Many mark a new year

Many mark a new year

Chinese students perform a traditional Chinese dance Feb. 9 during Pitt-Oakland’s 2013 Spring Festival Celebration. UPJ had two performances in the three-hour-long program. A total of 14 Pitt-Johnstown Chinese Student and Scholars Association members went to perform. Aside from performances, the student association also held a tea party and a dinner.

Andy Hsiao Chung, News Editor

Steven Zhang and Jackson Hao were smoking premium Chinese cigarettes awaiting their friends.

It was a bit past 3 in the afternoon. Their rides were to arrive at 3 p.m. to pick them and 16 other UPJ Chinese students up in front of the Student Union, as most of them would be performing at Pitt-Oakland’s Chinese New Year’s event.

UPJ Chinese Students and Scholars Association President Tom Cao had been in contact with his Pitt-Oakland counterpart for the past month discussing possibilities for a joined celebration in Pittsburgh.

The UPJ Chinese student group would also be performing twice in a list of performances set for the night: A traditional Chinese dance that involves fans; and a duo of keyboard piano and er hu, a traditional Chinese instrument.

Aside from performances, a dinner, and a Tea House and Chinese cultural exhibition were also held.

After a quarter past 3, a university van, a BMW and a Lexus sedan pulled over. It was time to go.

“What if I drop the fan?” said Jason Guo, one of the dance performers, in the car. “What if it doesn’t go well, after these few weeks of practice?”

The anxious tension was quickly dispersed as a Cantonese song everyone seemed to know played on someone’s iPod. They all sang along.

When they had arrived at Pitt Alumni Hall, the performers were shuffled speedily by the director for a quick rundown on stage before the event begun.

Pitt-Oakland’s Chinese Student and Scholars Association President Xuelian Long, a student in the Pitt Ph.D program said she welcomes the addition of UPJ students

“I feel thankful,” she said. “And I understand how long it is to drive all the way from Johnstown to come here. Especially also that you guys are going back right after (the performance).”

The event was delayed due to sound equipment failures, but the audience didn’t seem to mind as they chattered away. It was New Year’s Eve, and the sense of unity and gathering was around.

When the issue was resolved, a host jested that they had it fixed in under a half hour – a much more efficient rate than the Super Bowl power outage.

The program was led off by a Chinese martial arts presentation. The performances raced by one by one, after a 4-year-old boy singing a Chinese lullaby robbed everybody’s hearts.

When it was time, UPJ students Serina Yang and Yan Xu ascended the stage. They performed an unlikely and quite peculiar duo of er hu, a wooden Chinese string instrument, and keyboard piano.

A man followed, announced himself as a music stand as he knelt down in front of the keyboard, both hands holding sheet music above his head.

The crowd guffawed.

The two played their instruments, and what seemed to be a peculiar combination of instruments turned out to be one of the crowd’s favorites.

“It’s actually nice,” said someone in the crowd. And people would agree.

“I think I saw a tear coming out of the (Chinese student group’s) President’s eye,” claimed another.

The audience clapped as the piece was finalized. And the final UPJ performance was up next. The curtains came down and 12 UPJ students got into place; each wearing traditional Chinese clothing, and holding a fan. There were six men and six women.

The curtains came up and the lights slowly illuminated the stage from the bottom up. Both men and women dancers collaborated with one another using fans and swings around in a subtle manner.

The audience was silent as they observed attentively.

The performance ended with a final “swoosh” sound from the fans opening — the six men in back, with their fans atop, three women standing in between and three more sitting in front.

“I was nervous,” said performer Nicole Fang, “but at that moment when we were on stage, when the audience clapped before we started, I didn’t feel nervous anymore.”

They shuffled off stage to the lobby to have their pictures taken. It was a great success, and they all felt it.

“It really was nothing,” said Guo in the car on the way back to Johnstown. “I think we’ve over-prepared.”