The 70 students in Chinese language classes filled the stage and the aisles of Memorial Hall during Chapel on Friday, January 24. In unison, they performed the choreographed moves from "The Seaweed Dance," a Chinese pop song that became a Tik Tok sensation for people dancing like swaying seagrass. Before long, students and faculty were out of their seats, giving the steps a try.
It was one of several performances commemorating the Lunar New Year and the Year of the Rat. Students in the School's Chinese Society, as well as their peers from China, and language teachers Jenny Li and Yin Xie, coordinated the event. This year's Chapel celebration included traditional elements, such as the dragon dance, and contemporary touches, such as Chinese pop music.
Percussionists Kay Zou ’21 and Will Albright ’20 played dueling riffs on the tanggu, a giant drum historically used in villages to signal an emergency that now has broader use in musical and celebratory situations. Zou composed the beats, a combing of western and Chinese rhythms. Members of the St. Paul's School Ballet Company (SPSBC), draped in red gowns with long flowing sleeves, brought to life a poem from 223 A. D. about an encounter with a dancing goddess.
“Music is a universal bridge,” remarked Jason Zeng ’22, who is from Shenzhen, China. “The main thing about Lunar New Year is everyone is happy and celebrating with family.”
Zeng, a member of the Chapel Choir and the T-Tones a capella group, led students in a rendition of the Cantonese song “The Blazing Sun,” a pop tune from the early 1990s. To anyone in China, said Zeng, the song is instantly recognizable. “It’s a chance for us to share our traditions,” he said of Chapel. “This is a diverse community. It’s important for us to share our culture. Chinese culture itself is so diverse.”
Different countries throughout Asia observed the Lunar New Year. "It's our biggest celebration," explained Zou, who is from Beijing, China. “The New Year is a new start. It’s really important to spend the New Year with my family.”
To help maintain their connection with home, both Li and Xie host New Year's meals for international students. "It feels like home," says Zou. "We get to speak our language with everyone, and Ms. Li made great food that I haven't had since being home."