Thursday, August 20, 2015

The University of Texas campus was quiet over the summer, while students and faculty spent their time working on projects around the globe. The College of Fine Arts was no exception. Students and faculty from all three departments took advantage of the break from coursework to pursue research, teach seminars or test the waters of a future career. Here is a glimpse into what happens when classes end, and the fun begins.

Ladonna Matchett, who graduated in May with a B.F.A. in Dance, participated in the Beijing Dance Festival in China.

Ladonna Matchett at the Great Wall of China.Tell me about how you came about this opportunity in Beijing and what your participation was.
The opportunity was presented to me by Kelsey Oliver, one of the dancers I traveled with. Kelsey had been in talks with Sunny Shen, a current M.F.A. student, and they were looking for others to join them in the Beijing Dance Festival. I was immediately on board, and we began rehearsing and choreographing for a video submission in hopes of being selected to present our work. We were chosen to present our piece, “my socks are brown,” and had the privilege of not only performing, but viewing three shows per day the second week of the festival.

What was it like dancing with people who speak different languages (if that was the case)?
The bulk of the classes were taught in English, and all classes had a translator present, so there wasn’t much of a language barrier for me in the teaching of the courses. There were also quite a few students who spoke English as well, so there weren’t many complications with language in the dance community I was a part of. During class most of our communication was through breaths of much-welcomed exhaustion.

What was the most memorable moment of your trip this summer?
It’s hard to pick one specific moment, but I enjoyed several moments with the couple I was living with, Hung Jen and Sophia. They were beyond hospitable, sharing with me recipes, philosophies and a multitude of history about themselves and the Chinese country. I am forever grateful for their generosity and truly developed a genuine friendship.

Meeting a set designer in a Peking café was one of the best [moments]. Kelsey and I were getting ready to leave as a Whitney Houston song came on. A lady by the "American" name of Alisa asked what song I was singing, I tried to recall, but couldn't. She informed me she reads and writes English better than she speaks it. We added one another on WeChat, which is an app that allowed us to communicate there since that I lacked phone service and Facebook. Alisa informed me that she too was a recent graduate in lighting design. We spoke quite a bit, and she invited me to an exhibit held at her university, The Central Academy of Drama. Afterward, we enjoyed a meal and talked of her visit to Europe.

How do you see this experience shaping your post-college endeavors?
Going forward, this experience will certainly inform my personal drive and initiative. In Beijing I was responsible for a great deal of my travel plans and rehearsal schedule, which has typically been determined for me. Having the ability to rehearse as little or as much as possible for the presentation of “my socks are brown” not only reinforced my notions of productivity, but also enhanced them. Having just graduated, I got a great introduction for what’s to come in regards to self-proficiency and self-starting my own projects.

Did you get an opportunity to sightsee or enjoy some down time?
After the performance of “my socks are brown,” Kelsey and I had the opportunity to visit the Great Wall of China Badaling. The experience was breathtaking, both literally and figuratively. The view was spectacular, and our encounters with other onlookers made for an interesting walk up the wall. A great deal of people wanted photos with the two of us for being foreigners as it was explained to me. I took more photos that day than any other in my stay in Beijing, which I mostly attribute to my taking mental notes and photographs. We were able to hike the entire distance that was allowed of the southern portion of the wall, and the experience was far more rewarding than I could’ve hoped for.

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