Friday, March 25, 2011

Performance day!

Friday was performance day for DTSB&Co in Ulaanbaatar. In the morning we headed to the Puppet Theater which is part of the National Academic Drama Theatre in the center of Ulaanbaatar. The floor of the stage turned out to be a bit of a challenge. It was made of wood but the planks were uneven. Eventually a marley floor was delivered and for the performance a layer of felt and the marley floor was used. It worked just fine.

National Academic Drama Theatre

Puppet Theatre entrance

Beautiful seating

Curtain detail

Floor discussion

As the theater was being prepared for the performance the dancers had time wander around the theater and neighborhood shopping and seeing the sights.
A ger (or yurt) that serves as a souvenir shop in the warmer tourist season.

Trying on hats at a souvenir shop that was open

And back at the theater there were several fun places to hang

The Puppet Theatre box office

The evening performance was a great success with an appreciative audience that included US Ambassador Addelton and his wife Fiona along with the wife of the Mongolian prime minister. Six dances were performed including two choreographed by Dana for the Tumen Ekh dancers. After the performance Dana answered questions from the audience and then Dana and the Tumen Ekh dancers expressed their mutual appreciation for the opportunity to participate in this cultural exchange between the US and Mongolia. T. Otgonsuren, the director of Tumen Ekh, and his dancers presented Dana and his dancers with gifts that will keep Mongolia in our hearts and minds. Dialogue continued at a nice reception held in the lobby after the performance.

Dana answers questions from the audience

A Tumen Ekh dancer relates his experience working with DTSB&Co


Dancers with the ambassador, his wife Fiona, the Tumen Ekh choreographer and her husband.

A parting group shot!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Mongolia TV stars

Ulaanbaatar is an interesting mixture of the old and new. We see many people on the street wearing traditional Mongolian clothing but questions about Lady Gaga are common in our question and answer sessions. Old stark Soviet style buildings sit among more Asian influenced architecture and very modern glass high rises. Free internet access is available in many places. Mongolians have lots of quirky little customs including shaking hands with the person that you have just accidentally kicked under the table or brushed up against on the street. Kelly experienced this first hand on the street one day when someone accidentally kicked his foot.

Thursday morning the DTSB&Co dancers performed for approximately 100 dance students and teachers at the University of Art and Culture and then held a question and answer session. The performance was well received and there were many questions about Dana's choreography method and inspiration. It was nice to see some of the students from the School for the Hearing Impaired there.

The University of Arts and Culture

Miyako with embassy intern Namuun in the lobby of the main university building

Connie's solo Khaybet

Question and answer session

In the afternoon Dana taught a choreography class and Connie taught a warmup/technique class in the afternoon. Before the choreography class a Mongolian television crew interviewed Dana and then took some footage of Connie's class. When we were leaving Ulaanbaatar we actually saw the interview, class video footage and performance video we had given them on TV at the airport.

Meanwhile Laura and Sarah gave a talk about American modern dance at the American Corner, a small American style library operated jointly by the U.S. Embassy and the Ulaanbaatar Public Library that helps students, researchers, teachers and the general public learns more about the US. Laura and Sarah played a video of DTSB&Co performances and talked about his dance style and inspiration. The audience of 30, most of whom were not involved in dance, were very interested in what Laura and Sarah thought of Mongolian dance styles, what it was like to train to be a dancer and of course what they thought of Lady Gaga.

Sarah at the American Corner

Monday, March 21, 2011

Another busy day in Mongolia

Wednesday morning Connie and Miyako both taught classes to college students at separate institutions. The students were very enthusiastic and eager to learn this modern dance form that they had never been exposed to before.

Connie demonstrates

The students picked up the movement quickly

Group photo

Dancers' dirty feet, comes with the territory

In the afternoon Connie, Miyako and Laura joined up with the American cultural attache in Mongolia, Marissa Maurer and translator Uyanga (who is sight impaired) and had a wonderful visit the School of the Hearing Impaired, a kindergarten through 12th grade government-funded school. They met with the school's principal who told them all about the curriculum and vocational training and gave them a tour of the classrooms and training centers. She told them that dance is a very important part of curriculum. They then received a warm welcome from the students in the auditorium and were treated to a marvelous performance by students of all ages. The dances ranged from traditional Mongolian dance to cha cha cha to Bollywood. It was well done and great fun.

Marrisa, Miyako, the school principal, Connie and Uyanga (with Gladys)

Speech therapy class

Our warm welcome

Students waiting to perform

A dance that told a story about a family

Mongolian folk dance

A young, graceful contortionist

The talented students

After the performance Miyako and Connie and Marissa held a question and answer session with the students. The students asked for advice and criticism. Connie and Miyako gave some notes, emphasizing how amazing they were as dancers and how successful their teachers were and stressing that a sense of community formed by learning and sharing is so important to dancers. There was some discussion on what opportunities there might be for dance performance and education in America.
Question and answer session

On the other side of town Dana, Sarah, Kelly taught a modern technique class for the Moon Stone Dance Company of Ulaanbaatar. Moon Stone is a folkloric dance company with dancers who cross-train in ballet and have had some modern dance. They were very excited to participate in class and eager to talk about their lives as dancers and to find out how American dancers make a living.Sarah and Kelly then taught six of their dancers a duet from DTSB&Co repertoire.

Later in the afternoon Kelly and Sarah spoke to 80 teenagers interested in American dance culture as part of the Access program (the English Access Microscholarship Program of the U.S. State Department), which is a special after-school English teaching program for economically challenged students, most of whom live in the ger district which houses in-country migrant workers.

Ger district

In the evening the company and Marrisa met up with Otgon US ambassador to Mongolia Jonathon Addleton and his wife to talk about the trip so far and eat Mongolian food. On the way over to the restaurant Kelly, Sarah and Dana stopped to snap pictures in the expansive Sukhbaatar Square.

Dana in Sukhbaatar Square, which features a large statue of Chinggis Khan

Kelly, Sarah, Dana and Jonathon Addleton, US ambassador to Mongolia

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Tumen Ekh performance

Monday night we attended a performance of Tumen Ekh, which includes singers and musicians as well as the dancers that Dana is working with. It was amazing! Every artist was so talented and seeing and hearing the traditional instruments, dancing and singing (including throat singing and a contortionist) was so enjoyable. We will never forget this amazing performance. This was the first time all the DTSBCo and Tumen Ekh dancers were all together so we introduced ourselves, had a great discussion and took a group photo. Friday night the Tumen Ekh dancers will perform a work Dana is creating for them in a joint performance at the National Drama Theater.