The Chinese people love performances - and it is a common event at regular "parties" and other occasions at the university. We get frequent requests but more likely we are 'advised' as we arrive at an event.
The event that occurred last night was not quite like that. We had warning. One week! An email just on a week ago asked me to organise the foreign teachers' performance at the "Opening Ceremony of the Cultural Festival and Welcome to New Students." This event was to be held on the sports field at 6.30 pm on Thursday night. Actually I was just given the date - not the time and venue.
So I sent an email to the director asking for more information, and then an email to the foreign teachers asking for Heeeelp!
A day or so later, we had a suggestion that we should do the "Hokey Kokey" or "Hokey Pokey" as most Aussies knew it. Amidst much mirth it was decided to go ahead. Anything else suggested just didn't make it!
In the end we had a couple of rehearsals - again laughing all the way. What were the Chinese to make of all this?
Then we were asked to provide our music. Try as I might we couldn't find anything to download other than a short piece of "Hokey" Music, so it was decided that we would walk on stage to this music clicking our fingers and get into formation while the music played.
Rehearsals would be on Wednesday night at 6.30 pm. By Tuesday night we had a request for rehearsal at the stage area on Tuesday just after midday. As it turned out only two of our group of 9 could attend, so we went - checked out the venue,and left as we both had classes and in typical chaos style no one could work out what was going on.
By Thursday morning (yesterday) we had another request for a rehearsal (dress rehearsal!!!) - again only a few of us went, but we went on the stage, stood like a row of penguins and talked our way through the routine. I did a few fancy classical ballet moves, much to the amusement of my students and others who had gathered. I wonder what they think we were going to do?
Costume? Well, as you can imagine, we had none. So chose to just wear black pants and colourful shirts. We learned that we were number 3 on the program. (I must find one - have not seen it!)
We were asked to be stage ready by 6.20 pm, so decided that we would have our final rehearsal in the Leisure Bar with a few drinks first. And we learned we could get double alcohol in our drinks without any extra money. So funny!
At the bar, two other people had joined us. The UK couple had friends, - one as it turns out was a nurse and had been the "boss" of one of our Aussie teachers who is also a nurse, in the UK. Small world??? Anyway, after a drink or two they joined in the singing and dancing troupe. We went through the routine once in the bar and headed to the Sports Field in temperatures that were almost at freezing point.
The stage area was crowded with students - but we managed to get through. We had a student and a non-dancing teacher to hold our bags and coats as we prepared for our performance.
Then to the strains of Hokey Pokey we clicked onto the stage. The music lasted longer than we had prepared so we gyrated around the stage as the students shrieked and laughed. Then we "performed" as the students cheered, clapped and shouted. Throughout the routine a few mistakes were made (left foot or right foot???) but in the end all was done, we climaxed with a shout, a bow and headed off stage, glad that it was all over.
Students shouted at us from the sides. "Great, wonderful." And the student reporters were there to interview us. "That was so interesting, how long did you have to practice?" I started to say a week, but after a nod from one of the teachers, I changed my story. "It was a very difficult traditional dance, and we have been practicing for weeks." The reporters wrote their notes.
Can you tell us about the dance? Mmmm. An old English traditional dance that has been done for hundreds of years."
Can't wait to see the newspaper - but, ah, I won't be able to read it anyway. Photos! Shouts!
We watched a few more performances over the heads of the crowd - there were seats for us, but we could not get to them.
So off to the Ba Boru for an Indian dinner and more laughs about our wonderful performance.
When I arrived "home" I checked my cellphone as I had left it behind.
"Your performance is very good! We love you and your friends. That is amazing!"