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Studying Acrobatics in Beijing


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I'm leaving for Beijing in a couple weeks in order to study acrobatics at the Beijing International Art School, AKA the Beijing Acrobatics School. Wondered if anyone here had any experience with the school or knew any foreigners who had attended, and if so what their experience had been.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Ohohoh!! yay!! Sorry, I don't actually have any information for you, but going to the Beijing Acrobatics school is something I''m hoping to do someday, so I will be reading any replies with interest, and I'd be glad to hear about your experiences while you're there. I've heard about acrobatics schools in Wuhan and Shanghai as well, but I haven't been able to find any info on the internet, will have a poke arond sometime thou. Anyway I will stop rambling now, hope you have a great time out there!

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  • 2 weeks later...

I just started my program. Must say I'm very impressed. The facilities are excellent. The teachers are world class. My only advice: don't stay in the dorms. I have my own apartment and it is worth every penny. Actually it's cheaper than a single dorm room....

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  • 3 months later...

Hi there,

I'm so glad I found your post. I'm currently in the US, preparing to come to China and start the very same course, Acrobatics at the Beijing International Art School.

Their website and their awards are all very impressive and you said that you were very impressed with the teachings. i have a couple of questions and was wondering if you could help.

I don't speak chinese now. does the school organise tuition? or do you do it privately? how much is it? how much tuition do you need to get yourself started in basic conversing?

What's Beijing like without Chinese? Can you get by with English or is it like in parts of Western China, where hardly anybody seemed to understand English, nor bodylanguage, nor hands and feet nor pointing? People really weren't interested in trying to understand...

Does anybody help you while you're getting settled in, simply language wise?

What's it like to have all the teachings in Chinese? Do you get it? Can other students speak English?

How long did you decide to study? all day, every day? Do you have another major? Did you have previous experience? I don't , I just have a van load of determination and curiosity and dreams...

You said to give the dorms a miss, could you tell me how much an appartment is? Can you get anything close to Uni?

Oh, and do you know if the cantine at the Uni has vegetarian food at all?

Did you get your students visa beforehand? Which country did you come from?

What's it like to live in Beijing?

I'm so sorry to bombard you with all these questions :shock: , but you are the only person I've found that's actually doing it... :)

I'd be soooo grateful if you could take the time to answer my questions.

Thank you so much, maybe I'll see you soon....



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  • 1 month later...

In answer to your questions:

(1) Chinese Classes:

The school provides 90 minutes a week of Chinese class. There is a class for beginners that never gets anywhere because those students don't care, and there is an intermediate class that is mostly random conversation. I found them both useless.

What I did instead was go to the bookstore and buy the best Chinese text I could find and start doing the exercises on my own. Then I arranged private tuition with the Chinese teacher at 40 RMB per hour. She is an excellent teacher.

(2) Getting by in Beijing without Chinese

It is not difficult to get by in Beijing with no Chinese at all. After a couple months I really had very few problems.

You should also be aware that the school is located in a place called the BDA. It is as far as you can get from downtown Beijing without leaving the city. The BDA is a gigantic industrial park with quite a few foreign companies. People speak English at the supermarket.

Typical cab fare from the school to the subway is 40 RMB and takes a half hour. I decided that when I return I will not live at the school any longer, because my social life there really sucked. Instead I will live downtown and take the free school bus every day.

(3) Does anybody help you while you're getting settled in, simply language wise?

There is a goofy guy named Peter (his English name). Most foreigners found him useful for the first day or two, and extremely annoying after that. When he was on vacation for the summer holiday we had no problems at all with our classes and changing our schedules. The only problem was with one person's visa as he is the only one who can work the connection to the PSB.

(4) What's it like to have all the teachings in Chinese? Do you get it?

I loved learning in Chinese. Some things took me a while to get, but it didn't matter. Nobody liked having Peter around translating.

(5) Can other students speak English?

There were about 4 English speaking students there when I was there, and are probably about 8 now. The English speaking students don't last very long.

(6) How long did you decide to study? all day, every day?

The schedule is Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 8:30 to 12:00 and 2:30 to 4:30. It is also possible to study for a couple hours in the evenings, and an hour in the early morning as well. I decided just to study during the day, after my second injury.

(7) Do you have another major?

I also studied Wu Shu, until I pulled a muscle in my leg.

(8) Did you have previous experience? I don't , I just have a van load of determination and curiosity and dreams...

I had a year of training on trapeze, rope and silk before I left. I was training two to three hours a day in the US.

Sidenote: The flexibility training runs counter to everything I have ever learned about human bio-mechanics, and I have two herniated discs in my lower back as evidence. I would not recommend contortion unless you are already extremely flexible and have no problem sitting in a full split for a half hour. Unless you are already flexible the flexibility training will make you less flexible.

(9) You said to give the dorms a miss, could you tell me how much an apartment is? Can you get anything close to Uni?

The dorms are 300 USD per month for a single room. I rented an administrator's apartment on campus for 2000 RMB (250 USD) a month. It had two bedrooms so I ended up splitting it with another student. The administration was not happy AT ALL about that and I doubt that it will happen again.

There are many huge apartment buildings in the neighborhood, but they seem to be condominiums and I don't know how you would rent one. The school wouldn't help. Anyway you would then have the worst of both worlds, neither living at school, nor anywhere near any kind of social activity.

A two bedroom apartment downtown is probably only marginally more expensive.

(10) Oh, and do you know if the cantine at the Uni has vegetarian food at all?

If you don't mind lots of grease, you won't have a problem. Average price for lunch 4 RMB.

