It didn’t become real for me that I would be performing at the Chinese New Years Gala until we started shooting the promotional YouTube video about a week before. That’s when I said to myself, “Self,” and myself said, “Hmm”. I said, “You’ve got to get your life together because you have a performance to kill”.
I’ve only been here but about a month and I can honestly conclude that performing at the Chinese New Years Gala was one of the single most life-changing experiences to ever occur. I am so blessed to have been part of such a huge performance at the Brighton Dome to celebrate such an important time of year for the Chinese culture. Never in my life have I performed in front of a crowd as big as this and I am so grateful that my friends that I’ve made at Sussex came out to support me and those friends back in America wished me endless amount of luck. I can solemnly swear that after weeks of headaches, late night practices, yelling, screaming, sweat and tears, we pulled it together and gave the performance our all. We were no Susssex Street Troupe or Chinese Student Association, but we slayed, dammit! We may have only been on stage for three minutes, but the crowd lost their minds once we struck our final poses.
I can’t lie, being an experienced and highly-trained dancer, I am a bit of a huge perfectionist so I was very worried that my dancers would not be on the same level of energy, sex appeal and precision as I was when it came to the day of the performance. They brought me onto their team with high expectations that I would completely turn the team out and give them that extra edge that they desperately wanted for their performance; and I tried. However comma, every change I wanted to make was either (a) too complex for them to catch or, (b) not fitting with the dance. I had to change my solo to Normandi’s hook about a good five times. If you want to count the last minute improvisation I did on stage, we can say six. At every rehearsal from the Lunar New Year performance at University of Brighton onwards, I made sure my girls had 110% precision and sharpness in every turn they made and dropped it as low as they possibly could every time they had to shake their ass. Even if they didn’t have an ass, I taught them to work with what they had. Find their best, most sexy asset and use it as your weapon of choice.
After getting off of the stage and realizing that this was the last time we would be performing together, it was a bittersweet feeling. Of course, I was thrilled that I could have the evenings to myself once again, but I was really going to miss spending time with my new found family who have allowed me to not only grow as a dancer, but as a person.
The Chinese New Year Gala
While it was kind of strange at first being the only Black person dancing in our little sextet, let alone one of two Black people performing during the entire program, I’m actually happy that was the case. Why? Because I got the opportunity to learn a lot about Chinese culture and push myself to be outside of my comfort zone. During lunch, they gave out food and of course I was happy about the food part. However, I was a bit apprehensive about using chopsticks. I’ve tried countless times to use them at Kum Kau in Brooklyn, but I always end up using a fork instead. This time, there were no forks. So, I learned to use chopsticks! I ate extremely slowly and only had small morsels of food at a time, so that was kind of annoying, but once I got the hang of it, it wasn’t that bad.
The performances were all amazing. Singers, dancers, a magician and even a mashup between hip hop and classical music. My favourite act by far was the opening act with the lions. They weren’t real lions, just colourful costume lions with people inside. They even did a cute short dance number to Gangnam Style. Oh goodness, I don’t remember the last time I heard that song! There was a drama – which Ronnie, my co-choreographer, was in -and they didn’t speak not a lick of English (with the exception of saying the word “bitch” once or twice). Even so, I was so en-captured by the performance and I could tell that they were definitely putting their all into every single word I did not understand.
The Sussex Street Troupe and the Chinese Student Association also did an amazing job with their choreography! If I wasn’t only here for a term, I would totally try out for the Street Troupe. Their skills were great and their mashup dance genres of choice were impeccable. I was #jealous! Did I mention I fell in love with one of the dancers? Yeah, I did. We only exchanged but maybe ten words with one another, but Lord only knows I’m a sucker for a guy who can dance. I don’t know his last name….or first, for that matter, but I am determined to track down my future dance husband!
To Carlie, Gillian, Ronnie, Christy and Anthea:
Thank you all so much for bringing me into your group with warm hearts and welcoming, open arms. You five knew absolutely nothing about me when I first came into rehearsal except for the fact that I was Anthea’s little buddy and a Black girl who knew how to dance. I didn’t just feel like a dancer with you all; I felt like I had become part of a smaller family. I know I must have been a huge pain in the ass during rehearsals when I would point out almost every little thing and scream at you all to go harder, be more precise and be more sexy. Just know that I wasn’t trying to be annoying. I wanted you ladies to be the best that I knew you all could be because I saw so much potential in each of you, young ladies. Each of your served an essential part to our group, dance-related or not:
- Christy – You’re so level headed and you keep the entire group just so…mellow and calm.
- Carlie – Your smile was absolutely contagious. You’re such a sweetheart and you definitely lit up the room. By far, one of the sweetest people I’ve met since I’ve been here.
Gillian – First of all, I love your green hair. You have such a unique style and beauty aesthetic. Secondly, you have legs for days and that kick during your four counts in the second verse was superb! Great job!
Anthea – You kind of remind me of myself in the perfectionist sense. You’re never too scared or too intimated to admit that you’re confused or you don’t understand a certain move in the dance. I really do admire that about you. Looks like asking all of those questions and really wanting to be the best dancer you could be. I can honestly say that it definitely paid off.
Ronnie – My darling Ronnie. You are so hilarious and you contribute comedy and the atmosphere of an open, fun space for everyone. You were so
welcoming to me from the moment I stepped into the dance studio and I cannot thank you enough. You have so much sass, charisma and natural sense of humour. You’re also a natural leader. Never lose that essence of yourself.
Thank you, University of Sussex for blessing me with a buddy, a new group a friends and a huge window of opportunity. This was definitely a growing, humbling experience for me as both a dancer and an exchange student.