Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Those Chinese Sure are Flexible

We had the wonderful fortune while in China to attend two performances. One was a dance/theater production highlighting the rich cultural dance and theater performances in Chinese history.

We knew we were in a tourist trap when the announcers made announcements in both Chinese and English. Granted, I was happy for that. It made understanding what was going on much easier; but it did detract from some authenticity I craved.

When I vacation and travel, I tend to want to find the local hangouts. I want to do as the Romans do when I am in Rome. If I pull into a parking lot and see tour buses, I tend to want to sprint in the other direction. I don't like tourist traps. China is made of tourist traps. We suspect that our guides, as wonderful and hospitable as they were, somehow got kickbacks from the Chinese government for taking us to certain venues. I would never want to return to said venues. Too much corralling of tourists much as you would cows. I don't like it.

That said, the performance was stunning. It was wonderful to see the costumes and hear the music. The rich history of this country is something I sadly have no knowledge of. How is it that I can be a rather intelligent person but still be missing key pieces of history? Now I am completely in control of my knowledge and can delve into the history when I return. And if I am fortunate enough to go again, I will be even more ready.

On to the acrobatics. In years past, our group has gone to the Beijing Opera. One student described it as worse than getting root canal work - apparently it sounds like squealing cats in heat.

I am thankful that this year we were able to see the Chinese acrobats. I don't think I have ever seen anything quite so spectacular. This should be on every itinerary. The flexibility and stunning beauty of the performers made me yearn for yoga so that I could try to get my leg behind my head in some strange western mimic of the Chinese acrobatic ideal.

At first, I was a bit surprised. The theater looked as though it needed some repair. Then when they paraded in the locals, they turned to stare at us. I was getting used to it at this point, having been stared at for the past two weeks. They turn, stare at you, say something to one another, giggle, and continue staring.

I guess the kindergarten is our zoo; the tourist traps are their zoo. They gaze at us and wonder what on earth we are doing here? What we are all about? Why I have feet as large at a Sasquatch?

Chinese acrobats and other performances - must see. I do hope to have the chance to see them again.

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