Chinese New Year is determined by the lunar calendar, so the date varies from year to year. Celebrations can last for weeks, with the occasion marked by many festive activities, including traditional song and dance.
To mark the beginning of Chinese New Year 2014--the Year of the Horse--the Secaucus Public Library staged a series of dances by members of the Qing Yang Children’s Performance Troupe. Six female students between the ages of 11 and 13 performed both solo and in groups, treating the standing-room-only crowd to seven regional dances from across China.
“We are Chinese people but we have different ethnic groups,” said Qing Yang, the artistic director of the troupe. “Most of us are the Han ethnic group, but we learn different dances from the folk country, from different locations, so we have different costumes, different dance styles, different makeup, even different hair.”
The colorful costume changes spanned everything from traditional garb festooned with bells to hip, streetwise wear, with a stopover in a ballet tutu. Dances similarly ran the gamut from ancient to modern, with corresponding music.
Chinese snacks and tea were served, and children had a table of crafts to keep them busy while the dancers strutted their stuff.
Promoting Chinese culture
Established in 2005, the Qing Yang Children’s Performance Troupe consists of three groups of dancers. “The basic one from ages seven to nine,” said Yang. “The second one, the middle one from 10 to 12. The advanced one is from 13 all the way to teenager, high school.”
The troupe has performed throughout New Jersey and New York, including Lincoln Center, according to Studio Manager Alex Zhao.
“I was a dancer in China. I love dance,” said Yang, who immigrated to the US from Central China in 1993. “When I come over here the local people asked me to do the dance. Then one day one high school had a culture event, they asked me to perform. I think I did 30 minutes by myself. And it was on local TV.”
“The more you know and you understand, the more biases go away.” –Archana Athalye
“This is only the second in this series,” said Library Director Jenifer May of the new “One World” performances, which began with an Indian “festival of lights” Diwali celebration in November. “We’ve done a Bollywood dance program a few times. We’ve done other Indian music programs. But then we went to ‘One World’ so we can incorporate all the other cultures. St. Patrick’s is next. We hope to try and do one a month.”
Partnering with the library on the One World series is Kulture Kool, a Rutherford-based group about five years old.
“We are a South Asian performing arts center,” said Director Archana Athalye. “We teach Indian languages and different dances including classical and contemporary Indian dances. I teach a ‘discover India’ kind of a workshop.”
“The whole idea is to bring about multicultural understanding,” said Athalye. “We just want to expose children and audiences around here. The more you know and you understand, the more biases go away.”
The free St. Patrick’s Day celebration will take place on Friday, March 11, in the Secaucus Library’s Panasonic Room. Qing Yang Dance Studio’s multilingual website is at www.qyds.org.
Art Schwartz may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.