Lunar New Year fever is catching on! This annual holiday, which falls at the beginning of a calendar year coinciding with the cycles of the moon, is traditionally celebrated throughout the continent of Asia but, is steadily increasing its visibility in the United States. Lunar New Year parades and gatherings are held not only in Asian enclaves from New York to LA but also in some of the most quintessentially “American” destinations. Enter the Magic Kingdom…
Ever since its inception in 2001, Disney California Adventure has lived up to its mission of instructing as it entertains, dedicating much of its area in the Disneyland Theme park to the history and cultures of the Golden State. For the last 9 years, the park has added Lunar New Year to its list of festivals, and on January 26th, I made my entertainment debut before crowds honoring the Year of the Rat – or Year of the Mouse according to our hosts.
The Lunar festival features groups representing various regions of Asia, including the cuisine of Vietnam and an appearance by Princess Mulan as the mistress of ceremonies. Mickey and Minnie Mouse were even on hand in their traditional red silk holiday attire. A group of 16 students hailing from Hiza Yoo Korean Dance Institute arrived decked out in our traditional hanbok costumes with our Nanta drums in tow. We gathered at Paradise Gardens Park for the first of three performances throughout the day led by our teacher Hiza Yoo, who has developed her own style of Korean drum choreography since immigrating here in 1972.
In addition to my drum group, which was composed of 3 students including myself, other performers included the Fan Dance and the Korean Drum Dance (Janggo Chum (written as 장고춤) ). The Buchaechum dance involves a group of dancers with fans to create motions that allow them to be graceful and fluid. Janggo Chum is a more playful dance that includes performers with handheld drums and rhythmic choreography to match their percussion. My trio performed a routine on the Nanta Buk, a traditional waist-high barrel drum, that involves hand motions, rhythmic beats, and synchronized movements. Prior to our performance, our group met to practice every week in order to prepare for this important event. The first days were spent memorizing our music and beginning to understand its message of emotion. Our final weeks of preparation involved the endless repetition of our steps and beats in an effort to master performance in unison as if the three of us were one body.
As night fell on our happy gathering, the twinkling lights of Cinderella’s castle illuminated the sky, above a rippling red dragon that seemed to go one for miles. We felt like we had pleased our audience as well as open their minds to new cultural experiences that honor the warrior in all of us.
10th West Ranch High School