ADF Henan by Gerri Houlihan, ADF Co-Dean

Posted in 2011.

From the moment we were greeted at the airport with smiling faces and huge, colorful bouquets of flowers, I knew we were in for a very special residency. Hou Ying, former dancer with the Guangdong Modern Dance Company and Shen Wei Dance Arts, was the intrepid and accomplished leader of the festival. Along with her extraordinary assistants, our eager translators, and our hosts at Henan Normal University, everyone made it possible for an intense, three-class-a-day schedule to seem very doable.
Our students, many of whom had no previous experience with modern dance, were enthusiastic learners. They absorbed an incredible amount of information in ten days of classes. They could be found at all hours of the day or night working on their composition assignments, practicing their vocal skills and clarifying their newly discovered contemporary techniques. They got to present all they had accomplished in a final showing on the last Friday of classes. After demonstrating their dance abilities and some marvelous voice work, the day culminated in an informal showing of Rodger Belman’s site- specific work in a nearby park. As the audience assembled in a light drizzle of rain, the dancers began to move through the space. The more they danced, the harder it rained, until white costumes were soaked, long, dark hair flew wildly and everyone was transported to a truly memorable experience of beauty and abandon.
As for the faculty and musicians, we were fed and cared for at every turn. On our one weekend off, our hosts provided us with our own bus and we took several fabulous excursions. We visited the famous Shaolin Temple, and were also fortunate enough to have a visit to the premiere Kung Fu Academy in the province– 20,000 students practicing their martial arts skills outdoors on cobblestone courtyards. We were given a private demonstration by some of the advanced students, and were astounded by their skill and their endurance.
On the last night of the festival, we presented two scholarships for next summer’s ADF, much to the excitement of all. We finished with a festive dance party in one of the studios, and left with many smiles, many tears, many thank you’s, and many very special memories. We made some incredible friendships, and felt that we had truly accomplished our mission of bringing modern dance to Henan. As a matter of fact, Hou Ying is already in the beginning stages of planning a possible festival for next summer. Stay tuned!