Oh man…what a day…it’s days like today that are the reason that I love being in China. Events just start to roll in at you, wave upon wave upon ever intensifying wave and soon you realize that if you try and fight it you’ll drown, so you just have to relax and let the current drag you to where it will…you might as well enjoy the ride because you can’t stop it.
A few weeks ago we were asked by our promoter and host, Youdai, if Margo and I would be interested in visiting and performing for the China’s Disabled People’s Performing Art Troupe (http://www.mydream.org.cn/en/index.aspx). June 1 is Children’s Day in China and he felt that this would tie in nicely and be a much appreciated gesture. Travelling half way around the world for one show is all about the adventure and the experiences, so you need to open yourself up to whatever comes your way and so we quickly agreed to the visit. We arrived at the Troupe’s building at 10am and were greeted by a large group of anxiously waiting teachers and administrators as well as a large group of photographers and TV news video cameras. We were quickly whisked in to the building and down a hallway which was lined with the performers all decked out in their costumes, clapping rhythmically as we shot past them, and then into a full size rehearsal/performance room where, sitting patiently on plastic chairs, awaited more administrators, invited guests and representatives from the Canadian Embassy. In the front row were four empty chairs for me , Margo, Blair and Youdai and before we could catch a breath, the show began. What followed was a string of beautiful performances by blind musicians and deaf dancers. Traditional Chinese ballads segueing into a medley from the Sound Of Music, by way of a Star Wars-esque bar-scene jam, followed by a modern dance piece, then another performance by the band, along with a full costume change, a classical ballet performance and then the most extraordinary “Dance of a Thousand Hands” and it all ended up with the full troupe singing We Are The World, waving Chinese and Canadian flags and hauling Margo up to join them….welcome to China, now we know we are out of town. Extraordinary, surreal, sublime, absurd, even psychedelic considering our internal clocks are still 12 hours behind the local time. And then it was our turn. The Troupe gathered round the walls of the space, Margo and I moved to the center of the floor and did our four songs, plinky-plinky-plink…East meets West and East kicks West’s ass: an incredible start to our adventure.
Following a brief tour of the performers dormitories we headed off to an amazing lunch with Youdai and his friend/co-worker Johnny Hutong an ex-pat Canadian from Kitchener who is now a DJ here in Beijing. We then drove to Youdais offices which are housed in the 798 Artist Area: a former factory that has been turned into an enormous center for sculpture, fashion, photography and painting all scattered among galleries, cafes, bars and funky little retail outlets. It’s an amazing complex filled with the energy of Beijing’s exploding art scene.
Then back to the hotel….a much better dinner than last night at a restaurant that specializes in Peking Duck….an after-dinner stroll through the Olympic Park to gaze at the Birds Nest and then….bedtime. Not a bad day.