Lions, dragons and prosperity, oh my!

Annie Bartholomew/Sun Star Reporter
Feb. 12, 21012

A group of young girls wait to perform the Xin Jiang dance, a dance of Turkish origin, at the Chinese New Year Celebration on Feb 11, 2012 in the Wood Center Ballroom. Kayla Hajdukovich/Sun Star

The Wood Center Ballroom was decorated with red and gold, with the Chinese character Fu hanging upside down to symbolize the blessings had arrived.

“You are here because either you like Chinese food or you like Chinese culture,” said Chinese Student Association President Dan Lou at the opening of UAF’s Chinese New Year Celebration. “To me they are the same.”

2012 marks the Year of the Dragon and UAF’s Chinese Student Association celebrated with a Chinese food buffet and program of Chinese dance, music, and fashion on Saturday, Feb. 12. The Chinese New Year Celebration has been a tradition for more than fifteen years at UAF. A team of fifteen faculty members and students planned this year’s program. The organizers ranged from Chinese nationals to Americans who wanted to learn Chinese traditions.

“Many businesses have their grand opening on the Chinese New Year to bring future and prosperity,” said foreign language and literature faculty member Rosalind Kan, who served as one of the main organizers of the event.

Professor Chelsea Han of the business department and Liang Li, a graduate student of geological engineering, served as masters of ceremonies for the event, announcing performances in both Chinese and English.

There were many costume changes during Saturday night’s program, with most dancers taking part in more than one performance. Though Rosalind Kan does not have a formal dance background, she taught all twenty dancers the seven classic Chinese dances. Seven girls performed a minority dance, the Xin Jiang Dance, created by the Uygur people of Turkish descent.

The most thrilling performance was the was the Lion Dance, which symbolized the awakening of the lion. UAF students Irwin Chou and Keegan Birchfield embodied the lion’s head and tail, dancing to the fierce drumming of student Jonathan Tang. Onstage, Chou held up the heavy lion’s head to eat cabbage that hung from the ceiling, then quickly spit it back out onto the audience. The masculine dance has its roots in Chinese martial arts.

The crowd favorite of the evening was the Chinese Clothing Pageant where students and professors showcased Chinese garments collected from organizers’ closets. Models posed to Rosalind Kan’s red carpet commentary explaining the origin, purpose and materials of the clothing. Pieces ranged from formal evening wear to the navy jacket of a day laborer. Many garments featured the elegant Mandarin collar and were made from colorful silks.

The program also featured Chinese students Annie Ruth, 16, and Rory O’Donoghue, 15, from West Valley High School. The two students performed a short dialogue written by Rosalind Kan. The students adapted the dialog for the night’s performance, adding extra poems and an element of improvisation that was entertaining for audience members who did not speak Chinese.

“It is really exciting to be able to perform in front of so many native speakers,” O’Donoghue said at the conclusion of the night’s ceremonies.

“That is the difference between high school and college students,” Kan said. “They learn it and they want to use it.”

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