Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Chinese culture on bright display

Troupe part of weekend festival

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Spirits were literally flying high Saturday afternoon, as the Manitoba Great Wall Performing Arts group took to the Lyric Theatre stage for a gravity-defying acrobatic routine.

The performance, which featured a traditional lion dance and some mesmerizing acrobatic stunts, served as a celebration of the group's 10th anniversary.

Poid Wong brought her three sons, Rylan, 2, Nicholas, 4, and Connor, 6, out to the outdoor performance. Wong said she's using the weekend's events to help her kids connect with their Chinese heritage.

"We thought it would be interesting for the kids to see. My kids haven't been too overly exposed to their Chinese culture. They don't really understand what being Chinese means. When we tell them they're Chinese, they always say 'No I'm not. What is that?' I just think it's a great way for them to learn and understand," Wong said, while doling out sandwiches to her three boys while they watched a traditional Chinese fan dance.

Shirley Yu manned a Chinese fashion booth during the performance. Yu modelled a traditional dress herself and explained to passersby about the various traditional and contemporary clothing displayed at her booth.

"What we eat, how we dress, it's all important parts of our culture. We try and help people to learn more about it, and it helps me identify with a side of my heritage that I haven't learned a lot about," Yu said.

The incredible display of Chinese cultural dance, crafts and food is just one event in China Culture Days, a weekend of cultural celebrations being held in commemoration of the dance group's anniversary.

The festivities opened Friday night with a 10-course Chinese meal at Kum Koon Garden. Diners were also treated to Chinese dance, acrobatics and puppetry.

Event organizer David Tang said the entire restaurant was sold out, and the response he received was overwhelmingly positive.

"We had a Sichuan face-changer who can change masks instantaneously. People were pretty amazed. Not everyone knows about these facets of Chinese culture, and these celebrations really help promote it," Tang said.

Tang, who has been a board member with the Manitoba Great Wall Performing Arts group for two years, said the dinner was just a precursor to the live dancing that stunned Assiniboine Park audiences Saturday night.

Joining the Winnipeg-based performing arts group on stage was the Sichuan Acrobatic Troupe, who flew in from Tendu, China for the occasion.

"Most of these performers have trained since they were three or four. A lot of them leave their families at a really young age and devote their lives to their work. It's how they earn their living. Our troupe tries to bring in as many as we can throughout the year to show Canadian people their incredible work," Tang said.

The Chinese Culture Day celebrations will continue today with a full-day cultural workshop aimed to introduce kids ages 5 to 10 to Chinese dance, paper cutting, kung fu and acrobatics.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 2, 2012 A5

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