Alexis’ China Blog

Alexis' China Blog

Alexis is in China with the Celtics Dancers to represent the NBA at the NBA Jam Van Tour, and is blogging her experience for Celtics.com.

The Celtics Dancers are in China with the NBA Jam Van, a tailor-made, 52-foot truck that transforms into over 10,000 square feet of free basketball activities, allowing fans of all ages the opportunity to play like the pros. The Celtic Dancers will tip-off the tour by showcasing the NBA's authentic on-court entertainment and hosting autograph sessions for fans.

Alexis, Alison, Courtney, Melissa, Michelle, Stacy and team director Marina Ortega are representing the Celtics and having a blast!

Monday, June 4

Well, it's our last day in Chengdu and, of course, our most action-packed. We spent the morning doing a final walk through downtown Chengdu and took in some of the more historical landmarks, the majority of which are left over from the Cultural Revolution.

When we arrived at Sichuan University the crowd was the largest it has been despite the pending rain storm. The first two performances went well, as did the interviews and autograph signings. Then came the raindrops. Introductions were cut short so that we would be able get in all three routines for our final performance. The rain started really coming down at the beginning of the third routine, but it only fueled the crowd even more. It was amazing. The fans went nuts, despite the mascara running down our faces. What a way to end it.

Later that night we performed on a reality show which has been travelling around China to put together and all-star basketball team. Good times.

Tomorrow morning when we say goodbye to Chengdu, we'll definitely be taking away some fantastic memories of panda bears, spicy food, incredible hospitality, great fans and dancing in the rain. Does life get much better than this?

Saturday, June 2

So it is Saturday, and what else would we be doing but going to see PANDAS! Our representative from the NBA Jam Van tour took us to the Chengdu Zoo in the morning to the World Wildlife Federation's Panda Reserve & Research Facility. I know I said I wanted a polar bear for Christmas, but I misspoke, and I would like a panda.

Walking through the facility we learned about the panda population's concerns, their dietary needs (bamboo alone doesn't give them enough energy) and the fact that the pandas in the reservation live longer and healthier than those living in the wild. The red pandas looked more like cats or raccoons crossed with pandas; they were still fun and playful and like to mess with each other, but the black and white pandas are more symbolic in China. Because they are black and white, pandas are considered to be very pure (think yin and yang), and the panda has been adopted as one of the symbols for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

Celtics Dancers

Alexis knows what she wants for Christmas -- a panda bear like the one seen here in this photo, taken without a flash.
Marina Ortega/Boston Celtics

Now, to channel my gushy side: the pandas are adorably fluffy, and when they hear someone coming close to them, they stare in that direction for at least five minutes because they have very poor eyesight, which gives us perfect postcard pictures (minus the camera flash, especially for the babies, because it can damage their eyesight further).

We left the zoo so that we could get back to the hotel with enough time to get ready for Day Two of the Jam Van performances. Today was a larger crowd than Friday and they were more into our performance than anything! The international pivoting booty pop was a hit again, as were the free Jam Van hats we threw out to the crowd -- we almost got trampled, because everyone loves free stuff. After a few TV and newspaper interviews, it was time to call it a day.

Celtics Dancers

Courtney and Melissa met with the Chinese media outside the Jam Van on Saturday.
Marina Ortega/Boston Celtics

That night, the NBA Jam Van staff took us out to a traditional Chinese dinner (complete with cooked pigeons) which was phenomenal and was more than enough food to send us to bed full. Since tomorrow is our last full day in Chengdu and because we are going to be one some Chinese reality TV show (I'm kind of hoping we get slimed or get to do a Guts-style obstacle course), we need some rest.

See you tomorrow!

Friday, June 1

Today it's game time. We were told that Chengdu is normally a cloudy city, but today the sun was out in full force. Since tryouts for next year's Celtics Dancers team are only a week away, we spent the morning in the gym and then put on our game faces for the first day of Jam Van fun.

