Chinese New Year kicks off at Boys & Girls Club |

Chinese New Year kicks off at Boys & Girls Club

by Scott
Jim GrantIngrid Carlson, 15, performs a traditional Chinese dance at the Chinese New Year celebration held at the Boys & Girls Club.

With whirring song and popping colors, the Chinese New Year commenced like a brilliant carnival at the Boys & Girls Club of Carson Valley on Monday.Though the Year of the Snake officially starts Sunday, Valley resident and cultural educator Sonia Carlson was more than willing to share the festivities a week early with 50 club members at Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School.“We want this tradition passed down to the younger generations,” Carlson said. “A little diversity in the community.”Carlson grew up in the Fujian Province of southeastern China and immigrated to the U.S. in 1987. For 13 years, she has presented cultural songs, dances, dress and other historical customs at schools and museums in the area.Her ensemble Monday included 15-year-old daughter Ingrid Carlson, 9-year-old third-grader Andie Murray, and 14-year-old ninth-grader Maddy Elder.Joking that she couldn’t dance, Elder introduced many segments and explained their cultural significance.“I think it’s important because Chinese is not as celebrated as other cultures,” she said.Elder was born in China and adopted by U.S. parents. “It’s nice that other people see what other cultures are like,” she said. Carlson said the performances illustrate what children are learning in history classes. “The Mongolian Chopstick Dance and the Man Tong Le are connected to the curriculum of AP world history,” she said. “Both dances have a long history that goes back to the Qing Dynasty.”Carlson told club members that the Chinese New Year is typically celebrated for two weeks. “It ends with a lantern festival when all the lanterns are hung up in the street,” she said. Dressed in a pink robe, embroidered with rhinestones, Ingrid performed the Rattan Ball Dance. The green ball, beribboned and strung with bells, jingled as she twirled it around her head, and then invited two audience members to do the same.Sonia performed the Mongolian Chopstick Dance, donning a spangled, turquoise headband, and clicking red chopsticks on her arms and legs as she evoked “a girl dancing on the beautiful prairie.” Nine audience members joined in. Ingrid wielded a violin to render in quivering notes “February is the Month for Spring Light” and “The Tea Picking Song.” Andie, whose grandmother is Chinese, wore a red headdress studded with a pink flower as she led the Man Tong Le Dance. There were also flower wreaths, calligraphy, and stick-held lanterns. Together, the lessons spanned Chinese ethnic traditions — from the Man and Han to the Yao and Yi. Gardnerville Elementary School fifth-grader Mariana Perez, 11, was impressed by the dances.“I like the robes and all the color,” she said. “The Flower Wreath Dance was my favorite.”The event produced more than spectacle. Carlson was able to impart some wisdom, centered around the Chinese practice of respecting one’s elders.“You always say thank you to some one older than you,” she said. “Say thank you from the bottom of your heart all the time.”