Michigan’s Chinese Students and Scholars Association held their annual Lunar New Year Gala this past Saturday at the Michigan Theatre. It was an over three hour event, complete with skits, acapella, dances, and other arts performances, reminiscent of the television show that is aired in China the eve of the Lunar New Year. Although most of it took place in Chinese, there were subtitles up above the stage for those who were only familiar with English. With the break in the cold weather we had last week, it wasn’t long after the doors open just before 7 pm that theatre was close to being filled.
One of the best aspects of the entire night was the variety of performances which occurred. We were not limited to just college groups on campus, although of course groups like Revolution and Photonix were huge favorites. The audience was treated also to the Michigan Senior Chinese Choir and the Ann-Hua Chinese Music Ensemble and Taichi Club, groups which were made up of individuals older than college age. To me, these more traditional performances, of dance and music respectively, were a great contrast to some of the more modern acts which took up the majority of the show. My favorite was the Music Ensemble as it is rare that I get to see instruments like the Chinese zither—a plucked string instrument— or a Chinese lute— similar to a guitar— live. Other performances included a traditional lion dance and dances performed by a younger teenage aged group from the Yixuan Dance and Performance Center. The traditional dance groups were also very interesting to me due to my own background as a dancer and because of the garments they were wearing, brightly colored red and blue dresses and other costumes, with props like fans. Interspersed between the performances, videos, and dialogues were two lotteries featuring items donated by the nights sponsors.
The effect of this was not only a diverse group of performances and performers but of audience members as well. It was great to see almost the entirety of the big screening room in Michigan Theatre full of cheering and supportive people. I noticed not only college students, but families who had brought their younger children as well. CSSA made a communal WeChat account that people could scan into, and my phone was full of notifications by the end of the night.
For me, this experience was unlike anything I had ever been to before. I was really appreciative of the opportunity to see such a breadth of arts performances showcasing and celebrating Chinese culture. I am looking forward to next year!