Dec 18, 2012

The Juniors dance

A short break from homework and school books

The Junior dancers
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs ... Dwarves?
Snow White and her seven Santa dwarves
Our favorite performance

All month, junior students have been asking to miss our classes for dance practice — which is just a thing that happens; because oral English is considered somewhat of a supplement, the other teacher often schedule other extracurriculars (or sometimes even tests) during our classes. It’s a little annoying because it messes with our planning, but it’s not too terrible as it either results in a half-sized class or a free period for us!

And Friday, we got to see the results of all this practice at the Junior school dance performance. Many of our students invited us to come watch, so we had advance warning that Friday afternoon classes were cancelled. (Our boss didn’t call to tell us until five minutes after that first afternoon class should have started.)

Even at a junior school assembly, there’s all the trappings and pomp that attend an adult special event: Four CCTV-jr. hosts presided, with their first duties being to introduce all the principals and VIPs. Then someone important made a dull speech. And then the chaos began!

They definitely front-loaded the programming. The opening act was a short retelling of “Snow White,” with a little boy in a dress as our fairest of the land and one of my favorite students, Angel, as the evil queen. It was mostly in Chinese (the local dialect, as one of the teachers informed me), but funny nonetheless.

This was followed by an incredibly impressive and moving ballet piece depicting the violence and brutality of war. Soldiers carried their injured brethren on their backs with loving care, but no promise of safety or reward. It was astonishing to see these young dancers execute some very technical lifts and carries, and at the same time they exuded true sadness and emotion through their movement. It was a stunning bit of dancing, and not generally what one expects to find at a junior high assembly.

The rest of it was exactly what one expects to find at a junior high assembly. There was a mix of traditional and contemporary music and dancing, with hip-hop dominating the contemporary styles. Individual performers showed some real skill, but mostly, everyone seemed to be having fun. A lot of the acts managed to incorporate some “Gangnam Style” horsing around.

By about No. 14 on the program, a lot of the VIPs left. We lasted for 18 of the 20 acts, but they don’t heat the gym and we were freezing, so we took our leave.

In a culture that so strongly emphasizes homework and scholastic achievement, it’s really interesting to see how extracurricular activities — especially the arts — are treated here. I suspect that if you show real promise at an early age, you’re sidetracked into a special school that plays to those gifts. Otherwise, you’re encouraged to put those pursuits aside to focus on your schoolwork as you age. (We have a lot of senior students that say that they used to play an instrument, for example.) But — as someone who believes that arts education is equally important to producing well-rounded, thoughtful adults — I’m glad to see that there is still some time for dancing.

Junior dancers