Hope and new beginnings signified the Year of the Rooster Saturday night during the Chinese New Year celebrations, which is the first of many events to mark the New Year. The Chinese New Year begins Feb. 9, but celebrations occur before the actual day.
The Chinese New Year festival at CSU is part of the Spring 2005 International Focus Series on China developed by the Office of International Programs.
The event is celebrated every year by the Chinese and draws a diverse crowd among community members interested in learning about the culture.
The spring festival was organized by the Chinese Students and Scholars Association, CSSA, and was sponsored by Panda Express and Associated Students of CSU.
Sisi Zhang, president of CSSA, helped produce the festival, which included 15 performances.
"We've been doing this every year for 20 years. This event is before the real Chinese New Year," Zhang said. "We always have a lot of volunteer funding from ASCSU which gives us the opportunity to invite professional artists. This is the first time we've had the Beijing Opera."
The doors opened at 5:30 p.m., welcoming long lines of families and friends anticipating the celebration. The festivities began with a buffet-styled dinner from Panda Express, which included some favorites such as fresh white rice, fried rice, chow mein, vegetable spring rolls and potsticks.
After dinner, tables were cleared and chairs assembled in front of the stage, where the performances began with the opening dance "Happy Times/Happy Moment" also known as the Umbrella Dance. The dance was performed by six girls from the local Chinese community wearing traditional Chinese outfits of cherry red fabric laden with intricate goldish-yellow designs.
The outfits are called, "ziaofeng ziant, which means little phoenix fairy," said Poling Chan, a community member. Chan brought her two daughters FongFong, whose legal-English name is Yvonne, and LianLian, whose legal-English name is Lynn, to perform in the opening dance.
"I've been two times. Last year it was at the Lincoln Center," Chan said. "We were here since they (my daughters) are going to be doing the dance tonight."
While Chan came to see her daughters perform, others came to reunite and visit with old friends.
"This is a really good time to meet friends and you always see old friends, who are busy, this one time during the year," said Jiong Jia, a CSU employee and local Chinese community member.
Mayor Ray Martinez, who was excited about celebrating the activities of the evening, also attended the event.
"We look forward to this event every year," Martinez said. "This is one of the many cultures we need to be celebrating and there's nothing better than celebrating while you're learning."
Other performances presented throughout the evening were a Beijing Opera, a Mongolian Dance, a traditional Chinese song solo, as well as several instrumental performances from the Chinese culture.
The festival also included a fashion show displaying a range of outfits from modern-day eveningwear to traditional attire of the Chinese ethnic minorities.
Zhang stressed the importance of presenting all aspects of Chinese culture.
"Over 90 percent of Chinese people are of different religions, different lifestyles and different dialogues," Zhang said.
Zhang was dressed in a traditional Chinese outfit of a "qipao, meaning long dress," she said.
While most of the festival was performed by the Chinese community it also included a performance by a group of girls from Fort Collins Liberty Commons Charter School, 1725 Sharpe Point Dr., who performed the TaiJi Fan Dance for the audience. The girls originally did the dance for their school's talent show and were asked to perform at the New Year celebration.
"It was something fun that we did," said Simone Saldanha, an eighth grader at Liberty Commons. "We thought it would be interesting: when we were proposed with the idea we went for it."
The event also included a magic show by Denver local John T. Sheets. Sheets performed technical and highly skilled manipulative magic.
"It's a lot of fun," Sheets said. "We've been seen on national shows and this is the first time we've been asked for at this event."
Sheets has performed his show at the Chinese Asian Pacific Spring Festival for the past three or four years. The festival will be held this year on Feb. 5 at George Washington High School in Denver.
The vibrant ambiance of the evening was illustrated as children scampered about dressed in traditional outfits and a community became immersed in the Chinese heritage that is focused on the strong bonds of family and friends.
The stage performances lasted well into the evening, past 10:30 p.m.
Upcoming events include the celebration of the 2005 Taiwanese Student Association Chinese New Year Party at CSU at 6 p.m. Friday. For more information visit www.international.colostate.edu.