Saturday, May 22, 2010

networking...


To start things out, I would like to applaud the Chinese for the training they provide in beauty school. Hairdressing is almost exclusively a male dominated career…and they do a damn good job. I only wanted to include this because I got a badass haircut yesterday :P

The past two weeks have been amazing dance-wise.  The 3rd annual Beijing Modern Dance Festival just concluded (organized and run by Sarabeth at LDTX). It is a festival intended to bring Chinese modern dance companies to Beijing, introduce international modern dance companies, and present workshops and other dance related symposiums. This year, LDTX, City Contemporary Dance Company, and Guangdong Modern Dance Company participated, as well as Inbal Pinto and Avshalom Pollak from Israel, and Systeme Castafiore from France.  I only went to Inbal Pinto and Systeme Castafiore’s performances as I will see the other three company’s rep in Guangzhou this summer (and I seriously couldn’t afford the tickets). I was also able to take master classes from the deputy artistic director of Guangdong, Liu Qi, a dancer in Inbal Pinto’s company, Nir Tamir, and from Marcia Barcellos, a French choreographer.  All of the classes were really excellent.  In each we were taught a bit of company rep so I got a bit of a taste of the company’s work.
            Friday of last week, I also took company class with Inbal Pinto! It was very informal, given by one of the older dancers, but it was great to get a bit of a feel for the dynamics within the company.  It is quite small, around 10 dancers now.  They are all quite entertaining! Really friendly, welcoming, full of spunk- they seem to be a really happy bunch.  Later, I watched their performance.  Because Inbal is the dancer and Avshalom is trained in theater (they are a married couple), their work is quite a brilliant mixture of dance and theater.  The dancers all also had such a wonderful dedication and presence on stage.  Each movement, twitch of a finger, seemed purposeful, felt real.  The two days I was involved with the company were great, and I was able to hand off my resume so hopefully I will keep myself in their sights over the next year!
            Systeme Castafiore was a different story- not that I didn’t like the performance- it was just an incredibly liberal definition of dance.  Sarabeth warned me that it would be very “French” (though I don’t really know what this refers to) and that the French love this company. It was incredibly conceptual, strange, full of giant baby eating slobs and men on stilts. The company collaborated with a Chinese actor so there was narration throughout.  I have to give them credit though, for the wonderfully elaborate and beautiful music, scenery, and costumes.  They also had a performing planning the lute during much of the performance- quite classic and beautiful.
            I also took a few master classes at LDTX this week from Australian Ian Spink and London native Fearghus O Conchuir.  Ian’s was my first class taught in English in 3 months! Strange…he gave an improv-based class/workshop (this was with the LDTX dancers) but a bit was lost in translation (literally) for the Chinese dancers.  Fearghus’s class was a Cunningham technique class—it brought me back to Brenda’s class at NCSA!
            Tonight, NDTII is in town, so I have purchased my overpriced ticket and will marveling in their beauty in a few hours.
            Last Sunday night, I saw the Cullberg Ballet perform at a different theater.  They performed quite a diverse rep, including presenting the film 40M Under. The show was incredibly beautiful. I was quite impressed with the dancers as well. Usually the company has 18 dancers, though not are all working presently (pregnant, injured, leave of absence, etc…). Of the 18 dancers, there are 14 different nationalities represented.  As I didn’t know Cullberg was in town until 2 days before they were going to leave, When I contacted them about taking class, the said it was too late to set it up, but invited me to Ningbo to meet them if I could make it (their next tour stop). SO…

            Wednesday night at 9pm, I boarded a plane to Ningbo, a city just south of Shanghai.  During the 2 days I was there, I don’t think I stopped sweating for a moment. The humidity was so disgusting that the walls everywhere were sweating.  Add to this, a hazy skyline and no apparent culture, and you have Ningbo.  The first night I stayed in the grimy airport hotel, complete with peeling wallpaper and rotting floorboards. At least the sheets were clean. The following night I stayed at a youth hostel, which was great…clean, very cheap, and I had 2 very nice roommates.  Ok, on to the other stuff…

