The American Dance Festival in Henan: An Overview

Dancer/choreographer Lee Choy Wan summarizes her experience at the 2014 American Dance Festival International Dance Master Class, Henan, China.

Choy Wan originally wrote this essay as a report to MyDance Alliance for being a recipient of its Small Grants program.


In August 2014, I represented Malaysia in attending the American Dance Festival (ADF) in its third collaboration with Henan Normal University in Henan, China. Since its beginnings in 2011, this festival has been curated and led by Hou Ying, a former dancer with Guangdong Modern Dance Company and Shen Wei Dance Arts. Around 130 students enrolled for the festival program. Amongst the participants, six were international choreographers (from Malaysia, India, Taiwan and Hong Kong), who had been given scholarships to attend the festival.

We were offered a variety of classes including modern dance technique, voice and gestures, text in performance, site-specific work and improvisation. The ADF faculty consisted of Rafael Lopez-Barrantes, Maria Bauman, Rodger Belman, and Curt Haworth, accompanied by ADF musicians John Hanks and Claudia Howard-Queen.

We were allowed to attend three to four classes per day and I chose to learn modern dance technique, voice and gestures, and text in performance. Throughout the 2-week festival, I absorbed an incredible amount of information. The two classes of voice and gesture and text in performance taught by Rafael Lopez-Barrantes left such a deep impression on me that I immediately assimilated the materials into my new choreography.

On the final day of the festival the participants presented a mini showcase of what they had learned. After demonstrating our dance abilities and some marvelous voice work, the day culminated in an informal showing of Rodger Belman’s site-specific work in a nearby park. In the evening, we were treated to a dance recital showcasing the work from the six international choreographers as well as ten pieces of student dance work. I presented my new solo choreography entitled “The Next Door”.

For the festival closing ceremony, we were invited to a dance party in one of the studios with plentiful food and drinks. I am thankful to have been in the company of such amazing dance instructors and friends. We each shared many joyful and grateful moments, and left with a bagful of memories.


Lee Choy Wan is a dancer/choreographer and a member of Kwang Tung Dance Company. More

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Featured photo:
Shi Hao Wen [bottom] at Henan Normal University Park, Xinxiang, 22 August 2014. Photo © Lee Choy Wan