And by the way, it's not a Uni. It's a high school.

(11) Did you get your students visa beforehand? Which country did you come from?

I came from the US on my Swiss passport, with a tourist visa issued in Los Angeles. The school changed my visa when I got there. It would have saved me some money to use the admission letter the school sent in order to get a student visa while still in the US.

(12) What's it like to live in Beijing?

I liked living in Beijing. I hated living in the BDA.

(13) You didn't ask, but....

I mainly studied Chinese Pole, Silk and Fei Cha (stick juggling). Most people at the school couldn't believe that I really liked the Pole, as it is extremely painful on the hands, and everything else that comes in contact with it. But the Chinese Pole teacher is one of the best in the world. I have heard that one or two women have attempted this act. But they were already olympic level gymnasts. Female bodies simply don't adapt well to the apparatus.

Most foreigners did not have a good experience with learning contortion, due to teaching methods not appropriate for adult bodies. A couple girls tried to learn tight wire, but this too proved inadvisable, as one was never taken seriously at all, and the other never even tried.

The tumbling teachers don't have any sort of teaching aids, like those used in the US when teaching gymnastics to adults. So it is unlikely you will learn any tumbling unless you are already a practised gymnast, or extremely small. That is, they aren't prepared to spot adult beginners.

The Wu Shu classes are pretty good, but you will have to be extremely warmed up before the warm up kicks otherwise you may end up injuring yourself.

Chinese aren't generally well known for their aerial skills, so I wouldn't expect to learn trapeze. There is no flying rig.

The Chinese are very good with straps and silk, but only in the extremely strength-based straps style. The kind of Cirque de Soleil type silk moves - spinning drops, stuff like that; they don't know how to do it.

The juggling teacher is absolutely hilarious, and almost all the foreigners took his classes. Some of the juggling he teaches is rarely or never performed in the west.

Some foreign students enjoyed learning hand balancing, and seemed to be getting somewhere with it. Another student was learning the German Wheel. I don't know how this worked out, as it was just before I left.

One girl decided to give the art program a shot, and seemed to be enjoying the drawing and painting classes.

The school will accept anyone, because, like most schools in China, they want the money. That doesn't mean you will learn anything. You will have to be extremely determined and ready to fight in order to do that. You will also have to get yourself taken seriously first. If you are out of shape or overweight or stiff you will be ignored. Better start training now, before you leave. This is professional training, not a summer camp.

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Hi Dave.

Phew, wow, man, what a mail... firstly thank you so much, I really apreciate you taking so much time to write such a fantastic mail.

I've been on tender hooks for two days waiting, somehow expecting to hear what you said. I had thought it was too good to be true...

What are you studying now?

I just thought you'd go there and learn everything. It sounds as if you have to pick one specific thing and then do it?

I wanted to learn handbalancing and juggling, staff and contact juggling, tumbling (probably out, as I don't ahve any experience) oh and well anything else that might be fun. I certainly have determination and I REALLY would love to do it, it's been my dream for ages....

the private tuition, what are you doing there?

did you have to pay the whole fee? are you stuffed with that?

I"m wondering if I should cancel or if it's an experience worth having...

so, now my question, how come you're going back?

Is it still great, or is it worth trying to find an alternative, which would be much, much more expensive in england or wherever else...

I'm so grateful for your help...


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Forgot to post about the fees. Well they don't publicize it but you can get six months for $2500. Also if you want to stay a shorter time you can pay $600 per month. I paid $1800 for three months, and now I can go back for the other three months for an additional $700. You don't have to pay until you get there, and most people take several weeks, as it is kind of a pain in the ass getting your money to China. Getting your money there affordably is a subject for a lengthy post in and of itself.

If you just want to learn basic stuff like cartwheels the tumbling class is OK. Only problem is really with aerials and back flips. Lots of foreigners are flopping on their backs. Teachers are hoping they'll give up soon.

Yes you do kind of have to choose what you want to learn. The kids learn everything. But their program is 7 years long. You mention a good combination of skills to learn. You might not progress beyond cartwheels and back walk-overs with the tumbling, but you'd be very good at them. The Chinese have a different idea of training time. They train until a skill is perfect, then move on, even if it takes years. That's how they learn to do things that seem impossible.

At $5000 per year, the program is not significantly cheaper than going to Canada, England, Australia. The living expenses are cheaper. But the tuition is the same. I would look into alternatives, and make an informed decision. You might want to go different places for a few months at a time. I plan to go to Moscow after China, but that is a much more intimidating program.

If you want to learn trapeze then just get a job at Club Med. Seems like all my trapeze instructors learned there. And they pay you.

Really it depends on what experience you're looking for. If you want to learn Chinese and experience Chinese culture then go to Beijing. Commit to a few months and extend later if you like it. I only committed to two months when I started.

Personally, I think the english-speaking students always leave early because:

(a) They have unrealistic expectations of the program

(B) The program is a high school not a university so they have no Chinese friends their own age

© The BDA is such a shitty place to live

(d) There are no entrance requirements so people who don't belong there are encouraged to show up.

(e) The program doesn't consider providing the foreign students with opportunities to perform. (Why not? Because "they aren't any good." Why aren't they any good? see (d).)

Another upside to living in China is that you can support yourself by teaching English without needing a work visa. Native speakers make $13 to $20 an hour, with no taxes due, which is good money in China. You would probably have to live downtown in order to do that though.

Despite the minimal amount of formal instruction I received, I learned quite a bit of Chinese. My theory is that the school is, unintentionally, providing Chinese instruction, simply because the teachers and other students don't speak English.

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