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Extra resources for Studies in Theatre & Performance (28:2 – 2008)
The perception that taijiquan solo taolu training has a profound transformational outcome can be traced to both the nineteenth-century Chinese self-strengthening holistic synthesis and to the twentieth-century American Human Potential Movement. Furthermore, the aesthetic innovations of American performing artists that began in the 1950s created a receptive atmosphere for taijiquan’s adoption as an actor training protocol. Arnold Aronson describes these innovations as being ‘a rebellion against the mainstream commercial system and the utter rejection of the status quo’ (Aronson: 3).
If the body’s joints are not naturally aligned with the intended direction of movement, two outcomes are certain: the force exerted will be weak (or even non-existent), and the unnatural alignment will eventually result in injury. (Yang: 83) It is important to understand the nuanced use of the word natural in this example. Because of the degree of coordination involved, natural movement in taijiquan will necessarily be experienced by the novice as complicated, uncomfortable and artificial, far from the sensations of everyday movement that the term ‘natural’ conjures up.
Late nineteenth-century China faced internal corruption and external colonial pressure. The native Han population had been subjugated by the Manchurian rulers of the Qing dynasty, and these rulers themselves faced the combined military and economic aggression of Russia, the United States of America, Britain and France. Prior to the nineteenth century, the literate governing classes of China looked down on martial art. China, after all, was an empire that for hundreds of years had been governed by Technique in exile: The changing perception of taijiquan, from Ming dynasty .