'Laowai Idol' contest draws young talents

Updated 2017-05-31 17:03:48 China Daily
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French student Corinne Zelman wins the first place in the Laowai Idol contest at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing. The Team Sauce performs at the same event. (Photo by Akash Ghai/provided to China Daily)

French student Corinne Zelman wins the first place in the Laowai Idol contest at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing. The Team Sauce performs at the same event. (Photo by Akash Ghai/provided to China Daily)

In a packed auditorium, the spotlight shines down on a young woman with Afro hairstyle standing at the stage center. She sings Schubert's Ave Maria while making hand gestures as if telling a story.

As the operatic song concludes, she runs backstage to don another outfit, and comes back onstage again with a dance team to wow the crowd with pop icon Beyonce's dance Flawless.

This was a scene from the 8th Laowai Idol competition at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing on May 17. The performer was Corinne Zelman, a French student who has been performing onstage since she was a child.

Among 10 outstanding performances ranging from hiphop dance to classical, Zelman's team stood out and grabbed first place.

"I have to do what I can do the best and what I love the most-so opera and Beyonce," says the 20-year-old international-business major. "Everywhere in the world, the audiences are the same. They like charisma onstage and good voices."

Hosted by the UIBE's School of International Education, this year's event attracted about 100 international students from a dozen universities, including Renmin University of China, Minzu University of China and Beijing Language and Culture University, to take part in the preliminary competition.

"It's a good chance for people from different countries to come together and see some good talent," says the event's host, Donnie Brunette, a US student majoring in international business Chinese at the UIBE. "I feel like it brings everybody together right here in China."

Tran Dirhh Hoang, 28, and Tran Thao Van, 21, jointly won third place for performing the traditional dance Yue Wang, a popular love story from Vietnam. They are studying at Minzu University of China.

"We wanted to depict the loyalty of Vietnamese women in our dance," says Hoang. "The competition is also a great chance to show our culture to people from other countries."

South Korean student Jeong Woo-jin showcased his Chinese skill on the stage by singing Chinese singer Guan Zhe's Xiang Ni De Ye (The Night When I Miss You), which won him a big round of applause.

"Many South Korean students in China love this song because of its rhythm and the singer's voice," says the 25-year-old Renmin University student.

"The difficult part of learning a Chinese song is memorizing the lyrics, but it's a very helpful way to build my Chinese vocabulary."

The show not only provides a platform for foreign students to showcase their talent, but also brings joy to Chinese students.

"Only a few talent shows that I have watched are as exciting as the Laowai Idol," says Jia Ningyu, a freshman at the UIBE. "It releases my academic pressure."

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(Photo by Akash Ghai/provided to China Daily)

(Photo by Akash Ghai/provided to China Daily)

Jia appreciates the unique art forms and diverse cultures the event brings.

"From South Korean and US pop culture to traditional Vietnamese dance, the event broadens my horizons and motivates me to learn more about other cultures," she says. The number of international students coming to China has surged in recent years.

Last year, China became the No 3 destination for students who study abroad, after the United States and the United Kingdom, according to the Ministry of Education.

The UIBE currently has the second-largest international student population among Chinese institutions-3,251 students from 151 countries and regions-after Beijing Language and Culture University.

Founded in 2010, the event is designed to discover young talented people among the increasing number of international students, says Liu Jinlan, associate dean of international education at the UIBE.

Over the years, the event has morphed from a campus event of one university to a talent show catering to international students across Beijing.

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