ARCC Presents: Journey to the West

One Night In Beijing (ONIB) is an annual showcase presented by Awareness of Roots in Chinese Culture (ARCC). Every year, ONIB features a play recreated from a well-known story or a legend in Chinese culture. The play is interwoven with dances of different genres, such as traditional Chinese minority dances, hip-hop dances, Wushu performances, and this year, ONIB even added a piece performed by Carnegie Mellon's Ballroom Dance Team.

The play of this year’s ONIB, Journey to the West, is an adaption of a short excerpt from the complete novel of the same name, one of the four great classical novels in China. It told the story of Sanzang Tang and his three disciples’ arduous pilgrimage to the west, during which evil Yao Guai (loosely translated as “monsters”) would take advantage of Tang’s group's weaknesses and sins to prevent them from reaching their destination. The only way for them to finish the journey was through purifying themselves. Journey to the West is a fantasy story that incorporated both cultural and religious elements of ancient China, making it a suitable choice for ARCC to present to the campus.

ONIB cleverly used each dance piece to convey the setting of a specific scene in the story. Chinese minority dances were used to establish the extravagant illusions Yao Guai created in order to lure Sanzang Tang into her trap; the Wushu performances illustrated the fights between Sanzang Tang’s disciples and the Yao Guai. The two pieces that I took part in were both urban dances, one introducing the dangerous creatures living in the mountains ahead and the other setting an intense mood for the final combat between good and evil. The mixture of acting and dancing gripped the audience’s attention and filled them with anticipation for the entire two hours. In the dressing room, I would hear excited screaming coming out from Rangos, wondering what I had missed.

I have to confess, as a dancer for the ONIB showcase, I put way more time into preparing for the show than I expected. On top of the regular duty of remembering the choreography, we also had to attend extra rehearsals to help ONIB weave the show together. I am often impressed by how efficient and professional students are, and this showcase was definitely another example that boosted my regard. On Friday night, we had one full run-through of the showcase, and while I was sitting in a corner in Rangos watching the rehearsal, I saw actors forget their lines, stage props not in place, and directors making up impromptu standing positions; all I could do was try to focus on my homework instead of soaking in disappointment. The second run-through was scheduled to start on Saturday morning at 8:30 a.m. I came in reluctantly, expecting nothing from the showcase. However, I ended up completely mind-blown by the improvement the acting team made overnight. All the mistakes were fixed, actors unleashed their inner energy, and along with face paint and costumes, the show’s quality magically increased exponentially.

I guess when you put together a group of perfectionists and workaholics who take on countless tasks for the thrill of the challenge and refuse to compromise on the quality of their work, you make magic happen. On Friday night, I comforted myself that I was only there to dance, but by the end of Saturday night, I had learned yet another lesson from my meticulous peers in ARCC.