Contemporary Chinese dance: the interweaving of tradition and modernity

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Critical Stages




International Association of Theatre Critics


Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts


Originally published as: Zhu, M. (2019). Contemporary Chinese dance: the interweaving of tradition and modernity. Critical Stages, 18. Original paper available here


This paper examines the motivations and characteristics embodied in Chinese contemporary dance in the context of modernization and globalization. The question discussed here is: if the intention of Chinese contemporary dance is to represent the lived experience of people today, why do Chinese dance practitioners argue that there is a difference in core values between Chinese and Western interpretations of contemporary dance? Is there an artificial division between modern and contemporary dance in China to intentionally maintain cultural distinctiveness? Unlike the discarding and overthrowing of the classical tradition that is taken up in Western modern dance, Chinese choreographers do not take up rebellion as the only principle, but they attempt to maintain the connection between tradition and modernity. There is evidence to suggest that hybridity is at play across Chinese classical dance, Chinese modern dance and Chinese contemporary dance.

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