Creating with Roots

Contemporary Chinese National Folk Dance Choreography

Translated by Emily Wilcox

By Rui Xu
Translated by Emily Wilcox

Subjects: Asian Studies, China, Dance, Cultural Studies
Paperback : 9780472057153, 240 pages, 37 color photographs, 2 charts, 6 x 9, February 2025
Hardcover : 9780472077151, 240 pages, 37 color photographs, 2 charts, 6 x 9, February 2025
Ebook : 9780472904792, 240 pages, 37 color photographs, 2 charts, 6 x 9, February 2025
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Navigating tradition and innovation in Chinese national folk dance, available in English for the first time 


Creating with Roots is a critical introduction to the history, theory, and creative practice of Chinese national folk dance, the Chinese-speaking world’s most popular contemporary dance form. A complex cultural and artistic phenomenon that resists simple categorization, Chinese national folk dance merges folkloric material with contemporary stage aesthetics and blends rural folk dances of the Han majority with dances representing China’s minoritized ethnic communities, bridging cultural differences of geography, economic class, and ethnicity. As such, Chinese national folk dance has become a lightning rod for current debates in the arts worldwide—how to balance local heritage with artistic innovation, how to maintain cultural integrity amid commercialization and Eurocentrism, and the ethics of representation in contemporary multiculturalism. Chinese national folk dance is increasingly a globalized phenomenon: schools, classes, competitions, and performances of professionals and amateurs now exist all across the world. Originally published in Chinese and authored by prominent Chinese dance scholar, Rui Xu, this English translation will be an essential resource for the global conversation about how dancers and choreographers navigate tradition and innovation in contemporary national folk dance choreography. 

Creating with Roots offers a detailed breakdown of key terms and concepts necessary for understanding Chinese national folk dance and analyzes 37 examples of choreography dating from the 1940s to 2000. The author situates these explanations within the longer history of cultural practice and theory in China and in relation to the international dance discourses of the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, Western Europe, and North America.  

Rui Xu is President of the Beijing Dance Academy and a leading dance scholar, critic, director, and producer in China. 
Emily Wilcox is Professor of Chinese Studies at William & Mary. She is coeditor of Corporeal Politics: Dancing East Asia.