Alibaba turns 18: The making of the Alibaba Annual Party

On the 8th of September 2017, Alibaba Group turned 18!

From 18 people in an apartment in Hangzhou, to the world’s 6th largest internet company, Alibaba has written an incredible story and there was only one way to celebrate this day.

After 168 days of preparation, over 2 months of rehearsals, 2000+ actors and over 80 directors, Alibaba’s 2017 Annual Party was hosted at the largest stadium in Hangzhou with over 40,000 people attending from around the world. Many of the AGLA members were involved in making this party happen from being volunteers to working behind the scenes, here we will share a few stories of the performers and what it was like to be involved in such a historic event…..



sharon_annual party

From Sharon

Mathieu Ngo-Di and I were two of the six rappers for the Tmall show called 我的时代 (This is Our Time). Chosen because of a self-written rap I performed at our Bai A training program, I was originally told very little about the show and performance. Later we found out that we had to perform in front of 40,000 people!!! With no experience of being a pop star of any kind, I fronted my fears and just said yes. But fear is always best conquered with a buddy, so I pulled my colleague, roommate and friend Mathieu Ngo-Di, in along this journey.


At Alibaba we have a saying, 不难,要你干嘛?which means “If it’s not hard, why do we need you?” I’ve absorbed this saying through attending our military style practices. For one whole month, we used lunch hours to practice our song with a singing teacher and evenings to practice our dance moves with a dance teacher. Sometimes we wouldn’t leave until midnight because our moves weren’t aligned enough or our expressions weren’t exaggerated enough. In this short month, we experienced what it means by 台上三分钟, 台下十年功, a Chinese idiom that means behind a mere three minute performance on stage is ten years of hard work off stage. And these intense practices is exactly what I’m thankful for to have experienced.


sharon 3

From Mathieu

I also remember an Alibaba saying : “If not now, when ? – if not you, who ?”

mathieu_2.jpgAt first I did not understood completely, why there was so much “fuss” about the Annual party. But after so many hours of hard work, practice, sacrifices … when the team finally “move” as one and can complete the performance, you feel proud. It helped me a lot to understand some of the company values such as teamwork, passion and commitment.  It is really an honor to be part of this show where you represent your team and your business unit. I guess in the end, …. If not US, WHO ? If not at Annual party, … WHEN ? 🙂

The day before the event, we were rehearsing at the Huanglong Stadium. Due to the schedule, when we were rehearsing, it started to rain. And in Hangzhou, when it rains, it pours. Instead of staying under covers, and waiting for the rain to stop, we kept practicing, Alibaba style. We were distributed raincoats and told to just keep dancing. I remember the lightning that flashed across the Huanglong Stadium as we went through the moves that was made out by our bodies by muscle memory. As the ra


in soaked through our clothes, our jumps splashed rainwater across the Director’s clipboard, and through the loud pattering of fat raindrops on stage, we heard him saying, “Explosive, KEEP GOING, KEEP GOING!!!”

That was probably the best practice we’ve ever had.

I am so happy to have met all the people in the annual party preparation team. More than the show in itself, we made friends. And that is worth everything to me !

mathieu 3.jpg


From Chloe

As I did not get a ticket at the lottery, the only way I could join the Annual Party was by performing on stage. That’s why I joined the “IT girls” group and rehearsed for 2 month to prepare the opening dance performance with more than 46 Chinese girls. It was a lot of work but an amazing experience to dance on stage in front of 40 000+ people. After my performance, I was asked if could walk along with Jack Ma for the final of his show. So I happened to be on stage one more time that night.

Moment when I received a call asking me to walk on stage with Jack Ma

The annual party was extremely well organized. We were 2000 aliren performing on stage but all the rehearsals, preparations (make-up, haircut) happened really smoothly. We were all gathered in a stadium next to the Huanglong one, transformed in a huge dressing/makeup room for the occasion.

Stylist livestreaming Chloe snd Victoria whilst doing their hair

Being the one chosen out of 60 000 employees to walk with Jack Ma at the end of his show. It lasted for 20 seconds but that was still an incredible experience! Jack Ma is a model and an inspiration for so many peoplee and I feel so grateful for meeting him that day. While walking together he thank me at least three times which show how humble and simple he stayed despite being the richest man in china.

