China and Inner Asia
Ruby M. MacDougall
University of Michigan, United States
In the summer of 1943, Peifen Lin, a dancer who had just graduated from Ginling Women’s College with a degree in Physical Education, traveled around the borderlands of Northwest China to study the dance practices of those who lived in the region. When she finished her trip, she returned to Ginling as a P.E. teacher and taught students and faculty the dances she had learned. In one district during her trip, after the locals had shown Lin their dances, they asked her to perform a dance for them in return. Feeling that her modern dance technique was not yet proficient, Lin performed a Hula dance. This exchange, a woman of Hakka ethnicity, trained in Han-led, Christian, English speaking institutions performing a Hawaiian hula for a borderland tribe brings the internationalism of wartime dance practices into full view. It also illustrates how Lin traversed different realms of cultural belonging by embodying multiple dance forms. Through trading in a currency of dance forms, Lin facilitated the spirit of “world friendship” that was integral to the progressive protestant institutions from which she came: the YWCA and Ginling Women’s College. Tracing Lin’s dance research to the borderlands and its impact on Physical Education curriculums in China, this paper investigates the degree to which progressive protestant ideals were intrinsically embedded into the classification, pedagogical development, and theoretical understanding of “ethnic” dance in China. In doing so, this paper offers a new epistemological framework for analyzing dance forms categorized as “ethnic” and ‘modern” in China.