Ping Pong Productions Acts as Cultural Ambassador to China
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Congratulations to ISPA Board member Alison Friedman on her recent feature in ISPA's partner International Arts Manager (IAM) Magazine. The article below can be found online in Volume 9 No. 07.
An ambitious new arts project aims to get rid of cultural stereotypes and encourage a better mutual understanding of Chinese and American societies.
From bluegrass banjo to Detroit dance, the American Culture Centers Tour scheme is bringing a diverse range of US artists to venues across China throughout the 2012-13 academic year.
Funded by grants from the US Embassy in Beijing, ACCT is managed by Ping Pong Productions, and sees 12 Chinese universities stage shows by US performers,all acting as cultural ambassadors.
‘The mission of our organisation is to bring China and the world together through the performing arts,’ Alison Friedman, founding director of the Beijing-based organisation, told IAM.
‘I’ve been based in China for 12 years and I’ve seen the meteoric increase of information going in both directions about American and Chinese culture,and also about society and politics.’‘It’s not necessarily inaccurate,’ continued Friedman, ‘the articles we see about China’s pollution are true, the articles about China’s economic development are true. But I find it’s very one dimensional; [people in China] are influenced by Hollywood movies and Starbucks and Nike, they’re inundated with things that are very one dimensional,commercial products. That doesn’t show you diversity of culture in countries.’
Through ACCT, Chinese audiences have seen performances of traditional Navajo songs and dance by the Chinle Valley Singers, and a distinctive mix of bluegrass banjo and Chinese melodies from singer-songwriter Abigail Washburn. Meanwhile, Haleem ‘Stringz’ Rasul, founder of dance troupe Hardcore Detroit, led a workshop about the origins of Jit dance, discussing the evolution of the art form, and teaching audiences a Jit routine.
Friedman said: ‘It’s so key to understand that there’s diversity, that China and America are these vast, diverse and nuanced cultures and societies; the arts do that perfectly. The arts show you complexity, nuance, the arts show you humanity.‘And it’s when you can see the complexity, nuance, diversity and humanity of someone else that you see themas human and not as some big monolithic scary thing. The arts accomplish that.’
In June ACCT will tour a series of theatre performances and workshops,exploring the evolution of American drama from the early part of the 20th century to the present. Actors include Henry Clarke and Nellie Sciutto.
Friedman said that plans are already underway for next year’s scheme, slated to include a jazz and tap dance quintet from Chicago, an opera singer and a US-China comedy festival.
She added: ‘We’re waiting to hear about next year’s funding for the continuation of the ACCT programme, and are also working on private support including airfare, hotel sponsorship and private donors.'
To learn more about Ping Pong Productions visit: www.pingpongarts.org