The Walters celebrates 2019’s Lunar New Year

By COLE DOUGLASS | February 14, 2019

Courtesy of Cole Douglass Students from the Baltimore Chinese School performing at the Walters.

In honor of the recent transition into the Year of the Pig, the Walters Art Museum hosted a celebration of the Lunar New Year on Sunday, Feb. 10. The event featured a wide array of activities that balanced education with entertainment, such as a series of shows organized by local performance groups. All in all the Lunar New Year Celebration was a fun and family-friendly event that more than lived up to the high standards set by its predecessors.

Unsurprisingly much of the event’s activities were geared toward young children and their families. Several craft tables where children could draw or create animal masks were scattered across the museum. Later in the afternoon, families participated in a scavenger hunt themed around the animals of the eastern zodiac. At the same time, the Walters provided educational tours for guests of all ages, ensuring that attendees could leave the event with a deeper understanding of the historical and cultural significance of the Lunar New Year.

That being said, the event’s most popular activities were the artistic presentations. The first performance was a variety show featuring the students and faculty of the Baltimore Chinese School (BCS), a local nonprofit that offers lessons in both Chinese language and culture. The performance began with a speech from Yumi Hogan, the first lady of the State of Maryland. Hogan spoke about her personal connection with the New Year, as well as the event’s significance as a symbol of pan-Asiatic culture.

At the end of her speech, Hogan helped to kick off the variety show by striking a gong to “awaken” the giant dragon puppet that served as the show’s first act. The puppet was beautifully constructed, and the BCS students did a fantastic job of handling it and making it contort and writhe across the stage. It was a very impressive visual spectacle, and I definitely heard a few members of the audience gasp when the dragon turned its glowing eyes upon them.

The dragon puppet was followed by the school’s Tai Chi club, which performed two sets of forms, one of which featured swords and the other fans. Both sets were comprised of steady and graceful movements that emphasized both the strength behind the action and the meditative nature of the activity. The lights reflecting off of the swords and the snap of the opening fans did an excellent job of keeping attention on the performers, and it was another overall excellent performance.

The variety show concluded with a series of performances by BCS’ youth choir and dance troupe. The performers were definitely the youngest of the group, and the acts unsurprisingly reflected that gap in maturity. However, the performers were adorable, and all of the dances and songs clearly conveyed an appreciation for the Chinese culture, which definitely made the performances more enjoyable and a great resolution to the variety show as a whole.

The other main event featured the Johns Hopkins Yong Han Lion Dance Troupe in a performance of the titular lion dance, a traditional celebratory dance that is thought to bring prosperity and ward against evil. The show featured two lions, each played by a pair of dancers who worked together to bring the vibrant costume to life. Accompanied by an aggressive drumbeat that completely dominated the performance space, the dancers pranced around the stage, occasionally rearing their heads, laying on the ground and even spraying the children in the front rows with bursts of lettuce. Much like the dragon puppet demonstration, the combination of the talented dancers with the beautiful costume design made for an incredibly enjoyable show, making it one of the celebration’s highlights. 

According to a member of the museum staff, the Lunar New Year celebrations held in previous years have been some of the Walters’ most successful events. Having seen the latest iteration, it is not difficult to understand why. The featured performances were lively and engaging, and attendees of any age could find something educational and fun amongst the other activities. Although the event as a whole does tend to skew toward a slightly younger demographic than the average Hopkins student, there was still a lot of fun to be had, and I enjoyed the hours that I spent at the Walters. In the end, the latest iteration of the Lunar New Year’s Celebration provided entertainment that more than lived up to the reputation of its predecessors, and I look forward to next year.

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