Three women dressed in traditional Song Dynasty garb, one holding a flower, danced in fog as part of the “Qingming Riverside” production performed by the Hong Kong Dance Company at The Maryland Theatre on Tuesday.
The production explores through dance the Northern Song Dynasty, which lasted from A.D. 960 to 1127.
“This is a rare opportunity to show all kinds of Chinese dances in this environment,” Hong Kong Dance Company Executive Director Gerard C.C. Tsang said. “We are happy to introduce Chinese Dance to people in the states.”
The Maryland Theatre was one of three locations that the company is visiting in the United States. The company performed Monday at Maryland Hall in Annapolis and is scheduled to perform Friday and Saturday at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
“Both performances have been very well received from the local communities,” Tsang said of the performances in Annapolis and Hagerstown. “We felt a warm response from the audience.”
More than 1,300 K-12 students and their teachers from the Washington County Public Schools system packed the auditorium at the Theatre to view the performance.
“I really enjoyed the dancing, I loved the music, and the costumes were very unique,” Hagerstown resident and Emma K. Doub Elementary School third-grader Zoe Everett, 8, said. “I learned that music can be all different, and it sounded very beautiful.”
North Hagerstown High School Senior Leslie Tark, 17, also of Hagerstown, added that she was pleasantly surprised by the show.
“I wasn’t expecting anything, but I thought it was really awesome,” she said. “I loved how there were different types of music and outfits. I really enjoyed it.”
Tark is a student in an International Baccalaureate Art class at North High taught by Brandy Merchant.
Merchant said that the performance was a great opportunity for her students to see an artwork “in its entirety.”
“It’s nice to see how something can grow into a finished artwork,” she said. “We’re desperately looking for cultural events like this, and it was exciting to see another culture’s artwork live.”
The students viewed the performance as part of the new Inspired Program, an initiative by the Maryland Theatre to introduce Nationally and Internationally recognized artists and professionals to students in the community.
WCPS Visual and Performing Arts Supervisor Rob Hovermale said Tuesday was the first event for the Inspired Program.
“This is such an opportunity to see folks from outside the country demonstrating their skills, their art forms, and their culture,” he said. “My only regret is only 1,300 students can see this. I would love for every student to see this.”
In addition to inviting students to the Theatre for performances, the program also will include workshops that introduce students to music, literature, theatre, dance, and photography.
Benito Vattelana, president of the Board of The Maryland Theatre, said the program will look for partnerships with local, regional, and national artists, athletes, and business leaders.
“Washington County is a rich arts community,” Vattelana said. “Our whole goal is to invest in our youth with art so they can actually experience something they may not have a chance to, and maybe somewhere down the road they’ll pursue a career in art.”
The connection from The Maryland Theatre and the Inspired Program to the Hong Kong Dance Company was made by another party, World Artists Experiences, which is a nonprofit organization based in Maryland that works to encourage international interactions through art in communities, colleges, and schools.
WAE President Betty McGinnis said the organization has an ambassador team in Allegany County for Western Maryland and worked to bring the dance company to The Maryland Theatre.
“We thought it would be very special to have them come here and perform because it’s such a beautiful venue,” she said. “We think it really enhances the community to have an international presence.”