Presentation celebrates diversified culture

Born in China, Sonia Xian Na Carlson brought an art she learned as a young child to the U.S. when she moved here in 1987. She teaches Chinese music, dance and traditions to students, which culminates in a Chinese New Year performance, presented at Minden Elementary School on Feb. 24 from 1-3:30 p.m.

"I danced for all my childhood," said Carlson. "There were a lot of performances. My aunt taught me Chinese folk dance."

In her 20 years in the states, Carlson has performed about 40 times. In the last few weeks she and her students have had numerous appearances at schools, the library and the Children's Museum in Carson City and have lined up some performances at Carson Valley schools.

"It's always a joy to do performances for the schools," said Carlson. "We are preparing for the Chinese New Year performance."

Carlson and her students will bring in the year of the boar with a Chinese New Year presentation at Minden Elementary School, 1170 Baler St. in Minden. The cost is $6 for ages 5 and older, $5 for seniors and free for children 4 and younger. Pre-registration is taken at the Douglas County Parks & Recreation Building, 1327 Waterloo Lane in Gardnerville, or call 782-9828 for information.

In her classes, as well as in the Chinese New Year performance, Carlson incorporates much more than dance, such as activities involving Chinese calligraphy, origami, crafts, games and Chinese foods.

"Usually I introduce the background of Chinese New Year and what Chinese people do for the New Year," she said.

The Chinese New Year entertainment will consist of nine dances, three songs, a short play and recitation of five poems.

"Every year I want to do different styles of dances, because China is so big," said Carlson. "China has 56 minority groups. The majority do the Han dance. Even within the majority we have 50 provinces."

Carlson, 50, has lived in Carson Valley for 10 years. The dancers appearing with her during the Chinese New Year festivities are her students, some who are new and others who have been with her for as long as four years. Students get well-rounded lessons that include writing, singing, dancing, poetry and culture of China. Classes are taught in Gardnerville through the Carson Valley Chinese Cultural Group and the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. For more information on classes, call 782-8067.

"I teach them about cultural background - reading, writing - rather than just focus on dance," said Carlson. "Even with the dance I want them to know what the background is. It takes a lot of repetition. In every dance, there is a background."

Research, costumes and presentations by the Carson Valley Cultural Group have been funded through grants over the years. In January, $750 was awarded to Carlson through a Nevada Arts Council Arts in Education grant, which she used, in part, to fund the Chinese New Year performance this year. The project was also funded through grants from a state agency and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.

-- Jo Rafferty can be reached at or 782-5121, ext. 210.


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