Chinese New Year Showcase celebrates the Year of The Pig

Columbia Public Schools students mark the new year with Chinese culture and art.

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The Year of the Pig began with a bang, as Missouri Theatre hosted their 2019 Chinese New Year Showcase on Feb. 1. The showcase was sponsored by MU’s Confucius Institute, the local branch of an international nonprofit focused on teaching people Chinese culture. The showcase, in its fourth year, presented multiple acts of song, dance and drama all put on by students of Columbia’s middle and high schools and of the institute’s Children’s Chinese classes.

Each of the acts were announced both in English and Chinese, and any act that used one of the languages had subtitles for the other shown on a screen.

The first event had the youngest students, mainly in elementary school, dancing along with their parents to “Liang Zhi Lao Hu,” a Chinese nursery rhyme. The dancers then handed out red envelopes to the audience. The envelopes symbolize good luck for the new year.

Then, a set of Rock Bridge students performed a dragon dance by a manipulating a papier-mâché dragon to chase around a golden ball. Following that was a comedic skit showing how all twelve members of the zodiac got their position.

The next act was a tai chi demonstration, followed by a dramatic fan dance. The students unfurled their fans to the beat of a dramatic instrumental, whilst forming figures and striking poses.

Oakland Middle School teacher Nichol Einsiedel enjoyed not only her students’ fan dance, but the other acts as well.

“Of course my favorite act was my babies,” Einsiedel said. “But I also liked some of the other acts and how they combined Chinese and American culture.”

The next act was a reading of the “Three Character Classic,” a poem used to teach virtue in young children. The students recited the poem plainly, before rapping it while dancing to a hip hop beat.

After that act, Sang Kim, director of the Confucius Institute came onstage to thank the local community. For Kim, spreading the Chinese language serves a very pragmatic function for students of all backgrounds.

“The two biggest economies in the world [are] the U.S. and China, also the two most spoken languages [are] English and Chinese,” Kim said in an interview after the show. “It really doesn’t matter the color of their skin, but rather if they're ready for the future. We’re helping our students get ready for that.”

For some, learning Chinese was more personal. For Battle High School student and Showcase performer Kane Chang, it was a matter of connecting to his heritage.

“Half of my culture is Chinese,” Chang said. “So by studying it I can learn about other parts of my culture.”

The next act was a video showcasing some comedic mistranslations of interviews on a fake talk show. This was followed by a dramatic reinterpretation of “Little Red Riding Hood” done in Mandarin.

After that came a dance that combined flag dancing, nunchuck techniques, and sword dancing. The final musical act of the night was a bit of pop opera, a mix of Chinese opera and modern pop music.

The penultimate act was a video showing how to cook traditional Chinese dumplings, and the showcase ended with the reading of Yuan Ri, a poem that touches on the traditions of the Chinese New Year.

Edited by Janae McKenzie | jmckenzie@themaneater.com

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