My biggest takeaway after this experience is that everything happens for a reason! At first, I was at first really sad not having a ticket for the party.. but that’s actually what allowed me to perform on stage and being chosen to walk with Jack Ma.

chloe 3.jpg


chris 1I was part of the B2B performance 鼓励未来 (Encourage the future).  More specifically I was part of the boy band that sang 奔跑 (Run) and 骄傲的少年 (Proud days of early youth). I have been approached by HR during my first week of work at Alibaba. As I knew that the 18th Annual Party is really sth. special, I felt honored. Being a new joiner in the company, I also regarded it as a great chance not only to learn more about Alibaba but also to become part of the Alibaba family.

Late night and weekend rehearsal sessions were not rare. Generally, I have been impressed by the dedication and effort that each of the performers has shown. For me (as a new joiner) this was a proof of to what extent people at Alibaba stay behind the company and can identify themselves with the company. At Alibaba, corporate identity is not just on the paper or a meaningless buzzword, it is really lived by every single Aliren.

Performing in front of 40k people with only three other people on the stage was quite an experience, an experience that I could never have dreamt of. Even now, thinking of it, it still feels quite surreal to me.

chrisThis experience showed me that anything is possible at Alibaba. Although I have joined Alibaba only a few months back, I have already had the opportunity to make so many nice experiences and widen my horizon.

Besides the performance itself it is especially the journey that I will never forget.

The best part about being part of the performance team were the friendships that I made. I am really grateful for having had the chance to meet so many amazing people that I would probably have never met if it was not for the performance. I remember our teacher often saying 辛苦 (hard, exhausting) when we had to rehearse late at night or during the weekend but it was e xactly this what forged us together.




IMG_0203.JPGI was one of the 5 Master of Ceremonies for the annual party, it was truly an honour and a pleasure to be able to participate in such an incredible event. I remember receiving the message from the directing team, being told that the auditions for hosting at happening 3 hours later that very same day.

The 5 of us were all from very different backgrounds and we were chosen to represent the diversity we have at Alibaba, there was the professional youku celebrity-host, the lady who was a born and bred Hangzhou and Aliren since a decade ago,  the PR guru who hosted 11.11 last year and the American who travelled the globe and spoke immaculate Chinese. We spend the month leading up to the event rehearsals, scripts and dance moves changing up until the night before the show. In true alistyle “Embrace Change”.

By far however the most memorable takeaway was working with the unsung

Directing team at 1am night prior to the show for the run-through meeting

heroes who putting this together behind the scenes. It was my very first time working on such a large scale event, where we had audio teams, video teams, tech teams, film crews and a different director and PM for every single programme on stage. I had no idea prior to this what it takes to deliver a 4 hour show, with every single sound effect, video loop, actors and stage set ups happening in the right place at the right time. Every single show and set up was timed not even to the minute, but to the second. I feel extremely fortunate to have been part of such a historic event, and it was truly a once in a lifetime type of experience.

About the Authors:

Christopher Weber is German and was born in Limburg, a small city in the center of Germany, and grew up in Zaire. He graduated from ESSEC Business School in France. He has a background in Trading and Business Development (FMCG) and worked in 5 different countries (China, Germany, France, Netherlands and Switzerland). He is now working as Business Developer at AliExpress where he supports Chinese and international brands regarding their overseas strategy.

Sharon Gai was born in Dalian, China, grew up in Vancouver and graduated from Mcgill and Columbia University in New York. She comes from a background in business development in cloud and internet infrastructure and now works in the marketing team within Tmall Global. After this revitalizing experience, she could potentially consider a career transition into K pop rap performance.

Mathieu NGO-DI is Franco-Vietnamese and was born in Saint-Doulchard, a small city in the center of France. He graduated from NEOMA Business School in France and his work experience includes more than four years in Shanghai – China, with a background in retail, FMCG and wine & spirits. He is now working as a Business Developer for TMall Global America. He might audition for The Voice China very soon or become a KOL after this annual party experience!

Chloe Goncalves is French and was born in a small town near Paris.  She graduated in Digital Marketing and International Business in Paris and Seoul. She has strong digital marketing  ad social media skills and in china, a lot of her friends/colleagues call her 网红。She is now working in the Marketing team of Tmall Global, looking after the Australian and US market.

Rilly Chen is British-Chinese and was born in Harbin, China. She graduated from the University of Oxford and has worked and lived in over 5 countries, spending the last 4 years working in ecommerce, currently at Alibaba Cloud.


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