1 of 3
Derryl Yeager
Dancers from Odyssey Dance Theatre perform "The Factory" at the Coca-Cola venue at Beijing.

For the past five years, Orem's Odyssey Dance Theatre has toured Europe. Now the company can add Asia — and the Beijing Olympics — to its list of credits. The company, directed by Derryl Yeager, has been in Beijing this week performing at the Booking Dance Festival 2008 Beijing that coincides with the 2008 Summer Games. The group is performing in nine theaters throughout Beijing during the three-day festival. And the trick on the first day of the tour was getting a taxi so they could get to a theater for rehearsals where they showcased works alongside the Colorado's Kim Robards Dance and China's TAO Studio, Beijing Modern Dance Company and the National Ballet of China.

"It took us a half an hour just to get a cab," Yeager said. "Then we took a subway to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. Some dignitary was being shown through, and we 'commoners' kept getting yelled at and forced off the main path.

"A local got very angry about it, and we almost got caught in the middle of a fistfight between him and the security."

Before the main theater performances, ODT made its debut in China with the hip-hop showcase "The Factory" at the Coca-Cola stage Thursday.

"Everyone was sweating bullets," Yeager said, speaking about the dancers' anxiety in an e-mail Thursday. "But the crowd was huge, and the dancers pulled off a great performance."

Yeager said some of the other modern dance companies were a bit taken back by the venue.

"I don't think they envisioned their works with a huge Coke bottle in the middle of the stage.

"The big boss here at Coke came to me immediately after the performance and said they do lots of events here and would love to have us do more stuff for them."

Odyssey Dance Theatre was invited to Beijing by festival producer Jodi Kaplan, who is based in New York.

"Chinese audiences demand a high caliber of technique," Kaplan said in a statement. "The dancers of ODT meet this challenge and then surpass it. The company is sure to impress wherever they go and will awe their toughest critic."

A portion of the proceeds will go toward aid for the victims of the recent earthquake in Sichuan, China, said Kaplan.

Yeager said the hard work really started after the invitation.

"There were a few roadblocks that we had to overcome," Yeager said in an interview before his departure. "One of the major problems was funding."

Yeager said the original goal was to raise $100,000 for the trip. But after fund-raisers, grants and other requests, the company had only raised a little more than a quarter of the goal.

"Another problem was the fact that the (airline) ticket prices jumped to $5,000 a pop," Yeager said. "When we first looked at the prices, they were only $1,400. At that point I nearly bagged the whole thing."

However, Yeager, who formed ODT on a shoestring budget 13 years ago and watched it become one of Utah's premier contemporary dance companies, took some time to solve the problem.

"It's my life," Yeager said with a laugh. "I've always tried to find ways to do things without money. And we cut the budget down to $15,000 and decided to take seven of our dancers."

Yeager also went on the Web to find discount tickets to Beijing.

"We found some for $2,500 each and jumped to buy them," said Yeager. However, because of the expense, the troupe couldn't take a technical crew or costume staffers. And Yeager is acting as stage manager.

Those restrictions helped in choosing which works the company took to Beijing.

"We had to submit a video and send it to the Chinese government for approval. As I thought about it, 'The Factory' can be seen as a worker uprising. But that wasn't the idea at all. In fact, it was just about some people on break who dance hip hop."

Yeager said in the e-mail that the troupe has attracted a lot of attention by just taking pictures.

"Sarah (Aezer) got mobbed," he said. "Random people wanted pictures with her — all that red hair. We were doing a group shot, and some guy sent his kids over to take the picture with all the dancers — in the middle of our own personal pictures."

E-mail: [email protected]