An Indescribable Experience

Great Wall of China. Photo by Leisa DeCarlo.

Great Wall of China. Photo by Leisa DeCarlo.

 As for our time in China thus far…I think I can speak for all of the dancers when I state that this experience has exceeded our most imagined expectations.

As a company representing the Ohio State University Department of Dance, we prepared extensively for this amazing opportunity to travel China. However, upon arriving here and being introduced to the intricate and beautiful culture China offers, this experience has proved much less an opportunity grounded in performance, as increasingly we encounter moments of cultural exchange and connection. 

The past five days have been an overwhelmingly profound in revealing what it means to be an artist in this world.  Working with Chinese students from various universities, in a space where linguistic communication proves vastly limited, I am stunned by the communicative power of art itself.  Although we cannot communicate with language, dancing with many of these students through numerous improvisational, technical, and choreographic workshops has been immensely rewarding in creating an unspoken connection. I am amazed by the trust and beauty that can emerge when the voice is forced to submit to the speech of the body. It reminds me that dance, while a form of expression and communication much deeper than can be adequately articulated, is most vividly, important. 

It is interesting to experience the cultural differences through dance as well. Our way of moving is very much connected to the individual, with an emphasis on the individual and his or her creative capacity to explore. In sharing this approach to dance, I feel a great sense of pride, as the Chinese students really seem to find the concept both compelling and freeing, as much of the dancing they have shared with us seems grounded in the weight of tradition. The Chinese performances we have been shown have been utterly stunning and I am fascinated to learn about the narrative and lineage of each piece.   Our exchange seems very much a conversation of past and present; an experience of dialogue between the needs and desires of the individual and the greater good of a larger whole.

In addition to the dancing, I think we are all simply stunned at the generosity of those we have experienced. Thus far, we have traveled to Beijing, ChengChung, and Wuhan and in each city, the Chinese culture proves one of immense hospitality, as the people exponentially display great warmth and kindness in our presence. More than a lesson in what it means to be an artist in the world, I think I will most definitely take away from this generosity, seemingly engrained in the Chinese culture, a lesson in what it means to be merely, first, a passionate, genuine human being.