China Report: David Nixon’s Impressions of Beijing and China

December 24, 2007 at 5:53 pm (Artist's News, Overseas Tour) (, , , , )

In the foyer of the Poly Theatre - Photo by Neil G Jarman

After managing to miss the China tour last time, I finally did the impossible and arrived in Beijing!! All of my pre-conceptions of this majestic City were blown away on the taxi journey from the airport. On one hand is sadly gone the image of ancient China and even streets filled with bicycles conjured up by books and movies and in it’s stead a Kaleidoscope of towering buildings with what seems to be an endless skyline of skeletons awaiting their skins of yet more to come shapes of monstrous proportions.

In roaming around the streets, I have been overwhelmed by the impression of expansive space and size. This is without question a place conceived to impress, but simultaneously to be home to millions!

The people, though, maintaining some very different cultural manners, always have a ready and warm smile and I found myself often feeling more among friends than sometimes at home.

On my first evening, two young University Lecturers came up to me on the street and started speaking English. Their smiles, enthusiasm and kind words, they remarked that I looked very ‘cool’ and was maybe an FBI Agent! What can I say? An old man needs a few compliments to live on. I immediately dropped my defences and ended up with them in a Tea House learning how to drink Chinese Tea properly. It was a totally unexpected but delightful entry into this new China.

The day after I arrived, I taught Company Training and was met by dancers that perhaps had visions of sightseeing rather than dancing in their heads. Class taught, they were free for the rest of the day while I went on a trip to the Great Wall of China arranged by Mark Skipper and Neil Jarman.

Again, I was unprepared for the sight to be seen. The wall in itself is both an engineering feat and a work of Art so intimately following the curves of the mountains and masking the true effort it takes to mount the Wall. I was also taken with the unusual landscape. Mounds of hills like scoops of ice cream covering the horizon as far as the eye can see. It was a memorable trip that I will always treasure.

So, on to work. The Technical Rehearsal in the very large Poly Theatre went very well and was followed by a good performance. Keiko continues to take command of this role and her light and expressive dancing is always beautiful. It was the first time for me to see Kenny in the role of Pinkerton and I was pleased to see just how well suited he is to the part. Nigel Gaynor did a very good job with the orchestra, which for the most part sounded good. The crew did a super job of getting the show to look right so I was very pleased. The audience was interesting – quieter than I had expected. They do not like intermissions and even though there was little reaction during the performance, they responded warmly at the end. This is a young art form here and does not quite sit comfortably with them yet but I applaud their willingness to embrace a new culture. I was very pleased to see the equal numbers of men and women in the audience and I was appreciative that they do not have the ridiculous male pre-conceptions of ballet which we struggle with in the West.

Saturday night was Chiaki’s Beijing performance with Darren. Although Chiaki had her official farewell performance in Bradford in October, she graciously agreed to perform Butterfly in China to help ensure its success. This was probably the last time I will see Chiaki dance. As is always true at these moments, one hopes for the performance that will create an enduring memory. The Company and Orchestra were brilliant in the first act and Darren partnered Chiaki through the pas de deux with flawless precision and sensitivity. Chiaki gave herself totally and united by Nigel masterly caressing the on stage movement with a perfect musical partnership. I was transported and it was utterly magical. This would have been sufficient but it was Chiaki’s night and with the wonderful support of the cast she danced with a total freedom and possession of the role. A memory is now in my possession to take through my life’s journey.

Sunday night was the final performance in Beijing and closed the dance festival. The Company has three days off over Christmas but that story will have to be told by someone else!!

Christmas Eve Supper - Photo by Neil G Jarman

Photo by Martha Leebolt

Photo by Martha Leebolt

Photo by Martha Leebolt

Photo by Chiaki or Chun

Photo by Chiaki or Chun

Photo by Chiaki or Chun

Photo by Chiaki or Chun

Photo by Chiaki or Chun

Photo by Chiaki or Chun

Photo by Chiaki or Chun

Photo by Chiaki or Chun

Photo by Chiaki or Chun

Photo by Chiaki or Chun

Photo by Chiaki or Chun

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