Li Beida.- Dances of the Chinese minorities

 

Li Beida..- Dances of the Chinese minorities. Beijing, China Intercontinental Press, 2006

Though readers fond of Chinese ethnic groups will welcome the publishing of this new book about the minorities' dances, many will feel disappointed after its reading.

This is because the book depicts in an uneven way some traditional dances of several Chinese minorities. The book is roughly divided in an introduction, and two parts dealing respectively with the dances of the northern and southern minorities. The introduction, with only 4 pages, explains some generalities about the origin or the meaning of the minorities' dances, as is shown below:

"Among the dances of the minorities in China, there are those originating in the labor of primitive society, wars between different tribes, and primitive religious activities, as well as those manifesting productive activities and social life in different development stages."

The book then displays the rich tradition of dances of the Chinese nation, explaining some of the regional differences.

The second and third chapters introduce the readers with a summary depiction of two dozen of the most well known dances of the Chinese minorities. Some of these dances are part of their most important celebrations. But ¿It is possible to talk of the shaman dances as part of a book dealing with dances? ¿It will not be necessary to define clearly the differences between these kind of activities and others of more trivial nature?

The only theses, summarily developed during the short pages of the first chapter is that: "influenced by their own historical traditions and objective environment, dances of various ethnic groups have their distinctive features"

So the "restrained and non-exaggerated movements" of the Korean dances are product of "having been influenced by the strict rules of Confucianism." "The combination of prudence, vigor and sturdiness" of the Mongolian people dances is a product of their "vast environment" that "endows them with a rough and frank personality and broad mind" Or the "dance movements mainly focused in the waist" of the Tibetan people are a product of their need to bend forward to balance "when climbing while carrying a heavy load."

The effort to introduce the general reader to the dances of Chinese Minorities is blurred by the attempt to treat all the dances in a similar level of activity. All the important religious ceremonies included in the book, are, after the reading, only a kind of the broader activity designed as "dance". But depriving them of their real and traditional sense is not good. It is as to summarize the complex cultural system that defines a society as a set of exotic customs suitable for the reader.


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