The sound of firecrackers helped ring in the New Year and wonderful couplet were passed out at the doors. At 4:40 pm on February 4, with the Tucson Centennial Hall curtain slowly closing, the Confucius Institute at the University of Arizona (CIUA) Spring Festival Gala came to an end as the performers and audience sang "unforgettable Tonight ". As the actors waved goodbye, the audience kept cheering. At that moment, there were no international boundaries. People from different cultures were brought together through the joyful celebration of the Chinese New Year. The Chinese New Year has become a common festival and the influence of Chinese culture has deeply rooted itself into the Tucson community.
In order to come to the CIUA Spring Festival Gala, you had to pre-order tickets or buy them at the door. Pam Weston ordered three ticket right after they went on sale, ready to watch it again with her 100 year-old mother. Later her sister purchased an additional ticket. The family of 4 arrived more than an hour early to experience the featured Chinese New Year cultural exhibit before the show.
Tucson Mayor Johnason Rothschild and UA Associate VP of Global Initiatives Suzanne Panferov gave a short speech with CIUA director Dr. Zhao Chen to greet and welcome everyone to the celebration for the year of the rooster.
In order to present Tucson with a high-quality Spring Festival Gala, Shaanxi Normal University (SNNU), CIUA’s cooperative institution in China, sent a professional tour team to join in. They performed many dances, folk songs, martial arts, and folk music to show the unique national characteristics of Qin style Tang appeal, which the audience thoroughly enjoyed.
Guqin and Tai Chi combined into a beautiful collaboration called "Flowing Streams". It showed a static and dynamic show between the distant mood. A female solo folk singer from northern Shaanxi sang "The Red Jujubes" that beamed around the auditorium as it was high-pitched, loud, and clear. Other traditional musical performances such as "Herdsmen", "Jasmine", and "Sound of the Phoenix" with the flute, guzheng, suona and other ethnic musical instruments radiated a unique taste of Chinese culture. Teachers and students from Shaanxi also brought the dance, "Qin style dance rhyme" and "Tang Appeal" alive on stage and their costumes attracted a lot of attention. These skillful dances encouraged the appreciation of the Qin Style and Tang Appeal; it was no wonder the dancers were asked to take group photos by enthusiastic audience members after the show.
Shannon, a young American girl, has been learning Chinese online, and can hold basic conversation. She was a big fan the SNNU tour group: "They performed great! Very professional actors! My favorite program was ‘Flowing Streams’ with the Guqin’s long meaningful sounds and the two masters’ of martial arts fantastic performance with the matching background of the dynamic ink dancing on the huge screen. it was really breathtaking!" She also recorded the program and will share them with her friends on WeChat.
In addition to the professional tour group from China, the local art groups also offered exquisite performances to the Spring Festival Evening. Students who are learning Chinese at the Sunrise Drive Elementary School Confucius classroom expressed their well wishes for the Chinese New Year by the singing Chinese folk songs. Together with SNNU tour group, the UA purple bamboo Chinese folk music ensemble opened the celebration with the folk song "Overture of Spring Festival ", which introduced the audience to the joyful atmosphere of the Spring Festival. The Tucson Sino Dance Group carefully prepared the dances "Longing Home" and "bridal farewell’’ one exhibited grace and freshness, while the other was bold and unrestrained. Both reflect different kinds of style from the North and South of China. The children's dance "Arrival of Spring" performed by the Tucson Chinese School and CIUA martial arts teachers and students conveyed spring with a childlike innocence.
Furthermore, CIUA teachers and students also brought a wonderful performance to the Gala. CIUA music teacher Ma Maoxun's magnificent erhu solo "War Horse Galloping" earned thunderous applause from the audience. Four CIUA martial arts teachers and the two martial arts masters of SNNU led the 11 high school students from Vista Grande High School in the “Artistry of Masters” performance. The heroic style of the atmosphere hooked the audience, the earthquake momentum of the young high students energized the scene.
The most noteworthy was the American actor's ballet "Love of the Red Chamber" and the male quartet “Half Moon Rising". The former was a classic ballet story of the production of “the dream of the Red Mansions”. In the United States version, Jia Baoyu and Lin Daiyu reminiscence on how Chinese and Western cultures blend. The four American men sang in Chinese, "Half Moon rising". One can only imagine the difficulty of doing so, but they lived up to expectations. The song was vivid and fabulous and the audience addressed them with a well-deserved “Bravo!”.
The finale of the Spring Festival Gala was performed by the Tucson Sino Chorus together with UA Octet and the UA Faculty and Staff Choir. They co-organized three songs, “Beyond the Horizon”, “River though my Homeland”, and “My hometown Beijing”.
When the song "Unforgettable evening" sounded in Centennial Hall, the celebration of the firecracker streamers fell on the actors, the audience and the actors reluctantly waved goodbye, it was the announcement of the CIUA Spring Festival Gala’s coming to an end. However, we believe that the blessing conveyed by the CIUA will not end. The love of Chinese culture, initiated by the Confucius Institute, will not be over. The community's inquisitive and friendly attitude toward Chinese culture will continue.
After the performance, enthusiastic fans came up to express their gratitude to CIUA. Spring Festival Gala fan Ms. Mia, has attended the CIUA Spring Festival Gala for five years. She told us excitedly: "It’s better year after year, I am glad I get to witness the changes and growth over the years! Bahti, a professor of Spanish at the University of Arizona, is greatly interested in Chinese culture and researches it. She expressed excitement and praise for the show: "I am privileged to see such a wonderful performance! CIUA has done a great job!"
Many audience members expressed their love for the Spring Festival Gala by sending emails. Pam Weston wrote a letter thanking CIUA for bringing the Spring Festival Gala to the Tucson community. She wrote: "This is my second time participating in your Spring Festival Gala, our family likes it very much, especially my mother, she has been obsessed since last year! Although her mobility is not well, it didn’t take away from her love for the Chinese culture. We’d like to take her to next year's Spring Festival Gala!”
Acting like a business card for the Confucius Institute, the Spring Festival Gala harvested many new and old friends. At the same time, more and more Americans come to understand and love Chinese culture through experiencing and learning about Chinese New Year. It fully demonstrates CIUA’s cultural transmission messenger Identity. The Gala wrote a new chapter for China and the U.S. through cultural exchanges and the friendship between people from the two countries.