Chinese New Year Takes to the Stage

Patricia Oprea

In the U.S., the New Year is always celebrated on Jan. 1, but this is not the case in other countries. In China, the new year began Jan. 31, and it marks the start of the year 4712. The Chinese New Year is a fifteen-day celebration, changing yearly based on the lunar calendar.

Photo Provided by Patricia Oprea
Photo Provided by Patricia Oprea

Suitably for the UNH Chargers, it is also the year of the horse. It is said that Buddha asked all animals to meet on the Chinese New Year. He then named a year after all twelve that arrived. People born in the year of the horse are clever, popular, and love a crowd, according to legend.

On Feb. 7, in Dodd’s Theater, students, alumni, faculty, staff, and guests gathered to celebrate the New Year with a Chinese Spring Festival Gala. “This is the equivalent of July 4, Thanksgiving and Christmas,” said Dr. Henry C. Lee, “a day with fireworks, family, and presents.” This event is actually sixteen years in the running, and is just as enchanting every time. Last year the festival fell on Valentine’s Day, giving people “two reasons to celebrate,” mentioned Karima Jackson, Director of the International Services Office.

The show commenced with a video introduction by various people including Dr. Lee, Dean Alvarez of Arts and Sciences, Joseph Spellman, the Senior Director of International Admissions, Dean Harichandran of Tagliatella College, Jackson, Chris Moise, the International Student Advisor, along with many students and sponsors of the show. A countdown in Chinese followed suit, from ten to one, and then fireworks flashed on-screen.

Two colorful and ornate dragons appeared from the double doors, bounding down each set of stairs on the right and left. Both dragons had huge masks with smiling mouths that contrasted their deep-set eyebrows. Laden in colors of green, gold, orange and red, these dragons made their way over to the stage, where a dual began with a young boy. The boy, who is Henry Lee’s grandson, had a sword in each hand, and fought off the dragons.

A group of young kids from the Wu Dang Kung Fu Academy then took the stage in a fast-paced performance with swords, staffs, chains, and vigor. Their performance was lengthy, albeit fascinating to watch. Two groups, younger kids, and older girls, as well as one older solo male each had different parts in the piece, and wore traditional Chinese martial arts costumes in red, blue, gold, or black.

The UNH Chinese Dance team arrived to the stage next, dressed in ornate traditional costumes. They performed a Chinese folk line dance with ribbons and fans.

Baritone singer Yue Cailunthen performed two solo songs in Chinese, with dancers and fans inn the background.

Tap dancer Tyler Knowlin then blew the crowd away with his loose and carefree rhythm and quick feet as he tap-danced to a folk song from a Broadway play.

It was back to vocals next as the Master of Ceremonies, Ms. Lisa Fan sang, “The Cloud in the Sky,” in Chinese.

A solo tap dance by Ms. Maisie Li then commenced, and then a piano solo “The Concerto of Love”, by pianist Zhaoyan Li. A group of UNH students taking Chinese donned in red, got together and performed “I’ll make a man out of you” from the Disney movie Mulan.

A male band comprised of UNH students Xiaoming Xu, Zizhen Guo, Kevin O’ Brien, and Ziwen Zhen, known as The Glasses (for their common eyewear) performed two songs.

Then it was back to Kung Fu with a routine of strength, speed, agility and flexibility by Teake, Marvin Quian, and Matthew Johnson.

Lastly, six UNH students from China sang a few songs in Chinese folk songs to close of the show, solos, duets, and trios. The show commenced with a group song in Chinese, and then it was time for a long-awaited Chinese food buffet in Dodd’s.

Three raffles were also held, the last one being a flat-screen television! Presents were also given out to all people born in the year of the horse. People had mixed reviews about the show, often depending on their nationality.

Sophomore Cassidy Burt just stumbled onto the event while waiting for the shuttle bus and said, “It was very valuable to get a look at the different aspects of Chinese culture that are represented in our society.”

Other students, namely those who spoke Chinese and understood the show in its entirety, felt as if it was poorly prepared. In either case, being immersed in this language and culture for two hours was a unique experience for students.