Chinese troupe delights Gary students
By Sue Ellen Ross Post-Tribune correspondent November 1, 2012 4:12PM
Cai Yuanhui (left) and Dong Yifang from Xishan High School of Renmin University in China dance during a program at Wirt- Emerson Visual and Performing Arts Academy in Gary, Ind., on Oct. 15, 2012. | Jeff Addison~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 3, 2012 6:15AM
GARY — Second-graders at Marquette Elementary School normally don’t take an outside stroll as part of their morning routine. But one recent sunny day found them doing just that — as they walked to the Wirt-Emerson Visual and Performing Arts Academy to attend a concert.
Forty-five high school and college musicians from China performed dances and played traditional instruments. They came to Gary as good-will ambassadors sponsored by the Confucius Institute of Valparaiso University.
“This is huge; it will be a highlight for the students,” said Marquette second-grade teacher Anastasia Bennett as her students and hundreds of others waited in the auditorium for the performers to take the stage. “I didn’t tell them why we were coming here; I wanted it to be a surprise. They will be writing a theme about this experience when we get back.”
Gary School Board member Barbara Leek was front-row, center to watch the Chinese students, saying cultural enrichment has many benefits.
“This is something we don’t see every day,” Leek said. “It’s an exciting preview of how music encompasses the world.”
The Chinese students were from Beijing Central Conservatory of Music, Shanghai Conservatory of Music, and Xishan High School of Renmin University.
The mood seemed a bit apprehensive at first. Chinese instruments normally are played softly, which means the audience must be quiet and attentive as each musical story unfolds. The audience warmed up as the students got into the music and dance.
“The ribbon dance was my favorite,” said Tatianna Oliver, 8. “It was so colorful, and she looked like she was having fun.”
Classmate Catelyn Gillum, 7, enjoyed the flutes, saying, “I know it’s probably hard to play that, but they made it look easy.”
Li Qian is a professor from the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. During the show, she made herself visible by proudly snapping pictures of the students in action.
“Music brings the community and teens together; that’s good,” she said.
Near the end of the two-plus hour program, the Wirt-Emerson orchestra joined its guests for a finale led by director Rovelli Grib.
Two days later, the Gary musicians participated in the Confucius Institute’s Great Lakes Festival at VU. Jianyun Meng, director of the institute, coordinated the visit with Grib.