Known for folk dancing, acrobatics and the seldom seen ancient art of face changing, a troupe of performers from China amazed students at a special assembly celebrating the Year of the Rooster. The event was made possible by the San Francisco Chinese Consulate.
On February 3 in Syufy Theatre, members of the San Francisco Chinese Consulate joined Convent & Stuart Hall students and faculty to celebrate the Year of the Rooster with a performance by musicians, acrobats and dancers from the Szechuan region of China.
After introductions from President Ann Marie Krejcarek and Madame Qiao Li, the wife of Consul General Luo Liquan, the Central China Szechuan Singing and Dancing Troupe captured students' attention with expressive folk dances and brightly colored costumes.
Freshman Neo Kounalakis and junior Jocelyn Shilakes stood up between dances to narrate the program, which was translated from Chinese to English by their advanced Mandarin class. Students in all levels of Mandarin, including the youngest kindergarten learners, dedicated multiple class periods to decorating the stage with artwork and traditional paper lanterns.
Watch highlights from the February 3 performance.
"Learning Chinese culture helps students understand different thinking," says Hong Yao, the Mandarin faculty who organized the event. "China has a five-thousand-year history and my students enjoy exploring new things."
Out of all the schools in San Francisco, Convent & Stuart Hall was chosen by the Chinese Consulate to host the well-known troupe because Madame Qiao Li, who visited last year with a group from the Sunshine School, which she runs for children of Chinese diplomats, says students here are friendly and not afraid to learn a difficult language.
"She expressed that our students' pronunciation is correct and sounds like the standard Beijing dialect," Hong adds.
While mesmerized at times by whirling dance moves and the unique sound of Chinese instruments, students began getting noisy when a masked actor took the stage, his red cape billowing out around him. Neo and Jocelyn had just explained that Bian Lian, or Face Changing, is an ancient art form rarely seen outside of China.
With the wave of a hand, the performer changed from one mask to another almost instantaneously. The dramatic music could barely muffle the audience's excitement.
"Students gave me high fives and asked to learn how to do mask changing," Hong says. "And one boy told me that this was his favorite assembly."