Thursday, January 29, 2009

It gets even more insane

One minute and twenty-five seconds of firework insanity. Note the building to the left with the balcony on fire and the people below shooting more fireworks at it.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Noisy New Year

The fireworks are constant. Rockets, mortars, bombs, streamers, screamers, whistlers, and flares reverberate through the city creating hours and hours of rolling thunder throughout the night. There are no rules about where or when fireworks can be ignited so even the most crowded streets will be disrupted with deafening booms. During dinner at a restaurant last night, a patron lighted one while still in the restaurant and opened the door to toss it grenade style into the street.

I had assumed that the fireworks were simply to celebrate the New Year, but there's more to it than that. Apparently evil ghosts and spirits are scared of loud noises, so the fireworks keep them at bay for the year.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Year of the Ox

Starting to feel like Chinese New Years around here. Even though we're more than a week away from the actual New Year, fireworks erupt from random corners of the city almost every hour and everyone is wishing everyone else a "xin nian kuai le".

This will be the Year of the Ox and giant golden statues are up in many parts of Shanghai, like this one near our office. The ox is a symbol of prosperity achieved through fortitude and hard work... we could all use a little of that these days!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Western Names

Not sure why, but many Chinese have a custom of adopting Western names. The majority choose run-of-the-mill names like James or Kevin, although sometimes they make unfortunate choices: I've met a man named Lucy.

The fun really starts when they get creative and pick something that's still an English word, but unusual as a name. As I meet more people, a few name genre's are beginning to emerge.

The heroic: Achilles; Aeneas

The simple object: Rock, Stone, Hammer,

The complex object: Radio, Lamp

The feature: Dimple, Small

The action: Howl, Run,

But the best is the animal. In my office, we have:
Bear, Elephant, Fish, Horse and Zebra.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Chinese Warrior

Enough of the swan pictures at the top of the blog. After the performance I got to wear a Chinese warrior suit. Pretty manly.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Swan Dance Pictures

I can only hope these pictures don't appear elsewhere on the internet.


Female Swans:
Lily Li
Zebra Hua
Yu Si
Sally Zou

Male Swans:
Elephant Xiang
James Li
Andy Wilcox

Wendy Yu

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Swan Dance Update

Tonight's the big swan dance. We've had a few rehearsals this week and the dance keeps getting longer as our choreographer, Wendy, adds new flourishes to the routine.

Our dance has a nice little narrative arc of young romance, heartbreak, emotional recovery, and then finding happiness where you'd least expect it. It's quite a stirring performance. The basic structure is this:

The male swans begin with a flock dance. We then pose at the back of the stage while our female swans dance across the stage and eventually find us. Then there's a group line dance in which my female swan, Sally, and I break off and perform a circular dance-and-spin routine. Sally then leaves me for another swan, and I am heartbroken. But then, out of nowhere, another female swan (Lily) swoops in and we dance happily ever after.

I'll have pictures from the final performance. My costume looks an awful lot like a tutu, although Wendy says that's not what it is.

Friday, January 2, 2009

I'm a Male Swan

With Chinese New Years approaching, I've been asked to play the role of male swan in our office's traditional Chinese dance performance. It's an honor too great to decline.

I'm told the performance will last 3-4 minutes and combine elements of jazz and ballet. Rehearsal is this Sunday and the performance will be on Thursday.

The choreographer sent this video as reference. It leaves me a bit curious, though, as it doesn't seem very Chinese and there are no males in it.