Students celebrate Lunar New Year


Members of the Organization of Chinese Americans perform a flag dance during Sunday’s Lunar New Year event. (Photo by Thomas J. Yang | Visual Editor)

By Sandra Balatkova | For The Pitt News

The Lunar New Year celebration set colors into motion and transformed Alumni Hall’s auditorium stage with the vibrant clothing, fans and flags featured in traditional Chinese and Vietnamese dances Sunday evening.

The Chinese American Student Association, in collaboration with the Vietnamese Student Association and the Organization of Chinese Americans — an external non-profit — hosted the celebration Sunday evening. The Lunar New Year celebration is the largest event CASA organizes. The group starts preparing as early as six months in advance.

“It is our largest event so we try to make sure that everything goes well. Especially as we’re working with outside organizations, we want to seem very professional and have our stuff together,” CASA president Victoria Wu said.

Also known as the Spring Festival, the Lunar New Year is the biggest celebration in Chinese culture. It begins on the first day of the traditional lunisolar calendar and lasts for 15 days. The celebrations include fireworks and various cultural performances.

More than 200 attendees, mostly students, watched dance, singing and martial arts performances.

When guests registered at the event, they each received a red envelope — a Chinese tradition to symbolize good luck — which they later used as a ticket for the buffet line.

While some people attended the event for the first time, others were quite familiar with the Lunar New Year celebrations, such as Courtney Yu, a junior political science and economics major. She said she enjoyed the event so much the first time that she wanted to attend it again.

“They have this event every single year and I’ve gone for the past two years so I kind of have an idea of what to expect,” she said.

The opening performance of the evening was the traditional lion dance performed by the Steel Dragon — a dance and martial arts studio based in Pittsburgh. Their act drew audiences in as the large green dragon cruised through the auditorium before entering the stage.

A member of the Steel Dragon performance group mimics a lion’s movements in a lion costume. (Photo by Thomas J. Yang | Visual Editor)

Wu, a junior communication and psychology major, was happy with the opening performance. She also praised the collaboration with the martial arts studio.

“The Steel Dragon are trained and amazing at the lion dance,” Wu said. “They do it every year.”

The performance, which told a story of the green dragon dancing and eating food prepared for him, was followed by a series of traditional Chinese and Vietnamese dances. VSA performed a crowd-favorite fan dance which featured colorful fans and Vietnamese hats.

Wu’s friend Sarah Zhang, a junior business major, said another reason they attended the event was to support their friend.

“One of our close friends is in the performance so we came to see her. She’s doing the fan dance,” Zhang said.

A member of the Vietnamese Students Association performs during fan dance at Sunday’s Lunar New Year event. (Photo by Thomas J. Yang | Visual Editor)

A group of CASA executive board members also showcased their dancing skills by performing an elegant Chrysanthemum Flower Dance to a song by Jay Chou — a famous Taiwanese musician. The performers wore white and blue costumes while they performed movements that resembled a flower bending under the pressure of wind.

“We choreographed the dance after being invited to perform at a dance showcase by FRESA, Fresh Entertainment by Student Artists,” Wu said. “They performed at Mid- Autumn, and we wanted to support them by being active their own event, so the executive board decided to choreograph and dance an original piece.”

OCA contributed to the program with three performances from younger students. Their first performance showcased young women dressed in red and white with oversized fans as they danced gracefully to dynamic music.

The group’s second performance, “Martial Arts Flag Dance,” reflected the martial arts spirit which is said to not only discipline one’s disposition but also to strengthen one’s body. The dancers, dressed in pink and white, used orange flags to complement their dance and showcase their strength.

Members of the Organization of Chinese Americans perform a flag dance during Sunday’s Lunar New Year event. (Photo by Thomas J. Yang | Visual Editor)

While the other dance performances were carried out by groups, the closing act showcased an individual performance of OCA’s diablo master. The performer balanced and juggled his yo-yo on the string and tossed it in the air during the routine.

The performance in the auditorium was only the first part of the event. After the final act, all guests lined up once again, this time downstairs, with their red buffet tickets ready to try the Chinese cuisine. The buffet offered traditional Chinese food provided by one of the local restaurants and served by the members of the student organizations.

“This year, the food is really authentic. [Golden Palace Buffet]  agreed to the catering policy and I hope people will enjoy it,” Wu said.

The buffet offered rice, fried noodles with vegetables and a variety of meats — steamed chicken, pork and orange chicken.

After the feast, the participating organizations set up a large photo booth with various Chinese props. Groups in attendance used this opportunity to take pictures with large red balloons and colorful ribbons before leaving for the night.

While both CASA and VSA organize smaller events throughout the year, they believe this event offers a great way to experience different culture and meet new people.

“It’s a really great and non-intimidating way to get involved in the East Asian culture,” Wu said.

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