Welcome to China with the promise of a fascinating and memorable tour!
Maeve Fearon, Dancer, Irish Dance Troupe, China Tour
It’s a regular Tuesday evening, but Terminal 1 at Dublin Airport is alive with dancers and crew from Riverdance, meeting, catching up and telling tales of their downtime over the past few months. Many are skeptical about checking in a suitcase packed full of “necessities” without having to remove half of their clobber and wear it due to weight restrictions! (I am pretty sure of the 10 pairs of shoes I have with me, I probably only need three!) But luckily, we sail through and move through to departures.
Everyone is overexcited about our imminent 10 week tour where we will be gracing the fascinating plains of China, covering approximately 24 cities. It will be difficult being away from home for Christmas but with a lovely “last supper” at my local cafe Grounded Slieve Gullion Cafe with the family that morning (for those of you travelling to the countryside of Armagh – be sure to check this little gem out!) and a nice catch up with granny Bridget, I said my goodbyes, leaving the Emerald Isle once again.
Click on photos to start photo slideshow
Coincidentally, I joined Riverdance for my first tour to China exactly three years ago to the date of our departure. As we pulled up to the impressive Ocean Hotel, Guangzhou, I was surprised I had remembered so much about the hotel and the city. Luckily I remembered a nice local restaurant in a shopping mall close to our hotel. For the skeptical foodies amongst us, it was a successful visit with tasty meat and veg dishes and sticky rice all in with drinks for a measly £7 each! A while later, we were being serenaded by restaurant staff with an original all singing, all dancing version of “Gangham Style”. My response to the enamored first timers around me “Welcome to China!”
We were spoilt with free breakfast for the duration of our stay and once again we were impressed with an array of fresh fruit, custom made omelettes, croissants and good coffee. After more lengthy conversations about our time at home and the upcoming tour, we agreed on a plan of action for the day and headed out onto the streets of Guangzhou.
On first impressions of the city I was re-visiting after a mere three years, I considered Napoleon Bonparte’s famous quote about China “Let her sleep, for when she wakes, she will shake the world”. The development of the city of Guangzhou is initially clear from the improved cleanliness of the streets and many additional skyscrapers added to the skyline. With little or no amazement and wonderment from locals as we walked along, it seems we are not the only Westerners here. Of course, the most popular hangout for Riverdancers in China is none other than the reliable Starbucks. True enough it was filled with visitors from all over the world. With it’s non threatening food choices and coffee that isn’t likely to have us visiting the toilet on more than one occasion in the aftermath (and believe me there are times when you’d rather avoid what is merely a hole in the floor), many can be found spending hours here making use of the free Wifi. But with a quick mocha-choca-latte, we began meandering through the hutongs of Guangzhou.
With a population of approximately 10 million people in this city alone, it was no surprise that we were amongst hundreds going about their daily lives, with quite a number carrying what looks like half of their eternal belongings on the back of their bike!We come across a market soon enough which had everything you could imagine from “Kappa” tracksuits, circa 1996 to intriguing food picks such as Chicken Claws (yes it’s true I swear!). Surprisingly I accept the invitation to check out “China Mobile for you pretty lady?!” and no less than ten minutes later I am the proud owner of a new sim card, which thankfully has worked well to date and to my delight gives me free internet access wherever I am….score!
Onwards and upwards, me and my roommate Emma Warren decided to treat ourselves to a full manicure. Pampering session complete (I should mention the total cost for two manicures was £4!!!) we headed back to the hotel for a nap. Later that evening, the whole troupe visit the local Jambiri Indian Restaurant and after a delicious Chicken Korma and Naan bread, we retreated to our comfy beds for a much needed and lengthy rest.
On Thursday, as our first show looming, we were called in early for rehearsals. The Guangzhou Zhonghshan Memory Hall was a sight to behold, a fabulous exterior and huge inside! With a full cast of experienced dancers and musicians, rehearsals were short and sweet and it was soon warm-up time for our first show of the tour in Guangzhou. With an expected audience of 12,000 people over the weekend, it was no surprise to walk out to a packed theatre. The reception we got was phenomenal and what Julian Erskine (Executive producer) described as “the best I have ever seen in China!”. It certainly was a good way to kick off what promises to be a fascinating and memorable tour.