Alison M. Friedman
Executive & Creative Director / Founder
Alison M. Friedman is the founding director of Ping Pong Productions, a producing and consulting organization headquartered in Beijing with the mission of cultural diplomacy.
One of the only foreigners regularly consulted by the Chinese Ministry of Culture for her expertise in China's contemporary performing arts with a focus on contemporary dance, Ms. Friedman has worked to develop structures and channels in China to support both established and young independent performing artists. Clients and partners include TAO Dance Theater, Tim Robbins and The Actors' Gang, Mark Morris Dance Group, the British Council, Guangzhou Municipal Bureau of Culture, Los Angeles Theatre Works, and the National Theatre Company of China. Her productions have toured Lincoln Center, Sydney Opera House, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, China's National Centre for the Performing Arts, and other leading venues and festivals.
As director of Ping Pong Productions, Ms. Friedman works closely with Chinese and international governments as well as non-profit and private organizations to further dialogues between nations at a grass-roots as well as governmental level, using the performing arts as a vehicle to foster mutual understanding and engagement.
Fluent in Mandarin Chinese and political negotiations, Ms. Friedman has worked in the performing arts in China for more than a decade. She served as international director of the Beijing Modern Dance Company, general manager of Oscar-winning composer Tan Dun's company Parnassus Productions, Inc., and as a producer and host on Chinese national radio and television programs.
Ms. Friedman graduated Phi Beta Kappa/magna cum laude from Brown University with a degree in Chinese Literature/Literary Translation. Her honors translation thesis Across Borders: The Poems of Xue Di was published by Green Integer Press. She was a Fulbright fellow to China and an arts management fellow at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C. She was a 2011 fellow of the International Society for the Performing Arts (ISPA), and in 2013 was invited to join their board of directors. She is a board member of the Peking University International Alumni Association, a member of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, and an advisory board member of Americans Promoting Study Abroad (APSA).
As a performer and director, Ms. Friedman has collaborated with the Living Dance Studio and the National Theater Company of China, and has choreographed and directed a bilingual production of Igor Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du Soldat (A Soldier’s Tale) which premiered in May ’05 at Beijing's East Pioneer Theater and had a revival in March ’09 at Shanghai’s Lyceum Theater. An accomplished tap dancer, Alison has been invited to teach tap dancing in Shanghai as well as at the Beijing Dance Academy, the largest dance training conservatoire in China.
An expert in China's developing arts market, Ms. Friedman lectures internationally in both English and Mandarin Chinese, including at the National Committee on US-China Relations, Asia Society, Tsinghua Carnegie Institute, Brown University, People's University of China, China International Performing Arts Fair Guangzhou, Fulbright Association 31st Annual Conference, and Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. She has contributed articles and chapters to journals and collections published in the United States, China and Europe. Ms. Friedman has been cited as an expert on Chinese performing arts by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, and China Daily.
For speaking engagements Ms. Friedman is represented by SAGEWorldwide
Paulson Institute: Contemporary China Speaker's Series
China Business Podcast: "Running a Chinese and Overseas Arts Production Company w Alison Friedman"
International Arts Manager: "Is Capitalism Harming the Arts in China?"
Sinica Podcast: "Alison Friedman on China and the Arts"
sino-us.com: Alison Friedman and Ping Pong Productions: Linking China and the world through arts
Asia Pacific Arts: “US Artistic Ambassador to China: Ping Pong Productions' Alison Friedman”
China Daily: “Chinese and Overseas Arts Serve and Return”
環球聚焦: Alison Friedman :中美藝術和文化交流
Associate Producer, Southern China
Sharing the passion and mission of Ping Pong Productions, Sophie Zhu joined the company at its Beijing office in February 2012 working in project coordination. After completing her Masters in Arts Administration and Cultural Policy at Goldsmiths College, University of London, she returned to Beijing in 2014 as the Director of Program Operations. In 2015, she moved to Xiamen to oversee Ping Pong’s Southern China programming and strengthen PPP's networks in that region, complementing the Beijing headquarters in the north.
Sophie lived overseas for 6 years studying in New Zealand, Australia and Canada before returning to China at the end of 2009, and worked for 2 years as an arts journalist for an English weekly newspaper from Xiamen, the coastal city in the South where she grew up. As a journalist her work mainly involved interviewing and writing about international artists, collectors, gallerists as well as prominent visitors including Jon Huntsman, the former U.S. Ambassador to China. She was active in the visual arts scene and continued her strong interest in the performing arts inspired by her earlier training in piano and dance.
Before relocating to Beijing, she volunteered her time for the Dutch-funded Chinese European Art Centre, worked as translator/interpreter on the National Geographic documentary “Koxinga: A Hero’s Legacy ” and collaborated on a British Council supported performance piece “The Customer is Always Wrong.” She also worked with Chinese artist Liang Ming, well-known for his pictorial depictions of the Hakka Earth Castles, in producing the first English booklet on the artist and his work.
