Today: Feb 24, 2024

New Haven celebrates Chinese New Year with parade

Sean Meenaghan — Photo EditorRYAN FLYNN — General Assignment Reporter

The air was filled with the sound of drums, and a dragon roamed the streets of New Haven. Surrounded by a crowd of onlookers armed with flashing cameras and cell phones, a dance team performed the traditional Lion-Dragon dance in celebration of the Chinese New Year.
Consisting of a drummer, gong player, cymbalist and two dancers who occupied the large Lion-Dragon costume, the Wan Chi Ming Hung Gar Institute Lion and Dragon dance team put on a show for the local crowd. The dragon slithered this way and that to the rhythmic drum beat, interacting with the surrounding crowd. At times, the dancer in the ‘tail’ end of the dragon would lift the other dancer up so that the dragon head stood over the crowd in a dazzling display.
“It was really great. I think everybody enjoyed it,” Daisy Laune said. Laune, along with a few fellow teachers from Betsy Ross Arts Magnet School, brought select middle school students to view the parade. “You know, we have our students coming and they’re so interested to see what’s going on. At school we told them about the legend of the lion dance. We told them the story and then they wrote a project. Students put in entries to come to the parade.”
The Lion and Dragon dance team, whose members hail from New York City, partnered with New Haven based Yale-China, a non-profit organization, to coordinate the parade.
“We work in health education, public service and the arts through many different programs,” Brendan Woo, program officer at Yale-China said of the organization. “We have teaching fellowships where we send recent Yale graduates to teach for two years in China.”
From 11:30 to 12:15 p.m. the procession traveled a route starting at the corner of Elm and Church and moved up Whitney. Parading along the sidewalks, the dancers wowed both the audience who came to see them and surprised onlookers alike. The dance team stopped at the Great Wall of China buffet on Whitney, as well as a few other local shops and actually brought the parade inside the stores at times, lion-dragon and all.
They halted once more at nearby Phelps Triangle and performed their most intricate display of the afternoon, which ended with the lion-dragon grabbing a scroll in its mouth from the top of a Yale-China banner. After this, the parade turned back, finally stopping right in front of the Yale-China Association office on 442 Temple St.
“It was very tiring,” a member of the lion-dragon dance team said. “You have to be holding onto the head the whole time and then, the thing is, when you hold onto the head it’s like resting on your shoulder. It takes a lot of shoulder strength. And then a lot of jumping too. The tail is tiring too because you have to bend down the whole time so that way it looks like a real lion.”
The group has a set routine during performances, the Wan Chi Ming Hung Gar members said, but during a parade they improvise and play around with the crowd. The lion-dragon was mostly red, which is the color most associated with Chinese New Year. The color symbolizes virtue, truth and sincerity. Also, according to the Chinese Zodiac, the Year of the Dragon is considered the luckiest of the 12.
Woo mentioned that Yale-China along with special events such as this also holds conferences on health topics where they bring nursing students together in China. Yale-China also facilitates outreach programs to China in which Chinese nurses come here on fellowships and then take part in outreach projects in their communities when they go home.
“One of the programs that we’ve done in the past is a music exchange where we brought a bunch of Yale orchestra members to China and they kind of toured around even to some rural places,” said Woo. “They did performances, showed the kids the instruments, talked to them about how they play them, what the music is like and sort of demonstrated. They even gave them the chance to conduct; we have a big picture of kids conducting with chopsticks.”
The performers entered the Yale-China institute one by one following the parade, showered in cheers by the audience that had followed them up and down the sidewalks. For those New Haven locals, at least, the Year of the Dragon had officially begun.

2012 is the year of the dragon for the Chinese culture.

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