When Howard Schultz traveled to Chengdu, China earlier this year for the annual Starbucks Partner Family Forum there, he and other company leaders were greeted by a magical spectacle.
Eleven Starbucks baristas welcomed the standing-room-only crowd of more than 1,300 partners (employees), family members and visitors with a performance based around biàn liǎn, a demanding 300-year-old Chinese art form associated with Sichuan opera. The skillfully choreographed presentation so impressed Schultz that the group was flown 6,300 miles to perform today (March 23) at Starbucks 2016 Annual Meeting of Shareholders in Seattle.
Biàn liǎn, which translates to “face changing,” consists of performers exchanging features with undetectable swiftness. Their vividly colored masks reflect the moods of characters in the opera. Introducing the two face-change artists, were nine drummers pounding out a dramatic fanfare.
The 11-member troupe that journeyed from Chengdu to Seattle is led by Lisa Xiaoli Tang, Starbucks assistant marketing manager for the Central and Western China region. Tang said the group came together after a call went out for talent to perform at the Partner Family Forum as part of an initiative to honor the special role families play in China.
“It is a great opportunity to show our partners’ passion and talent,” Tang said.
“It was really a great surprise when I heard the news for the first time,” said Momo Wang, one of the drummers. "Coming to Seattle is my dream. Today my dream comes true.”
Troupe members, all of whom work in Starbucks stores, developed their routine last June. They rehearsed after hours to perfect the exacting three-and-a-half minute routine.
Meet the Chengdu Performers:
The “Face Change” Artists
Hugo (Wang Jue), four-and-a-half-year partner, store manager, Fengde Plaza store. Favorite beverage: Americano
Andy (Long Wei Feng), two-year partner, shift supervisor, Wanda Plaza store. Favorite beverage: Caramel Macchiato
Daisy (Hu Run Ting), one-year partner, barista, Ito Yokado-Jianshe Road store. Favorite beverage: Caramel Macchiato
Rex (Xu Ren Yu), three-year partner, shift supervisor, CD Global Lotte store. Favorite beverage: coffee of the week
Kevin (Tao Ye), three-year assistant store manager, Zongfu store. Favorite beverage: Vanilla Latte
Momo (Wang Xue Ting), one-year partner, barista, Renheng Office store. Favorite beverage: Vanilla Latte
Echi (Zhang Jia Jing), three-year partner, barista, Chengdu Chunxifang store. Favorite beverage: Caramel Macchiato
Sherry (Huang Yao), one-year partner, shift supervisor, Mix City store. Favorite beverage: Caramel Macchiato
Manny (Zou Lin Xin), two-year partner, shift supervisor, International Financial Square store. Favorite beverage: Americano
Archer (Li Jun Yi), one-year partner, barista, Kuangzhai Alley store. Favorite beverage: Sparkling Water with Raspberry Syrup
Tim (Tang Jian), three-year partner, barista, Chengdu New City store. Favorite beverage: Black Tea Latte
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