            I was very lucky and was invited to take class with the company for 2 days. Lisa Drake, former NDT member is one of their current rehearsal directors so she was my main contact. She introduced me to Anna, the new director of the company, as well as the other choreographers.  All of the dancers introduced themselves personally. It was so refreshing. There are 3 Juilliard grads in the company right now, and one of them, Isaac, is from Worcester, Ma! What a small world. We took class for the two days on stage with a teacher from the UK (somehow I managed to miss his name). Right now, the company’s dancers are a bit older than I- The average age is late 20’s.  I talked to Anna and Lisa a bit about what I am looking for, the fact that I am still in school and want to finish etc, but that I am planning on doing an audition tour in Europe next year. Lisa said that I need just send her an email and they would love to have me come audition. Exactly the kind of networking I wanted to come out of the trip J The company dynamics are great, the dancers had a lot of helpful insights to share with me, and I just really enjoyed spending time in the middle of everything. Also, fun fact, Sweden dance companies have this great “thing” that once you’ve been contracted for 3 years, you get a “permanent contract”. When you receive this, you are allowed to take a leave of absence to try something new, and your job is guaranteed if you choose to return. Most of the dancers take advantage of this, so I imagine that the company stays quite fresh, that people don’t get stagnant and bored within their jobs.

            Oh, and also, socially, things are great at dance.  I am really connecting with the members of the 2nd company, as we’ve all been taking class together recently.  They are all really open, friendly, and since I am at a similar stage in my dance life (quite unestablished), we have more to connect over.  It’s really relieving J. I am also feeling much more comfortable with the main company.  It’s a bit difficult because I am only rehearsing with them on a daily basis, so I only see them during class in the mornings but nonetheless, it’s going well! As my confidence in using the language improves, so do my relationships (surprise surprise :P).

Life’s great, summer is here (summer weather, that is), and I am starting to feel like I can really speak Chinese…Stay happy everyone!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Photos from Lhasa...

Click the photos for larger view!
Outside the Potala Palace

One of the sacred lakes in Lhasa


A sacred mountain in Lhasa (no name, sorry)



Lake Namtso


"Guys, be careful when you're climbing on the ice!"


Lake Namtso, the highest elevation in Lhasa, and absolutely the most beautiful.

I'm back!!


First, I apologize…I’m so sorry this post has taken astronomically long to find its way to the Internet. When I don’t feel like writing, I REALLY don’t feel like writing. Anyway, I’ve returned to the web to tell you about China! Ready?

