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Wednesday, February 28, 2024
The independent student publication of The University at Buffalo, since 1950

The Year of the Rabbit Hops In

Family and spring were the themes on a snowy Buffalo afternoon at the Center for the Arts, where the Chinese New Year was ushered in with style and aplomb.

The University at Buffalo Confucius Institute and the Chinese Club of Western New York (CC-WNY) hosted the celebration at the CFA from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., and it was a feast for the senses and the mind. According to the Chinese zodiac, this year ushers out the aggressive and moody tiger for the shy and lucky rabbit.

Funded by the Confucius Institute and organized by CC-WNY, the event entailed singing by groups of all ages, and dancing to themes of friendship, national pride, and springtime. The major theme of the night, however, was family.

"Chinese New Year is a very family-oriented holiday," said Dr. Eric Yang, executive director of UB's Confucius institute. "It is similar to Christmas, where it is a time for families to reunite and come together."

This sentiment of families coming together flowed throughout the night. Old, young, and all in between were coming together that night, and the performances reflected this. Grown men put their own spin on a traditional Chinese dance by mixing in pop tunes with children's songs. They made the entire audience laugh in a way that overcame the language barrier.

"My favorite act was ‘The Flying Peacock' dance," said Robert Worrell, a Buffalo native who was curious about the festivities. "The girls whirling around in peacock prints were captivating."

Old and young alike came together most prominently in a performance of Taiji Fan, a type of Chinese Gong Fu. Gong Fu is most commonly associated in America with the Chinese martial arts, but the term is actually used in China to describe a skill attained through hard work and practice. This hard work shone brightly when the performers executed their fluid movements, a stunning ritual similar to Tai Chi that employed traditional Chinese hand fans. "[Their] hard work guaranteed our success," said CC-WNY President Dr. Lixin Zhang.

The idea of family wasn't simply applied to immediate family, though. Many of the performances made reference to over 50 cultural groups in China, which the emcees of the event called the Great Big Chinese Family. With dances originating from ethnic groups like the Yi and the Dai, the event moved into the role of bringing cultures together.

This cultural combination showed itself even in the announcers for the performances. In between each set, the four emcees would introduce the next act to the audience; two would speak in English, and the other two would speak in Chinese, switching off on which language went first.

"Our purpose is to foster understanding of modern China," Zhang said. "And to spread the Chinese language to Western New York."

These ideals rang most loudly during a rendition of the song "You and Me." A group of Americans (who were learning Chinese) and native Chinese speakers sang together in Chinese. Sung at the 2008 Olympics at Beijing, the song spoke of a great global village that all are members of.

A dance to the Timbaland song "The Way I Are" demonstrated this global village in a spectacular fashion, mixing a Chinese flavor into modern hip-hop dancing to arrive at a beautiful show of grace.

Running next to the theme of family was the equally important theme of spring. The dance called "Blue Sky" had little girls frolicking in beautiful blue and white costumes set to a background of the colors of spring. Another dance focused on the opening of a red rose, with women dressed in fiery red outfits and dancing to modern takes on traditional Chinese music. Even as the snow piled up outside, all inside could feel the warmth of spring emanating from the stage.

"Chinese New Year is a time for celebration and happiness amongst the Chinese community for both exchange students and Chinese Americans," said Aaron Wong, president of the Chinese Student Association. ""

This feeling of happiness, and the infectious smiles on the faces of the children performers, undoubtedly brought back many memories for all attending, and brought together many diverse cultures into a single auditorium to experience the excitement of a new year and a new beginning.




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