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Dai Ailian -- Culture Envoy Between Chinese and Western Dances


In the reception hall of the British Royal Academy of Dance are displayed the statues of four outstanding female dancers. The stone sculpture of Dai Ailian is one of them. At the unveiling ceremony, she said with deep feeling, "The honor belongs to my motherland." The words from the bottom of her heart may explain well her dancing career.

Dai Ailian was born in Trinidad and Tobago, an independent republic in the West Indies in 1916, with her forefathers living abroad for many years. In 1930, she went to London to study dance. Many famous dancers such as Anton Dolin, Rudolf Laban and Mary Wigman had been her teachers. Though ballet and modern dance were not well connected at that time, Dai Ailian learned both of them. This is of great significance to her later development.

Dai Ailian resolutely returned to her homeland in 1939 after the Anti-Japanese War broke out. She gave benefit performances in Hong Kong and on the mainland. Major programs such asHomesick Melody, Selling, Wheat Gleaning GirlandStory of the Guerrillasdemonstrated sympathy for the poor and concern over the nation's destiny.

Dai Ailian's art career entered a golden period after the founding of the People's Republic of China. She became the first president of the National Dance Troupe, the first headmistress of the Beijing Dance School and the first president of the Central Ballet Theater.

Her representative works at this time were a group dance called theLotus Danceand a female pas de deuxFlying Apsaras. TheLotus DanceandFlying Apsaraswere successively presented at the World Youth and Students Peace and Friendship Festival held in Berlin and Warsaw respectively in 1953 and 1955 and won awards. They were also included in the Dance Classics of the Chinese Nation in the 20th Century in 1994 and continue to flourish.

Dai Ailian always says: "Ballet is my work, while folk dance is my greatest pleasure." Her love for Chinese dance led to her unremitting efforts. Meanwhile, she introduced the essence of Western dance to China. For this reason, she was regarded as a qualified person to link up Chinese and Western dance cultures.

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