Lunar New Year

(From Left) Drum Roller performers Neil Li and Nicolas Li lift their lion heads during their performance for the Chinese New Year Festival Sunday at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

KANSAS CITY, Mo.-- Hundreds of people gathered to celebrate Chinese culture with food, crafts and performances Jan. 27 in The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

The annual Chinese New Year Festival included over 200 performers showing traditional attire, dances, music and art demonstrations on all floors of the museum. Kansas City Mayor Sly James spoke during the welcome ceremony, saying the event grows larger each year.

“This is the largest it’s ever been,” James said. “It’s a place to celebrate our differences while celebrating art and rich culture.”

This Chinese New Year, also called Lunar New Year, falls Feb. 5.

Activities that lasted the whole day in various rooms were paper crafts, temporary tattoos, Chinese games and learning how to say, “Happy New Year” in Chinese.

So many people were present at the event that the auditorium ran out of seats for every performance. Anyone who couldn’t get a seat could watch the performances on TVs in the activity rooms.

Students from the Chinese School of Greater Kansas City demonstrated Chinese yo-yo for 15 minutes four times during the event. They perform at the festival every year and start practicing as soon as the school year begins.

Coach George Peng also performed with his students. His favorite part about coaching yo-yo is teaching his students perseverance. He enjoys being part of the celebration at Nelson-Atkins.

“It’s kind of rare to find something like Chinese yo-yo, especially in the Midwest,” Peng said. “It’s really fun for me to demonstrate and perform for an audience who doesn’t know about it.”

A Lunar New Year staple is having lion dance performances. Two lion dance teams, Drum Roller from Lenexa, Kansas, and the Rockhurst High School lion dance team worked together to perform at the festival. They alternated shows throughout the day.

Drum Roller coach Wai Cheng grew up with lion dancers in his family. His favorite part about performing is seeing the hours of hard work pay off with each performance.

Rockhurst senior Sebastien Barrett has been coaching the lion dance team for four years. He participated in lion dance for three or four years before reintroducing it to Rockhurst when he was a freshman. He teaches almost every aspect of the lion dance.

“(I enjoy) the idea of passing along the culture of my family because my (mom’s side of my) family is from Malaysia,” Barrett said. “Malaysia is the world champion at lion dance, and I just kind of like bringing that aspect into my life.”

The Rockhurst team has performed at the festival for the last four years, alongside Drum Roller.

Barrett enjoys performing at the museum and recommends the event.

“You don’t see this stuff every day,” Barrett said. “This is arguably one of the highest profile performances you can go to, just because of how much exposure it has and the location it’s in.

“It’s just a really, really public setting, which really lends itself to a lot of people coming together to enjoy a cultural awakening.”

Yo-yo coach Peng also encourages people to attend future festivals.

“I think just being involved with other cultures and all the festivities makes you a more worldly person,” Peng said. “Even if you don’t have a background in Asian culture, it’s still nice to experience some of his stuff and see what other parts of the world have to offer.”

Volunteer Cecilia L. Diego enjoys the culture of the festival. She has volunteered for the last two years and has helped with all the other festivals the museum hosts.

“The best part for me is just seeing people come in and see them in awe,” Diego said. “It’s free for everybody. It’s amazing. It supports the museum by coming.”

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