Cultural events bring smiles

Updated: Feb 18, 2024 By ZHENG WANYIN in London and LI MINGMEI in New York CHINA DAILY Print
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A lion dance is staged in London's Trafalgar Square on Sunday. STEPHEN CHUNG/XINHUA

On Feb 10, the first day of the Year of the Dragon, resounding drums, gongs and shouts echoed throughout London's Burlington Arcade as dancers performed the traditional Puning Yingge folk dance to celebrate Chinese New Year.

It was the first time that the Yingge folk dance, a national intangible cultural heritage in China, had been performed in Europe.

Sixteen dancers, from the Chaoshan region of Guangdong province where the dance originated, traveled to London to spread wishes of good fortune.

"We don't get to see things like that here," said a spectator from Cyprus who gave her name as Lucy and was left in awe by the ancient dance, which dates to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

Spring Festival celebrations are in full swing worldwide this year. Besides events hosted by local institutions, an array of delegations has flown from China to present authentic Chinese cultural feasts to foreign audiences and showcase the variety of China's timeless traditions.

In London's Trafalgar Square, a Chinese New Year event on Feb 11 reached its climax when the North China-style lion dance, performed by acrobats from Sichuan province, jumped up and down on a tiered platform of poles.

Although the lion dance is a set piece at the annual Trafalgar Square Chinese New Year carnival, the more playful and gymnastic North China-style is not seen often here, according to event organizer London Chinatown Chinese Association.

Another spectacle — Tongliang dragon dance — also unfolded at the end of the Trafalgar Square gala. An 18-meter golden dragon from Tongliang, a district of Chongqing municipality, moved in a sinuous, undulating manner for the first time in the UK.

"It's just a sea of culture. It's really exciting to see," said Isabella, a British teacher. "So, I am wearing as much as red as possible to bring myself as much luck as possible."

The Chinese delegations expressed pride in having the opportunities to promote Chinese culture overseas and contribute to deepening communications between East and West.

"Being able to perform in London is a testament to not just the charm of Chinese traditional culture, but also the enduring power of cultural exchanges," said Wu Chen, chief of the intangible cultural heritage section of the Guangdong Provincial Department of Culture and Tourism, who led the Yingge dance team.

Outside the UK, the Cultures of China, Festival of Spring art troupe, comprising renowned Chinese artists, has been touring Europe.

In Spain's capital Madrid, the Choir of the Shenzhen Dance and Opera Theater immersed audiences in Chinese folk songs, such as Jasmine Flower and Hymn of Eight Horses, on Feb 3 at the National Music Auditorium, Xinhua News Agency reported.

"I love music, so I love listening to sounds from other cultures, which are very different from ours. They are very melodious sounds," attendee Marta Gonzalez told Xinhua after the concert.

In New York, overseas Chinese and local Americans participated in Chinese New Year celebrations in their own ways, integrating themselves in traditional Chinese festive customs and sharing the joy of family reunions.

The US-China Music Institute of the Bard College Conservatory of Music, in collaboration with the Central Conservatory of Music, China, presented the fifth annual Chinese New Year Concert, "The Sound of Spring" with The Orchestra Now, offering authentic Chinese contemporary symphonic music with traditional instruments.

"The spring festival is a platform to present Chinese music," conductor Cai Jindong told China Daily.

Cai said that he can see an increasing number of people interested in Chinese music and Chinese culture, not limited to "ancient" traditional Chinese music pieces like Spring Festival Overture, but also listening to Chinese contemporary music, feeling what Chinese music is like today and understanding the culture better.

Ji Tianyuan introduced the art of Chinese puppetry to US audiences at events celebrating Chinese New Year. The traditional performances, exclusive to occasions such as the Spring Festival and temple fairs, have found their way to the streets and museums of New York.

"I noticed a crowd of spectators, and they really appreciated the craftsmanship of the puppets, their costumes and their movements. During my performances, I also wore traditional clothes, like qipao or horse-face skirt," she said. "Children particularly adore characters such as Monkey King or Ji Gong. They find them quite amusing," she added.

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