Soft Chinese music played as a dancer in a flowy red gown and another in a white blouse leapt through the air, holding traditional umbrellas matching their outfits high above their heads.
The dance was one of the more than a dozen performances for which hundreds gathered Sunday evening to celebrate the Chinese New Year at the Chinese Student Association’s Chinese Spring Festival Gala in the Phillips Center for Performing Arts, located at 3201 Hull Road. Between 700 and 800 tickets were handed out prior to the event, said Yifei Liu, the president of CSA.
Liu, a 22-year-old UF mathematics senior, said she first joined the organization as a freshman and has been involved with the annual Chinese New Year show for the past four years.
“I'm as excited this year as I was the first time,” Liu said. “It still feels very unreal.”
The budget for the show was $18,000 with the main cost being for the venue, said the association’s spokesperson Zhonglin Lai. UF’s Student Government and the consulate general of the People’s Republic of China funded the event. The spokesperson declined to say how much money came from each source.
CSA began planning the event five months before the show and invited students outside of their organization to perform along with them to celebrate the Year of the Dog, Liu said.
People from all backgrounds were invited to attend the free show. Hosts spoke in both English and Chinese languages, although the performances were primarily in Chinese. Audience members went on stage to participate in interactive games, trivia and raffles.
Performances included traditional and modern dances, songs and musical ensembles.
Zhuohua Cao, CSA’s director for event planning, said the show was meant to be a fusion of Chinese and American culture.
“It’s an easier transition for people interested in Chinese culture,” the 22-year-old UF marketing junior said.
Jolene English, a 20-year-old UF alumna, said she came to the performance because she wanted to learn about another culture.
“There are a ton of international students at UF,” English said. “They're our peers, and it's important to understand them. It's also good to be a global person.”
Bilu Yang, a 21-year-old UF elementary education senior, stood up from the audience dressed in a blue-and-white-striped outfit as she began to sing a song in Chinese for the opening performance. She slowly walked up steps to the stage as one by one four other singers joined her.
“We can’t enjoy the holiday at home,” she said, “but we can celebrate here with friends.”