Happiness is ... working at Happy Valley

They are always hidden behind the thick make-up and costumes. They are the funny clowns, emcees, magicians and dancing "dragons" in Happy Valley, an amusement park in Songjiang. 

THEY are always hidden behind the thick make-up and costumes. They are the funny clowns, emcees, magicians and dancing “dragons” in Happy Valley, an amusement park based in Songjiang District. They may never be in the spotlight on stage, but their show goes on and they draw loads of laughs from their audiences. Shanghai Daily reporter Tan Weiyun joined the happy crew.

Yan Zhu, 38, dance trainer

Tanned and tatooed, Yan Zhu, 38, from the Wa ethnic group in Yunnan Province, was among the first batch of dancers at Happy Valley when the park opened in 2009. From one of a number of dancers to choreographer and team leader in charge of a 20-strong group, Yan says he has found his niche in Happy Valley.

In addition to the Wa ethnic dance, he is also skilled at hip-hop and the folk dances of Maoris, Apache Indians and Africans.

“Maybe I was born with the dancing gene because the Wa minority is a group that loves singing and dancing,” he says. “And the most touching and encouraging thing is the big ap­plause the audience gives us.”

From Guangdong Province to Shanghai, he has always been on the move. He worked as a waiter, a bartender and a KTV attendant. But he never gave up dancing.

In 2000, he finally found the job in the Shenzhen Happy Valley after a year of professional danc­ing training.

In 2007 Yan’s father came to watch his show for the first time. “I was on the stage and I saw he was crying there,” Yan recalls. He says he understood those tears. His father felt sorry he hadn’t given his son a comfortable life and a proper education. “But they were also happy tears, happy and proud that I could make a living on my own,” Yan says.

Today, Yan is the father of a 1-year-old daughter and his wife is also a dancer at the amusement park. “If my kid loves dancing, I’ll support her,” he says. “I’m lucky because I’m doing what I love and also living on it.”

Every day is full for Yan. In the early morning, he trains his dancers and the rest of the day is spent on different dance shows in the park. At the same time, he is learning other skills from different performers, such as drumming, singing and even playing basketball.

“Time flies. Eighteen years is just like a snap of the fingers to me,” he says. “I will teach all I can to my younger dancers, who walked out of the moun­tains without any connections or backgrounds, just like me 20 years ago.”

Chen Qiuyi, 26, emcee

Chen Qiuyi, 26, in a bright yel­low dress, has been working as an emcee in the park since 2015. “I love the stage and love the feeling when I’m standing on the stage,” she says. After graduat­ing from a local art school three years ago, she took up an offer from Happy Valley and became an emcee. “The stage here is more challenging, because I’m required to directly interact with audience,” she says.

Chen hosts various perfor­mances in the Happy Valley. She has learned to handle naughty children at the Pets Show, visi­tors who would unexpectedly rush onto the stage, or those who would interrupt the show to ask for a group photo.

“These are no big deal. I’ve been accustomed to these little incidents because I know they bear no ill will; they are just excited and love our shows,” Chen says with a smile.

She hosts about eight different parties a day, working from nine to five and sometimes till late at night when the park’s night safari is open in the summer.

Chen still remembers her first hosting role — a group wedding on the roller coaster. “I was so nervous that I couldn’t sleep the night before,” she recalls. But the tenseness was soon dispelled by the smiling, happy couples and loud screams when they swooshed down in the roller coaster from 65 meters above ground. “It was such fun and I was soon affected by the high spirits,” Chen says.

She’s happy with the working environment and feels at home in the amusement park. “Every­one is smiling,” she says.

Chen Xi, 26, dancer

Dancer Chen Xi, 26, is a pro­fessional adept at many kinds of dances including hip-hop, jazz, modern, classic and lyrical. She is the leading dancer in Happy Valley’s two major performances — the musical and stunt show “Shanghai Bund” and “Door of the Magical World” that combines dancing and magic.

The stage she originally dreamed of was different to the one in an amusement park. She practiced dancing as a little girl and always wished she could be performing in a big theater in Beijing or Shanghai.

“But I was not tall enough,” Chen says. Five years ago, she joined Happy Valley and accomplished her dream on a different stage.

Every day she dances at least three performances as well as at festival parades. She also acts and performs acrobatics in the shows.

Repeating the same moves every day could be somewhat boring but Chen says: “The audi­ences I’m faced with are different and the reaction they give me are different too. Each time when we take the curtain call and the audi­ence reward us with big applause, it’s all worth it.” She enjoys life in Songjiang and got married this year to a staff member from the marketing department.

“I was traveling around before this job in Happy Valley, but now I feel like starting my real life here,” she says.

Yu Bin, 34, magician

Yu Bin, 34, one of the three leading magicians in the show “Door of the Magical World,” has been engaged in the industry for more than 10 years and has given performances at annual meetings, weddings, opening cer­emonies and press conferences. He started working at Happy Val­ley two years ago.

“I chose here because the stage could provide me what I wanted for large magic shows, which I was always dreaming about,” Yu says.

There were no schools to train professional magicians in the Chinese mainland 15 years ago and Yu learned how to perform magic tricks from DVDs.

At the amusement park, he has a team of assistants helping him with various magic shows. “There is lots of interaction on the stage and I enjoy communicating with them, who always inspire me greatly,” Yu says.

Sometimes there are mistakes during performances but Yu has leant how to make the best of them. “We deliberately design some little ‘mistakes’ to amuse the audience, and we can often get a good entertaining effect,” he says.

As for the future, Yu has a plan. “I love the stage and I hope I can design and do a show of my own, which expresses my idea about magic,” he says.

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