On April 23, 2010, I wrote, “I may be absolutely the luckiest person in the world.”  These words were written as our bus drove through the majesty of rural Tibet.  The time we spent in Tibet was filled with mixed emotions for me, but every time I found myself surrounded by the natural world, every negative thought vanished from my mind.  How can I possibly have pessimistic thoughts when I am standing, unbounded by seemingly endless mountain ranges and blue skies?  I often forget how incredibly lucky I am to be able to experience life in China, and over this past week, Tibet. 
            Because I approached our trip to Lhasa with such an academic mindset, it did not quite meet my expectations. Before our departure, I wasn’t aware of Lhasa’s status as a tourist center.  Because of the political unrest in Tibet and TAR, tourism is very tightly monitored, and any non-Tibetan visitors must hire a Tibetan tour guide for the entirety of their trip.  Within each tour group, visitors may not stray from their itinerary.  Though Dan warned us that we would on paper be “tourists”, he assured us that we would have ample opportunities to skirt our way around this title.  Because of the restrictions, I felt very much that we were handed “Lhasa in a box.”  At moments, I was utterly frustrated with the blatant catering to the tourist population, but at others, I was awed that the tourist population didn’t deter those wishing to openly display their devotion.
            During our week in Lhasa, we spent the bulk of our time visiting important religious sites, including the Potala Palace, Jokhang Monastery, Palkor Monastary, and the Drepung Monestary.  Though each site plays host to various important Tibetan Buddhist icons, each serve two similar purposes: preservation of history and religion, and as source of income.  Throughout our entire stay in Lhasa, I found myself struggling with this duality.  By the end of the trip, however, I finally came to a reasonably positive conclusion regarding tourism in Lhasa.
            We began our trip by visiting the Potala Palace.  This majestic structure is one of Lhasa’s most popular tourist destinations.  The Palace’s grandeur makes it quite a desirable location, but for the practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism, it is much more than this.  The Potala Palace houses thousands of shrines and statues still used for worship by believers on their pilgrimages.  I was quite surprised to discover such intimate worship inside the palace, as it was bursting with throngs of tourists and their expensive cameras.  I encountered this phenomenon at each monastery we visited.  Along with the hoards of Chinese and foreign tourists, were a hefty number of Tibetan Buddhists, traveling to Lhasa for their pilgrimages.  Despite the tourists with their large bags and bright flashes, these individuals were able to perform their religious rituals without being bothered.  Though these people seemed unbothered by our presence, I felt that I was intruding on something quite sacred.  Especially since I was very unprepared as far as my understanding of Tibetan Buddhism is concerned.  They are two very different experiences, observing with a blind eye and with prior knowledge.  I suppose I can’t really say which is best.  When looking at religion, it is important to separate observation with a critical eye from the practitioner’s intimate religious experience.  Because my point of view was without any prior knowledge of Tibetan Buddhism, again I felt as though I didn’t belong, intruding in these people’s sacred space.
            Despite my felt intrusion, I understand how important tourism is in a place like Lhasa.  Foreigners bring in, I am sure, most of if not all of Lhasa’s income.  Tourists are willing to pay thousands of RMB to employ a travel agency to arrange a stay in Lhasa.  Tourism both hinders and facilitates the preservation of culture.  Without the money brought in by foreigners, there is the fear that Lhasa will not be able to be maintained, that history will be lost.  At the same time, because every Tibetan in Lhasa caters to the foreigner, I had a very difficult time enjoying myself within the city limits.  I wanted to experience Tibetan life as it occurs naturally.  Ideally, I would have liked to be a fly on the wall instead of one of one thousand tourists.  At the same time, because we all live in a consumer society, how can I wish to see the Tibetan people separated from this integral part of life?  I suppose this is why I found the most pleasure in traveling away from the city’s center, where life is still somewhat simple and less based on pleasing foreigners.
Another surprise I encountered was the nature of the employees and monks of the monasteries.  The employees of the Potala Palace are just “normal” citizens.  Why am I surprised?  Though I do not share the same sentiments about the monasteries in Tibet as those practicing the religion, I am well attuned to the sacredness of each monument.  I expected that everyone affiliated with these sacred spaces would be quite serious and focused on their task at hand.  I was surprised to find that the employees were so, for lack of a better word, ordinary.  Now that I look back on it, this thought seems quite naive, as The Potala Palace is, in fact, a museum.  However, because this site is still used for worship, I expected to observe a much different approach.  The employees taking care of the burning yak cheese were dressed very casually and wore slapdash attitudes.  I also encountered this nonchalant attitude at the Monasteries we visited.  Again, I expected the monks to be quite serious, in meditation, in prayer.  What I found was young boys on their cell phones, lounging around outside the various entrances.
            Before we visited our first monastery, the concept of money offerings was introduced to us.  Though we were told that it was an offering for the temple, I really did not understand the notion, and was quite opposed to throwing my small bills as a donation inside a monastery that I essentially knew nothing about.  Because I lacked any noteworthy knowledge of Tibetan Buddhism, the donations and prayers had no significance to me.  I did not doubt the importance to those who practice this religion, but as I said before, I felt that I didn’t belong, and giving my money didn’t feel right.  It wasn’t until about the fourth monastery we visited that I was able to establish my own reason for giving money.  As I noted before, for those on pilgrimage to Lhasa, prayer in the monasteries is an incredibly individual experience.  Because I initially approached my monastery visits with an academic and tourist mindset, I was unable to be one of those individuals.  Though I felt that we focused too much on visiting monasteries, it ended up having a positive effect.  Because we visited so many religious sites, towards the end, I was able to relieve myself of the academic mindset and experience the monasteries in a way that was appropriate for me.  I was able to offer my money in memory and in honor of my loved ones, and no longer felt as though I was pretending to experience Tibetan Buddhism.  Though my experience was clearly not the same as a practitioner, it was an event that was important to me, that made me appreciate Tibetan Buddhism for what it could do for me.
            One of the most special experiences for me was the hanging of the prayer flags.  We purchased traditional prayer flags from the markets in Lhasa to take with us to Lake Namtso.  We all had a chance to write our thoughts, prayers, names of loved ones, really anything we wanted on the flags.  When we arrived at the pristine lake a few of us climbed to the highest point in Lhasa to hang the flags.  I can’t even begin to describe the majesty of that experience. The wonderful people in my life will forever be flying in the beauty of Tibet’s landscape. 
            When we were asked to record our thoughts about the Tibetan dance performance we attended, we found ourselves talking about photographs.  During the drive to Gyantse, we made a quick stop to cool the tires, and I remember saying, “I feel as thought I am deprived of this kind of scenery.”  We all were taking photos like crazy tourists, as though we had never seen mountains before.  Unfortunately (or, depending on how you look at it, fortunately), a photo can never adequately capture the magnificence of a moment.  During our discussion, we began to relate this deprivation we felt with the Chinese fascination with Westerners we have experienced.  More often than not, when the group of us goes out, we receive gawking eyes and many picture requests.  At first, we just giggled, and assumed that all Chinese are fascinated with Westerners and Western lifestyle.  But as we have experienced this phenomenon more and more, we have realized that it is quite similar to our obsession with beautiful scenery.  The Chinese who stare are, so to say, deprived of seeing the Western physique.  Their stares are not meant to be rude or disrespectful, but are evidence of their curiosity.  When one is introduced to something so rarely seen, it is only natural to want to document it.  Just as the Chinese take photos with Westerners to show their friends and families our strange looks, our group took thousands of photos of the people and the landscape in Lhasa to prove to those who couldn’t be there, the beauty that we witnessed. 


