Ailian, Dai (1916–2006) By Wilcox, Emily E.
Dai Ailian, a woman of Chinese descent, was born and raised in Trinidad and first visited mainland China in 1941. Together with Wu Xiaobang, Dai helped pioneer twentieth-century Chinese dance, especially Chinese ballet, and modern Chinese folk and ethnic dance. Dai received early ballet training in Trinidad. In the 1930s she studied ballet and modern dance in England, where she began choreographing and performing her own work before the age of twenty. After the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949, Dai served as founding director of the Central Folk Song and Dance Ensemble, the first principal of the Beijing Dance School, president of the China Dancers’ Association, and artistic director of the Central China Ballet. Dai’s major works include Longing for Home, Sale, The Mute Carries the Cripple, Air Raid, Dove of Peace, Lotus Dance, and Flying Apsaras. Apart from her contributions as a dancer, choreographer, and teacher, Dai was instrumental in introducing Labanotation to China. She led the founding of the Labanotation Society of China in 1983 and produced numerous notations of Chinese folk dances, and taught China’s first generation of Labanotation experts. A bust of Dai Ailian is displayed at the Beijing Dance Academy, commemorating Dai’s life-long contribution to Chinese dance.