Today is New Year’s Eve but as the dancers have not had class or rehearsal for 2 days it was essential that they got back into routine before our opening performance of Romeo & Juliet tomorrow. The Company assembled in the lobby of the hotel at 9am and were marched through the arctic winds to the theatre – just over 1Km from the hotel. Miraculously with a chain of more than 40 people nobody got left behind. It was not so straightforward at the theatre. We found our way under the lake to the South Entrance which also gives access to the backstage areas but once we entered the labyrinthine environment it became a major challenge to find dressing rooms, the studio and the stage. The complex houses 3 theatres and below ground they very quickly merge. Our Opera House is on the “Yellow Brick Road” but sometimes you have to deviate to the blue route to get somewhere in our area. Eventually class did take place and only 30 minutes late! At the same time the Technicians were busy on stage two floors above the studio fitting up the lighting and scenery. Everything seems to be going to plan in that area and they will be finished just in time for New Year Celebrations.
At 12pm the dancers headed off on an excursion to the Great Wall of China. Some of the company had been before on our previous tours but for many it was their first experience of this awe inspiring structure. It took about 90 minutes through the heavy Beijing Traffic to travel the 60Kms. On arrival it was another challenge to persuade the ticket office that we actually wanted to buy 39 tickets and were not trying to barter down the standard 40RMB entrance fee. In the end with the help of a calculator it was achieved but see picture of the ticket office set for the smallest child but totally impractical for an adult unless you wanted to sit down on the freezing concrete steps!
We had about 90 minutes to walk along the Wall which is unbelievably hard work with steep slopes and totally impractical steps. Each person soon found their level and went as far along the walls as their legs would allow them before turning back with time to return to the coach. One intrepid group noticed that there was a mini roller coaster ride in the distance and decided that this must be an easier way down. Fortunately it did turn out to be so but with no English speaking person to ask their heroic efforts at going that bit further than the rest of us could have ended in disaster if it had been necessary to retrace their steps – and a long wait for the rest of us.
No visit to the Wall is complete until the Barre Photo has been taken, a tradition we have maintained since our first visit in 2000. It was hideously cold with a strong wind on the Wall but everybody agreed it was worth it even if the journey back took more than two hours.
All photos: Neil Jarman