu Xiaobang stepped out of his own ivory tower of arts and plunged himself into the national liberation movement. During this period, he visited many places and composed nearly 100 timely and inspiring works to fight against fascism and feudal ethics and arouse common people. Typical representative pieces of Wu during that period included the solo dance March of the Volunteers in 1937 produced from a song of the same title by Nie Er and the group dance Song of the Guerrillas in 1938 produced from a song of the same title by He Luting. Audiences at each performance were excited and shared a bitter hatred of the enemy. As he wrote in his memoirs, "Only when a man is filled with enthusiasm and devotedness, can he get such a magical power".

In 1945, with the support of Premier Zhou Enlai, he and his wife Sheng Jie (also a dancer) went to Yan’an and later to other places with the army. He became braver as a soldier and more sensitive as an artist.

After the founding of the People’s Republic of China, Wu Xiaobang mainly devoted himself to teaching theoretical study and art management. In the 1960s, he set up the Tianma Dance Art Studio combining teaching, producing and performing into one and dedicated himself to the exploration of Chinese modern dance and new classical dance.

In the 1980s, he started the first Dance Department in the Chinese Academy of Art, which endows master or doctor’s degrees in dance. He also published many articles talking about dance science. Wu is generally recognized as a master of the modem Chinese dance.