Lily, Jay and Bobby picked us up at the hotel around noon and as soon as we arrived at Sichuan University we were performing. It was one of those Frank the Tank moments where you have to say, "What just happened? I blacked out..." because the day was moving so quickly.

Celtics Dancers

The Celtics Dancers performed the masses at Sichuan University in China.
Marina Ortega/Boston Celtics

The Jam Van consists of 3-point shot contests, trivia and other ways to win prizes. This huge van literally travels around China with a ton of equipment, enough to occupy a significant portion of the university's campus. In between all of the prize-winning, we perform for the crowd.

Our first three routines were performed in the rising heat and were really well received. After the first performance, which consisted of three routines back to back (and if you've been to a game you know how fast our music is), we were ready for a break, but there was more work to be done.

As soon as we had cooled down (as much as one is able to cool down in the noontime 95-degree heat) we were interviewed by one of the local television stations and then changed for the next performance. Here's a few pictures of our performance...

The second performance was all hip-hop routines, which went over even better with the crowd and the "pivoting booty pop" during the Give It Away routine has now been rechristened the "international pivoting booty pop" since it seemed to draw the best response. :)

After an autograph session, lunch from KFC, free t-shirts (let's be honest, there might not be anything better than a free t-shirt) and a third performance in what I can only assume was close to 100-degree heat, we were ready to get back to the hotel and rest up.

We all jumped in the hotel pool, grabbed some dinner and were ready to crash.

Tomorrow we are going to the zoo to see the pandas before the Jam Van mayhem begins, and since I've been watching the Planet Earth series on the Discovery Channel, nothing would make me happier than seeing pandas, or maybe a baby polar bear.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

After 24 hours of traveling, some questionable airplane food and making our way through customs in Beijing with our lime green suitcases, we finally arrived in Chengdu. Jay from the NBA Jam Van Tour (sporting his Celtics jersey) met us in the Beijing airport and was able to spot us thanks again to our lime green suitcases.

Celtics Dancers

The ladies take a breather between performances in China.
Marina Ortega/Boston Celtics

He traveled with us to Chengdu where we met Lily and Bobby who also work for the Jam Van tour and gave us the entire run down on Chengdu and our schedule at the Jam Van event in the 20 minute ride from the hotel to the airport, during which I'm pretty sure we came very close to running over at least 20 people on bikes. Needless to say, that night we all crashed pretty hard.

Thursday is our day off, so we decided to spend the day out and about in Chengdu. Our starting point was one of the local outdoor shopping plazas. From there we wandered off to some of the least touristy areas I've ever seen and ended up next to this old, beautifully constructed Buddhist temple. Outside of the temple grounds (which were perfectly mapped out according to Feng Shui) we walked through a couple of shops, and along the way, we inadvertently ended up learning the meaning of the animal representing our birth years.

Despite the fact that my Chinese is a little rusty, I was able to remember how to bargain, which proved to be a very useful skill. After about five hours of shopping, we were ready to crash again, since we hadn't adjusted to the time difference yet -- it was 4 a.m. back at home in Boston. When it was time to eat, we sampled some of the famous Sichuan cuisine, and the restaurant gave us our own private room overlooking the residential area of Chengdu.

After a quick chopstick lesson, we dined on the spiciest beef I've ever tried (keep in mind that ketchup is spicy to me), white rice and steamed vegetables. Now we can understand why everyone raves about the Sichuanese cuisine.

Later in the day, we went back to the hotel and put on our game faces for an interview and photo opportunity with a local newspaper. We drew a bit of an inquiring crowd in the hotel lobby, as would any group of girls in short green skirts and white patent leather boots. After the interviews, we met out on the outdoor patio in order to set the routines for our performances on Friday at the Jam Van tour event at Sichuan University, did a few laps in the pool, ordered some room service and laid out our outfits for the next day.

Until tomorrow...

- Alexis

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