As part of a dance exchange between the United States and China, 10 local teenage dancers will be able to break through cross-cultural barriers this spring.
The program started in 2013, when Queens-based dance school Edge School of the Arts (ESOTA) partnered with Americans Promoting Study Abroad (APSA) to form the APSA Youth Dance Exchange. Through the program, the dancers will study traditional Chinese dance with renowned teachers, collaborate with Chinese dancers, learn basic Mandarin, network with professionals in the arts and present a performance to cap off their trip in Beijing.
This year’s selected dancers include Brianna McCollin, Simone Moton, Alexis Horton, Khalia Parris, Kaylah Griffith, Sadiyah Stephens, Jada Vaughan, Tanasia Lane, Ashley Santiago and Raven Joseph.
"A portion of the world’s problems today have to do with unity and other people being looked down on,” Stephens said. “If something like dance has the power to bring cultures together and display how beautiful it can be together, then I’d love to be apart of that.”
“A cross cultural dancer would be a courageous leader that has the potential and drive to change this world for the better," she said.
According to Jennifer De Rose, APSA executive director, the exchange has two key aims. The first is to give ambitious young dancers the opportunity to experience first-hand what it means to be a global citizen and cross-cultural dancer and, secondly, to inspire cross-cultural artistic expression by showcasing youth from the US and China collaborating in the arts.
“In terms of short-term impact, we find that each dancer has unique set of experiences which they find transformative, for some it is getting a passport or flying in a plane for the first time, for others it may be their dream to visit the Great Wall,” De Rose said. “During the exchange it is our main priority is to provide opportunities for each dancer to achieve their personal goals while also encouraging them to keep an open mind and try new things.”
Prior to arriving in Beijing, the students participate in a 7-week program where they learn basic Chinese language lessons and the history of dance in China. Upon arrival in April, they’ll continue language and cultural classes, but they will also take part in professional workshops and young professional panel discussions.
“One of the highlights of the exchange is visiting a range of work environments from start-up incubators to multi-national corporations,” De Rose said. “The 2017 Dancers will be able to choose from a list of companies to visit such as The American Embassy, the American Chamber of Commerce, Project Pengyou, Tech Temple, IBM, the Red Gate Gallery and many others.”
And to bring what they’ve learned in school to life, the dancers will visit significant sites such as the Great Wall and the Forbidden City.
The teenagers will train for 20 hours in Chinese dance forms, which will result in the US-China Dance Performance that the American dancers and Chinese dancers will work on together on.
Each dancer is currently trying to raise $3000 to fund their trip abroad. So far, they’ve raised nearly $10,000 for the trip, but APSA and ESOTA are still working on raising the additional $20,000 required for the program.
In fact, APSA and ESOTA are working together to find local and international exchange sponsors and grants for the 2017 exchange and future programs. Currently, the exchange is funded entirely from individual donations from the local community and APSA supporters.
If you’d like to donate to the New York Beijing Dance Program, you can visit www.crowdrise.com/send-new-york-dancers-to-study-abroad-in-beijing to make a contribution.