Last Thursday, the snake slithered away and the horse galloped in as the Chinese lunar calendar turned another cycle.
For the fourth consecutive year, the University at Buffalo Confucius Institute worked hand in hand with the Chinese Club of Western New York, a nonprofit organization that helps connect members of the local Chinese population in Western New York, to celebrate the Chinese New Year at UB’s Center for the Arts.
From upbeat Tibetan minority dances to the singing strings of the zither, this year’s program covered various aspects of performing arts and minorities to come together in an exhilarating show. From an outsider’s point of view, it was a chance to experience traditional Chinese culture. However, the view behind the curtain revealed much more than a simple performance.
A look behind the scenes showed groups of performers, most of them teenagers or middle schoolers, fixing their fancy traditional costumes or examining their instruments, nervously waiting for their turn on stage. And that was just scratching the surface.
The CCWNY Young Adult Dance Group, comprised of nine high school girls and their teacher Connie Liu, who studies at UB Pharmacy, were one of the performing groups.
After just a few seconds of chatting and a lot of laughter, it was evident that this is a close-knit group.
“I feel a bond with my fellow dance group members, it’s a lot of fun and we experience ups and downs,” said Jennifer Zhang, a senior at Williamsville South High School.
“By ups and downs you mean squatting up and down,” Liu added with a laugh.
Hands down, the girls’ favorite aspect of Chinese dance are the costumes. Fitted in long, red flowing skirts, white top and a hand drum, they all agreed that Chinese New Year is a time to be beautiful, and it helps them to get into the feeling of their dance.
“It’s a lot of fun expressing ourselves and our heritage through dance for other people,” Jennifer said.
The girls in the group also view their dancing as a social event.
“I don’t go to school with some of these people,” said Brenda Shao, a senior at Williamsville East, “But I’ve known them since I was 4. I’ve grown up with them.” In this way, this performance was a bittersweet moment for the seniors in the group, since most of them will be leaving and going off to college next year.
The girls also take dance as an opportunity to explore the different Chinese minorities they would have never considered.
“We do so many different dances. It’s a good representation and an experience to learn about the different minorities,” said Helen Xu, a senior at Williamsville East.
Their dance this year was a Korean minority that focused on a woman’s fierceness as well as her gracefulness.
As the audience watched the beauty of the performance unfold before them, what came shining through was pride and the love of sharing this cultural appreciation with others.
Maia Gallagher is a sophomore at Buffalo Seminary.