The Student News Site of West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South

The Pirate's Eye

The Student News Site of West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South

The Pirate's Eye

The Student News Site of West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South

The Pirate's Eye

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China Night: A meeting of tradition and pop culture

Jeff Gao (HSN, ’24)
Modern dancers posing after their dance battle. From left to right: Vanessa Zhang (‘24), Audrey Fu (‘24), Bani Kaur (‘24), Eliana Du (‘24), Catherine Zhu (‘27), Saki Saitoh (‘24), Faith Hu (‘24), Elyssa Leung (‘27), Maggie Li (‘24), Angeline Tvisha Justin (‘25).

Nine dancers hold traditional Chinese tambourines with twirling streamers. Performing a traditional Chinese tambourine dance (上铃鼓-古典舞), the dancers move in staggered rows with the grace of a flock of swans. As they glide around the stage, their flowing red costumes glow. They mesmerize the audience with their elegance, and when they hold their final pose, the audience erupts in shouts of appreciation.

The tambourine dance is one of the many performances that took place during China Night. China Night is an annual Chinese New Year celebration held at South, and this year it showcased 15 booths and 15 performances. Students from South’s and North’s Chinese Clubs began working together to produce this night before the pandemic. The event took place on Feb. 23 from6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and was led by club advisers Ms.Vivian Yu, Ms. Hui Ma and Ms. Lei Huang.

“Every culture is very unique,” said Ms. Yu, who is also a Mandarin language teacher atSouth and North. “I think that it’s important to provide an opportunity for students to keep an open mind, recognize different cultures, enjoy the rich history of Chinese culture and learn more about Chinese culture and its significance.”

During the first hour of the night, attendees visited different booths with activities to immerse themselves in Chinese culture. Some booths featured traditional Chinese arts and crafts. Others, like the bubble tea stand, represented modern Chinese culture as bubble tea gained its popularity in the ‘80s and ‘90s.

“It’s wonderful to see students learn about Chinese yo-yo, calligraphy, Chinese opera face painting, Chinese chopsticks competition, bubble tea, paper-cutting, and more,” said Ms. Yu.

Jamie Ruan (‘27), Max Jia (‘27) and Luke Shao (‘26) performing a part of their skit.

At 7 p.m., attendees headed into the old theater, and students rushed from their booths to prepare for their performances.

“The most exciting part of China Night is usually right before the performance,” said performer and officer-in-training Alice Wei (‘26). “Since everyone is nervous, everyone feels especially close backstage. I felt like I could make friends with anyone there because we were all feeling the exact same way.”

To celebrate the Year of the Dragon, there was a dragon dance to start the performances. A glowing red dragon, held up by seven students, made its way around the stage and even through the audience.

The following 14 performances were equally electric. The talent displayed by the performers reflected the professionalism of each student.

“After winter break, I spent probably an hour or two a day, and the last two weeks, because of dress rehearsals, it was five hours a day,” said Chinese Club vice president and lion dance leader Grace Choy (‘24). Following the tambourine dance, were other traditional dances like the ribbon dance, the handkerchief dance (大姑娘美-东北秧歌) and lion dance.

During the lion dance, students held up two papier-mâché lions and performed acrobatic tricks that mimicked the movements of a lion. The lion dance dates back over 1000 years and is a staple in Chinese New Year celebrations.

“It’s supposed to bring prosperity and ward away evil spirits,” said Choy. Later, the traditional atmosphere changed to a more modern one, as groups of male and female dancers took the stage.

Alice Wei (‘26) performing her solo kung fu performance.

The modern dance groups performed at a quicker tempo and wore modern-day clothing, like jeans and sneakers. To prepare, performers looked to social media.

“For the dance, I looked on YouTube for C-Pop [Chinese pop] songs and dances. I found some from Chinese dance TV shows and idol shows,” said modern dance performer and act director Maggie Li (‘24).

But the performances weren’t only dances. There was a singing performance, a skit, a string quartet, a yo-yo performance, and even kung fu performances that allowed students to show off skills from their childhood.

“I mainly wanted to participate in China Night to show off the part of Chinese culture that I grew up with,” said kung fu performer and officer-in-training Andrew Yuan (‘26). “I spent a lot of my childhood learning and performing kung fu, and the Chinese club was a great place for me to continue to perform and learn.”

To finish off the night, there was a fashion show that displayed outfits from different Chinese time periods, such as the Tang Dynasty and Song Dynasty.

China Night never fails to impress with such performances in celebration of the Chinese New Year. Most importantly, it allows students and their families to embrace their cultures and celebrate together.

“Growing up, being born and raised in America with Chinese immigrant parents, I have always had a fond appreciation of Chinese culture that is a part of my identity,” said Faith Hu (‘24), president of the South’s Chinese Club. “I wanted to explore Chinese culture and learn more about my heritage.”

With so much tradition, pride and family mixed into just three hours, attendees and performers experienced a night like no other.

“I heard parents say that they have been waiting for this event for a while,” said Ms. Yu. “They feel that they have finally celebrated Chinese New Year after being at our China Night.”

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