The days in the studio flew by. The university cameras captured every step of our dancing, and our hosts asked for copies of our music. This violates copyright laws and is illegal in the United States, but I learned that the Chinese venerate their teachers by copying them exactly. Anything put “out there” for all to view became not the property of the creator, but the property of the viewers.
Imitation is indeed the highest form of flattery in China. Actually I was relieved somewhat, copying our work must mean they liked it. I had worried that our choreography would not be valued by our Chinese hosts since it lacked the gymnastic presentational style they valued.
The second to last day of our stay was the day of the big performance. It would feature my dancers and choreography, and also pieces created by dance instructors at the university that would be performed by their students. Early in the day we visited the campus theater where we would perform.
I met with our host and producer of the evening performance. As leader of the group our host asked me what time I would like the performance to be held. As a guest I insisted the producer choose. “Oh no,” she said, “you must choose.”
I asked, “Would 8:00 PM work for everyone?” Our host carefully explained that if we performed at eight, the students may go home to eat but then would relax and maybe not return for the concert. “Oh yes, you’re right,” I said. “We must do it the concert at 7:00 PM”.
She looked troubled. This time she explained that if we did the performance at seven the students would go home to eat but would not have enough time to return. “Oh yes,” I said. You are right. “We have no choice but to do the performance at 7:30 PM.” The producer’s face broke into a smile, and we happily agreed 7:30 PM was the ideal time for the performance.
I felt proud. It had only taken 20 minutes for me to solve that communication problem. I was learning. The producer had carefully lead me to the required answer, and I had followed her lead, but I hadn’t lost face. This is how it is done in China.
The performance began at 7:30, and 1,500 hundred audience members attended. The minute the music began and my dancers stepped out on stage 1,500 cell phones were in the air videotaping the concert. This would have been illegal in the States, but we knew it was a great compliment in China.
What you see below is part of the performance and the standing ovation we received at the end, as seen through one of those phones.