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Ni Hao SHENYANG!
Posted on Jul 13
I said Good Bye to the STATES and landed in Hong Kong ( 20 + hours flying). My schedule to arrive in Shenyang only permitted me enough time to take necessities out of one bag and pack them and NBA Gear in another one. I was then off to Beijing to meet with the NBA Staff which would accompany me to the exciting city of Shenyang, which meant boarding another plane. Wow, a couple of days on and off planes, (13 hours time difference – loosing a day) can really mess with your head. My first night in Shenyang was fun. Even though I was tired, I found energy to enjoy an official Chinese Meal of Dumplings! All kinds and shapes, the taste was different, and most of all, it wasn’t airplane food. The Dumplings’ dinner was a great way to start my China excursion, but I knew there were more delicious and strange foods in my future while in China. Nice meal, no more planes, and a nice hotel, I went to sleep like a baby.
The next day was filled with observing, teaching, giving comments, and making decisions. The contestants (girls) had already been at a training camp learning choreography from a local dance coaching team, SooJin Dance Company, but now it was time to bring the energy and excitement of the NBA to these girls. I watched a few routines first to gage their level of dance, and then it was my turn to teach routines for them to perform on the live show in just a few short days. It was some experience, but I knew I could handle it. Being a little nervous at first teaching dance to girls who only spoke Chinese (no English), I quickly became very glad that I had taken a couple of Mandarin lessons, so I could at least count to 8. With every comment or demonstration, my translator was there. It was a little of a process at first, but I soon realized that dance is a Universal Language. The girls were so eager to learn, so attentive, and really tried hard to mimic my movements. Now picture all this with film crews surrounding us, video taping every second for the show (even during water breaks), asking questions, wanting feedback, and also catching the funny outtakes of the girls lying down, exhausted from the hours of dance. What a day! I finished the day with talking to the girls (my translator is a god save) about the life of an NBA Dancer, the time regimen, the hard work it takes to succeed, and the passion that all NBA Dancers have was a challenge, but what a reward to feel their enthusiasm. I took the time to consult with them about body image, hair and make up, and costuming, just as I do with my DePaul University Dance Team. We are trying to create a total package, preparing the girls for the NBA overall image. I know it is working.
The excitement of the day ended, but the evening was just beginning. The NBA crew took me to a seafood restaurant. I picked out my own fish (literally – alive of course) Amazing! Even tried Bamboo Sticks!
The next morning (before swifting me off to training camp) the NBA surprised me with a day of sightseeing in Shenyang, what a delightful change. Shenyang, the largest city in Northeast China, is the political, economic, and cultural center of Liaoning Province. It is the birthplace of the Qing Dynasty and has many cultural relics, which I was fortunate to see. I received a personal guided tour of the Shenyang Imperial Palace second in great historic and artistic significance only to the Forbidden City in Beijing, which I saw earlier on my travels. The Imperial Palace is one twelfth the size of the Forbidden City in Beijing but still consists of more than 300 rooms, formed around 20 courtyards. What a beautiful sight! The city of Shenyang is full of vitality and history.
Mid afternoon I was able to see the progress the girls were making. It was wonderful! As a dance coach, I love seeing the growth of the dancers. I met with Chinese Boy Band, A-One, who performed on the taping of the show and helped me judge. The 6 girls picked today will be featured in a photo shoot with A-One later in the week. How exciting for these girls. I performed one routine with the girls for media and press to showcase the overall progress. The girls then performed in groups several times for us judges. After a discussion, 6 talented girls were chosen for the photo shoot. They were ecstatic.
Lights – Camera – Action! For that night, Tsingtao had built an outside set to showcase the competition allowing the girls to perform for a live audience outside. The stage was set, the lights were on, and the cameras were ready to roll. There was ACTION all right. A fierce storm came out of nowhere. RAIN – RAIN – RAIN. Everything and everyone was drenched, we were whisked off so fast to our bus, and I could hardly believe so much water in such a short time. Needless to say, the taping had to be canceled midway. I hung out with my new found friends in the van while the rain kept coming down.
An exhausting day ended with a most welcomed dinner at another local restaurant where I tried some interesting foods. I even ate a sea urchin right out of the shell.
The next day was much drier and calmer. It was the day of the show taping. The stage, the lighting, the production crew, this was the REAL DEAL. I’m sure I was just as nervous as the contestants. Rehearsals in the morning included a dress rehearsal with a run through of lighting and music. The actual taping was to begin later in the day, but upon my arrival I taped the introductions and the segments that would be later added to the production. I felt like a weather girl, standing in front of a green screen pointing and gesturing to non-existent graphics that would be added later. Then I ran through all the choreography for myself as well as with the girls.
Now in between all this, as it was all week, more press interviews and photos. After my brief introduction to Ms. Yan Xu, Vice President and President-Marketing of Tsingtao Brewery, and making sure everything looked good, I was off to get ready for the show.
Throughout the night I danced, made comments as one of the celebrity judges (the Paula Abdul voice of course), was interviewed on stage, helped with the decision making, and most important, cheered on the contestants. By the end of the evening, we had 8 winners. These girls will be in the semifinals later in the summer and continue in the competition. So I will definitely see them again. At the end of the production, the NBA quickly escorted me out (but not without a few photos and autographs for the fans) and off to a late dinner. Wow, photographers and media everywhere, trying to get a glimpse or snap a shot. I sincerely thank the NBA for being so protective.
Dinner was no ordinary dinner. My NBA colleagues chose a Korean Barbeque/Karaoke Restaurant. Yes Karaoke In China! We sang our hearts out till the wee hours in the morning. What a great way to spend my last night in Shenyang, unwinding, and celebrating a successful taping with my new found friends. The next day was back on a plane to Hong Kong, to await my next assignment.
Signing off for now.
Until Next Time,