CIUA’s Chinese New Year Gala blows “Chinese wind” in Tucson

February 10, 2016

The Confucius Institute at the University of Arizona (CIUA) hosted its Seventh Annual Chinese New Year Festival (CNYF) gala celebration beginning at 2:00 pm on January 31, 2016. The gala was presented by the Tucson Sino Choir in Centennial Hall on the University of Arizona campus. Consul Haiying Chai from the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in Los Angeles was in attendance, as were the Tucson Mayor’s Representative Evan Wesley and Vice Presidents Mike Proctor and Allison Vaillancourt of the University of Arizona. Several University of Arizona Deans, Dean Junren Zhang from the School of Music at Shaanxi Normal University in Xi’an (the University of Arizona’s Confucius Institute partner) and related officials from CIUA’s Confucius Classrooms also attended the Gala.

The CIUA CNYF has become a major Spring Festival symbol in Arizona. Some audience members came from far away -- Washington, Phoenix and other cities -- to enjoy the Chinese cultural feast. It was not only a celebration for the Tucson Chinese community getting together to commemorate the Chinese Spring Festival, but also a window for local Americans to view, understand and appreciate Chinese culture. More and more Americans have come to love Chinese culture and gradually understand China via the annual CYNF.

The show began with a New Year Dance performed by CIUA-affiliated Confucius Classrooms and teaching sites with the Chinese recitation of traditional Spring Festival folk songs given by hundreds of American children, which made parents and the audience very excited. Bohan Ye, the last disciple of Baojiu Mei, a famous Peking Opera artist, sang part of a Jingju (Peking Opera) adapted from “Women Generals of the Yang Family.” Her elegant and mellow voice left a lasting impression on the audience. The vocalist Zhuo Mi, from Shaanxi Normal University sang a Tibetan folk song and another vocal piece from northern Shaanxi Province. As soon as Mi’s high-pitched voice rang out, the audience broke into immediate applause.

A group of award-winning CIUA-affiliated artists held forth on the brightly illuminated stage: Ms. Jing Xia (winner of the Bronze Medal in the Guzheng competition of the “Golden Bell Award”), Mr. Bo Chen (recipient of the Gold Medal in the China Central Television (CCTV) national instrumental music competition in 2009), Mr. Maoxun Ma (First Prize winner of an international Erhu competition), and Ms. Chao Han (winner of the Excellent Performer Award at the Third “Wenhua Award” National Traditional Chinese Instrument Competition). They played various traditional Chinese musical instruments: the Sheng Solo "Night at a Mountain Village" by Bo Chen brought the audience pictures of a beautiful sunset, the moon and a bonfire in a cottage while a Pipa solo, “Whispers of Pipa,” by Chao Han reflected the deep thoughts of overseas Chinese about their motherland. The “Midnight Aria” performed by Jing Xia, Maoxun Ma and Chao Han, which was part of “Farewell My Concubine,” and told the story of Yuji who danced for the concubine with a sword at the end of his life.

An innovative Guzheng and Taichi sword performance, “Drunken Madness,” brought extraordinary visual and listening experiences to the audience. With fingers flying, the uninhibited zither matched with the drunken sword dance vividly recreated the drunk madman. At the end, with the sweeping of the Guzheng and the collapse of the madman to the ground, a few kids in the audience were heard to exclaim, "He's drunk!” At that moment, great art had transcended all and became a common language.

The dance and kungfu performance “Silk Road Fantasy” lead the show to a climax.  Dance teacher Bin Yu from Shaanxi Normal University and the martial arts teachers of CIUA garnered thunderous applause and high praise. The audience was deeply impressed by the creative ideas of the combination of terracotta warriors and flying Apsaras and the majestic desert scenery along the Silk Road. The program conveyed the beauty of art and the message of China's economic development.

As CIUA partner groups, the Tucson Sino Dance, TCMC Chinese School and the TCA Chinese School offered various beautiful dances to the audience: the “New Year Dance," "Celebrating the Spring,” “Peach Blossom Romance," "Spring Drums" and "Calling for the Green Earth" captivated everyone’s attention, while Dr. Shiqi from the School of Music at the University of Arizona played the piano solo "Spring Dance." All these performances reflected love of Chinese culture and the homeland of the Chinese diaspora.

Choral performances by the Tucson Sino Choir and the Tucson Girls Chorus, together with Zhuo Mi, brought the festival gala to a perfect close. They won prolonged applause.

During the two-hour gala, more than 300 people participated in 17 performances. An audience member from Washington State expressed his thanks to the gala’s Artistic Director, Dr.  Larry Lang. He said he had watched four grand Chinese performances, but none compared favorably with this gala. Sheryl Castro, Director of Global Citizenship Education in the Catalina Foothills School District, wrote to Dr.  Larry Lang, “I wanted to take a moment to congratulate you for the wonderful show that you provided for the Tucson community on Sunday. The performances were spectacular! I wish you could have heard all the positive comments that people around me made during intermission and after the show as they were a testament to the countless hours of preparation that you gave to make the Chinese New Year Festival a success.” After the performance, Consul Haiying Chai congratulated the cast and praised their performances highly.

After the intermission, CIUA Co-Directors Dr. Zhao Chen, Dr. John W. Olsen and Dr. Wei Zhao expressed their new years’ greetings to the audience. UA Vice President Mike Proctor gave a New Year speech using the Chinese Happy New Year (Xin Nian Kuai Le) as the opening; he also shared with the audience the news that CIUA won the Chinese government’s prestigious Confucius Institute of the Year award received on December 6, 2015 at the Tenth Confucius Institute Conference held in Shanghai.  Only 20 of 500 Confucius Institutes worldwide received this honor. Together, the group presented plaques to and congratulated CIUA’s two new Confucius Classrooms to Tucson City Elementary School and Toltec Elementary School.

In order to spread traditional Chinese culture broadly, before the gala, CIUA held an exhibition in front of Centennial Hall including practitioners of Chinese medicine and painting and displays of Chinese culture items and language textbooks.  CIUA instructors also introduced their spring course offerings to the gala attendees. Inside and outside the hall, people were talking about Chinese culture, experiencing the powerful charm of Chinese culture. We welcome the Year of the Monkey together!

>>For more pictures of Chinese New Year Gala click here