Last Saturday evening, just as I was finishing off a simple Sichuan Style dinner, with the usual rice, sweet potatoes and spicy chicken, I received a surprise phone call from Monita Hung, a friend and colleague whom I met during the Professional Interpreters’ protest in London nearly three years ago.
“I have a spare ticket for a Chinese Performing Arts event and I am in the centre of Birmingham right now. Would you like to come? ” She asked.
Right now? I checked the time and the performance was to start in about an hour and half, ten miles away from where I was. I had ten minutes to put on a nice evening frock to get ready and catch a train. I did not want Monita to waste her expensive ticket. After all I had nothing planned and it was Saturday night.
Before the show, I met a few of Monita’s friends. They came all the way from London and Telford. We happily introduced ourselves and took a few snaps, just to prove that we were at the show, as we were not allowed to take any photos during the performance.
For the next two hours, it showcased a number of Chinese dances, from retelling Chinese classical tales such as Journey to the West, Three Kingdoms and Outlaws of the Marshlands to ethnic minority folk traditions of Mongolia, Miao and Yi villages.
It reminded me the amazing variety show John and I saw while visiting Zhangjiajie in the spring of 2008. I am a big fan of Chinese music and dance, acrobatics and gymnastic skills.
The traditional Chinese costumes were stunning colourful and eye-catching, with various combinations of pink, green, blue and bright orange, purple and yellow. The movements of the dancers were fluid and graceful, displaying great skills and elegance associated with all Chinese dances.
Watching them inevitably reminded me of the days when I used to dance, in my school years in China. It was a fun part and something I enjoyed doing while growing up in an otherwise quite harsh and simple environment.
It also brought back fond memories of my time in Scotland. In 1990, Glasgow was named the Cultural Capital of Europe. As a result, I was part of a dance troupe organised by Strathclyde Regional Council. A choreographer was invited from China and we performed in one of the theatres in Glasgow and received rave reviews.
Following that mini adventure, I later taught a group of Scottish Chinese youngsters to do a number of Chinese traditional dances using the fan, handkerchief and so on. These children performed at the BBC Garden Party one year and I was really proud of them. With a friend of mine, we also toured a number of Scottish schools to give them a taste of Chinese culture. Dancing and music has to be one of the best ways to reach out across different cultures.
Back to last Saturday. I was very glad to have been there, to watch a show with my friend Monita. It surely was great to see her again, in a much more relaxed circumstances. Guess we can say that an evening in Birmingham’s glitzy centre was quite a contrast compared to holding banners and marching towards London’s Westminster Abbey and shouting outside the concrete building outside Ministry of Justice.
So thank you again, Monita. I am already planning another evening out for you and me in the near future!
For those of you who love Chinese dancing, I’m sharing a beautiful peacock dance video featuring China’s most skilful dancer Yang Liping. Enjoy!