Chinese children learn jazz and hip-hop dancing from their American instructors through the New York-based National Dance Institute program. Chen Jing / For China Daily
Cultural and language differences have been overcome in an innovative dance program initiated by American ballet dancer Jacques d'Amboise. Deng Zhangyu reports.
In 1986, one of the United States' favorite ballet dancers, Jacques d'Amboise, took 50 Chinese children to New York to dance with 2,000 children there. Now, the 79-year-old has returned to China with his team to offer free dance instruction.
Starting in September 2012 and scheduled to last one year, the New York-based National Dance Institute program offers jazz and hip-hop dancing instruction, accompanied by Chinese music and instruments.
D'Amboise founded NDI in 1976 to provide free dance classes for public school children, and there are currently 13 branches in the US.
"We have programs in other countries, but we never previously considered doing the same in China," D'Amboise says of the program in Shanghai.
The former New York City Ballet's principal dancer made his first trip to China more than 20 years ago, when children from Beijing and New York danced together for a TV special in New York in 1986.
"At that time, everyone was learning Chinese, the culture, the history," recalls D'Amboise, who hopes to offer Chinese children a Western-style arts education.
Involved in the free dance program are eight schools from Minhang district, a Shanghai suburb, with hundreds of children taking part in the dance courses once a week at school. Some are migrant workers' children, says Kay Gayner, director of NDI, who is in charge of the China program.
A program lasts one to two years. It gives children a taste for the arts so that they may one day become professionals, the director adds.
"Give them a taste of success and it will change their way of approaching things in life, saying 'I can do it'," she says. "We have our own teaching techniques to guarantee that every child is engaged and elevated."