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Has anyone caught a fascinating series from China called Dance With Me? It's been being broadcast on a small Asian-american cable channel called ImaginAsian TV for the past couple of months. In China there is apparently an annual competition of young professional dancers that is televised with a set-up not unlike American Idol. It includes folk dance, ballet, traditional Chinese dance, and contemporary dance (everything else). There are panels of judges for each type of dance as well as over-all judges and voting by the tv audience. Dancers perform a piece of five minutes or so, answer a brief sort of trivia question and are assigned a theme for a very short improvisation. The pieces can be one dancer, two dancers or groups of various sizes. The physical abilities of these young people are quite amazing, and the entire structure very different than anything with which we are familiar in the West.

One amazing feature is the participation of the military - apparently there is a large, important and highly trained dance unit in the Chinese army, and there are not only soldiers in the audience, but several of the judges are army officers. The dancers, of all kinds, are expected to have a reasonable education, and when someone misses an answer in the 'trivia' questions, which often have to do with poetry and the arts, they are likely to be scolded for their ignorance. And to be expected to improvise a dance on the spot! There is apparently a genuinely broad dance culture in China, and I would love to know if anyone else has seen this show, or is familiar with the dance situation in China today.

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