The Confucius Institute at the University of Arizona’s 2015 Chinese New Year Gala

February 1, 2015

The Confucius Institute at the University of Arizona (CIUA) hosted its 2015 Chinese New Year gala celebration at 2:00 pm on January 31st in Tucson. The gala was presented by the Tucson Sino Choir in Centennial Hall on the University of Arizona campus. Consul Yuan Dong from the Consulate General of the People’s Republic of China in Los Angeles was in attendance, as was Tucson Mayor Mr. Jonathan Rothschild.  Several University of Arizona Deans were also present.  CIUA’s two American co-directors (Professors Zhao Chen and John Olsen) and the Institute’s resident Chinese director (Shaanxi Normal University’s Professor Zhao Wei) welcomed the audience. An audience of almost 1,800 local residents and students enjoyed the show which was comprised of 14 performances in which more than 300 artists took part. The two-hour show was directed and managed by CIUA’s Dr. Lang Xiaoming. The performers included many CIUA students and teachers of CIUA as well as local arts groups, building a harmonious atmosphere for the Chinese New Year.

Building on the previous five galas hosted by CIUA, this year’s extravaganza was designed to promote traditional Chinese culture and the integration of Chinese and western cultures. The purpose of the Gala was to highlight achievements in education and welcome the Year of the Ram. From every aspect, including stage design, program construction, and performer training, myriad arts imbued with Chinese features were displayed. In retrospect, this event was one of the most broadly representative Chinese Spring Gala festivals yet hosted by CIUA.

The show began from with ethnic orchestral music, “Days of Emancipation”. 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) and Mr. Maoxun Ma (First Prize winner of an international Erhu competition). These immensely talented CIUA teachers performed on Chinese traditional musical instruments.  Junming Zhao and Peifeng Jiang, CIUA martial arts teachers, performed with dancers from the University of Arizona School of Dance, combining the concept of harmony between nature and human beings. This dance performance, entitled “The Origin of Life,” performed by Chinese Kung Fu masters and American dancers, won a huge round of applause from the audience and was a highlight of the Gala. Professor Linghui Tu, a Hanban-sponsored teacher from the State University of  New York at Binghamton, sang the Peking operatic (Jingju) “Ode to the Pear Tree,” accompanied by Chandler Symphony Orchestra, bringing the 2015 Spring Gala to a climax.

Mr. Jack Herriman, Conductor of the Chandler Symphony Orchestra, said, “I am so happy to cooperate with CIUA. Music is a universal language; while I am playing works of Chinese music I feel the exquisite power of Ravel’s Pictures at an Exhibition and the glory of Aida. These works of Chinese music were so amazing that the Western audience thought they were as shocking as Strauss’s work”.

The Assistant Superintendent of Sahuarita Unified School District, Mr. Scott Down said, “This was a fantastic show. From it, we were able to appreciate wonderful Chinese arts and elegant Chinese traditions. Thank you for CIUA’s hard work and Hanban’s support. I believe our students will never forget such a cultural experience”.

During the Spring Gala, all the performances received enthusiastic applause from the audience, including the traditional instrumental solos, martial arts performed by CIUA’s teachers, and the grand chorus led by the Tucson Sino Choir and others.  The American audience sang high praise for this year’s Chinese New Year Celebration!

The success of this Spring Gala was due in no small measure to the goals of CIUA.  CIUA’s Dr. Lang Xiaoming, artistic director of the event, remarked, “The reason why we can be successful in hosting a Chinese New Year Celebration Gala on such a high level is that we apply a combination of three factors to spread Chinese culture: 1. Combining professional and amateur artists, 2. Combining university and local community participants, and 3. Combining American Chinese and American mainstream society.  We are also happy to share our experiences with the other 400 Confucius Institutes.”  The 2015 Spring Gala was a window on CIUA’s accomplishments and influence, which also promotes communication between the American and Chinese peoples. CIUA is playing a crucial role as a cultural ambassador facilitating such communication, which is, in itself, meaningful.