CVPA Students Show Fancy Footwork in China

Posted: November 2, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Jennifer Mitchell

While students on campus were settling into their course work this fall, nine dancers from the College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA) were busy dancing through the Beijing region of China. This select group of students took part in a program designed to promote tourism through cultural exchange in China in preparation for the 2008 Olympic Games.

The Beijing Cultural Tourism Board invited the Mason Dance Department, along with 51 other groups from 30 different countries, to China for a weeklong series of events. The program kicked off with a parade in which the dancers did a one-minute segment of their modern dance, “Sunlit Song,” choreographed by dance professor Susan Shields.

Dance performance at night
The George Mason dancers performed during a night parade in Bejing.
Photos courtesy of Dan Hobson

That first evening, the groups performed again in an open-air arena for thousands of spectators. The next day, the Mason students traveled outside the city for another show. They were happily surprised when audience members asked them for pictures and autographs. “We were treated incredibly well there, literally like celebrities or ambassadors,” says senior dance major Sara Roer, a University Scholar. “That was really heart warming because it made all of us feel so appreciated for what we were doing.”

The dancers traveled extensively throughout the suburbs of Beijing and to the port city of Tian’jian, performing their entire piece five times during the week. They were also invited to the Beijing Dance Academy, a training school for the National Ballet of China, where they had an opportunity to talk with local students. Despite the language barrier, group members were able to share their ideas and values about dancing and performing.

CVPA production manager Dan Hobson, who also went on the trip, says the experience was important because the students were able to see what it was like to be part of a professional dance troupe. “A lot of our students want to do this for a living, and it was a real eye-opener for them. Here in the department, the students are always treated like professionals, but this gave them a good taste of what it would be like to be touring.”

Although they didn’t have much time for sightseeing, a highlight of the trip was climbing onto part of the Great Wall of China. “It was truly awe inspiring,” says Roer. Despite the culture shock (undrinkable water and strange toilets) and the smoggy air (a haze hung over the city all hours of the day), everyone who went says they would love to go back. “It was a great thing to be a part of,” says Hobson.

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