Battery Dance Company (BDC) was awarded a grant via RFP from the U.S. Embassy Beijing to conduct the first full company Dancing to Connect program in China. The 1-week tour in Guangzhou was characterized by a two-pronged approach with highly attended marquee performances coupled with outreach programs targeting undeserved youth and older community members.
Participating Schools and Community Centers
Over the course of 5 days, 105 students and adult community members came together in the workshops for approximately 4 hours each day. In each workshop group, 1 translator, 1 teacher trainee, and 1 group coordinator ensured that activities ran seamlessly. The highly organized program was matched by highly focused and dedicated participants. Many of the workshop host institutions taped the workshop activities, with the Lie De Community Center recording the entire process from start to finish. A common perspective among workshop participants was that the workshops made them feel “free”.
All of the workshops, workshop venues, transportation, student snacks, and translation needs were arranged by a local organizer. Performance venues, technical equipment, and technical staff were provided by the Guangdong Dance Festival. The program was planned in detail and was implemented meticulously, with little facilitative support required from the U.S. Consulate or the U.S. Embassy. By relying on local partners for coordination, Battery Dance Company was able to achieve every element in its goals and objectives, plus additional activities that were previously unplanned, without impediments or interference from local authorities.
Battery Dance Company first performed outdoors on Wednesday, November 12th, at the Xhinghai Garden to an enthusiastic audience of 150. Local festival organizers provided a backdrop and high quality projector specifically for Battery Dance Company’s performance. The company performed a number of pieces from its repertoire, including one that included socio-political imagery, and one that included the use of traditional Chinese incense. The performance was well received with the highest approval given to a work that incorporated live music (performed by the dancers and composed by the dancer/choreographer.) After the performance a number of audience members asked how they could purchase CD’s of the music. Local festival organizers indicated that this was the first time an American dance company had performed outdoors in Guangzhou.
The Dancing to Connect final performance took place on November 14th at the Guangdong Song and Dance Theatre to an eager audience of 650 that filled the auditorium to capacity. Community members, family, friends and a large contingent from the U.S. Consulate came to support the 95 Dancing to Connect participants as they showcased their original creations. After the performance, participants hugged and kissed the Battery Teaching Artists and posed for group pictures for an extensive amount of time. Audience members also took part, taking group pictures of the dancers with their participants.
On November 15th, Battery Dancer Clement Mensah conducted a site specific performance, in collaboration with Xhinghai Conservatory dancers, at the EMG Arts Gallery before an audience of 100. The artwork displayed in the gallery, by a Chinese artist who lived in Brooklyn, examined the intersections of New York and China, and provided for wonderful interaction with the dancers.
Throughout the workshop week, BDC members interacted with other visiting dance companies and dance professionals from Asia, Europe, and Australia via Festival networking sessions, social events, and the DanceX Symposium. That interaction has led to possible future collaborations for Battery Dance Company’s Downtown Dance Festival and future program partners in a number of countries.
BDC dancer Clement Mensah, taught a master-class for 15 adult dancers. They have indicated their desire to have Clement come back to teach a series of intense classes next time the Company is in China.
BDC dancer Robin Cantrell and Vice President Emad Salem visited the Guangzhou Children’s Hospital and interacted with young terminally ill cancer patients. Meeting with children’s’ parents and volunteers, the pair discussed life in New York City. Afterwards, Emad Salem was asked to speak to hospital volunteers on the values of volunteerism, the culture of volunteering in the United States, and to encourage them to continue with their work.
A contingent of Battery Dance Company members participated in Tai Chi exercises in a local park, practicing the ancient Chinese art form alongside Chinese locals. After initially being guided to the location by Janice Englehart, the dancers led a contingent of Festival participants later in the week.
GD Song&Dance Theater
Xinghai PA Garden