IN OTHER NEWS (I promise I will keep it short!)

-I went to an excellent music festival at Haidian Park and experienced true skinhead music for the first time. My body is still boasting some pretty nice looking bruises and scrapes.
-Dance is going excellently. I’m finally becoming less shy with the other dancers, and am making good friends with the 2nd company members. They’re all around my age and older so socially, I’m much more comfortable.
-I had a great Graham class with Willy Tsao, my company director. I couldn’t believe I actually enjoyed it after our freshman year disaster experience with Graham.
-This week I had my FIRST DANCE CLASSES IN ENGLISH SINCE I’VE BEEN IN CHINA. Talk about strange experience. They were master classes that were arranged for LDTX, one with native Australian Ian Spink choreographer and with a Cunningham based teacher and choreographer Fearghus Ó Conchúir.
-Last week and this week is the Beijing Dance festival, hosted by my company, LDTX. I took a master class with the deputy artistic director of Guangdong Modern Dance Company last week (amazing), and will be taking a class taught by a dancer in Inbal Pinto Avshalom Pollak Dance Company, as well as a class with someone from the French Company Systeme Castafiore.
-This weekend I’m attending 3 performances, Inbal Pinto, Systeme Castafiore, and Cullberg Ballet!
ANDDD…I am taking company class with Inbal Pinto on Friday!!!

So, things are really great, I’m happy, the weather is beautiful, and we occasionally have blue skies. Hope you’re all well!

And,

CONGRATULATIONS TO THE INAGURAL LINES BFA CLASS OF 2010!!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Hello and Goodbye...

Well friends, tomorrow is the day! I take off on a train at Friday at 9:30 pm. Technically, tomorrow isn't really the most exciting day, since it will take about 50 hours to arrive in Tibet. Oh my God.

After 2 days of dirty hair and recycled air, we will arrive in pristine Lhasa, the capital city of Tibet Autonomous Region. Originally, we were going to travel to Qinghai and Gansu, provinces in Tibet, but we collectively decided that we wanted to spend our 10 day fieldwork trip in Lhasa. Because of all the political unrest in TAR (Tibet Autonomous Region), our trip has to be quite structured.  We must enter as "tourists" and are prohibited from doing any sort of research or fieldwork. We also must have a local tour-guide for the entirety of our stay. The one downside to going to Lhasa is we won't be allowed to do any home-stays. We will be staying in "hotels" for the 10 days we are there (based on our "hotel" the first weekend we arrived, I don't expect much!).

