Dancers perform 'Ode to China' at Tustin Blackbox Theatre.

LEWISBURG, Pa. — Twenty members of the Bucknell Dance Company depart Sunday, Aug. 13, for a two-week tour of China, where the company will perform as the only U.S. representative at the International Ode to Peace Festival.

The Aug. 20 opening night gala celebration, featuring performing stars of China and the Bucknell Dance Company's performance, will air on national Chinese Central Television (CCTV). The four-day festival, located in Penglai, Shandong Province, is sponsored by an umbrella organization of the United Nations in cooperation with the Chinese government.

In preparation for the trip, the company performed the tour program at Tustin Blackbox Theatre on the Bucknell campus Saturday, Aug. 5, in front of an enthusiastic audience. The program included nine pieces, ranging in style from ballet and modern to Chinese, jazz, and classical tap.

Er-Dong Hu, associate professor of dance at Bucknell, told Saturday's audience that the dancers had been practicing and preparing for the trip for the past month.

"They are working so hard. Eight hours a day and they are accomplishing so much. I am very proud of them," said Hu. "This tour will not only be an incredible performance opportunity. This will be an adventure in experiencing the rich history and culture of China in an artistic exchange."

One of the dancers, junior Sara Fenstermacher, said she is excited about the trip. "This is a great opportunity. One of the things we had to do was get faculty permission to go on the trip. They all said, 'Go. This is an amazing opportunity.'"

While rehearsing on campus this past month, Fenstermacher, a psychology major and math and dance minor, said the dance company had been learning basic Chinese phrases. "We tried new phrases each week - please, thank you, counting to eight, and where's the bathroom," she said.

Fenstermacher, too, is pleased to have the opportunity to experience an Asian culture first hand.

"I think one of the biggest things we'll get from this experience is having a much better understanding of the culture and history of China," she said. "We've watched so many videos of their dancing and it's so different from ours. But there's a strong feeling we can share with them what we do, too."

During the opening night of the festival, the Bucknell group will perform "Ode to China," a piece choreographed by Bucknell's Hu, and set to the traditional music of "Yellow River." Hu said the dance was choreographed specifically as a tribute to the Chinese people. "As American dancers, we wanted to learn some of the dance styles and traditions from the rich heritage of Chinese culture and perform that in honor of our hosts," he said.

While in China, two of the company's dancers, Ashley Baer '06 and Michelle Wirkus '07, will have the opportunity to address those attending at the International Youths Speech event that is themed on friendship and peace. Also, Eugenia Gerdes, professor of psychology and dean emerita of the College of Arts and Sciences, will speak at a session titled, "Quality Education for Youth and Sustainable Development."

In addition to visiting Penglai, the Bucknell dancers will have the opportunity to explore Yen Tai and Beijing and sites like the Great Wall and give additional presentations in surrounding cities.

Tour support is provided by the Association for the Arts, the Office of the President, the Office of the Provost, the deans of Arts and Sciences, and the Department of Theatre and Dance.

Posted Aug. 10, 2006

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