'Mariah Carey Took Us to Perform at the White House. I Met Obama.'

This week at the Tel Aviv airport: A 17-year-old American with a years-long performance career, and a Chinese marketing agent who didn't expect to be ripped off in Israel

Josh Price
Meged Gozani

Josh Price, 17, lives in Burlington, New Jersey; arriving from Istanbul

Hello, can I ask what you’ll be doing in Israel?

I’m a dancer and choreographer, in the middle of a year of performing and classes around the world. Turkey was the first country, Israel is the second, and from here I’ll go on to Ireland, Holland, France, Hungary, Germany, Ukraine and Spain.

Where will you be performing in Israel?

At the BeStreet Studio in Ramat Gan. I met the owner via Instagram – is there any other way to meet people today?

Do you have a lot of followers?

Tens of thousands. Many people who dance in Los Angeles have a lot too, which is why the tours with classes and shows are happening now, especially for hip hop. Right now L.A. is the mother ship of hip hop. This is my first tour and it’s sold out. There were 150 people in the last class I taught in Turkey, an amazing number. Insane. I didn’t expect that.

Sounds terrific.

It’s nice to travel and share your knowhow, especially to see people and the community that we are part of. There are people who think that dancing is like a competition, but dancing is community.

How does a 17-year-old get to do a round-the-world tour?

I started dancing when I was 7. I started with hip hop, jazz and ballet. I attended the Alvin Ailey school in New York and I was a Broadway kid, a boy with a career.

What sort of career?

I danced with Janet Jackson in the Rhythm Nation Tour; I really like appearing with her. I danced with Chris Brown and with Sierra, and I performed at a tree-lighting ceremony at Christmas with Mariah Carey. We were 12 dancers and she took four of us to perform at the White House. That was wonderful. I met President Obama.

Wow.

At first they said we wouldn’t meet him, but in the end, the emcee said, “Give it up for Obama.” I was thrilled and I mumbled some sort of nonsense, like, “Man, thanks for supporting blacks.”

Fun, but stressful.

The places and the people I performed with scared me a little. Love of dancing filled me, I didn’t care about anything except moving. Dancers can forget that to dance can be simply fun, but I always remember that. I made good progress because of it.

Definitely.

I was also in “The Lion King,” which was fun. I focused completely on Broadway, that was all I wanted to do.

Then why did you move to Los Angeles?

When I got older I was stuck in a sort of middle-of-the-way place. I couldn’t play a little kid but I also couldn’t play an adult yet. So I did a switch. At 13, I moved with my mother, and my whole way of thinking changed.

It’s amazing that you already had a professional way of thinking. What changed?

I feel that only when I got to L.A. did I stop seeing myself as a theater kid exclusively, and started to take dancing seriously. I started to love dancing as an art, for the sake of dancing. I didn’t have work for two years, and all my friends of my age were working. It was really tough, but it filled me with motivation. I used the anger and the depression I felt in order to work harder. Two years ago, I also understood that I didn’t want to be only a dancer and that I would not be able to dance forever.

What do you want to do when you grow up?

I hope to be an artistic director and a choreographer. As a kid I always said I would go onstage and be an actor. At first my mother didn’t exactly believe that would happen, but she helped a lot. I took part in a talent competition on the web, 20 of us reached the finals, and all kinds of agents came to see us. We all walked across the stage, and then in the improvisation I started doing a moonwalk.

I love moonwalking.

There were cries of “Oh my God,” and I got offers from seven agents.

You’ve been through a lot for a teenager.

It’s making me grow up fast, but I’m trying to be a boy a little longer. My mother is allowing me not to lose that. She’s pushing me to go to college, even for one year, but I tell her that I’m already learning. I love seeing behind the scenes of shows – that teaches you even more than going to college.

Melinda Mei.
Meged Gozani

Melinda Mei, 33, lives in Shunde, China; flying to Amman

Hello, can I ask you what you were doing in Israel?

I work for a company that manufactures air conditioners. I was here on business.

To sell air conditioners to Israelis is like selling ice to Eskimos, isn’t it?

Israelis do indeed buy mostly local air conditioner brands, and the standards in the Israeli market are very high. I was here with the company’s engineer, and we realized that we need to make some changes in the air conditioners we manufacture, otherwise we won’t be approved by the Standards Institute. Could it be that you are using desalinated seawater?

I don’t think so.

There’s a lot of sand in your water. Or maybe something is added to it, possibly fluoride or magnesium – substances that cause sediment and could cause corrosion in Chinese air conditioners. The Chinese brands aren’t as popular as the Japanese brands.

Specifically in Israel?

No, all over the world. They were first. Do you have any idea why the Israeli embassy in China was closed? [Editor’s note: As of early December, the embassy was open.]

No idea.

I’m afraid it will be problematic to work with Israel now. As it is, it takes months to get a visa, and so on. I hope this is only temporary. Actually, there is an Israeli consulate in Hong Kong. Maybe if I have no choice I will go there, but at the moment it’s not so pleasant to come and go from Hong Kong; it’s a little scary with all the chaos there.

How was your visit, besides work?

It was my first time in Israel, and I have to say that in Tel Aviv everything is very expensive. Before I came, I was worried about the security situation and I preferred to reserve a room in a big hotel in a central location. When I asked one of our clients to recommend one, he asked what my budget was. I told him $50-$60, and he told me that would be impossible. I took a simple place, but for the price I paid, I would get a five-star hotel in most of the world. And the food here is also very expensive.

Familiar problems.

I landed at night, there was no train, and when I asked a taxi driver what the price was, he said 70 shekels [$20]. When we got into the cab, he suddenly said 250. I said, “How can you change the price like that?” He shouted that I was stupid. I was afraid he would take the suitcases and leave. In the end I didn’t go with him.

I apologize in the name of the people who dwell in Zion.

Don’t apologize. It’s not pleasant, but I travel a lot; taxis at airports are always a problem for foreigners. They tried to cheat me in Romania, in Greece, but I was surprised when it happened here. I thought Israelis were rich, and didn’t need that.

That’s definitely not the case. People work hard here.

I work 12 hours a day. China is growing very fast, so if you want to keep up with the pace, you have to work hard. I think that’s the reason everyone in China is stressed today. All the industries are being upgraded now; in some cases production is being moved to South Asia and Indonesia, because the cost of labor there is much lower. Chinese industry is switching to technology and artificial intelligence – the idea is for the production line to have as little human contact as possible. Maybe in another 20 years, there won’t be any people on the production line, they’ll be replaced by robots. But I work in marketing.

It will take time before robots become marketing people.

I travel a lot and it’s hard. For women, in every country, it’s always harder. When I was young I didn’t have a problem, but things became more complicated after I had a child. But I’ve been in the field for 11 years, and to leave everything now would be a terrible waste. I don’t want to start again from scratch, and a steady income is really important when you have a child. Whenever I travel, I feel that it’s also a bit of an escape from my real life, 10 days when I don’t hear my child crying at night. It’s exhausting to fly so much, but I feel that on the plane I can find inner peace.

So what’s hard for you about flying?

The fact that there’s really no one to talk to. If I saw something pretty, or something happy or depressing happened to me, I have no one to share it with. I’m alone.