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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Ringing in the Lunar New Year

Published: February 12, 2010
Section: Arts, Etc.

PHOTO BY Jodi Elkin/The Hoot

The Brandeis Chinese Cultural Connection (BC3) ushered in the year of the tiger this past weekend with its annual Lunar New Year celebration, which proved to be a hit.

BC3 held the event a week in advance of the actual holiday, as February 14, the day that will mark the beginning of the 15-day celebration this year, is right at the beginning of break. The event this year was held in the Shapiro Theater, which was decorated with lovely Chinese lanterns and a giant banner featuring, appropriately enough, a tiger.

As MCs Olen Shen ’10 and Charles Hu ’11 joked to the packed theater at the beginning of the show, most Americans only know as much about the zodiac as they find printed on their placemats at Chinese restaurants. To remedy this, the two gave the audience a quick crash course on the legend behind the zodiac.

According to legend, the Jade Emperor challenged 13 animals to a race, promising to name years after 12 of them. One, alas, didn’t quite reach the finish line.

The first act that followed consisted largely of musical performances and comedy skits.

For the first performance, members of the BC3 executive board—Ann-Nin Wong ’11, Karen Hu ’12, Travis Chui ’12, Wei-Huan Chen ’12, Tina Rong ’11 and Max Xu ’13—opened the show with a song. Though they admitted to being the weakest musical act on the program, they seemed to enjoy it immensely, and the performance, as a result, proved enjoyable for the audience and drew many laughs.

Following this performance, young members of the Greater Boston Chinese Cultural Association (GBCCA) displayed their skills at Chinese yo-yoing, performing trick after impressive trick. Their performance began in the dark, with their yo-yos glowing, giving the appearance of mysterious orbs traveling through air. Though the occasional mishap occurred, the audience unequivocally loved the performers, eliciting numerous “How cutes!” and rounds of applause throughout their performance.

The BC3’s first-year members then put on their skit, which is an annual component of the show. Their skit turned out to be a morality tale centered around the hong bao, a red envelope filled with money that is given out during the holidays to the young. In the skit, three first-years receive their hong bao at the end of orientation week. While one first-year wisely chooses to use his hong bao for textbooks, the other two decide to use theirs for more illicit purposes, with one spending his money on booze and the other choosing to bribe her T.A. Neither situation ends well—the boozehound has to be rescued by BEMCo, while the other ends up on academic probation. Though potentially heavy-handed, the skit was presented in such a way that the comedy of it was emphasized.

This was followed shortly afterwards by another comedy skit, this time focusing on the familiar act of performing a voice double skit, in which someone reads dialogue while another gesticulates wildly. In this case, a comedian played by Lisa Qi ’12 employs an overly eager vocal assistant, played by Chui, with predictably—and hilariously—disastrous consequences.

The remainder of the first act consisted largely of vocal performances. It’s around these performances that my chief complaint about the show centers, as there were simply too many of them and few distinguished themselves. There were some, however, that did stand out.

For instance, there was a medley of songs in both Mandarin and Cantonese performed by Kenny Dai ’11 and David Deng ’12, who also played the guitar.

John Zhang ’12 and Joseph Kong, a student at Boston University, also performed “Moment of Sight,” a love song, and turned in what was perhaps the best vocal performance of the night.

The first act finished with a presentation about China Care, an organization committed to providing aid to orphans in China. Unfortunately, this presentation was hampered with numerous technical problems, including a PowerPoint that was only halfvisible. This led to laughter that was rather inappropriate considering the content of the presentation.

Donations for China Care were then collected during the brief intermission that followed.

The show resumed with a traditional lion dance performed by members of the Calvin Chin Martial Arts Academy. Though this dance tends to be featured whenever Chinese culture is covered in media here and, consequently, risks being passé, I was still mesmerized by it.

Members of the GBCCA then returned to the stage to give a short concert using the er-hu, a traditional string instrument. Their performance showed the versatility of the instrument which, in the performance of “Horse Running on a Field,” mimicked the hoofbeat and whinnying of a horse.

This performance was followed by a hip-hop fan dance, which began as a conventional but beautifully choreographed fan dance in which the fans acted as lithe butterflies. This soon morphed into something more modern however, with the traditional background music suddenly morphing into Lady Gaga’s “Lovegame.”

Perhaps the most popular performance of the show was the one put on by a troupe of break dancers. Their physical stunts, along with the casual air they carried throughout, impressed the audience and removed any lethargy that may have set in after three hours of other performances.

The show concluded with a fashion show that displayed both traditional and contemporary Chinese clothing, allowing the audience to see yet another critical component of any culture—fashion. It also gave an opportunity for the majority of the show’s participants to reappear as models during this segment.

Overall, the show proved immensely enjoyable and entertaining, and you could tell just how much hard work had been put into it by its organizers. Though there were a few technical gaffes, like the aforementioned PowerPoint incident and mics that frequently wouldn’t function, it proved to be worth the three-and-a-half-hour running time.

And, on top of all that, it was followed by a free Chinese dinner which, as most students will tell you, is an excellent way to end any event.