Okay, everyone together now . . . Aaaahh. You just want to reach out and hug these kids! They are so cute. And it looks like they are really enjoying the performance.
Here’s Ann to share some thoughts about how things are going. Ann . . .
Ann Landenberger, Creative Director
April 22, 2005
Our reporters from the 20th and 21st, Dylan and Adam, literally haven't had a minute to write since they and Ripley, Patrick and Jonathan have both been involved in a little extra rehearsal time for a collaboration with the wind ensemble here.
I'll happily take this few minutes before we head off on the three-hour bus ride to the desert to fill in a bit, specifically on the collaborative work. Each year we do it, it's different; each year our work becomes easier in the planning and so more productive. We adults know each other here. We are, as our Chinese and Mongolians colleagues say, "good friends." We've begun to understand each others' rhythms and modus operandi and that has a positive effect on the kids, I think.
The first time we tried this, the communication gap was wide enough for a Mack truck, and it was rough. It's not as if there aren't any glitches now -- it wouldn't be fun without them -- but the goal is so clear and commonly held, that we are driven past those snags.
For the past week, we've been learning a beautiful Mongolian song, another warm and moving tune about life on the Grasslands and one of the Mongolian scarf dances. We've taught our friends here "Brothers" and, as I said, a few of the kids have worked on an instrumental piece with the director of the wind ensemble and the arts college students therein.
Adam was given a flute part with heavy duty arpeggios that made him gulp and the other kids were facing challenges of their own, but they have stuck with it. The alternative would be far less exciting.
We're not really teaching them a dance as we have in the past: One doesn't need lots of time to work on the Twist and the Frug. We've danced informally with the kids here, though, and who knows: When we perform excerpts from our show Saturday night, some of our friends here might jump in on the finale.
I'd hoped to work some improvisation in and tried a bit yesterday when we had an extra 25 minutes after chorus rehearsal. It's hard to do with the language barrier: We modeled a bit, but didn't really have the time to thoroughly explain what we were doing. I'm glad we at least exposed the method, though. Improv is difficult for our Chinese peers since so few of them can even grasp the concept. I spoke with the kids about that on the way back from our work session yesterday morning. Their peers are driven by the masters who've preceded them. They are bound to imitate and emulate. There's improvisation evident here and there -- especially in the Mongolian arts, but it's not as ingrained in their culture as it is in ours. We're all about improvisation. It's how we formed as a country.
The kids had a great show yesterday afternoon: I'm so eager to write more about the performing aspect of our journey -- and I will. But now I'm late for the bus. We're off to the Gobi.
More anon. Xie jian! —Ann
It is so interesting, and satisfying, to hear Ann (and the others ) speak with a relative reflection on the previous journeys east. There is a consistency to the changes and improvements built upon each journey. One huge difference this time around, as Ann mentioned, is that many of the adults have become “good friends,” enabling them to reach higher earlier in the program.
We talked earlier about the benefit of our kids getting to know the Mongolians here before making the trip to Hohhot.
Each one of these journeys, standing alone, is without a doubt, a fascinating and inspirational experience. But, the entire program as a whole, with each journey put into context relative to the previous one(s), is, as Captain Kirk once said, going “where no ‘person’ has gone before.”
When the two dozen kids are selected to participate in this semester-long Asian Studies program, there is no guarantee of success. There are so many factors to consider, it makes my head spin thinking about it. But Ann, Matt, and Tom carefully put together this puzzle, so-to-speak, with a picture in mind. The picture becomes a little clearer each time out, but one thing for sure, all the the pieces MUST fit.
There is no room for failure here. The pressure to succeed is immense. This is not a joy ride or a pleasure tour, but rather a mission of international consequence. Mistakes are costly. Every move these JE-ers makes is being watched and analyzed by a huge international audience. This program is now the model by which other programs are being considered and developed. I know this might sound a little “heavy,” but for those of you new to this program, that’s because it IS!
If you haven’t ventured out beyond our own Journey East program, I suggest you take the time to visit the UVM Outreach Program. I think it will give you some perspective of the “hugeness” of Asian studies, not only here in Vermont, but elsewhere.
Okay, so enough with the serious talk. Let’s see what’s in store for these kids today (tomorrow for us) . . . Ah yes, today, the gang is in for one of the big highlights of the trip: The Gobi desert (also known as the Singing Sands). Here they’ll ride camels and roll down the dunes. We can look forward to lots of fun pictures of this event. And the stories they will tell!
Well, that’s all for today. The next few days promise to be big (for us and for them). Hard to believe the final performance is tomorrow night already. And a big shopping day and the farewell banquet on Sunday. Monday they head back to Beijing. Yikes, it’s all happening so fast!
Hang tough everybody, the end is in sight now. We can all relax while we enjoy the rest of the show.
See you all tomorrow!
moment of zen . . .
We found, in the audience today, a Mongolian student who is a huge fan of Ray Zukas. The kid is so taken by Ray, that he has modeled himself after his hero. Scroll down to see this Ray look-alike.