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Recut: 'Tis The Season For Cultural Insensitivity?

Sam English

If you've ever seen "The Nutcracker," you know a good part of the second act takes place in the beautiful Land of Sweets. Clara and the Prince travel there and meet dancing delicacies from around the world — candy canes from Russia, chocolate from Spain, and the famous Sugar Plum Fairy.

But one of the sequences, as historically performed, hits a more sour note: The Chinese tea dance. The segment often features stereotyped caricatures of Chinese people.

Dancers wear rice paddy hats and deep black eyeliner overextended out to their temples. They perform movements that reflect white people's stereotypes of Asian dance, rather than any connection to real Chinese culture. These dancers (and most of their audiences) are usually white.

But a man named Phil Chan is leading a movement to change this part of "The Nutcracker." His campaign is called Final Bow for Yellowface. And many of the country's biggest ballet companies are now rethinking the way they stage the Chinese Tea Dance — including Louisville's.

WFPL's Ashlie Stevens wrote about the scene and the campaign to change it. She joins us today on Recut.

Laura is LPM's Director of Podcasts & Special Projects. Email Laura at lellis@lpm.org.

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