New Tang Dynasty TV's Chinese New Year Global Gala: bringing a multicultural vision together through a Chinese lens for overseas Chinese

New Tang Dynasty TV's Chinese New Year Global Gala: bringing a multicultural vision together through a Chinese lens for overseas Chinese


The lights dimmed and the music rose, dancers come onto the
stage.  I am amazed to see how many of the dancers in Chinese costumes have caucasian
faces…  New Tang Dynasty TV Gala
came to Vancouver to entertain in celebration of Chinese New
Year.  Much of the show featured an emphasis on multiculturalism
and a compassionate spirituality, as well as both traditional Chinese
culture.  There were traditional dances and songs, and artistic
dance recreations of famous Chinese stories such as heroine Mu-lan,
Quan Yin, and dragons.  There was flamenco dancing, Romanian folk
melodies, and Korean triple drum dance.  My thoughts were that we
truly have reached a multicultural apex, when we have people of
different ethnic backgrounds performing in all aspects of a major
ethnic festival celebration.

Each audience member was handed a glossy 32 page program which listed
the different performances, artist bios as well as ad and greetings
from sponsors.  This was important because the introduction tells
about New Tang Dynasty TV's mission that includes:

Foster understanding between Chinese people and Western societies
Assist chinese people outside China to adapt and integrate into mainstream society
Provide viewers with accurate information to enrich their knowledge and lives
Contribute to multiculturalism and free flow of information in the Chinese-language media.

And so the show is both a showcase of a Chinese interpretation of
multiculturalism and also a message of compassion and spirituality,
underlined by Buddhist and Confucian sensibilities.  This would
not be unlike any Western society celebration of Christmas with
Christian storytelling about the birth of Jesus, or how it is important
to give gifts and celebrate peace at Christmastime.  Chinese New
Year is the largest holiday celebration of the year – in fact it is the
“Christmas” of the Asian world.

The MC's featured a handsome caucasian male dressed in a tuxedo, named
Jared, and a pretty Chinese female dressed in a cheong-sam (long
dress), named Simone.  He spoke English and she spoke Mandarin Chinese. 
The back and forth dialogue was lively and informative, if a little
forced and clearly scripted.  He admitted he didn't know much
Chinese language, and the funniest moment of the show, was when he
tried to sing a “Chinese Opera” song in English to her…. painfully
bad funny.

Their inbetween set banter kept things light, and the opening set
featured the Ying Tang Lion and Dragon Troupe & Dance Troupe. 
It was a story set in China's mythical past displaying the occasion of
the lantern festival when the King of the Heavens emerge from the
lanterns to reveal to the audience the secrets of retuning to one's
true self.  Some of the onlookers are permitted to enter the
lantern and make the ascension to the heavens.  Sometimes I forget
how much Chinese mythology is about spiritually ascended beings who became gods
through personal enlightenment.  I remember taking a university
class on mythology, where we discovered that while most cultures have
gods that created humans, Chinese culture is so ancient, that it is the
humans who ascend and become the gods.

And so the evening passed as musical segments such as Lache Cercel and
the Cercel Ensemble performed the Romanian Rhapsody on violin, double
bass, and two guitars – alternated with a traditional “Fairies' Flutes”
Chinese dance.  An Erhu (2 string chinese violin) performance by
Xiaochun Qi, alternates with the “Nine Swords” dance by the New Tang
Dyanasty Performing Arts Center, where good dancers fight the evil
dancers, in a representation of “followers of truth” defeat the “dragon
of menace” to restore harmony in the world.

If this sounds like new age story-telling, it probably is.  But
the stories are universal and the translation from the Chinese is
literal.  What made this production interesting was the use of
technology.  The large projection screen was used instead of
painted backdrops.  It made for very effective scene changes, as
forests, mountains, villages, all popped up.  Even a dragon flew
across the stage at one point. 

Over
the past two years I have been attending more Chinese event
shows such as Terracotta Warriors, Senses and Chung Yi: The Legend of Kung Fu
In each case, my lack of Chinese language and cultural history
prevented me from knowing the fuller context and deeper meanings of the
stories and performances.  While the dancing and martial arts of the New Tang Dynasty gala is
not as dramatic as the previous mentioned productions, it is still well
done and relevant for its purpose, which is to paint a celebration of
Chinese culture.  Western audiences will learn more about Chinese
culture and history and Chinese language audiences will learn more
about Western cultural traditions. 

But the “multicultural” segments seem to me to be no more than exotic
appeal.  Taken out of context and plunked into the middle of a
production full of Chinese myth and legend, does not help me understand
Romanian music, Korean dancing or Spanish flamenco music performed by
Karen Pitkethly (which I loved!) – other than it is pretty and it
sounds nice.  But this is a beginning step for many Overseas
Chinese who have now moved to North America and are not readily exposed
to the roots of Western cultural traditions.  This is the audience
of New Tang Dynasty TV, and it is important to recognize that they are
trying to do something that hasn't been done on this large a scale
before.  They are trying to promote Chinese cultural values of
compassion and goodness within the context of a Western environment.

My own experience is that of a 5th generational Canadian of Chinese
descent who has experienced the rise of a Canadian made Chinese
identity, born from our experiences of overcoming years of legislated racism in “Gum San” –
the gold mountain of North America.  I created Gung Haggis Fat Choy
dinner events to reflect and promote home grown Asian-Canadian culture
within the context of cross-cultural intersections between
Scottish-Canadians and Chinese-Canadians.  Both have their place,
and I am thankful for such productions as New Tang Dynasty's Chinese
Global New Year, for helping me to experience more of the traditional
Chinese culture and performances that were familiar to my ancestors who
came to Canada when China was still the imperial Ching Dynasty of the
late 1800's.

The New Tang Dynasty TV Chinese New Year Global Gala
is a good event for families to see the diversity of Chinese cultural
traditions and stories plus some additional multicultural performances
too, but at 3 hours with an intermission, you could hear some of the
kids getting restless, even though the dragon was scary too!  At the end of the evening, I was
interviewed by a reporter from Epoch Times, who asked me if I thought
there were enough opportunities to see Chinese culture in Vancouver, a
dynamic multicultural centre?  I replied that there are many ways
to see Chinese cultural performances in Vancouver, such as Lily King's
annual spring celebration or at many of the cultural festivals such as
Asian Heritage Month or the Dragon Boat festivals.  More Chinese
event producers are putting on shows for the ever growing Chinese
language population of Vancouver.  But while we can see many local
productions or amateur school productions, we are now getting to see
larger high quality productions such as Dennis Law's shows at the
Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts, and many touring productions
too.  This is the leading edge of Chinese cultural shows, and I
expect to see more in the future.

Below are links and information to :

For
more info on the global gala. NTDTV's 2006 Chinese New Gala :
http://gala.ntdtv.com/2006/en/

See highlights from the show:
http://gala.ntdtv.com/2006/en/hi/

Review of the Boston show by OperaOnLine
 http://www.operaonline.us/mythslegends_001.htm.

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