Red Detachment of Women

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The first Chinese ‘Revolutionary Model Ballet’ with choreography by Li Cheng-xiang, Jiang Zu-hui, and Wung Xi-xian, music by Wu Zu-qiang and Du Ming-xin, and design by Ma Yun-hong. Premiered in Peking (now Beijing) 1 Oct. 1964 by the China Ballet Troupe (later the Central Ballet of China) with Bai Shu-xiang and Liu Qing-tang. The plot is taken from the opera of the same name and is set during the civil war of 1927–37. It tells the story of a peasant girl, Wu Qing-hua, who lives on Hainan Island in S. China and is liberated from her tyrant master by the leader of the Red Army which is stationed on the island. She joins the Red Detachment of Women and becomes a heroic fighter, finally taking over the position of commander. The ballet was choreographed just prior to the Cultural Revolution and its mix of Western ballet, folk and classical Chinese dance, and contemporary political message made it a model for the new Chinese ballet. During the Cultural Revolution it was one of the few dance works permitted on stage but it did serve to encourage a mass interest in ballet. It was filmed in 1970 and revived for the Matsuyama Ballet (Tokyo) in 1973. Performances of the entire ballet were banned in China during the backlash against the Cultural Revolution, but it regained favour in the late 1990s.

Subjects: Dance.

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