How time flies! AADC has been back more than a week already from our unprecedented trip to China. I have so many things to say, but it would probably take most of the blog. What I have learned from the moment that we were asked to represent our units during this remarkable trip is that perseverance and trust in the process is key. The idea began with an invitation from Prof. Yingli Zhou, a visiting scholar in AAADS from the China University of Mining and Technology Beijing (CUMTB). She and Dr. Carolyn Calloway-Thomas, Chair of African American and African Diaspora Studies, traveled to China in June to propose an intercultural exchange. Upon bringing back great news, we began preparations to make this trip a reality.
The thirteen-hour flight to China was suddenly a distant memory when we encountered a group of CUMTB students waiting patiently for our arrival. Qianqian Dong, AADC alumna and IU graduate student, had paired AADC and CUMTB students to facilitate the stay in Beijing. Little do people know the work it took for her to help coordinate our itinerary!
Dance is powerful, strong, and revolutionary. Although CUMTB is not focused on the arts, dance was a vehicle to bridge so many differences in culture and language. From the moment AADC took the stage during the lecture demonstration, our Chinese counterparts were immediately engaged in the progressions and protocol of a dance class. The “moving sculpture” broke the ice as both AADC and CUMTB students gathered in their groups to experience the free flowing movement. The link between students was established and then strengthened as the week progressed.
Partaking in a joint dance class with CUMTB students and learning a traditional Chinese dance were activities that bolstered connections between human beings sharing meaningful expressions. CUMTB students attended Andre Rosa-Artis’ djembe lecture demonstration and history lesson of the drum. I hope that both AADC and CUMTB students learned that the drum is just not an instrument of accompaniment, but also is an integral part of African and diaspora history.
I couldn’t wait for the shopping experience! Some went to the mall and others took the train to downtown Beijing to experience what cool fashion and handmade items were available. It was really fun to go to a local store and market to actually understand and gain knowledge of customary interactions of and by locals. The Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square captivated our attention in many social, political, and cultural norms that were intertwined in history, both ancient and contemporary. The Great Wall of China was one wonder of the world that had a profound impression on me. Although I did not climb it due to not feeling well, the space surrounding me provoked visions of ancient times.
AADC’s formal concert performance at CUMTB made the biggest impact during our time in Beijing. Even though there were challenges with the stage area, the audience only saw the dances that AADC delivered through their movement and expression. What we may have thought did not get across as our message was loudly heard in its silence. CUMTB students were so proud to also perform their cultural dances at the concert. It was an honor to be selected and share our work half way across the world.
On our last day, all of the Chinese partners came to the hotel to bid us “goodbye.” Many tears and exchanges of little presents took place. The thirteen-hour flight to Chicago was overshadowed by all the memories of the week that sailed so rapidly. I came home with a viral infection, but it is almost gone now. This time at home has helped me reflect on the trip and plan the “AADC China brownbag talk” for next semester.
Would I do it again? Yep! There is just so much more to learn.
Director, African American Dance Company
Professor, African American and African Diaspora Studies