By China Foundations 20150710
Some seek China for its ancient culture while others are drawn here to create something modern and new. Alison Friedman, the globally-recognized performing arts industry expert and pioneer, was drawn here by China’s burgeoning dance and theater scene, and later created the first American-owned, Beijing-registered international cultural exchange company. Modern dance and a fascination with China came together for the first time when China’s Living Dance Studio (生活舞蹈工作室), founded by choreographer Wen Hui （文慧）and China’s first independent documentary filmmaker Wu Wenguang (吴文光） invited her to perform in “Dance with Farm Workers” (《与民工一起跳舞》）in 2001. Ping Pong Productions （乒乓策划）, Alison’s company founded in 2010, gained global media attention for, among other projects, bringing the first American theater company to perform at the National Centre for the Performing Arts (国家大剧院, aka “The Egg”). But she was too caught up in the opportunity and growth of her company that she neglected to listen to her gut and deal with problems she foresaw. Result: A series of tour disasters which threatened much of the fame and credibility she had already built.
Many successes later, company growth forced Alison to change her work habits from startup to sustainability and tested her commitment to her craft when it came to representing a famous no-brainer vs a new nobody. (Spoiler alert: She went with her heart and now that ‘nobody’, TAO Dance Theater 陶身体剧场，is taking over stages worldwide, thanks to Ping Pong.) Operating here so long also caused her to fall into the “trust trap” that I see myself doing when I rely on trust alone in people and teams. She still observes that being a woman in business has its unique challenges in China and occasionally faces stark reminders she’s expected to play by local game rules when it comes to age and hierarchy. Alison Friedman is the first, the best, and of course is MADE in China.
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