With sashes fluttering from their hands, a group of Chinese 100 students ran onto the stage of Kemper Auditorium, the beat from “拜新年” by Phoenix Legends thumping in the background. They marched around, kicking their legs and urging the crowd to cheer along in a “public square dancing” performance, a form of dancing popularized in mainland China.
Organized by Andover’s Chinese Department, the annual Lunar New Year Talent Show was held on Wednesday night. Chinese classes of different levels presented what they learned about Chinese culture and language through dances, songs, poetry readings, and instrument performances. This marks the first post-pandemic year where the show could be in-person, with previous years’ performances held through Instagram and other online formats. Michael Ma ’24, one of the hosts, shared his anticipation leading up to the event.
“I’m particularly excited to see the talents that you would only find…in Asia. It’s going to be really cool to see Cai Lao Shi’s [Dr. Lilia Cai’s, Chair in Chinese] daughter, [who] is going to be doing traditional Chinese dancing…. I am excited to see all of these new aspects of Asian culture that I haven’t been exposed to before, like poetry recitation. That’s something new for me too,” said Ma.
This year, because Lunar New Year falls on January 22 — a relatively early date compared with previous years — performers faced the additional challenge of a tight timeframe, with less than two weeks to prepare their acts. With performances such as a Chinese 420 section’s 15-person dance routine, performers also encountered difficulties relating to coordinating available meeting times and choreography with large groups of people. Jack Swales ’24, a student in a Chinese 420 section, shared what he found challenging about this process.
“I would say that some of the challenges were one, getting all three periods to work together…and two, getting my class to actually learn the choreography for the dance…There are 15 of us, so we are just all over the place. Trying to find a time to meet that works for all 15 is pretty hard to do,” said Swales.
With a diverse student body, Andover strives to embrace cultural traditions around the world. The Lunar New Year Talent Show is an example, through which the Chinese Department aims to share the Asian celebration and cultures with the Andover community. Valencia Zhang ’25 expressed how this talent show helped her connect with her Chinese familial traditions, despite being away from home.
“Lunar New Year is a huge part of my family, and being at boarding school means that I cannot celebrate with my family at home, so it’s always fun to do something at school. Last year, there was a long weekend…but this year, just because of the day that the Lunar New Year falls on, it’s not a holiday… so it’s really exciting to just have some spirit [and do] a performance. Anything I can do to celebrate is really fun,” said Zhang.
Additionally, around 40 local Chinese families volunteered to bring homemade dishes of Chinese food like scallion pancakes and meat buns for students to enjoy after the show. However, due to overcrowding, the food ran out, and not everyone was able to try out the delicacies. Mateo Schneider ’24, a Chinese 420 student, expressed his perspective on this situation.
“The distribution of food after the show was…unorganized and chaotic, and also a little unfair to the performers of the show, because I, and a lot of people in my class didn’t end up getting food, while others did,” said Schneider.
Despite this shortcoming, the talent show united the Andover Chinese community for a festive celebration of Lunar New Year. As Dr. Cai explained, the various acts provided opportunities for students to connect with Chinese culture and language outside of the classroom.
“It’s always been a really fun and empowering moment for the students to see who else takes Chinese, because a lot of students almost grow up together, because we are not too big, not too small, all the students know each other, and I think they are just happy to be in the same space together,” said Dr. Cai.
Editor’s Note: Valencia Zhang ’25 is a Business Associate for The Phillipian.