Heylock, who is a master of fine arts in choreography candidate at JU, spent a month in Beijing teaching dancers and acrobats her movement technique for a production of "Spiral."
The show, choreographed and written by internationally renowned artistic director Jennifer Muller and directed by Emmy-winning theater director Gale Edwards, will be China's first musical. Currently, the Chinese have shows where dancers perform, followed by acrobats and singers doing the same, and then the dancers return to the stage, explained Heylock.
"What they don't have is a musical which has a narrative, story lines that go from beginning to end and take you somewhere. Something that develops each character you become attached to. If the main girl died, you'd weep," Heylock said. "They don't have that and that is what 'Spiral' is."
Heylock, a Ponte Vedra Beach resident who has been involved in dance since she was 4 years old, is no stranger to Jennifer Muller's work.
She spent the core of her career dancing with concert dance companies in New York and has worked directly with Muller. She has traveled the world staging Muller's work for professional dance companies and teaching her technique at universities. Muller contacted her to help with "Spiral."
"Lana has reset and restaged a lot of Jennifer's classical modern dance work," said Tiffany Fish, fellow Jacksonville University faculty member and cohort in the master of fine arts program. "So it's really great to hear her speak about this amazing opportunity to basically be the right-hand woman to someone who has been her teacher her whole life."
Heylock was flown to New York in May to study the movements for "Spiral," which were then sent to dancers, actors and contortionists in Beijing. In June, Heylock began her stint in China, staging and rehearsing the show in preparation for its September opening in a resort in Sanya, located in the southern tip of China.
"The work, for me, was inspiring, challenging and exciting," Heylock said.
It was the first time she had worked with dancers who didn't speak the same language she did, so teaching the movement, expressing ideas and expressing intention of movements were difficult, she said.
Another problem she faced was setting movement that she had never experienced on her own body. When teaching Muller's work in the past, she was the dancer. She found it hard to set movement she had never before performed.
Despite the difficulties, Heylock said she had an extraordinary experience working on "Spiral" and still keeps in contact with the cast through Skype.
"I've never experienced such a group of dancers," she said. "Although we didn't have language to communicate with, we bonded on such a strong level that the director, Gale, had to cancel the last evening rehearsal because there was so much sobbing."