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Week two of the BYU Young Ambassadors tour to China began with the students participating in what local leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reported to be the largest gathering of Church members ever in the city of Jinan.
The Young Ambassadors then traveled by bus to the university where BYU representatives teach English to eager students each week. Sunday evening's "English Corner" was a remarkable opportunity to learn about life as a Chinese student, as BYU students and faculty provided English-speaking Chinese university students with a rare opportunity to practice their conversational skills.
The next day, the Young Ambassadors were hosted in a formal cultural exchange by faculty and students of the Shandong University of Science and Technology in Jinan. Historically, its School of Dance has been a nationally award-winning institution for Chinese classical dance. The Young Ambassadors, including the band and technicians, received expert instruction on the intricacies of Chinese fan dancing in their afternoon exchange.
Television cameras were on hand to capture the exchange as well as that evening's performance where more than 1,000 university students joined a crowd of more than 2,000 to experience the Young Ambassadors' brand of high-energy, family-centered entertainment.
When the BYU student-performers unexpectedly began to sing in Mandarin near the end of the concert, the audience was surprised and their facial expressions turned to smiles of approval as they clapped in unison and mouthed the words right along with the Young Ambassadors.
Arriving in Shanghai via a high-speed train, the troupe was in awe of this new city of skyscrapers, and they attended a stunning performance of the Shanghai Circus on their first night in the city. Unbelievable skill and daring from the young circus performers brought the Young Ambassadors to their feet for a standing ovation.
Shanghai audiences reciprocated the next night as they enthusiastically welcomed the Young Ambassadors to the Oriental Arts Center, a magnificent state-of-the-art facility where the most prestigious international Broadway touring companies have been presented to Shanghai audiences in recent years.
Hefei, capital of the Anhui province, was the setting for two sold-out performances. The second Hefei performance was attended by more than 4,000 Anhui University students in their campus sports arena. BYU technicians collaborated with local lighting and sound professionals to work their magic, and the large gymnasium was transformed into an impressive theatrical space complete with projection, lights and sound equipment that could compete with any international road company.
The audience response was electric. Hundreds of enthusiastic Chinese students were convinced they needed a photo with BYU students and leaders. Forty minutes after the show concluded, cameras were still flashing.
A short plane ride to the ancient capital of Xi'an brought the Young Ambassadors to an exciting new performance location. For director Randy Boothe, who accompanied the group on their first tour of China in 1979, being welcomed to Xi'an by Sheldon Poon brought the Young Ambassadors full circle.
Poon, who was serving as the Hong Kong Stake President at the time of BYU's first entrance into China, hosted the group on that historic tour accompanied by Elder and Sister James E. Faust. Now, 34 years later, Poon welcomed the Young Ambassadors to Xi'an on Sunday with a memorable ride into the center of this ancient capital.
Surrounded by the city wall and sitting adjacent to the colorful bell tower magnificently lit against the night sky, the Young Ambassadors are positioned for a cultural adventure which may be unmatched by any other location on tour. In this setting, "the world [truly] is our campus." Week three has begun!
Writer: Performing Arts Mangement