I'm sure that most of you are aware of the awful earthquake that hit Qinghai yesterday. It is quite lucky that we had decided to change our destination. A couple of us have spoken about trying to take a trip to Qinghai in a few weeks to help with the relief effort. Absolutely no planning has even been thought about, but it's definitely something we would like to look into. Since Minzu University hosts students from each of the 56 nationalities in China, there are many Tibetan students in the area, and I have many friends from the Qinghai provence. It's a horrible tragedy, so please keep Qinghai in your thoughts.

So, stay tuned for some incredible photos. At an altitude of almost 12,000 feet, my shots should be clear of that Beijing smog ;)

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

April 1...


Happy April Fool’s Day! In case you were wondering, yes, I have already been fooled. Here, it’s called 愚人节 (yu ren jie). I can’t believe that the month of April has already arrived. I have been in China for about a month and a half now. Time certainly does fly.

It’s been quite a while since my last update I realize. I have managed to keep every moment packed, and when I’m not busy, I’m trying to catch up on sleep. Let’s see where I last left off…

2 weekends ago the group of us headed down to 西安 (Xi’an), a city southwest of Beijing. We took the 12-hour overnight train, and luckily, I passed out right away due to an overly exciting St. Patrick’s Day celebration. We purchased hard sleepers for about $40USD for the journey there and back. Trains here have 4 options: Hard seats, soft seats, hard sleepers, and soft sleepers. In the cars with the hard sleepers, there are 6 beds triple stacked in each compartment (the compartments are all open). The quarters are definitely quite cramped, but surprisingly comfortable.  We arrived in 西安 around 7am on Friday and were picked up by someone from out Hostel.  We stayed at an international hostel just inside the city walls for, get ready for it, $4USD per night.  All 6 of us stayed in one room with 2 bunk beds and 2 singles, and shared a bathroom with 2 other rooms. We also got a complementary coffee in the morning and beer at night.  Definitely worth the splurge ;).  The day we arrived, we rented bicycles to ride around the city wall (one of those “must do” things), and enjoyed the beautiful 80 degree weather. We then ended up spending a long time in the Artist’s quarters, bargaining with local artists and observing artists work.  After our buying spree, we headed to the Sheraton Hotel to meet one of the girl’s dads who was in town on business.  We had dinner with him and his associates- probably the biggest meal I’ve had in my life.  Everything was absolutely delicious, except for the 56% alcohol drink that we were expected to drink for the numerous toasts throughout the evening.  I’m almost positive they ordered one of everything on the menu, and to top it all off, we were served a 5lb birthday cake at the end of the elaborate meal.  We all slept like babies that night.

Saturday morning we woke up and were taken to see the famous Terracotta Warriors.  We first went to the factory where they manufacture authentic replicas and were again reminded of the consumerism that exists absolutely everywhere.  The site of the warriors itself is always mobbed with tourists, so it definitely wasn’t my favorite activity.  Despite the blatant commercialism, it was incredibly impressive to see the warriors up close.  After our tour we ended up by the Big Goose Pagoda, wandering around, bargaining with more street vendors.  We continued our wandering back to the hostel where we picked up our things and headed to the train station.  At the station in 西安, we were definitely the only westerners.  I felt like I was walking around naked, I was stared at so much.  A very interesting experience.  While we waited for our train, we continued to attract attention. At one point, we had about 25 Chinese people surrounding us, trying to speak English, speaking to us in Chinese, and just listening.  We ended up in the same car as a few young men and talked with them for quite some time. Lots of good language practice!

Now that I’m writing about it, it seems like an extremely short trip. I suppose it was, it was definitely a good one J

