Upcoming event in Marshall Township celebrates Chinese New Year, culture

| Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013, 3:29 p.m.

In China's small towns and big cities, families always gather to ring in the new year.

“Families get together on Chinese New Year's Eve to watch a most exciting television show,” said Fanglin Zheng, vice president of the Chinese Association for Science and Technology-Pittsburgh Chapter, or CAST-P.

In the Pittsburgh area, people will gather at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, a week earlier than the actual day for welcoming in the Year of the Snake or Mini-Dragon, for a Chinese New Year celebration in the auditorium at Marshall Middle School in Marshall Township.

There, Zheng said, they can see performances that serve as a sampling of the culture of her home country.

“In two short hours, it's a very good taste of Chinese culture,” she said. “It's like a mini China for those who might never go to China to see the whole show.”

The event is hosted by CAST-P and the Pittsburgh Chinese School.

Last year, more than 600 people attended. With a larger venue, Zheng said, she hopes more people will come to see the show. The celebration has been growing for 10 years.

It's a sharing of cultures, “a bridge between local Americans and Chinese” and a time for meeting friends and networking.

“We reconnect, like family,” Zheng, of McCandless, said.

Taking part again this year are students from the Yanlai Dance Academy in Ross Township. Sixteen students will perform. They are doing three traditional dances: “Thousands of Hands,” “Flying Horse” and “Jasper Orchids,” a solo.

Yanlai Wu, a celebrated dancer in China and the U.S., has held practices for her students since September for this performance and one coming up at the August Wilson Center in Pittsburgh. She lives in McCandless.

Nancy Wilson, who has trained at the academy for almost 10 years, will dance the “Flying Horse, ” a Mongolian dance, and will be the solo performer in “Jasper Orchids,” a classical piece.

Wilson, who lives in Butler, makes the lengthy trip to the Ross dance studio each week. Having been accepted by the Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School in Beaver County, the teen hopes to become a professional dancer.

Most of the dancers who will perform at the New Year's event are Chinese, and they come “to share our dance with everyone,” said Wu, who thinks this is the biggest New Year's event in the Pittsburgh area for the Chinese community.

For those who enjoy the sound of the classics, Huan Zhu will direct the members of the Pittsburgh Haihua Youth Orchestra, a group he founded. These young musicians have toured the world.

They've visited China twice, Italy and Sydney, Australia, and they've played at the local Chinese New Year celebration for four times.

One of his youngest students is 6 years old, but the boy's talents are evident on the violin and the piano, Zhu said.

Zhu, 55, of Mt. Lebanon, is a viola player with the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra and a principal viola with the Butler County Symphony Orchestra. His wife is a professional cellist with the West Virginia orchestra. Their son attends Julliard in New York.

The 16 young musicians in the orchestra will play “Jasmine Flowers,” “Never Forget Tonight” and “Mountain Path” to celebrate the New Year.

Zhu said the event is a time and place to bring Pittsburgh's Chinese community together.

“People feel great. Chinese music and Western music join together,” he said.

Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6353 or ddreeland@tribweb.com.

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