| By Kathie Price
With a splendor worthy of an Imperial audience, a three-hour extravaganza of song, dance and instrumentals transported some 1,200 attendees at the Mesa Arts Center back to China where huge flashy New Year celebrations are an annual tradition.
The largest locally-produced Chinese New Year show in Arizona for the Year of the Monkey, the Feb. 13 event featured a vibrant mix of ancient traditions and contemporary touches, from brightly-costumed ethnic dancers to choirs, opera singers and talented ensemble players.
The evening, presented by the Arizona Art Academy and supported by more than 50 volunteers, filled the Ikeda Theater with grace, beauty and a swirl of continuous energy. A portion of the proceeds were donated to Asian Pacific Community in Action, a local organization dedicated to advocating better health for Asians in Arizona.
''We received much positive feedback from our audience members,''said a spokeswoman for the production. T''hey were amazed by the quality and beauty of our program and the elegance and skillfulness of our performers.''
Ancient sounds of erhu, pipa and guzheng married with such Western classics of violin, cello, clarinet, flute and piano. Ethnic dances from the Miao and Tibetan minorities contrasted with more modern choreography. Vocalists delivered crowd favorites from past and present.
The evening included crowd pleasers such as Yang Song, a well-known Chinese singer from Atlanta; Jing Xia, guzheng soloist from China; solo dancer Tina Peng, recently crowned Miss Phoenix Chinese 2016; multiple contributions by local musician Shangao Cai; and many other local artists.
Producer Lihua Lu, who also sang in the women's choir, Director Luohong Liu and Artistic Director Xiaorong Qiu created a vibrant sensation which delighted Chinese and non-Chinese alike.
Ms. Qiu said ''We wanted to use this great celebration to showcase the beauty of the Chinese art forms and to educate the Phoenix community about Chinese traditions and cultures''
Among the highlights were:
- ''Green and White Snake,''a duet by two young dancers bringing to life two characters from one of China's Four Great Folklores, The Legend of the White Snake
- A depiction of young uniform-clad women soldiers fighting for peace during World War II in the more modern dance ''Eight Heroines''
- The Chandler Children's Choir sang ''Cai Diao''and ''The Riddle Song: A Day in Spring.''
- ''The Butterfly Lovers,''an instrumental arrangement based on a Chinese legend of the same name, and ''Good News From Beijing to Border Villages''were played by a group of young musicians coming together just for the performance.
- Two large group dances filled the stage to open and close the evening with ''Ode to Peony''and ''Tashi Delek.''
Other traditional New Year celebratory touches included an distribution of traditional hong bao envelopes to members of the audience as New Year blessings, and small red flashlights as gifts for good wishes.
The evening was sponsored by Arizona抯 Vision, Well Fargo and many other organizations and individuals. More than 50 volunteers contributed to the production, according to Arizona Art Academy.
AAA, located at 610 N. Alma School Road #16 in Chandler, offers 10 beginning-to-advanced level Chinese dance classes, three technique classes as well as classes in belly dancing, line dancing, fitness dancing, hip hop, Chinese language and math.
The academy also has a small studio in Scottsdale. For more information call (480)788-9584 or (480)213-9187.