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First Dancer of Modern China: Yu Rongling


Yu Rongling (1882-1973) was a daughter of an official in the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). She introduced western dances into China.

Yu Rongling's father became China's ambassador to Japan in 1895. Yu Rongling traveled abroad with her father. She learned dancing from ancient Japanese dances during her stay in Japan. Four years later, her father was appointed as the ambassador to France, Yu Rongling then went to France with her father.

In Paris, she learned from the famous American dancerIsadora Duncan, who was then performing and teaching in Paris. Three years later, Duncan was very satisfied with Yu Rongling's achievement and invited Yu to play roles in her dance dramas.

However, Yu had a feudal family. Her father didn't allow her daughter to be a dancer, which was regarded as a base profession at that time. Yu Rongling was very adamant. She confronted with her father bravely and persuaded her father at last. Later, she studied more in the Paris Music Institute and staged more public performances.

Yu Rongling returned to China in 1903 and began to introduce western dances to China. She began to perform in the royal court and was favored by Dowager Cixi. In her later practices of western dances, she made her own creations. After the founding of the People's Republic of China, Yu was nominated as an art official in the State Council.

Yu Rongling died in 1973. She was the first dancer who learned from western dances in modern China.

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