A Week in Chengdu… - Riverdance

A Week in Chengdu…

Kevin Horton, Dancer, Bann Company

Our weekend off in Chengdu continued into Monday with different company members partaking in different activities. One popular activity was to visit the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. That’s a long title! This is the biggest park for Pandas in all of China. I have personally never seen a live Panda Bear before, so I was quite excited for the experience.

A Panda Bear relaxes while enjoying some bamboo

A couple of facts that we learned include that there only about 1,000 pandas left in the world, with close to 100 of them at this research breeding center. It is sad to see such a gorgeous animal so close to extinction, but it’s great to have a breeding facility that can continue the panda population. If you have never seen a panda in captivity before, aside from their fur patterns of black and white, they don’t do much. They consume pounds and pounds of bamboo each day and most of the time are beached out under bamboo plants consuming endless amounts of leaves. This is necessary because their diets do not really consist of protein, so copious amounts of bamboo are needed for energy. The cubs were the greatest to watch, since they played and pushed each other around their captive area.

Also, the park contained the Red Panda, which I had never seen before either. These smaller species have the same white fur around their eyes, but a longer body with red fur and a tail like a fox. A rather strange looking species if you ask me!

Dancers Michael, James, Padraic, and myself with the Red Pandas

Another group of cast members ventured into the mountains for the day off and explored on a hike throughout the mountain region of Emei. For some of the group, they opted to stay at a hostel for the night somewhere along their hike so they could continue their adventure into the next day. It was pretty rigorous, but the views I am told were well worth the trip and quad aggravation. The elevation was so high, that somewhere around 3,000 meters, there was a break in the clouds and some of the bluest skies so far in China could be seen; with the snow also being a plus. Along with a Chinese Buddha atop the mountain and Monks crossing the trail as well, it was an amazing day for all those who attended.

There was a great place just down the street from where we performed, the Sichuan Stadium, called the Bookworm. This restaurant/bar is owned by a guy named Peter from Ireland and he could not have been more hospitable. He welcomed us all week to enjoy his Western menu and we even spent a few nights until the early morning hours dancing away and enjoying a few drinks! The best part was that the Bookworm contained a full library throughout and we were aloud to take a few books to read and return to the Bookworm branch in Beijing. It was not strange to see random cast members enjoying a great meal while reading a new book throughout the week. So, thanks to Peter for welcoming us, and for waving the Irish flag during the performance of our show you attended!

This week, we had to say good-bye to dancer Shona Cobbe. She had to head home for the rest of this tour and will be greatly missed. We sent her off with a great night of drinks and laughs at the Bookworm. Next week, we welcome dancer Katrina O’Leary from London to take her place. We wish Shona the best of luck. Also, tap dancer Kelly Isaac is out to replace tapper John Scott, who unfortunately broke his foot during the show this week. Welcome Kelly to the Bann company and John, we wish you a speedy recovery!

A group of the female troupe with Shona (4th from the right) at her going away party
Some of the boys at the Bookworm

We were all very refreshed from the days off and it made for some great shows in Chengdu! We played in a stadium, so it was a different setting for the week and most of the shows were close to sold out, which is always a plus. Sometimes, the audiences can be a bit more reserved, but we noticed a difference this week. After Chengdu, we headed to Kunming and on to Chongqing, which is where we are right now. Next time, I will fill you in on these two great cities!


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