ROBBINSVILLE – Students at Robbinsville High School joined more than a billion Chinese people around the world recently in celebrating the Chinese New Year with martial arts performances and a dazzling dragon dance using authentic Chinese costumes.
The 50-plus members of the new RHS Chinese Club, under the tutelage of teacher Sue Kanagawa, ushered in the Year of the Snake in style Feb. 8, showing students, teachers and administrators their emerging Chinese-speaking skills and knowledge of Chinese culture.
The star of the show was a 75-foot dragon, powered by students running beneath the serpent that they held aloft with poles, which twisted and turned in a fast-paced dance choreographed to the loud drumbeat of music. In Chinese culture, the dragon signifies good luck and the loud music that is part of the dance drives away evil spirits.
RHS Chinese Club President Rahul Jairam led the dragon procession holding a large globe on a stick, signifying the “pearl of wisdom that the dragon later chased during the dance.
“It is said that the dragon chasing this pearl of wisdom represents the dragon’s way to pursue insight and knowledge,” Kanagawa explained. “During Chinese New Year, sometimes it is a red or yellow globe, which is supposed to be the sun as the festival celebrates the spring rains and the sun for a good harvest.”
Kanagawa said the bold red and gold dragon and costumes worn by the performers were purchased with a grant from the nonprofit Robbinsville Education Foundation, which raises money to fund educational experiences that are outside of the regular school budget. Purchasing the dragon, rather than renting it, is less costly in the long run and ensures it is available to students in future classes, she said.
Dorothy Collura, the mother of RHS Principal Molly Avery, is a t’ai chi instructor, who teaches the martial arts form to the Chinese Club students at their after-school meetings. After the dragon dance, Collura’s students demonstrated their t’ai chi moves, sequences of slow controlled callisthenic movements.
The festivities also included a demonstration by USA Wushu Kung Fu National Champion Andrey Tikhonov, who dazzled the crowd with his acrobatic martial arts performed with a sword. Wushu is China’s national sport.
Students, teachers and administrators were also treated to a spirited ping-pong match between Schools Superintendent Steve Mayer and table tennis instructor “Mr. Ge,” before enjoying a Chinese take-out feast provided by a local restaurant.