Sonia Carlson grew up in Zhang Zhou in the southern part of China and has been performing traditional Chinese dance her whole life. She moved to the U.S. in 1987. When she moved to Gardnerville in 1996, she wanted to share her passion for performance with others.
"My aunt was a famous dancer and singer in China," said Carlson. "I followed her around and by the time I was 5 or 6 I was doing it on my own."
In Gardnerville, Sonia married Robert Carlson and had a daughter, Ingrid Carlson. She stopped dancing before and after the pregnancy, but when Ingrid was 3, Carlson decided to start a dance group.
"I love exploring the different styles of different ethnic groups," she said.
On Friday, Carlson and company rang in the Chinese New Year at Gardnerville Elementary School. About 20 children, 3 to 14, performed a variety of dances, songs, and even recited poems in front of students.
"I like ancient traditions," said Carlson. "There are some not too many people know about, even in China."
Ingrid, now 10, performed "The Little Happy Herdsmen" with four other dance students. Wearing authentic Chinese costumes, they danced in circles and mimicked the ancient songs of nomadic sheep and cow herders in Mongolia. Students wildly applauded.
"I've had a lot of friends and parents help me with this," said Carlson.
She said grants from the Nevada Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts help fund her dance program.