On the first pleasant day in a while, the Chinese Students and Scholars Association hosted their annual Spring Festival Eve show. West Hall lit up with bright lights and was filled with singing, dancing, acting and games for the audience to enjoy. The show featured many RPI CSSA members as well as Union College performers. The night showcased these students’ culture and certainly celebrated the festival in style.
However, I will admit that I didn’t always know exactly what was happening on stage or off. The entire show was in Chinese and it seemed as though everyone attending also spoke the language. The Masters of Ceremonies did translate their spiels before each act, but during the plays and songs, I couldn’t always get the full experience due to the language barrier. However, I can still appreciate a singer’s voice or the beauty of a calligrapher’s work. I wish that I could fully appreciate the depth of the culture so that all of the performers’ efforts could be recognized.
Before the hosts took the stage, the crowd was full of enthusiastic people of all ages, from young children, to RPI students, to community members and faculty. When the lights dimmed and everyone hushed, the club opened the show with a video full of new year’s well wishes with messages from CCTV newscasters, Barack Obama, Union students and the club’s members. Finally, the hosts, in their flowing dresses and sharp suits, took the stage.
The entire show was studded with fun pieces, beautiful singing, and cultural gems. The second act of the night, a short performance of Beijing Opera, brought out the pure and traditional Chinese culture. The female singer was fashioned in classic Beijing Opera style; complete with face paint, bright yellow robes along with headdress and the twangy timbre of her voice. I really enjoyed getting to see a glimpse of the unique art style. Another exciting part of the night was the student-directed and acted play put on by the RPI students. I didn’t understand the whole story but I enjoyed it nonetheless. The foam swords fights, the comedic reveal that two of the characters were in fact siblings, and a Street Fighter duel all helped me laugh along with the rest of the crowd.
The night was full of energy-driven acts, with belting singers, comedy, and enthusiastic bands, but what truly stood out to me that night were the infusions of classic Chinese culture. When a guzheng was revealed from behind the curtain about halfway through the show, I became incredibly excited. This zither-like Chinese instrument has long been a particular love of mine. The tone of the instrument’s voice is rich and beautiful and truly exemplifies the classic oriental music. The speed and grace of the artist’s fingers along the strings allowed her to freely express the music. Alongside the guzheng was a calligrapher who worked magic with ink, leaving a beautifully written message afterwards. Another traditional Chinese instrument that made an appearance was the pipa, a lute-like instrument that briefly introduced one of the night’s many dance groups. These elements of Chinese culture invigorated the night and brought flavor and refinement to the night of performances.
This year’s CSSA show was a huge success, with many interesting and enjoyable acts for every audience member. It was a night to celebrate the culture of many RPI students and to appreciate the time and effort that went into it. With raffles, fun games, and engaging hosts, the show succeeded in capturing the spirit of the festival and brought smiles to the faces of everyone who came.