I won’t bore you with my daily life, but I will share a few more things.  Last week Dan took us to a Tibetan performance.  For those of you who have been to an “authentic” Luau, it was basically the same thing, but Tibetan.  Overpriced, a bit gaudy, but trying to bring a bit of the Tibetan people to mainstream China (the tourist population, that is).  We all wore traditional Tibetan dress (yes, we always want to attract more attention to ourselves), which was quite uncomfortable (socially speaking). Despite that, the food was great and the music, singing and dance were quite entertaining.  A few of us ended up getting some of the performer’s numbers, and our interactions have been quite a trip.  All of the performers are young Tibetans (19-30) and speak very little if any English.  I ended up spending time with one named Lousan, an incredibly talented singer and dancer.  Lousan speaks zero English, so I really had to be on top of my game with my Mandarin.  I should have known to back off when he wouldn’t stop saying, “我很喜欢你。真的真的。我不骗你!(I really like you. I’m not lying!). Over and over I would respond, “对不起,我不喜欢你。我不想要男朋友。我只住在北京四个月。(Sorry, I don’t like you. I don’t want a boyfriend. I’m only living in Beijing for 4 months). Despite my blatant aversion to him, he has continued, for a week, to ask me why I don’t like him, and call me over and over when I don’t answer his text messages.  It’s incredibly frustrating because what I know how to say is very limited, and I don’t know how to tell him exactly why I don’t want to be his girlfriend.  Finally, last night, a Chinese friend helped me write out something to him, and he called me “cheap” and has decided to stop talking to me. Ah well. 

Life is good, dance is good, and my language is rapidly improving.  Now if only we could have some sun… J


Monday, March 15, 2010

March 15th...



I’ve been thinking a lot about how different these 4 months are going to be from most study abroad experiences in, say, Europe.  I don't really have the ability to travel all over the continent, taking wild weekend trips wherever I so choose. The main goal (not necessarily my MAIN goal, but a very big one) and necessity here is to learn the language.  I suppose it is possible to get around and navigate without it, but the pleasure is lessened if you aren’t able to share your experiences or interact with local Chinese (or if you literally can't find where you want to go because no one can understand you).

I find it quite hard to be patient. I know that I have to spend a lot of time studying and building up my vocabulary, but I just want so badly to be able to have a full conversation with the people I meet who don’t speak English.  Last weekend we all went out to see LDTX II perform.  I’m mainly working with the first company so this was my first encounter with these 16 dancers.  They are all college graduates, a few of Minzu Daxue, many of Beijing Dance Academy.  The reparatory was mixed with a few pieces choreographed by the 1st company dancers.  From what the director, Willy Tsao, insinuated to me, I was expecting a sort of amateur performance from dancers fresh from the classic Chinese folk dance world.  What we received was anything but this.  The dancers held such emotional power on stage and were quite well versed in “contemporary vocabulary”.  There was a huge range of music, theme, and emotion presented, which created a very satisfying and well-rounded program.  My frustration arose when we attended the question and answer segment with Willy and the dancers after the program.  I could understand a few words here and there, but was not able to piece anything together coherently.  I know that I can’t expect to be able to understand, but it’s so hard not to. My wonderful ethnic dance teacher Liu Liu did some translating for me, but it’s impossible to expect someone to translate an entire conversation.  I know it takes patience,…and I am trying to slowly develop it. Slowly… J

I also went to a reggae show last week with a few friends at a great music venue called  愚公移山 YuGong YiShan).  There is a lot of live music happening around here, it’s just a matter of finding it and translating the information! I thought of you, lovely roommate Ashley, because Peaches is coming to town in a few weeks. 

This weekend, LiuLiu took myself and 2 other girls to a performance at the Poly Theater.  It’s this incredibly grand theater downtown with a stage practically three times bigger than I have ever seen dance performed on.  It was the equivalent of a story ballet, but instead of ballet as the dance form, it was Chinese Folk Dance (Muslim based).  Because the arts (for the most part) are government controlled, the budget is gigantic.  You would not believe the elaborate costumes, set design, music, and lighting (cameras, unfortunately, prohibited).  The dancing was sort of a mix between Chinese Folk dancing and ballet inspired modern.  It was very Busby Berkeley-esque, with what seemed like hundreds of dancers creating mesmerizing patterns across the stage.  The dancers were very technically skilled, especially the principal male.  His movement seemed inspired by a mixture of ballet, acrobatics, martial arts, and Chinese folk dance.  He was incredibly strong and lithe, sprinting across the huge stage without making a sound.  The performance was full of drama and exaggerations, but was incredible to watch.  It reminded me of the value of the corps de ballet.  In my dancing I have been so focused on individual discovery and creating myself as a dancer, I often forget of the wonder that can be created in simplicity through symmetry and unison.  The performance ended with a long set of bows, directors in Chinese official soldier’s uniforms, and enormous bouquets of flowers lining the stage for photos and film opportunities.  It was quite a spectacle!

