Back from leading the University of Utah's Performing Danscompany on tour of dance festivals in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, artistic director Loa Clawson reports the trip well worth the effort and expense.
PDC responded to an invitation from the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, which assembled four occidental and five Oriental companies for the 1988 International Festival of Dance Academies, with PDC representing the United States. The group also performed at the Guangdong International Festival of Dance Academies and Taipei National Dance Festival.The dance department at the Hong Kong Academy is headed by Missouri's Carl Wolz, a veteran of many U.S. modern dance and ballet companies who has made a study of Asian ethnic dancing. Other companies at the Hong Kong Festival, most of whom went on to the other festivals, were the academy's own school of dance, the Hanayagi Chiyo Dance Studio of Tokyo, the Shanghai Dance School and the Off Center Dance Company from Vancouver, B.C.; also the Tibet School of the Arts from Lhasa, Laban Center for Movement & Dance of London, the Australian Ballet School of Melbourne and the Taipei Institute of the Arts.
Disaster struck the troupe after it arrived in Hong Kong July 7 in time to get acclimated and try out the stage. "When we first went on stage our lead dancer, Kathryn Elliott, either broke her foot or gave it a bad sprain," said Clawson. "She was in so many dances, and we had to reshuffle many parts, using a dancer that we hadn't really planned on. But it all came out fine."
At the Guangdong Festival in Guang Zhou (formerly Canton) July 13-16, the company found the accommodations modern but such culture shocks as webbed duck feet in the soup. They were toured about the city before returning to Hong Kong for the International Festival July 18-22.
Comparing the Oriental companies with ours, Phyllis Haskell, head of modern dance at the U., noted that their ballet was spectacular, as were many of the folk- and acrobatically-oriented dances. "We were the most modern troupe in the festivals, and I think audiences were sometimes bemused by our dances, especially the unitards and so much bare flesh. They show such concern politely, by clicking their tongues rapidly, like we do when we say tsk-tsk, and they will keep it up for a long time," she said. "They clap all through a dance for whatever pleases them, but keep right on talking, without the slightest inhibition, and they don't applaud at the end of a dance."
Each company paid its own transportation to the festivals, then was hosted locally. In Hong Kong there were many social events and a gift exchange, each dancer leaving a gift representative of his country on a table and taking away a gift of his chosing. Backstage difficulties included the paucity of English among stagehands. "Deward Wilson, our technical man, had a terrible time, until we decided to cooperate with the English-speaking groups (I'll run your lights if you'll run mine)," she said.