BY VICTORIA WANG ’20
As 5 p.m. approached on Friday, Feb. 8, the line of students in front of Chapin Auditorium already reached Skinner Green. Chinese students at Mount Holyoke College were ready to deliver a grand showcase to celebrate their most prestigious traditional festival, the Chinese New Year, and the rest of the Mount Holyoke community was eager to participate.
China Night, held annually for almost two decades, once again drew a large audience from on and off campus this year. Among the event’s attendees were faculty members, local residents and domestic and international students. “China Night has almost doubled [its] performances this year, and so [has] the size of the audience,” said Fangqian Xu ’20, co-chair of Mount Holyoke’s Chinese Culture Association and the organizer of the event. “We are overwhelmed by the number of community members and faculty coming to the show, as well as the diversity of students.”
Attendees helped themselves to the generous Chinese buffet and sweet treats scattered on a long table down the center of the hall while a documentary played on stage, teaching about the tradition of feasting on Chinese New Year before the event of officially began. Golden and red decorations covered the walls while chatter and laughter echoed around the room.
After dinner, the show started with a performance by the Chinese Music Ensemble, followed by various other singing and dancing performances.
“Obsession,” one of the first performances of the night, was a “contemporary and pop” drag performance mixed with traditional Chinese dance, simulating the movements of two tipsy young women. “This dance delivers, to both us performers and the audience, a cultural divergence that we experience on a daily basis as international students,” said Ruixin Chen ’20, one of the performers. “Different from that in the U.S., inebriation can be a subtle charm in the Chinese culture.”
Apart from the traditional dance performances, the event also featured a tribute to the Uyghur culture, one of the 55 ethnic minorities in China. Brightly colored costumes and lively movements depicted the culture of the Uyghurs.
While some dances provided a glimpse of Chinese culture, others narrated the country’s history. The three dances performed by the Sky Dance group featured heartfelt accounts of tales from ancient and on temporary China, from a concubine in the Tang Dynasty to a tragedy during the Japanese Occupation in Nanjing. A Chinese ballet solo dance, “The White- Haired Girl,” told the story of a young peasant woman whose hair turned white overnight because her father was killed by their landlord on the day of Spring Fes- tival.
Breaking into well-known dances, two beloved Asian pop dance groups refreshed the audience with a modern vibe. Among the most popular Asian pop dance groups in the Five College community, K-Pop dance crew Rainbow Jelly and J-Pop dance crew ODM brought dynamic clips of Korean and Japanese pop dance to the stage. This year, a newly founded C-Pop dance group, RMB, joined the two legacy dance crews by bringing a mix of pop dances choreographed to Chinese pop songs to the stage.
A Shaolin Kung Fu performance was staged by the Shaolin Kung Fu Center of Hadley, the only Kung Fu School in the Pioneer Valley. With a legacy of over 30 years in Western Massachusetts, the school is celebrating its 15-year operation in Hadley. “It is an interesting perspective to learn and perform Kung Fu as an American,” said Jessica Grasmere, a coach at Kung Fu Hadley and one of the performers. “But I have found my connections to this art since I first started practice a decade ago. It really has a universal charm.”
For many Chinese students, China Night provides a sense of home. “Chinese New Year used to be the most important festival in our [lives], but we have almost lost the mood to celebrate since we came to the U.S.,” said Xinqi Li ’20, a Chinese student who came to the show. “China Night just brings up some festive spirit into our schoolwork-loaded campus life.”
“It is amazing that the show makes everyone drop the tensions under the current political atmosphere and all the ongoings around the world and allow[s] us to have a mutual appreciation [for] Chinese culture on this very evening,” said Xu.