Saturday, May 22, 2010


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!


  1. Hi Rachel,

    I just wrote a whole long e-mail to you and it got lost. UGH! So I will try to recreate it. I just now was able to finally get on your blog and read the entire thing from start to finish. All I can say is WOW!!! I am so amazed and moved by all of your experiences. I regret that we were not able to connect through the workshop as we had discussed, but quite honestly, I am not sure I could have offered anything that would have competed with all of what you have learned in terms of preparing yourself for the "world." I am glad that you had a chance to connect with NDTII and look forward to discussing your plans for an audition tour soon. It would be great to set up a SKYPE date to discuss this further. Let me know when that would be possible for you. Can't wait to connect with you face to face and hear more about this incredible journey. Big hug for now,


  2. Christine SpizzoMay 25, 2010 at 9:53 AM

    Dear Rachel,
    Loved the vivid description of your experiences, as usual! Glad to hear that you're becoming more and more confident now (which is SO unimaginable to me, because of what seems to be a total lack of "routine" in your life there)! Things are winding up here at school---Graduation is this Saturday. I just saw (at a new "arts" cinema downtown) that John Childs documentary film "And We Will Dance." Weren't you here during some of that? Ali Block, Emily Nicholas, Pierre, and Mark Tucker were the "featured" students in the film. It's pretty good---somewhat nostalgic, as it 's very much "pre-Ethan!" Anyway, I wanted to let you know that Rebecca Downing hes her "eye" on NDT2 now, and will probably be there with them this summer (she was there last summer, and they recommended that she return to UNCSA for further training in the Contemporary techniques, which she has done). I'm sure you remember her... It would be cool if you 2 ended up in that company together! I want to let you know that, as of this Friday (the 28th), I'll be "away from my desk" until September. I have teaching "gigs" in Santa Barbara, Austin, and New York, plus a visit with my sisters in New Mexico, so, will be traveling throughout the summer. Hence, I'll be out of touch with your wonderful blog! But, I will certainly thinking of you, and anxious to catch up with your adventures next Fall. Stay safe, sound, sensible, and, as you've said, HAPPY! Love, and good luck! Christine

  3. Rach, you amaze me! Your networking seems to be going very well and that is absolutely amazing! :) I am so glad that you're doing well and enjoying yourself. What awesome experiences you're having. I can't wait to catch up and hear all about it! Thanks again for sharing your journey with us! Love ya lots!