Shortly before Yap Day, a dance troupe from the Ningxia Province in China came to the island for a cultural exchange. We had heard about their upcoming arrival, but were a little unsure of what to expect, as many people here were calling them ninjas. The correct pronunciation, I was informed, is closer to ning-shaw rather than ninja. The half-dozen member troupe performed at the community center on Sunday, February 28, 2011. Miranda attended, hoping to see something different, and to help get her excited about our upcoming trip to southeast Asia.
The community center was packed when I arrived. I quickly grabbed a seat before the obligatory speeches began. I listened to the governor welcome the troupe, and the Chinese ambassador thanked Yap for welcoming the troupe to come share cultures for a few days. It was difficult to follow along with what was being said. The sound system was cranked up to the maximum that night and there were thick and varied accents. Some of the speakers from China used a translator, which added an extra layer of confusion to what was being said, and provided strange moments as no one knew when to clap. There was an interesting moment while I was listening to the Chinese ambassador’s interpreter say Yapese names and speak in English. I looked around at the mishmash of culture and couldn’t help but feel a strange peace.
Living as a minority is something I had never had to experience until living here. It is trying at times of course, especially when another language is involved, one that you don’t speak but a few words, and is extremely difficult to learn. But on this night, when I looked around and saw so many people from a large assortment of places and cultures, somehow we all fit in, and at the same time, no one fit in. I sat back and watched the cultures navigate the evening with respect and curiosity.
And boy were they amazed.
The evenings entertainment started out with a rousing musical number that got everyone’s attention. Along with the live music, an accompaniment was played over the loud speakers to add to the performance. The group played instrumental songs from their homeland, while hundreds of people watched in awe. I am sure that many of the audience members had never heard anything like it, or seen anything like the other acts that followed.
I am certain that portions of this performance were considered highly provocative for some of the Yapese. The way this girl twisted, and bent was impressive, but showcased parts of the female anatomy that are often hidden away for private affairs here.
She was talented nonetheless, and I appreciated her art that she was sharing with us. At one point she played a brass instrument along with the music, all the while twisting and contorting, but never missing a note. She also balanced lit candelabras on her feet and went from her back to her stomach, while still playing the instrument!
The crowd, as well as myself, then enjoyed a Chinese opera presentation. I had noticed the entertainer while he was stretching to the left of the show space. Someone else noticed him too, and wasn’t quite sure what to think of him, yet he couldn’t take his eyes away. Many of the younger children were enthralled by the elaborate costumes of the troupe. This little little guy was one of the braver ones, later causing him to become part of the show when he sauntered onto the mat while a performer was singing.
Another artist was part of the opera demonstration. His act was even more excitedly received. During his routine he changed masks using slight of hand. He was extremely skillful at his craft and had the timing down perfect. I wondered if any Yapese were worried it was ‘real’ magic.
The show was incredible. It will be remembered by those who attended for a long time. I feel lucky to have been part of the experience, as I often feel when I get to encounter new and exciting things here. This place is always full of new experiences to be had, which we welcome since entertainment can often be lacking. So, thank you to the dance troupe from Ningxia China for sharing a piece of your heritage with us. We hope you enjoyed Yap Day as much as we enjoyed you!