On Sunday evening, I was treated to an enthralling exhibit of song and dance as I gathered with many others to enjoy the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival Celebrations. Organized by the Chinese Students and Scholars Association at UR and the Chinese Federation of Greater Rochester, the festival featured performances by the Chinese Arts Academy, Chinese Dance School of Rochester, CSSA, the Eastman School of Music and the Rochester ShaoLin Kung Fu Academy.
Within the first hour of the festival, I saw performances by each of the five main groups participating in this social activity, which helps to promote Chinese culture and make connections with other local cultures.
Welcomed by a host and hostess, as well as a quick slideshow depicting the participants hard at work practicing, I immediately felt welcomed into the new (for me) and intriguing Chinese culture that I was about to get a taste of.
The Rochester ShaoLin Kung Fu Academy opened the evening of entertainment with the Lion Dance, which immediately engaged the audience as huge, beautiful and ornate dragon costumes hiding the performers below began to prance down both aisles with brisk, precise steps. The dragons were accompanied by a group of three musicians, a cymbalist, drummer and gong player.
With the purpose of exorcising evil spirits and bringing luck, fortune and happiness, the accompanying music – the drum in particular – pulsed through the bodies of the audience, chasing away unwelcome spirits while the dragons circled the auditorium with the air of bringing gifts to all who were present. The slightly unprofessional stance of the musicians and minor confusions with instruments did not take away from the overall effect of the performance, which was undeniably enjoyable.
In between acts, the host and hostess returned to the stage, dressed lavishly in a tuxedo and beautiful evening gown, to introduce the next act. The performances were introduced in Chinese and English, much to my personal delight.
“Stepping Higher,” the next dance, attempted to represent growth and was customarily performed on stilts. The festive, lighthearted, fairy-like music provided the aura, bringing well wishes to the audience, and the girls, standing erect and stiff as if they were dancing on stilts, moved well together for a relatively large group.
Although they were not quite in unison at all times, their execution of the wavelike dance steps was most impressive, and the image projected on the screen behind them of gorgeous pink flowers was a nice detail augmenting the performance.
A piano and violin duet followed, entitled “Czardas” and performed by Eastman professors Alla Kuznetsov and Boris Zapesochny respectively, two professors at Eastman. This fast-paced Hungarian dance, accompanied by projected backdrops, was performed wonderfully. The echoing of a violin stanza by the piano was executed very well by the pianist, and the shift in tempo (a difficult task when performing a duet) was likewise done flawlessly.
Both performers were very involved and concentrated on their piece, demonstrating their familiarity with their respective instruments. The quick tempo of the song demonstrated the skill of both musicians, and I was hardpressed, ignorant as I may be of proper musical execution, to find a flaw. I flatter myself to think that I have the ability to recognize an immensely talented musician when I see one, and I know that I was watching two impressive musicians during this piece.
A surprisingly organized and efficient performance by the junior dancers of Kuai Ban Dance followed. A decently large group of young ladies, aged from approximately six to 14 years and adorned in bright yellow costumes, flooded the stage with joy and excitement as they preformed “Song of China.”
These adorable young ladies exuded fun and engaged the audience, who began clapping along to the music. The girls carried out precise and well-learned dance steps and shared the stage very well. While they did appear to get a bit tired toward the end of the performance, they never stopped smiling as they took their bows and exited the stage.
Finally, I witnessed a Chinese Drama entitled “Flirting Scholar Bo-Hu Tang,” performed by UR students. I enjoyed this performance least of all. The reason for my displeasure lies in the fact that the comedic love story was performed completely in Chinese.
Though I understand that the performances of the evening were directed mainly toward the Chinese culture, I felt that the screen and projector utilized throughout the evening could have been taken advantage of yet again to display subtitles throughout the drama.
However, I did note the entertainment of those who did appear to understand the drama, obvious by a number of bursts of laughter escaping the audience. The acting was modest, as the actors appeared well able to connect to the Chinese audience and demand its attention.
Unfortunately, the drama seemed long and drawn out for me, its simple plot and my inability to follow the dialogue reducing me to the brink of boredom. I cannot, however, condemn the actors for this fact; I can only make the suggestion that the drama be altered so that it promotes the Chinese culture to other cultures, not excludes such cultures from understanding it.
Overall, I would regard the exhibit as an unexpectedly astonishing experience. The audience turnout was sizable, filling most of Strong Auditorium, and the groups participating succeeded in leaving the audience amused and impressed. I personally would be interested to attend other such events organized by these promoters of Chinese culture and would encourage the reading public to do the same.
Nicewicz is a member of the class of 2009.