Thursday, September 16, 2010

The trip to Dream Valley

One afternoon Tony Stimac, the director, had to leave the rehearsal studio in Beijing to attend the VIP opening of an arts complex he is helping to create in the mountains--an hour due East from the city. It is near Niangniangding Mountain and some ancient temples (as best as I can tell). Jim, Mark, Kemin, and friends of classical music and modern dance were invited to attend. We caught a cab that hit terrible traffic and were 15 minutes late for the chartered bus. Luckily the bus waited for we stepped on, young women in long satin dresses handed us complimentary tickets, two handed of course which is the polite way to do things here, and we took our seats in the back near Kemin and his entourage.

Since this was our first trip out of the big city, I sat next to a window and took plenty of blurry snapshots of the passing countryside. The mountains around Beijing emerged from the smog once we were on the highway. Soon time worn hutongs and new condos filled my view. Then we were into areas of countryside where the agricultural fields looked familiar but the buildings and sheds were decidedly Chinese. Jim pointed out how many lines of trees had been planted. China is going green. Even in the city all the motor scooters are electric. So instead of announcing themselves with noisy belches and tinny thrum, they can quietly sneak up on pedestrians and pass by with a few microns of air space to spare. This causes me to jump rather a lot.

Near us sat a young woman from Wales named Tanya who directs and teaches in a music school and a film maker who has lived all around the globe and was originally from Hawaii. We enjoyed meeting them. Mark is so good at talking to new people.

Dream Valley is in the midst of construction. An entire valley with tall rounded peaks, including one famous rocky notch, is being excavated and transformed into a series of theater complexes, classrooms, and, to help support this output of arts, they are building many condos. Tony said the whole idea boiled down to "if we build it, they will come." He is acting as a creative consultant for this enterprise which they call an "Eastern Culture Aggregation." All the condos have already been bought as investments. Hopefully people will want to actually live here. It is so beautiful, I'd buy in if I could.
Newly completed Dream Valley Theatre
Tony Stimac welcomes our arrival. Kemin Zhang on right.
Famous notch.
We arrived and there was Tony, in a white suit, looking very pleased as he stood on the steps leading to the brand new arts reception center. We were led to an open area with many windows and huge photos of dancers as shades against the sun. We sat in chairs covered in cloth and tied with bows. The Beijing Contemporary Dance Theater performed several modern pieces, very skillful, in that style where the dancers' faces are utterly expressionless while their bodies do all the feeling. The first dance was "Changes" and the men and women wore skirt-like dance costumes. In "Crossing" they unrolled cloth lines on the stage and danced with and over and around the demarcations. They were so thin and graceful and precise. Their artistic director watched them from her VIP seat. I wonder if that made them more nervous? One dancer rubbed her leg when she was off stage and looked to be crying, had she injured herself?
Men and women dance in skirts.
The little boy is the only person I saw who yawned through Classical Music.
Speeches and welcomes were made in formal Chinese by our very own celebrity Charolotte MacInnis! We are used to seeing her on TV teaching Mandarin “Growing up with Chinese” or talking culture in casual outfits. Looking smashing in a long gown and heels, she is the very definition of poise. Tony spoke, Charolotte translated. Hands clapped. And the Beijing trio played Beethoven and Tchaikovsky with great skill (although I prefer my Beethoven to be less lovely and more in your face). Outside the floor to ceiling windows I could see orange trucks hauling rocks on unpaved roads as crews worked on building condos in the yellowish stone hills. Behind me, curious construction crew and families of staff peered through the window of the rear door with wonder. One older woman held up a toddler in his split no undies pants. This was the first performance here and a very grand opening. Scores of photographers recorded the event. How crass some of them had jingling keys, and very few of them seem to realize that on a digital camera it is possible to turn off the fake sound of a "click" and I wished I could scold them. But did not. The cellist gave one of them a look to kill.
The really last row...Workers watch through back door. Even the toddler.
Outside were the condos in the colors of the stones of the mountains. That is Mark Allen's head in silhouette.
Inside were gift wrapped seats, large posters of dancers, and a slew of photographers.
Charlotte was MCCharlotte translates Tony's remarks.
The reception offered small coffees and smaller sweets. Since we had missed lunch it was sad that we didn't have real food, I ate several teensy tarts...I got to meet Dong Yuan, Director of Cultural Industry for Beijing-Tianjin Real Estate, and major partner in Dream Valley. I was most enthusiastic and asked her about schools and classes. She assured me they would teach from children to adult, including summer programs! What a great thing!!! In time, Dream Valley will become a highly respected training program for professional artists. And a Musical Theatre Works East for musical theater training.

We were handed a complimentary book of the art show. I hadn't realized I'd missed a gallery opening while munching and gabbing! I passed a diorama of the finished center and took photos of it. Then took photos of the same view under excavation as we low geared it off the mountain. The bus ride back to Beijing went quickly. Tony stayed behind, a bouquet of bright blossoms in his arm.

Mark Allen, Tony Stimac, Jim Racheff admire view.

Jim later told me that when we left, Tony was hoping the opening ceremony, signing, publicity, would somehow get the word out and help ensure this venture is a success. He was feeling a bit...tense... especially since a high-placed government official had left the show early, practically running out of the room. Apparently this man had located a group of other officials and commandeered a bus to come directly to Dream Valley, he was so impressed with what is being started here. Tony gave a tour to the even more high-ranking officials, apologized that they had missed the live show, and happily watched their positive reactions. Something tells me Dream Valley will become Reality Valley.

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