Last month, members of OU's Contemporary Dance Oklahoma company woke up around 5 a.m. to eat traditional Chinese breakfasts of rice and vegetables with other dance companies from around the world. They were in Beijing taking part in the International Creative Dance Seminar while also learning that dance extends beyond cultural barriers.
“Dance was the common thread for everyone,” Roxanne Lyst, an assistant professor of modern dance, said.
The International Creative Dance Seminar is a place where students from different universities across the globe converge with Beijing Normal University. The Contemporary Dance Oklahoma company, which is part of the OU School of Dance, joined students from across the world.
They took part in various dance classes with Beijing Normal leading up to a final performance at Beijing Dance Academy, which showcased a piece of work by each individual dance company.
Beijing Normal University is a sister school to OU as part of the OU Confucius Institute, which builds relationships between OU and China in order to work with educational institutions and offer community services. Professor Bai Xuejing, a Confucius International Scholar, organized CDO’s convergence with the International Creative Dance Seminar.
Each of the dancers took two classes every morning from 8:30 a.m. to noon, following with a break before the company’s daily rehearsal for the final performance at the end of the week.
For Lyst, the most important aspect of the seminar was the cultural exchange. While the dancers didn’t all speak the same language, they were still able to communicate through their common language: dance and movement.
“The aspect that made it so special was that cultural exchange, and getting to be with people from other parts of the world and speak with them through our common language,” Lyst said.
Beijing Normal University offered various classes for the dancers. Contemporary dance senior Infiniti Eaglin enjoyed her Chinese folk dance class.
“It was interesting to be able to experience a class like that,” Eaglin said. Trying to make her body perform different techniques was a new experience.
By the end of the week, the companies put on their final performance. Some performed contemporary dance, while others chose to perform dances traditional to their culture. The CDO dancers enjoyed watching the traditional Chinese and Korean folk performances, seeing new movement and elaborate costumes.
They found a common thread within the performance with the other companies. Even though certain companies performed traditional pieces, there were similarities in movement across nations, allowing the dancers to see cohesion across borders.
“It was neat to see that dance is universal and movement is the way that we communicate,” contemporary dance senior Nicole Young said.
Looking back at the experience, Lyst was impressed with the CDO dancers not only for their dance but for their ability to make friends.
“They made me very proud," Lyst said. "They did an amazing in job in every aspect.”