The Endurance Test

Dancing in a gym
The audience in Weihai

Outside performance in Weihai

The audience in Weihai

Friday, July 28 - The Endurance Test

Today begins a huge endurance test for us that will push the entire group to their physical and mental limits! We have a performance at 9:00 AM. It's in a gymnasium instead of a theatre. Our problem with CDs rears its ugly head again as there's not a CD player there, but a DVD player instead, which refuses to play our CDs. We snag a portable CD player from one of the dances to use instead, but the batteries are going dead and it won't last the entire performance. The staff scrambles around and comes up with another player that seems like it's going to work correctly, but half way through the show the power goes out with the dancers poised on the stage waiting for the next number to start. We dance "Crouching Tiger": with no sound and everybody that's not dancing singing in the background. The audience gives up enthusiastic applause. When the power comes back on, the player they were using doesn't want to function anymore, and the rest of the show is hit and miss with the music.

Because of the technical problems, the show runs long, which presents a huge problem. We've another show that evening at 9:00 PM in Weihai, almost 8 hours away! We rush to get on the bus to make it to Weihai in time. We realize this isn't going to be any fun the second we board the bus. The humidity is high, it's hot and the bus has no air conditioning! We're six hours into the trip, and Mr. Wong gets a call on his cell phone. The performance is cancelled due to rain! We've been on this bus in the heat all this time, only to find out that we've done it for nothing. Mr. Wong is furious that we've been put through this and a flurry of phone calls follow. The driver is told to continue on to Weihai while the performance is being negotiated. .

We arrive in Weihai to find that our performance is outside with a huge crowd waiting with threatening clouds overhead. Dale and I think that the dancers have had about all they can take with the heat on the bus, a longer than expected trip, and no meal. Lead Culture argues with the client about the length of the performance on our behalf. We were originally supposed to get there early enough to eat and rest, but it's already past time for the show to start and we step off the bus, push though the crowd to the dressing rooms and immediately hit the stage. It's a good show, and the crowd is a little more enthusiastic then some of the others. The setting isn't bad either, as we're in a public square with what appears to be a large government building in the background.

Now for the "you gotta be crazy to try this" part. We have another performance, the very next morning at 8:30 back in Dongying! To put it in perspective, imaging doing a performance in the evening in Columbia, S.C., then overnight to Orlando, Florida, doing a performance there and then driving back to Columbia for yet another performance 8 hours later! You get the idea.

Lead Culture has negotiated an air-conditioned bus for the return trip, so at least we should be able to get some sleep before arriving back in Dongying.

Performing Outside in China

It's not raining, the umbrellas are out to keep off the sun!

Dancing in the Heat!

It's Caitlin's Birthday!

Saturday, July 29 - The Endurance Test II

We arrive in Dongying at 6:00 AM. Our luggage has been moved to a new hotel and it takes a bit of time for everybody to locate their stuff and rush into their rooms to get a shower before the 8:30 performance. Mr. Wong, Ema, and I decide that we need to go inspect the stage before the performance to be sure everything is OK, so we head out to see what the performance conditions are going to be. All I can think about is getting into a bed a getting some sleep, since it's been over 24 hours now since I've had any. We arrive at the venue to find another outside stage! The props haven't arrived yet from the show the evening before, so we negotiate delaying the performance until 10:00 with the client.

By 10:00, the props still haven't arrived. The dancers have been getting a much needed rest at the hotel due to the delay, and we finally send for them. For almost the first time in the trip, nobody calls the role to see if everybody is present before piling into a number of taxis to head to the venue. The show is ready to start, and several dancers plus Dale are nowhere to be found. Mr. Wong and I get the client to rush us back to the hotel to look for them. They're all fast asleep in their beds! Nobody woke them up to tell them it was time to go, and nobody checked to see if they were getting into the taxis when they left to go to the performance venue! We get them up, toss them into two cars and speed back to the stage.

By now, it's almost 10:30 and it's getting rather hot outside. Worse than that, the stage is covered with carpet, and the carpet has heated up enough to burn your feet. Once again, we demand to shorten the show considerably due to the heat, Lead Culture agrees, and negotiations are made with the client, who isn't happy to not be getting the full show. He doesn't seem to realize what the conditions are up on stage as the dancers are performing. After the first number, several of them comment, "My feet are on fire!" and they're not far off. Dale does her solo barefoot and comes off the stage with multiple blisters on the bottom of both feet. We show the client Dale's blisers and demand to shorten the show even more as we realize that everybody simply isn't going to make it in the heat. The client reluctantly agrees. The show ends and the audience and client are pleased with everything. I think the audience was glad to be able to get out of the heat too! We head back to the hotel, everybody has a shower and sleeps for the rest of the day.