Organized Panel Session
The early decades of the twentieth century saw the emergence of concert dance as a new medium for cultural and political expression worldwide. As dancers toured increasingly across the globe, they formed networks based on shared political ideals, aesthetic affinities, and personal relationships, some of which persisted across time and transcended changes to geopolitical boundaries. This talk examines a series of such networks that converged in East Asia during the Cold War period: one around an influential pair of Trinidad-born second cousins, both dancers, Dai Ailian and Sylvia Chen; another between Korean dancer Choe Seung-hui and her long-time Chinese collaborator, Peking opera artist Mei Lanfang; and another around adapted Chinese repertoires created by Japanese ballet dancer Mikiko Matsuyama. These artists were all linked through a commitment to leftist politics in their dance choreography. However, their ways of pursuing leftist politics through dance took different aesthetic forms and led them on different transnational circuits of dance exchange throughout their careers. Ultimately, these networks converged when dancers fled political dangers to arrive in Beijing during the 1950s. Chen came to escape Chinese exclusion laws and FBI persecution in the United States; Choe came as a refugee of American bombs in the Korean war; and Matsuyama came to avoid anticommunist censorship in Japan. Their paths to Beijing and the forces that brought them there suggest new ways of mapping East Asian cultural trajectories during the Cold War era.