This coming weekend, we (the 5 other girls in my program and I) are all going to Xi’an!  We are leaving Thursday night, taking the 12 hour overnight train.  I think we arrive around 7am Friday Morning.  We haven’t made specific plans for Friday yet, but we might rent bikes and ride the wall surrounding the city (apparently a really beautiful ride). We’re staying in an international hostel Friday night (the equivelent of $7.50 US per night for a bed, free wi-fi, coffee in the morning and a beer a night), and will spend Saturday visiting the home of the Terracotta Warriors.  We will take the Saturday night train back to Beijing and arrive sometime early Sunday morning.  I’m sure the weekend will have all sorts of other exciting things to share later J

Ah yes, as far as dance developments…I still don’t have a set schedule and probably won’t for the next 4 months.  Whenever I feel that I can skip class, I head down to take class with LDTX (unfortunately not as often as I would like).  There are a few studios around that offer open classes so I’ve been trying to get a good schedule worked out with those locals (again, the language barrier is very difficult), and I have a studio at Minzu that is open to me a few days a week.  I’ve started to give myself class, which takes quite a bit if discipline…but it’s working out alright J.  Along with these open classes, next weekend, a new-ish company, Tao Body Theater, is beginning weekend workshops.  They are offering a set of 3 classes, 1 per weekend, rolling for the next few months.      

Here is a bit of their mission…

         Creation is one of humanity’s most basic abilities. In the face of boredom, creation shakes us; when we lose direction creation points out a new path. In the process of creating, we somehow overcome the barriers that contain us in everyday life, and we overcome ourselves.
         Tao Body Theater was founded in March, 2008, in Beijing and is currently composed of three independent artists. Although three individuals, we are brought together by a shared longing. Art is humanity’s creation! What we long for is to use “the body” to create. Each body has its unique secrets, and through rigorous, sincere, and exploratory corporal research, we hope to stretch the boundaries of the flesh, and in this process of excavation to discover the body’s unknown possibilities.
         This exploration of the body and its possibilities has, for us, a kind of sacredness, because in the process of using the body to create, we have found our own faith. In our pursuit of the corporeal, our spirit becomes free.
         Tao Body Theater has always devoted itself to the exploration of “body education.” Tao Body Theater has been invited to teach at the Central University of Nationalities, Beijing Language University, Shaanxi Normal University, Yan’an University, Henny Jurriens
Stichting, etc. Tao Dance Studio has also offered open classes and workshops at Beijing Nine Theaters, Fanxing Theater Village, Contemporary MOMA Art Center, etc.

Course Type
1: Concepts Class
         Participants: Participants of all ages and professions          welcome.
         Content: Through the use of games, we will open up and          excavate the possibilities of the body, allowing each          participant to experience freedom and creativity.
2: Theater/Performance Class
         Participants: All theater/performance hobbyists and          professionals with some physical creative ability and
         expressive ability are welcome to attend.
         Content: Liberation of natural instincts, voice and          body training, use of words to guide improvisation.
3: Body Technique Class
         Participants: Choreographers, performers and students          with a foundation in professional dance training.
         Content: Development of bodily technique in muscle and          joint movement fluidity.


And the best part about it? These classes are free! This group of dancers is really trying to create a community in Beijing of like-minded dancers. I am incredibly excited to become a part of it. And many thanks to Emily Wilcox for letting me know about this wonderful opportunity! She is a PHD candidate at UC Berkeley who spent last semester doing research at Minzu Daxue.  She happened to know Dan Smyer Yu (my program director) and Sarabeth Burman (the program directory of LDTX). What a small and wonderfully interconnected world.

I’m also going to start working on putting together a piece with LiuLiu (my ethnic dance teacher). She is trained in all the ethnic minority dances of China but is absolutely in love with modern dance.  She wants to create a sort of “East meets West” piece.  We are in the very beginning stages, but I’m sure I will have more to share soon!

If any of you happen to be in Shanhai for the World Expo, look me up! I will be there for 6 nights and performing on the 18th and 19th with Beijing Dance/LDTX. 

Take care all J