The Chairman Dances is a 1985 composition by John Adams. Subtitled Foxtrot for Orchestra, the piece lasts about 13 minutes. The piece was composed on commission from the Milwaukee Symphony, and is described by Adams as an "out take" from Act III of the opera he was working on at the time, Nixon in China.
Although the piece incorporates several dance-like tunes, the word "dances" in the title is a verb rather than a plural noun. It is meant to depict Madame Mao gatecrashing a presidential banquet, hanging paper lanterns, and performing a seductive dance. The Chairman Mao descends from his portrait, and the two dance a foxtrot, back in time together. The piece ends with the sound of a gramophone winding down.
The work has been recorded by the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra (conducted by Edo de Waart), by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (conducted by Simon Rattle), and by the Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra (conducted by John Mauceri).
The work was also used by the Santa Clara Vanguard Drum and Bugle Corps as the opener for their 2008 production, "3hree: Mind, Body and Soul", and by the Reading Buccaneers Drum and Bugle Corps as the opener for their 2011 production, "A Dancer's Dream".
The Chairman Dances appears in the Modern Era soundtrack of Civilization IV, along with several other pieces by Adams. It also appears as a main track in the 2009 Italian drama film I Am Love.
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