COLUMBIA — When Caroline Hammond first started singing the two Chinese songs her choir conductor chose, she found it difficult.
For two months, Caroline, 15, practiced for her performance. She had choir practice two to three times a week. At home, she worked at pronouncing the difficult Mandarin words.
"We sang other languages before, but it was the first time we sang in Chinese," she said. "It was a difficult language for me, because there were different sounds."
Although learning some Mandarin was challenging, Caroline said she enjoyed it.
Caroline performed with the West Junior High School Delphian Choir as part of China Night 2010. The event provided the community a chance to celebrate the beginning of the lunar new year through songs, dance and traditional Chinese performing arts. The lunar new year is the most important holiday in Chinese culture; families gather on the eve of the new year for a reunion dinner to celebrate the coming year.
The performances were vibrant, lively and especially colorful. Performers dressed in reds, greens, yellows, blues and whites. The event fused Chinese traditions with Western influences: Chinese songs were sung over electric guitars and a drum set and a hip-hop dance accompanied more traditional dances.
A crowd favorite, diabolo, was performed to techno music. Diabolo is similar to a yo-yo; the performer tosses spools attached to a string tied to two sticks, held by both hands.
China Night was organized by the Friendship Association of Chinese Students and Scholars. It was the fourth China Night, although it has not been held annually.
"It is the Year of the Tiger, and to celebrate Chinese New Year, I think it is a great opportunity to bring China Night back to Mizzou," Fei Gao, president of FACSS, said.
About 1700 people attended the event on Saturday at Jesse Auditorium, Gao said. This is the first year the event streamed live online. Approximately 100 people watched the entire show online.
Rhiannon Clemons, a secretary with Columbia Public Schools, attended China Night for the first time. She said she attended the event because she was interested in Chinese culture because she has many Chinese friends.
"It was great. I loved the varieties of dances," Clemons said. She said she would attend the event again.
Joanna Zhang, an eighth-grader at West Junior High School, wore a traditional Chinese pink-colored qipao top to the event. Qipao dresses are form-fitting, one-piece dresses, typically with a floral designs.
"My parents got it a couple of years ago," Joanna, 13, said. Joanna, whose parents are from China, was born in the U.S. She said she had four traditional dresses to choose from, but was worried about overdressing for the event.
"I only get to bring out these clothes once a year, so I might as well wear it tonight," she said.
Nan Hao, a senior in MU's College of Business, performed four dances this year. She has participated in China Night since 2004, when her father started the event. Hao also choreographed the hip-hop dance. Her solo dance, "Illumination," was choreographed by her father.
"I get to perform in front of a whole bunch of people, be on stage again, have fun, be with my friends, and actually being able to show my choreography," Hao said. "What can you ask for better?"