From Santa Monica to Beijing
They have been touring throughoutCalifornia and Mexico for years, but for the first time, Santa Monica College's own dance company, Global Motion, took the stage in China for the annual International Tourism Festival in Beijing.
Global Motion, which was founded in 1974 by SMC dance department chair Judith Douglas, is currently co-directed by Raquel Ramirez and Sri Susilowati. They were invited to present their own Aztec and Mexican Folklorico dances that were created by Ramirez and two SMC alumni, James Munez and Alondra Ramirez.
With an opening parade, the 41 dancers, of whom 21 were Global Motion members, who were accompanied by 20 dancers of Raquel Ramirez' own dance company, Ballet Folklorico Flor de Mayo, introduced their traditional Mexican dances to the Chinese audience.
“The audience here is much more reserved,” said Susilowati. “In China, they were very welcoming and enthusiastic. You could see it in the faces of our students that it was all worth it; all the hard work, the sacrifices, the pain and injuries. And seeing the audience so welcoming, it all paid off. It was just mind-blowing.”
But not only the audience was exposed to something new. The dancers themselves experienced for the first time the type of reaction which they received in China.
“Everybody felt like superstars; it was hard to walk from one point to another without having people asking for pictures and autographs,” said Yessenia Munoz, an SMC alumnus who has been dancing with Global Motion since 2006.
“I feel grateful to be able to witness how they treasure something so simple as a parade; I feel like people here take that for granted,” she said.
With more than ten dance companies from all around the world, the festival offered the students both a unique dance and cultural experience.
The students were not only able to interact with dancers from different countries, but could also see how their culture was reflected in their dance, Munoz said.
“What was very beneficial for the students was that they were exposed to other cultures and dances in a very short period of time,” said Susilowati. “It made their experiences so much more well-rounded. As a dancer, a student, and a human being they need to be open-minded to other cultures.”
“Some of our students hadn't done any touring before, and this was such an eye-opening experience for them,” she said. “That was such an award for us directors.”
For Raquel Ramirez, the cultural enrichment and the uniting power of dance were the highlights of the trip.
"It was amazing for me and for [the students] to see how much people admire really what we were doing," she said. "The dances that we do aren't just movements but actually have a meaning. It shows how other people around the world come together and can unite."
“It seemed like we knew each other from the before," Ramirez said. "It was like a family. Everybody was just dancing together after the performances.”
From the experience in China, Munoz, who strives to become a professional dancer, gained more focus and motivation to work for her goal.
"Although the trip was physically tiring, I did come back more motivated to get started again," she said. “While I was there, I was reminded why I started dancing to begin with. I want to become a professional dancer. I saw that our joy for dancing can make other people happy. I came back hungry to learn more.”