Crouching Tiger, Flying Yo-Yo’s

When people think of a Chinese Harvest festival, they may picture a street scene in Shanghai or Beijing. But last Saturday was Andover’s Chinese Harvest Festival, held in the Roger’s Center at Merrimack College. Among various dances, martial arts groups and orchestral performances, this event proved to be quite a spectacle. The audience was thoroughly entertained, even when the Greater Boston Chinese Cultural Association Art School’s yo-yo group yielded several yo-yo’s flying off their strings and into the audience. The Andover Chinese Cultural Exchange (ACCE), a non-profit organization that was founded in 1985 to promote Chinese cultural awareness in the Andover Community, sponsored this event. ACCE planned for a year to make the festival a reality. Roughly three hundred people of mixed backgrounds attended the festival to cross cultural boundaries through traditional music and dance. The festival began with a performance by the Chinese Music Ensemble, an orchestra entirely comprised of traditional Chinese instruments. In this rare performance, the Chinese Music Ensemble and the Youth Chinese Music Ensemble played together on stage. Some of the instruments in the ensemble included the Chinese Hammer Dulcimer, the Chinese Lute, the Willow Tree Instruments (the soprano version of the Chinese Lute), a Chinese Mouth Organ, a Chinese Bamboo Flute, a Chinese Oboe and a wide variety of percussion instruments. One of the most interesting instruments was the Chinese Mouth Organ, which consists of thirty different steel pipes. The Chinese Hammer Dulcimer has one hundred and thirty five strings and can play five octaves and seventy-five different notes. Each string is either hit or plucked with a thin bamboo stick. Some songs that were played by the Chinese Music Ensemble were titled “Blossoms Under a Full Moon,” “Mortar and Pestle Dance,” “Rainbow Cloud Follow the Moon” and “New Year Festivities.” The most vivacious song played was “Joyful Songs of a Water Village,” which incorporated a giant gong into its performance. Overall, the crowd was very pleased with the performance of the Chinese Music Ensemble. Once the last song had been played, there was a brief ten minute intermission where small toys were sold in the lobby of the Roger’s Center. The next act to perform was the Greater Boston Chinese Cultural Association Art School’s martial arts group. The group performed different martial arts moves to songs such as a rap version of “Kung Fu Fighting” and the theme song from “Mortal Combat.” At the end of their act, the whole troupe came out onto the stage and presented their best martial arts moves. The Angel Dance Group then performed, a Boston based dance troupe directed by Ke Ke, a Chinese choreographer and dance instructor. The performance was quite Zen-like as the dancers slowly moved with across the stage with grace. The dance “Peacock in the Dream” was particularly breathtaking because of the elegant dancing and spectacular costumes. The next event was the Greater Boston Chinese Cultural Association Art School’s yo-yo group, which featured a special type of yo-yo called Diablo spinning. At one point during the act, a Diablo flew offstage. A concerned woman in the audience grabbed the Diablo and rolled it back onstage, causing quite a distraction. Many of the Diablo moves, in fact, did not turn out as expected. A Diablo would often come off of its string, followed by an anxious performer chasing it offstage. The following act in the show was the Andover Chinese Art Society’s dance troupe. This dance troupe has won awards as far away as Florida, California and China. The dances that the ACAS troupe performed had a much deeper story behind them compared to the Angel Dance Troupe. For example, “The Pingtan Girl” was about a girl who dreams of practicing the pipa (a traditional Chinese string instrument) in her sleep. The last act was the Swinging Tujia Maidens, a dance troupe who performed a Tujia ritual dance that is supposed to symbolize the ample abilities of the Tujia people. At over two hours in length, Andover’s Chinese Harvest Festival was certainly lengthy. However, despite the late show, audience members left thoroughly entertained and pleased with this year’s Harvest festival.