Lula Washington Dance Theatre wastes no time moving from one international adventure to the next. In December 2010, the Los Angeles–based modern dance company returned from a one-month stint touring rural Russia and almost immediately started gearing up for round two, to China, from May 21 to June 13. The United States Department of State awarded a $116,000 grant to support the 24-day tour for a dozen dancers. But unlike the Russian tour, which focused almost entirely on performance (including 18 concerts), this trip will be dedicated to both performance and educational outreach, including a residency at Sias International University in China’s Henan Province.
Sias is the first solely American-owned university in central China, and Lula Washington and her dancers will be in residence for over a week. “We really want this to be a cultural exchange,” she says. “We’ll be performing, teaching and sharing our style with their dancers, and we’ll have the opportunity to learn more about Chinese culture.”
Aside from the university, the company will be committed to educational outreach in each rural province that they visit. “When we do outreach in the United States, we talk to students about African-American history and culture and our performances have Q&A sessions,” says Washington. “It’s going to be no different abroad.” She hopes to share with the Chinese people a style and culture that they may not have otherwise experienced. “I’m going to go in with an open mind and work with whoever is receptive to learning from us, whether they’re 92 or 2,” she says.
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This Sunday, master ballet teacher Finis Jhung turns 80. After a career as a soloist for both San Francisco Ballet and the Joffrey and a principal for Harkness Ballet, Jhung carved out a unique place for himself as a ballet teacher in New York City. He's coached the boys of Billy Elliot: The Musical, developed a popular video and DVD how-to series and STILL teaches seven classes a week at the Ailey Extension. He's graced the pages of this magazine to offer his time-honored wisdom again and again, and he's currently working on a memoir. (We can't wait to read it.) Happy birthday, Finis!
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