Sophie’s first professional engagement in Beijing was as media assistant and researcher for the China correspondents of Berlingske, a leading Danish newspaper and Globalpost, an American online news agency. After that she worked as translator and assistant to the Stage Manager on the theatre production “Farewell My Concubine” directed by Chen Shi-Zheng, the Chinese-born, New York-based director.
Sophie has a B.A. in Art History and Psychology from the University of Auckland, New Zealand, where she received a scholarship to study on a single-semester exchange program at the University of Toronto, Canada. There she dived into the field of Cross-cultural Psychology which continues to fascinate her as she works with Chinese and Western artists. In her sophomore year she spent a summer in Melbourne and Sydney, Australia on a study abroad program researching the 2008 Sydney Biennale contemporary art festival.
Weina Zhang graduated from the Beijing Dance Academy in 2007 with a Bachelor degree in Dance Studies. Fluent in French, she won the Erasmus Mundus scholarship to study at Université de Nice - Sophia Antipolis and Université Libre de Bruxelles for the Erasmus Mundus European Joint Masters in Performing Arts Studies. During her Masters studies in Europe, she participated in the organisation of the 2010 International Annual Conference of the Committee for Education and Cultural Action (CECA) of the International Council of Museums (ICOM). After graduation and returning to China, she worked as International Operations Assistant at Beijing Dance Theatre for the company’s international and domestic touring coordination. She later served as Project Assistant for operations of the Chinese rendition of the musical Cats in Shanghai.
In 2013, she joined Ping Pong Productions, managing the ACCT Program as well as other projects.
Project and Production Coordinator
Mengtong Guan was born in Beijing and received her Bachelor's degrees in English and Fine Arts at Peking University (PKU). She was Concertmaster and Student President of Peking University Symphony Orchestra, and actively involved in music and arts education events on campus and throughout the city. She was a regular contributor to Beijing’s National Center for the Performing Arts magazine (2009 – 2012); music instructor for grass-roots organization “Dean D’art” that works with schools for migrant workers in the Beijing suburbs to build students’ self-confidence through theater and music (2012), and co-founder of choir PKU Early Autumn Chamber Ensemble (2008-2012).
Before joining PPP, Mengtong spent two and a half years in the United States where she graduated in 2014 from Indiana University (School of Public and Environmental Affairs) with an MA in Arts Administration. She interned in New York at Lincoln Center Festival (LCF) in 2013, and was invited back to LCF in 2014 as Assistant Company Manager.
Additional experience includes work with Edward Auer Music (Jacobs School of Music, IU), Bloomington Symphony Orchestra Indiana as first violinist and board member, APAP NYC 2013 conference volunteer, and for Abraham in Motion (NYC). In 2014 Mengtong was hired as Production Assistant for the China portion of Mark Morris Dance Group’s “Excursions” world tour, and in December she became a full-time “Ping Pong player”.
Vicki Si Yuan
General Manager, Emeritus
As General Manager of Ping Pong Productions, Vicki Si Yuan navigated the smooth, successful registration of the company as a legal entity in China. As Associate Producer, Ms. Si manages projects including the 2012 collaboration between the Beijing Olympic Development Association (BODA) and the London Olympic Committee for the "Big Dance Beijing" project in Trafalgar Square as part of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad.
Vicki Si Yuan started her career in performing arts management and production at the Beijing Modern Dance Company (BMDC) after graduation from Beijing Jiaotong University with a degree in English and French. She coordinated international touring and appearances at major arts festivals in Belgium，the United States, Israel, Germany, Mexico, Australia, South Korea, Spain, France, Finland, U.K. and others.
After being promoted to Vice Director at BMDC, Ms. Si managed daily operations overseeing all artistic, administrative, financial and technical staff. During this time, Ms. Si also managed the complex bureaucratic process of BMDC's transition from a for-profit company limited to a not-for-profit arts organization, the first of its kind in China.
During the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, Ms. Si oversaw auditions and Chinese artistic coordination for Johnson & Johnson's large-scale outdoor performance event "The Warrior and the Girl" at the Beijing Millennium Monument. The event, performed daily during the Olympics, involved two 20-meter high marionettes operated by forklifts and construction cranes, and more than 40 Chinese and American performers and aerialists.
From 2009 to 2010 while BMDC was in residence at the Beijing Juchang Contemporary Arts Centre, Ms. Si served both as BMDC's Vice Director and also as Program Director for the Centre, which included two performance venues (one 400-seat venue and one black-box theater.) During her tenure at BMDC, Ms. Si managed all grant applications to the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Culture Creative Development Foundation as well as annual grant reporting procedures.
After one year living in Dalian with her husband where she consulted for the American Chamber of Commerce among other projects, she returned to Beijing to become General Manager and Associate Producer at Ping Pong Productions.
Follow Vicki on Weibo: @SiYuan_Ren