By Laura Ohata
Northwest Asian Weekly
Drums beat and cymbals crash. Lion dancers move in sinuous steps, leap and kick to a rapt audience. Last weekend, The Bellevue Collection celebrated the Year of the Ram with its third annual Lunar New Year festival. The event started with a performance by the South Puget Sound Chinese Language School Lion Dance Troop. Other demonstrations included tai chi, traditional Chinese music, wushu (or kung fu), mask dancing, peacock dancing, Chinese opera, among many others.
“Lunar New Year is becoming a regular annual tradition in Bellevue Square,” says Taidi Fang, a director of the Seattle Chinese Culture and Arts Association, who helped coordinate the event. “Most of the performers are professional, so we are happy to involve them.” The Bellevue Collection also partnered with the Overseas Community Affairs Council Republic of China (Taiwan), and the Taiwan Benevolent Association of America, along with help from the Wing Luke Museum in Seattle.
“We really wanted to engage the community, and connect, and understand all the different nationalities that celebrate,” says Jennifer Leavitt Vice President of Marketing for the Bellevue Collection. “After all, the Lunar New Year is not only celebrated in China, but in Viet Nam and other Asian countries as well. “It’s been a great experience for us…”
Leavitt adds, “It is fun to watch people walk through Center Court, and they don’t know what is going on, and they sit down and stop and watch. Center Court is the perfect place for that… That is the fun part of my job.”
While Leavitt enjoys all of the entertainers she does say that a few stand out. “One of my favorites is always the lion dance,” says Leavitt. “I love how surprised people are when they see it, especially the kids’ faces… when the [lion’s] eyelashes open and close. It’s so colorful and dynamic.” Another of her favorites is the Chinese calligraphy demonstration, “Lettering it is such an art to watch; the timelessness of it, the intricacy of it compared to typing it into the computer,” says Leavitt. “I love the history and the soul that goes into it compared to the way we communicate now with texting.”
This year the Bellevue Collection expanded the celebration by hanging dragon kites and red lanterns throughout the mall. Many stores also decorated their windows in honor of the occasion.
In addition to the stage show, The Bellevue Collection hosted interactive arts and crafts tables upstairs. Adults and children alike made lanterns, tied decorative silk knots, and learned to paint Chinese calligraphy. “This is a nonverbal way of saying, ‘Welcome to this culture,’ and it is an easy way to learn about it,” says Julie Hamasaki. “We also have display boards up that explain the Lunar New Year.”
While the Lunar New Year is a public celebration, many Asian families practice related traditions at home. When asked if she follows any of the Asian Lunar New Year traditions, Leavitt laughs, “I wish I could start the New Year with a clean home, but I have two teenage boys and that doesn’t happen. I definitely took away that idea that your year is how you start it. You want to start with a clean slate, and your best clothes and a feeling of being successful.
But, I always feel like I’m running, so I did not pass the clean house test. But, I like that way of starting consciously.
I like that you start the first day off the way you want your new year to go.” (end)
Laura Ohata can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.