Mingfei Li, Jacobs School of Music doctoral fellow, stepped out onto the stage for the Lunar New Year Celebration Concert in a traditional Chinese outfit Sunday afternoon.
She gestured to the colored fabrics on her skirt, explaining to the audience that in China, the color red symbolizes joy, celebration, and prosperity. The performances at the concert were characterized by these elements – traditional attire, culturally significant stories and inspiring musicality.
The Lunar New Year Celebration Concert premiered at 4 p.m. Sunday in Auer Hall. The event was open to the public, where community members gathered to celebrate the holiday. It featured vocal, piano, string, ensemble and dance performances.
The event was planned and organized by the Jacobs Diversity and Equity Committee. Kyle Adams, chair of the Department of Music Theory and member of the Diversity and Equity Committee, proposed the concert.
“The Jacobs School has long had a wonderfully talented community of Asian and Asian-American students and faculty, and it seemed only appropriate to celebrate them with a concert in honor of this major holiday,” Adams said.
The Lunar New Year falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice and is observed in many East Asian countries. Traditionally, to celebrate the occasion, families gather together, enjoy meals and exchange red envelopes containing money to symbolize good luck.
In hopes of meeting her ballet major requirements of choreography, IU senior Daisy Ye recruited her friend, Jaya Dhand, a junior, to dance for this concert. Dhand’s performance was to an excerpt of a famous Chinese symphony entitled “The Butterfly Lovers.”
“The piece is very pretty, soft and flowing,” Dhand said. “It isn’t hard to feel beautiful doing the movements.”
Both Ye and Dhand are ballet majors, so they said they experienced challenges when it came to performing traditional Chinese dance.
“I had to unlearn the ballet rules in order to correctly execute the Chinese dance steps,” Dhand said. “It was kind of a challenge for both of us to figure out ways to mesh the two.”
Ye and Dhand worked together for three weeks preparing for this performance. In that time, they contacted Ye’s mother, who is a Chinese dance instructor, for assistance on certain steps and movements.
“Daisy and I both have had extensive conversations about being people of color in ballet and trying to honor our roots and our respective cultures,” Dhand said. “I think about that a lot while I'm doing this piece. I thought it would be interesting to learn a little bit more about Chinese culture and Chinese dance.”
Ye said arranging this performance was significant for her because of her experience at home celebrating the Lunar New Year.
“Around this time of year, my Sunday Chinese school would always put on a performance,” Ye said “So it's been really cool that I've grown up to be on the other side to be able to put on a performance that is reminiscent of my childhood.“
Jessica Gu, a Jacobs student, performed a traditional Uyghur song in Mandarin Chinese entitled “A Glass of Wine.” The piece details a woman’s love in metaphorical terms, comparing it to wine. The piece Gu chose is familiar to her and is a staple piece in her Chinese vocal competition repertoire.
“I grew up singing a lot because that was a way of connecting to my culture,” Gu said. “I fell in love with it because of the unique sound it gives and how it has such a dance-like quality to it with a little bit of spice.”
Gu said that to personally celebrate the Lunar New Year, she gathered with friends to make food and bond together. Gu also said she wanted to connect with her audience to bond with them.
“To me, the Lunar New Year is when many different souls come together to connect for a couple of days,” Gu said. “This performance is a way of celebrating the fact that we are so in love with our culture and we want to share it with people to open their ears and minds.”