Welcome to the Year of the Rabbit

| Senior Cadenza Editor

The Lunar New Year celebration last year in Edison Theatre ushered in the Year of the Tiger. Last year’s show featured, among other dances, a contemporary Chinese dance (left) and a parasol dance (right). This year’s celebration of the Year of the Rabbit, which began Sunday with fireworks on campus, will culminate with performances in Edison on Friday and Saturday.

The Lunar New Year celebration last year in Edison Theatre ushered in the Year of the Tiger. Last year’s show featured, among other dances, a contemporary Chinese dance (left) and a parasol dance (right). This year’s celebration of the Year of the Rabbit, which began Sunday with fireworks on campus, will culminate with performances in Edison on Friday and Saturday.

Senior Annie Cai is the co-coordinator for Washington University’s Lunar New Year Festival this year, but to tell this story right, you have to start when she was in grade school. She remembers how her family would celebrate the Lunar New Year when she lived in Wuxi, China—just outside Shanghai. In China, the traditional new year was Jan. 1, but her family would throw its biggest party on the Lunar New Year (Feb. 3 this year, according to the lunisolar calendar).

Between games of Mahjong, Cai’s family would gather around the TV and watch China’s best and brightest singers and dancers perform on China Television’s New Year’s Gala. On top of all that, she got a month off from school.

Things changed when Cai turned seven and moved to the U.S. Her family still celebrated the Lunar New Year, but the celebration was uncomfortably placed after winter break and felt smaller, even though her family invited their Asian friends to join.

Now in charge of LNYF on campus, Cai and the other executives are working to recapture the spirit of East Asia’s Lunar New Year. They are starting by restoring the length of the celebration. Many international students commented that last year’s show was fun, but they missed how much of an event the Lunar New Year was back home. LNYF lasted a week this year, kicking off with fireworks this past Sunday, the first fireworks launched on campus in 10 years. The festival continued with a Lunar New Year-themed buffet at Ibby’s yesterday and rabbit cookies sold at bakeries across campus to celebrate the year of the rabbit. It’s not a month off from school, but it’s a start.

The performances tonight and tomorrow hearken back to China Television’s New Year’s Gala. One is even tempted to think that an analogous amount of effort went into putting on both shows, since LNYF has been preparing since October. This year’s undertaking features a love story that is broken up by 14 dances. LNYF hopes that the show is both spectacular and inclusive.

“We’re not necessarily trying to say there is one Asian culture,” Cai said. “We’re trying to bring out the different aspects of Asian culture through dance and music. I think it’s a huge deal for the international students.”

The 2011 LNYF also represents the 15th year at Wash. U. for LNYF, and the show fittingly plans to explore the theme of reflections. The show will reflect on various aspects of Asian culture, as well as provoking questions about what an Asian identity means in the modern world.

“The East Asian community at Wash. U. is very prominent, but it’s a community that a lot of people don’t know about,” senior and LNYF co-coordinator Anthony Pham said, “People have preconceptions, but everyone understands dance. If you see different cultures dance, you can get a better picture of them. You can find something in common, and you can appreciate the differences.”

Many of the dances will carry celebratory aspects, and when they’re put together, Pham believes they will bring people closer, from the traditional Japanese dancers to the hula performers.

“In the end, it’s all of the cultures coming together for a certain thing that’s important,” Cai said. “The new year is a time when people from all over come together, and you celebrate it with people who are important to you.”

Tickets for this year’s show at the Edison Theatre are $10. The Friday and Saturday shows are at 7 p.m.

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