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China Diary

Arrival in China
First Performance in Hangzhou
A challenging day in Hangzhou
Two Days in Shanghai
Shanghai to Beijing
First Performance in Beijing
Final Two Days in Beijing

Arrival in China

Monday 16 and Tuesday 17 January

The tour of China is to last 2 weeks and during this time we will be giving performances of La Traviata in Hangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing.

As usual the Company were divided into two groups for the journey. The Technicians travelling first to start the fit up in the first venue, with the dancers joining one day later.

Our flights were with Air France via Paris. Times were not ideal with an early start from West Park, Leeds at 5am for the flight from Manchester to Paris and then a four hour wait before the 10 ˝ hour flight to Shanghai. The service on Air France was excellent and gave little to complain about. The new Pudong airport in Shanghai is a spectacular modern design but inevitably not geared up to large groups of people as it is necessary to take two journeys in elevators fit for only about 4 people (plus baggage) at a time to get to the bus parking area. We had 44 in the 2nd group!!

Before we could complete our journey to Hangzhou, the advance party made a visit to the Oriental Arts Centre in Shanghai (this is to be the second venue of the tour). Although we had been promised technical plans for several months, nothing had been forthcoming and it was necessary for the Technicians to draw a plan of where all the lighting and scenery was to be flown to give to the lighting hire company so they could rig the lighting whilst we were still performing in Hangzhou. (There is only one day between performances in the two cities, so a very tight turnaround.) As the coach driver was not from Shanghai he had no idea where the theatre was. It was very amusing watching Young, the Promoter, trying to navigate to the theatre with the aid of a basic tourist map. In the end he got out of the coach at some traffic lights, hailed a taxi and we followed it to the Oriental Arts Centre.

Then it was 3 ˝ hours on a coach to Hangzhou. Not a particularly inspiring journey on a rather gray and damp afternoon but we received a warm welcome at the New Century Hotel. Everybody had a great dining experience in one of the many restaurants situated near the hotel before a relatively early night to catch up on some much-needed sleep.

Hangzhou has a population of about 1 million people and is in the north of the Province of Zhejiang, one of China’s smallest provinces but also one of its wealthiest. It is the capital of the Province and southern terminus of the Grand Canal, which stretches all the way to Beijing. The Canal has been the instrument of the city’s prosperity and fortunes ensuring it has been a place of great wealth and culture for more than a thousand years. As is often the case in China, the modern city is not of much interest in itself but Xi Hu – the lake around which Hangzhou curls – and its shores still offer wonderful Chinese vistas of trees, hills, flowers, old causeways over the lake, fishing boats, pavilions and pagodas. The area around the lake is really beautiful with a large array of bars and restaurants including Starbucks and Baskin Robbins!!

On Tuesday morning, whilst the dancers were still in flight, the fit up commenced at the Grand Theatre. This venue was only opened 1 year ago and is a multi-purpose facility including a large concert hall and studio theatre as well as the 1500 seat opera theatre where we are to perform. The stage, wings and scene dock area are absolutely vast. We could probably fit the stage of at least 6 of our standard touring venues at home into this space!

The day certainly brought one or two challenges to the Technical Department. It appears that although we had submitted a detailed lighting plan, the theatre technicians decided that we didn’t really want what we asked for and changed things to their own interpretation. An interesting approach but not helpful when it meant that we had to have things changed back. Still tomorrow is another day and the show will go on!!

Mark Skipper
Northern Ballet Theatre Chief Executive

Looking from the get-in doors across the stage to the auditorium in the distance In front of the Grand Theatre, staff prepare for their day with Tai Chi exercises Futuristic Grand Theatre is only one year old Paul, Neil, Martin & Alex during the fit-up part  of the foyer of the Grand Theatre

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