Chinese New Year celebration to be 'biggest since 2004'

Published: Saturday, January 24, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 23, 2009 at 10:52 p.m.

Traditional Chinese music, dance, kung fu and acrobatics will fill the stage of the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts this evening in celebration of the Chinese New Year, which falls on Monday.

The Friendship Association of Chinese Students and Scholars, a UF student organization, has filled the house for the biggest Chinese New Year celebration in the North Central Florida area since 2004, organizers say.

Weitao Li, president of the Friendship Association, said more than 1,600 people come to the performance and every year some are turned away because of capacity limitations.

"More people come than can fit in the large Phillips Center," Li said. "We are expecting an even bigger turnout this year because of our online advertising through Facebook."

The group has been preparing for the Chinese New Year celebration since April of last year, said Li.

There are more than 800 student members and most contribute to the annual event, said Li.

This is the year of the ox in the Chinese culture, and students have built props to decorate the stage accordingly.

Auditions were held last year and more than 30 different organizations tried out. Twenty acts made the cut.

Traditional Chinese costumes have been sent from China and will be worn by the performers.

A variety of acts will be seen tonight, including professional acrobatics from Orlando and a Chinese folk dance by a local dance organization.

UF sophomore Diana Feng said she is thankful she is able to celebrate a holiday important to her family heritage.

"Although I am celebrating the new year in America, I will feel close to my culture at the Phillips Center," Feng said.

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