And yet nothing strengthens art or gives it more life and vibrancy than bringing new forces to bear upon it.
Today in our first traditional Chinese folk dance class with the students at Nanjing Normal University I began to see how the experience of traveling to China will impact CDI's artistic vision and work in the future. Together we watched with great fascination and awe, the incredible precision and subtlety with which the dancers performed their classical pieces - each complete with unique costuming and music. There was charm, beauty, delicacy, and strength in each of the pieces - and the unison movement (something CDI generally eschews in favor of more layered and complex movement patterns) was stunning. Following the demonstration, we were invited to learn our favorite section of movement. And while we couldn't often understand the words being spoken - physical meanings started to become clear. Together, with much fumbling on our part and much patience on theirs, we translated the steps. More than that, we began to connect with these individuals who we've travelled half the world to see. And this made us feel ALIVE.
The following excerpt, sent by someone dear to me at the start of this trip, has now increased in relevance in light of what the dancers encountered today in the studio:
"Only the walker who sets out toward ultimate things is a pilgrim. In this lies the terrible difference between tourist and pilgrim. The tourist travels just as far, sometimes with great zeal and courage, gathering up acquisitions (a string of adventures, a wondrous tale or two) and returns the same person as the one who departed...The pilgrim is different. The pilgrim resolves that the one who returns will not be the same person as the one who set out. Pilgrimage is a passage for the reckless and subtle. The pilgrim - and the metaphor comes to us from distant times - must be prepared to shed the husk of personality or even the body like a worn out coat." - Andrew Schelling, Meeting the Buddha