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When Words Are Inadequate Modern Dance and Transnationalism in China


When Words Are Inadequate Modern Dance and Transnationalism in China

  • ISBN 13:


  • ISBN 10:


  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 03/17/2023
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press

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When Words are Inadequate is a transnational history of modern dance written from and beyond the perspective of China. Author Nan Ma extends the horizon of China studies by rewriting the cultural history of modern China from a bodily movement-based perspective through the lens of dance modernism.

The book examines the careers and choreographies of four Chinese modern dance pioneers-Yu Rongling, Wu Xiaobang, Dai Ailian, and Guo Mingda-and their connections to canonical Western counterparts, including Isadora Duncan, Mary Wigman, Rudolf von Laban, and Alwin Nikolais. Tracing these Chinese pioneers' varied experiences in Paris, Tokyo, Trinidad, London, New York, and China's metropolises and borderlands, the book shows how their contributions adapted and reimagined the legacies of early Euro-American modern dance.

In doing so, When Words are Inadequate reinserts China into the multi-centered, transnational network of artistic exchange that fostered the global rise of modern dance, further complicating the binary conceptions of center and periphery and East and West. By exploring the relationships between performance and representation, choreography and politics, and nation-building and global modernism, it situates modern dance within an intermedial circuit of literary and artistic forms, demonstrating how modern dance provided a kinesthetic alternative and complement to other sibling arts in participating in China's successive revolutions, reforms, wars, and political movements.

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