Week one of The Young Ambassadors’ eighth visit to China was full of surprises. After traveling for over twenty hours from Salt Lake City, sponsors with the China Performing Arts Agency greeted the group with an unexpected challenge upon landing in the Beijing Airport. They informed the group that all of the props, equipment and musical instruments which had been transported by ship to Tianjin would not be released by Customs officials in time for the first major performance in Beijing.
With the dedicated help of China Performing Arts Agency staff members, the BYU team spent the next 24 hours searching the entire city to find and purchase dozens of wigs, props, furniture pieces, as well as renting a truck full of sound equipment, lights and musical instruments to replace their missing equipment so they could present the show for a sell-out audience that night in the beautiful new Tsinghua Xue Tang Theatre. Miraculously, replacements were found for everything that the performers needed and the show,Harmony-the Music of Life, was phenomenally well received. The Beijing audience included a full house of Chinese families as well as many government dignitaries and educational leaders hosted by BYU’s Associate International Vice President, Erlend Peterson, Dean Stephen Jones, and local Church officials.
Two afternoon performances for the Meet in Beijing Festival were presented Tuesday and Wednesday. On Thursday, the Young Ambassadors performed with the Beijing Dance Academy in their charming third floor theater where their dancers and faculty have been creating magic for decades. BYU dance faculty member, Nathan Balser, spent the first four days of tour working with the Beijing Dance Academy students to prepare them for a combined performance. The results were heart-warming as East met West and friendships were formed that will last a lifetime. This exchange was part of the ongoing collaboration between BYU’s College of Fine Arts and Communications and the prestigious Beijing Dance Academy.
A television show on CCTV’s English channel, Culture Express, featured show excerpts from Beijing’s first performance, interviews with cast members, show band director, Eric Hansen and Randy Boothe for more than 20 minutes of air time on the group and their past and current tours. The elegant Summer Palace, the Forbidden City, and a hike up the Great Wall of China were all additional highlights of the week.
Traveling by bus to Tianjin, the group performed for two enthusiastic university communities including SRO student crowds at Tianjin University. The week concluded with a high-speed train ride to Jinan where local sponsors greeted the group with flowers and smiles of welcome! Week two has begun!