Publication Details

Mackie, V. C. (2012). Shanghai dancers: gender, coloniality and the modern girl. In D. Ghosh (Eds.), Shadowlines: Women and Borders in Contemporary Asia (pp. 80-95). Newcastle Upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

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Additional Publication Information

ISBN: 9781443839785


In 1924, the artist Yamamura K6ka (1885-1942) produced a colour woodcut depicting the dance hall of the New Carlton Hotel in Shanghai. In this print, two women are seated at a round table. One has bobbed hair; the other wears a red hat. Both wear western dress, but the embroidered jacket draped on one of the chairs suggests the fashion for Chinoiserie. Two cocktail glasses on the table contain red cherries. Several couples dance in the background of the picture, the women all with similar bobbed hair. The male dancing partners are barely visible and the women are seen from behind, giving them a sense of anonymity. The lack of individual features of the women dancing in the background also suggests a degree of interchangeability between the women. They are most likely "taxi dancers", who dance with the male patrons for a fee paid to the dance hall. The ethnicised and racialised positioning of the dancing women is unclear, but at least one of the seated women appears to be of "European" appearance. The women in the dance hall, with their bobbed hair, western dress and cocktails clearly reference the style of the "modern girl".