Chinese Dance in Connecticut: A Flow of Old and New Memories
When our company director finally announced our tour schedule, I was eager to learn that our first stop for the 2012 season was Waterbury, Connecticut. Although this year will be my fifth tour with Shen Yun, it’s my first time performing in Connecticut and the first time Waterbury sees Shen Yun.
The name of the city immediately caught my attention. It reminded me of my primary school back in Australia—Waterford State School. My Waterford is a small district located on the Logan River, halfway between the famous Gold Coast and Brisbane. Having never heard of Waterbury, I did my homework and discovered that it’s similarly riverine, situated in the Naugatuck River region. Flowing under the theater is a stream in a concrete culvert.
Waterbury has been nicknamed Brass City for its history of brass production. Curiously, it was during my time at Waterford that I began studying the brass instrument euphonium. With this town bringing back old memories, I anticipated collecting new ones.
Our opening show was on December 26, Boxing Day as we Australians call it. Back home I would spend it hunting the outrageous sales for the best bargains. But this year, the day after Christmas was a bit different.
We arrived at the theater at 10:30am to prepare for our 7:30pm performance. For dancers the first priority is to warm-up. As there was no rehearsal room, we ventured to the lobby hoping to find substitute barres and floor space. The thick soft carpet of the lobby triggered immediate survival alerts from my canvas dance shoes, which were hoping to last the morning. Unlike the marley floors of dance studios, carpet is the dance slipper’s worst enemy. The constant friction between our feet and the floor wears out our delicate soles; the rug only catalyzes the process.
Often we explore the entire theater to find a useable area. Luckily, the mezzanine lobby had a balcony railing awaiting us so we didn’t have to climb any more stairs. Our basic training began with barre work opposite the theater bar and, when we needed floor space for center combinations, we went back downstairs to the orchestra-level lobby.
When we first rushed up, my mind was focused on the day’s tight schedule and searching for warm-up space. I didn’t have the mindset to admire the grand lobby’s magnificent white marble walls and staircase, let alone the gigantic glowing Christmas tree. But when we had a small break as we descended the staircase, I was able to catch a glimpse of the Renaissance style of the Palace’s interior design.
After rehearsing with the orchestra, it was time to do makeup and self-practice. I made my way back to the upper mezzanine, as our orchestra members were using the lower lobbies to warm up. Looking out toward the stage, I then looked up and couldn’t help appreciate the beautiful ceiling of the upper balcony. Its main function is to project the sound of our orchestra throughout the theater, but I was more interested in its raised plasterwork.
The nine panels of the dome had three graceful nymphs dancing to a Greek goddess playing a harp and another deity playing two flutes. Sitting at his feet was a small angel happily gazing up at the maidens dancing.
This reminded me of an audience member in Florida who studied ancient Greek dance. She noticed that the postures of classical Chinese dance were similar to the Greek statues she had studied. She felt that the divine expression of ancient Chinese and Greek cultures were the same. Indeed, when I scrutinized the nymph, I discovered her delicate fingers were very similar to the lan hua zhi, or “orchid fingers,” of Chinese dance.
We spent a wonderful three days at Palace Theater. It was lovely to start the new season with an enthusiastic audience, friendly theater staff, and helpful stagehands. We were greeted with smiles and sent off with a mural—our logo and all our signatures can now be found backstage on a wall by the greenroom. Although other Shen Yun companies have signed theater murals, this was my first. It was also a first for Palace to note a visiting company on a wall in that part of the theater.
I hope to return to Waterbury and sign another one next year.
January 13, 2012